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By Greg Hammond

The rules for maintaining a healthy weight or investing to grow your portfolio and outpace inflation are simple enough, yet difficult to follow. Why is it so hard to follow these rules? Because breaking them is easy.

For most people, the secret to losing or maintaining weight is eating less and moving more. Simple enough, right? Yes -- until someone offers you a delicious dessert, or you start binge watching a riveting TV series. When it comes to investing, it is also easy to sabotage your efforts by breaking the rules that yield results over the long term. To grow an investment portfolio based on academic principles, you need to follow three simple rules:

Own Equities

Investing in stocks is one of the greatest wealth creation opportunities known to man. Most investors should consider allocating at least a portion of their investment portfolio to equities. \

Diversify Globally

Diversification is a term carelessly and frequently thrown around in the investment industry. Many say they do it, yet not everyone's definition of truly global diversification is the same.

Rebalance Regularly

While rebalancing a portfolio is a simple concept, its application and execution can prove to be very difficult. Rebalancing a portfolio allows investors to sell investments when they are relatively high and buy when the price is relatively low. The golden rule of investing is to "sell high and buy low." Unfortunately doing this goes against our natural human instincts and people often panic when they see the market tumbling.

Why Is it so Hard?

If the rules of investing are so simple, why don't most of us follow them?

The short answer is that you are human. Your brain is hardwired for survival and preservation. Dating back to the first humans who walked the earth, our brain's design unconsciously focuses on the here and now. Humans who did not pay attention to the dangers around them did not survive. When our brain senses a tiger in the weeds, or any other kind of threat, we instinctively turn, run, and try to survive.

Our brains are always searching, looking, and trying to find anything that may be a threat to our survival. The media capitalizes on this by emphasizing mostly negative news. Bad news gets our attention and activates the part of our brain that looks for dangers and concerns. Our focus on survival means we instinctively move away from fear or pain, and move toward desire and pleasure. This basic human instinct can lead investors to panic and sell investments at the wrong time, continue to hold poor investments, or buy investments that performed well in the past but are overpriced. This predisposition to avoid pain emotionally convinces investors to sell low and buy high -- just the opposite of what is prudent for growing your investment portfolio.

Our survival instincts influence our ability to think long-term and plan for our future. In the early days of man when food was scarce, it might be days or weeks before a person was able to hunt, capture or find food. As a result, our brain focuses on short-term survival. We tend to ignore the long-term impact eating one doughnut or an extra dessert has on our health. We do not stop to consider the consequences our casual or impulsive purchasing might have on our retirement savings.

It can be difficult to think about the future, especially something that may be decades away. This inborn focus on the short-term can also have disastrous results for your investment portfolio. We all want to own the next hot investment. It takes real discipline to buy an investment when it is under-performing, or rebalance and sell part of an investment when it is performing well. Although as humans we have the ability to think and plan for our future, we often choose immediate pleasure over future gain.

Most of us have a natural desire to know about, and predict the future. Based on our survival instincts and inherent fear of uncertainty, many people find solace in media gurus who say they can predict what is going to happen next. Many of us also want a shortcut so we try the miraculous new diet plan or supplement that will solve our health and weight issues.

A Guru with a Crystal Ball

What if someone could actually tell us what will happen next with the economy, interest rates, stock prices, or inflation? If we only knew what will happen in the future we could relax and ease our fears. This is why we look to the media and celebrated experts in an attempt to find someone with the information, power and insights to forecast the future. The truth is, no one really has the answers. No one can predict the future. If they could, they would have the winning lottery ticket, know which investments would make them rich, and stop disasters before they happen.

Knowing that we have these instinctual shortcomings we can take steps to help us stay on track. Whether you want to improve your health or the performance of your investment portfolios, here are three action steps to help you to a better outcome:

Control What You Take In

When you join a diet moderation group or a fitness program, one of the first things you begin to do is keep a food journal. To fully understand how you can improve your diet, you need to know exactly what you are eating. From that point, you can make adjustments to reduce or eliminate the food items that cause the most harm to your diet and health.

The same holds true for your investment portfolio. What news and financial information are you allowing to enter your head? If watching a news network, or reading a financial newspaper or magazine is causing you concern and encouraging you to make bad investment decisions, consider keeping a media journal so you can consciously monitor the information you allow into your life. Try reducing or eliminating destructive media that appeals to the danger center in your brain. Instead, explore helpful media and information like Retirement Daily that provides valuable information to reinforce the rules of investing.

Set Up Systems to Help You Follow the Rules

Set yourself up for success with technology, systems, and habits. Some people find ordering pre-measured and packed meals as a systematic way to control what they eat. Setting up your investment accounts so you can regularly review and rebalance can help guide you toward a more successful investing experience. Consider the systems or actions you can take to calm your prehistoric survival instincts and emotions so you can stop making decisions that prevent you from achieving the results you desire.

Hire a Coach or Adviser

When it comes to your health and wealth, it is often not enough to depend on your own efforts or willpower. If you are not getting the results you want, working with someone who knows the obstacles and shortcomings you face and how to navigate through them can be a liberating experience. A coach or advisor can give you the outside perspective and accountability you may need to stay on the path toward realizing your goals.

Left to our own devices, time-and-time-again we allow our emotions and instincts to work against everything we are trying to achieve. One cookie or a lavish dinner will not completely derail your health. However, one mistake with your investments can destroy a lifetime or decades of prudent saving. Are you ready to experience true financial peace of mind around your investments? It is possible if you follow these three simple rules of investing.

About the author: Greg Hammond, CFP, CPA, encourages people to support their lives with choices that inspire new possibilities and build a future around what's really important. As the chief executive officer of Hammond Iles Wealth Advisors, co-founder of Planned Giving Strategies, and co-author of You Can Do More That Matters, Greg guides people to discover their true purpose for money and educates investors to protect them from unwise choices so they can have confidence and peace of mind about their finances. He believes that knowing what matters to you, and what your happiness and satisfaction looks like, helps create a clear path to living it.