Before you read any further, note that this article is intended only for people interested in making more money than other people. It is very complicated and very few people in the world actually are capable of doing it right. If you aren't interested in beating the mean, buy everything indiscriminately with the
iShares MSCI ACWI Index
(ACWI) exchange-traded fund, which is a benchmark for global stock performance. For the rest of you, read on.
How do you identify if you are making a "dumb decision"? Let me illustrate by showing how you're likely allocating your time poorly. I'd say you spend more time shopping for quickly depreciating assets in your lifetime than you will those that are likely to increase in value. In any given year, you probably spend more time shopping for your weekly groceries ($200), than you do for your car ($20,000), than you do for your home ($200,000), than you do for you investments ($?).
Here are the most commonly fumbled investment steps.
Step 1: Figure out what you (don't) want.
In case you didn't know, the Shanghai market has been kicking the crap out of the U.S. market over the last eight months. So, you want to invest in China? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to tell you that you're doing it wrong. Your goal of investing should be "to make money." Granted, I learned some really fancy stuff in college. According to my probability and statistics class that also would mean that your goal is to "not lose money." Did I lose you? I hope not.