, you are competing against some of the smartest and best-equipped traders in the world. They work 24/7 to uncover an edge. These are people who are at their trading turrets at 5:30 a.m., who work 12-hour days doing the same homework that you might be spending a few hours a week on.
If the guy on the other side of the trade -- the sell to your buy -- is spending far more time investigating a given company, sector or market, that stacks the odds against you.
A key question all investors must ask themselves is, "Does my investing style match my available time?"
If you find yourself somewhat harried when it comes to your investments, the likelihood is that you have too little time for your adopted style. Your options are simple: find more time or adapt a style more suited to your time available. For most people, that means shifting to an investing style that is less time-consuming.
Many find this adjustment to be uncomfortable. That is often because they are trading for the buzz, and not the long-term return. The solution to this is to turn 5% of your assets into your mad money (pun intended). Put them into a separate account at a different broker. Manage this for fun; manage the main account with a deadly serious purpose.
Matching Your Investing Style to Your Time
To determine how much time you should spend managing your own financial affairs, ask yourself the following questions:
"How much time and energy do I have to follow the markets?
"Can I do all the requisite research needed to dig up and follow companies?"
"How committed am I to managing my own financial affairs?"
The answers to these questions may point you in the right direction when it comes to managing your financial affairs.
Investors sometimes forget that there is a spectrum of investor commitment: At one endpoint is someone who hires a professional to do it for them. At the other end of the spectrum is someone who spends every waking moment thinking about the market, looking for opportunities, doing massive amounts of research, watching every tick. You are most likely somewhere in between these two extremes. Matching your place on this spectrum to your time is the key to stress-free investing.
Even the investor who chooses the least time commitment strategy -- hiring a money manager -- often fails to realize the time this requires. First, you must find the appropriate person. Then, you need to ensure your investment goals are met.
I always suggest working through multiple personal references to find a money manager. Talk to several of their clients. Really understand their investing philosophy and risk management approach. If you hire someone, you will then need to explain to them your investing goals and risk tolerances in order to help them craft an investment strategy that meets your needs.
After all that is done, you need to manage your advisor as if he or she were a high-level employee. Make sure you read your monthly statement carefully. Are your investments consistent with the plan you first laid out?
This is the investment approach with the least time requirements, and yet many investors put too little time into even this. It requires at least an hour per month to review your statements and present holdings, a quarterly discussion to review the markets, and an annual meeting to update your plans.
|Got the Time?
Estimating time requirements for the most common investor styles.
|Spectrum of Investors
|Buy & Hold
||Cycle driven (bull or bear mkt)
|Hiring Money Manager
||1 hour per month
||Varies by mgr, plus quarterly updates and annual reviews
|Mutual Funds Holder
||5 hours per month plus quarterly reviews
||Market driven, plus mgr's skill level
||10 hours per month
||Market driven, plus timing
|Individual Stocks (long-term holders)
||20 hours per month
||On stock selection and trade management
|Individual Stocks (med-term trading)
||10 hours per week
||On trade entries and exits, and position sizing
||20-40 hours per week
|Source: Barry Ritholtz
The table above shows my estimation of how much time is required for the most common investor styles. It includes finding investments and reviewing them on a regular basis. Note: The time involved is strictly for asset management. It does not include becoming a more educated investor, reading books, or financial publications such as this one. Nor does it include the time necessary to create your investment plan in the first place. It's simply my educated approximation as to the minimum amount of time required to make a given style work.
Adopting an investment strategy that requires more time than you can commit to is a surefire path to disappointment. Find a strategy and style that you can live with -- both intellectually and scheduling-wise. Make an "honest self assessment" of your resources.
This is one of the easiest mistakes in investing to make -- and to avoid.