Investing Pitfalls

Are you investing money like it was yours for your purposes, or are you investing as a steward of God’s resources with diligence and care? Making a return should be a by-product of doing what God has called you to do. Remember that peace does not come by building up material possessions and it is our motive for investing that determines Godly intent.

The management of money requires that it be invested and multiplied, but the world and its marketing powerhouse deceives and manipulates us to invest with wrong motives of greed and fear. Many do not get wisdom or feel their efforts to understand are futile. The financial institutions all have one goal, even when they are marketing their care and concern for our investing: their profit and gain. With that in mind, I have put together a list of pitfalls that can trip up both beginners and experienced investors alike. Remember that “the prudent see danger and take refuge, the naive do nothing and pay the price” (Proverbs 27:23).

1. Becoming frozen and doing nothing
There is no guarantee that the market will go up the first day, month, or even year that you invest in it. But there is one guarantee: Doing nothing at all will not provide for a comfortable retirement. Don’t wait to start investing; the earlier you start the better. The biggest part of investing is taking advantage of the compounding effect of money over time, so get started and don’t delay.

2. Not investing with a plan, and for the long term
It is important to invest for the long term. Prepare yourself for all the media coverage about the market and economy that can sound scary at times. Stick with your long term plan. Staying invested ensures that your investments won’t miss the market’s best performing days, and having a plan for your investments will direct you to the right type of investment, and help you stick with your plan when the media is alarming you.

3. Trading in and out of the market, trying to time the market with your investing
Trade in and out of the market and you’ll be saddled with fees that chip away at your returns, and you’ll potentially miss out on gains that long-term investors enjoy with much less effort. Many U.S. equity investors earned far less than the S & P 500 has earned the last 20 years, just above the rate of inflation. This is due to investor behavior, namely, getting in and out of their investments too frequently, and at the wrong time.

4. Turning down free money
You’d never turn down a dollar if it was offered with no strings attached. That’s what you’re doing if your company offers a 401(k) or similar retirement savings plan with an employer match and you’re not participating. Take advantage of all tax-advantaged, employer-matched savings programs.

5. Not making investing automatic
Automating your savings and investing directly from your account keeps you from spending investment money for living expenses and discretionary spending. It makes it less painful than writing a check every month. Make your investing monthly like another bill that has to get paid so you can get paid later.

6. Playing it safe
If you’re young, most of your investing dollars should be in the stock market. You have enough time to weather any dips in the market and you may reap the rewards of long-term gains. Although you may want to transition into bonds later in life as you depend on your investments for income, stocks should make up a significant portion of the portfolio of every investor.

7. Inappropriate investments
Many investors do not match their investments to their objectives. If you have short term need for your investment, or have insufficient reserves for lifestyle or emergency needs, don’t invest too much in long term retirement accounts. Miscalculating your time horizon for the need of money is critical in choosing which investment can fulfill your goals. A person can easily be swayed by a slick investment pitch that plays to our greed, or fear and misleads us into and inappropriate investments that we don’t fully understand or need. Get wisdom and get understanding.

Know the condition of your investments

It is important to work with an independent advisor that you trust, and that will educate you on the variety of investments available, and allow you to get honest answers to your questions. Stay involved in your investments, maybe not every day, but open your mail and follow up with your investment professional with any questions you have.

Jeffrey Masters is president of Jeffrey W. Masters & Associates and a locally endorsed investment advisor by Dave Ramsey. Reach Jeff at [email protected].

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