I received many replies to last week’s post, “Why You Probably Won’t Survive The Next Bear Market,” but one reader’s email stood out:
“In reading your blog entry entitled “You probably won’t survive the next bear market” I see that you have described me.
It dawned on me some months ago that I have placed myself in a difficult position. I now see stocks in a sideways market and very expensive relative to their cost of even a few years ago. The fear of a correction has kept me from investing. I now see that the best way is to wait for that correction and then start fresh but it hasn’t worked for me over the last five years. One never knows how long it will be before that correction occurs. At my current rate of money drawdown I will be out of usable funds within 10 years. I am 68 and retired.
I understand the mechanics of investing but the psychology has truly held me back. I asked a friend a couple of years ago on how to proceed and he said put only a third of my investing dollars into stock and wait for the correction. In hindsight that would have been perfect to do. The part that has me so upset is that I am a reader and have read several books on the psychology of investing but I keep putting off investing because of the fear of “losing” due to correction and that has now been overtaken by the strong potential of running out of money in retirement if I don’t change my ways.“
I thought about this particular reader’s description of himself, his investing fears, and how he got into this precarious financial position, and I believe that his situation is not all that different from many other investors, particularly those who are retired, and therefore rely on their portfolios the most.
My first bit of advice to this reader, and to all investors, is to remember that the management of your portfolio should fall second to the management of your household finances. Investing is a means to an end, and the greatest investment system in the world is worthless if it is paired with a nonexistent or ineffective budgeting plan. If running out of capital is a possibility, then your first step should be to create a realistic budget, look for opportunities to cut spending, and therefore put far less pressure on your portfolio to generate excessive — and improbable — returns.
Secondly, if you are at all familiar with spreadsheet software, I would encourage you to put together some kind of projection of your income sources versus your expenses over your projected retirement (an example of this here). Having some kind of visualization of your financial situation will help alleviate the fear that you are at the mercy of circumstances beyond your control, and, by breaking down the very complicated idea of your retirement cash flows, should make it managing it feel less overwhelming, and thus easier to tackle.
Finally, even though you might consider yourself well-read on the subject of psychology as it relates to investing, your inaction has made it clear that you are incapable of implementing a reasonable plan as it relates to deploying your capital for the goal of supplementing your retirement income needs. You may not like to hear this bit of advice, but you should consider working with a qualified professional who can help you maintain a healthy distance from your money, and who can help you draw up a practical financial plan. There are numerous guides online that describe how best to choose a financial planner or investment advisor, so do yourself the favor of reading those, and get started on this important search if you feel that is appropriate for you.
This article first appeared on http://www.fortunefinancialadvisors.com