Determining Your Risk Tolerance

Perhaps the most important factor in formulating your investment plan is your risk tolerance; that is, the amount of risk you’re willing to assume in order to achieve your most important objectives. More precisely, your risk tolerance is based on the your financial and emotional ability to withstand negative returns on your investment portfolio.  Before embarking on any investment strategy it is important to know your risk tolerance to ensure that you select the right kind of investments and you are able to set clear objectives. More importantly, when your investments are aligned with the proper risk-reward continuum, you’re assured of many more restful nights.  So, how do you go about determining your risk tolerance?

Look at Your Time Horizon

The most important determinant is time; that is, how much time you have before you will need to access the money being invested. Younger people, those with more than 30 years before retirement, are more able to withstand the swings and the cycles of the stock market because of the tendency for the market to increase over time. When the stock market declines by 20% or more in one year, as it has a few times over the last couple of decades, a younger investor has the time to allow the market to recoup its losses and forge ahead for a couple of years. Therefore, they could take a more aggressive posture towards investing by increasing their exposure to stocks.

Fed Leaves Interest Rates Unchanged

Jeff Cox, CNBC: Investors will have at least one more month to worry about whether the Federal Reserve is raising rates. In the face of jittery financial markets and a global slowdown, the Fed blinked and held its key federal funds rate unchanged. September was supposed to be the month the U.S. central bank finally came off its zero interest rate policy, but instead it opted to hold steady for at least one more month. Following the decision, U.S. stocks initially traded lower but later jumped. Meanwhile, Treasury bond yields hit session lows and, safe-haven gold rose to highs not seen since September 4.

Longevity Risk: The Biggest Real Retirement Risk You Haven’t Covered

This isn’t our parents’ or grandparents’ retirement anymore. Just a few decades ago, many retirees enjoyed the full benefits of the “three-legged stool” of retirement provide by guaranteed pension payments, savings, and Social Security. In addition, they didn’t have to be very concerned with how much of their income translated into actual purchasing power because, except for the mid to late seventies, inflation was not a big factor for several reasons. Today, the three-legged stool is barely standing on two legs and inflation, even at the lowest levels, can wreak havoc on our lifestyles due to the fact we are living 12 to 15 years longer.

Financial Challenges Then and Now

The first reason why past generations were largely immune from inflation creep on their lifestyles was due to shorter life spans. A male retiring at age 65 in 1970 was expected to live 10 years into retirement – a female 12 years, so there was less time for inflation to have an impact. Secondly, nearly 75 percent of retirees received a guaranteed lifetime income from pension plans and many plans included a cost-of-living adjustment. For them, any retirement savings could be used as surplus. Third, back then the yield on savings vehicles were more closely linked to the rate of inflation so their future purchasing power was not impacted as much.

Have a Long Term goal? Financial Planning can Help You get you there

After several years of wallowing in financial upheaval caused by a severe recession and financial crisis, Americans are, once again, looking to the future. A renewed confidence has many people setting their sights on long term goals that, just a few years ago, may have seemed out of reach. However, as too many people have painfully learned, simply having a long-term goal, whether it’s an early retirement or a college education for your children, is not enough to realize your ambition.

A financial goal is a life destination which requires a map and a way to get there; and, assuming you have finite resources with which to successfully make the trek, they need to be used wisely or you are likely to come up short. If you have a long term goal, financial planning can help you get there.

What exactly is Financial Planning

All of us have certain things in life we want to accomplish and many of them require financial resources. These are called financial goals. Living a secure and enjoyable retirement is a goal shared by most people. In addition to that, parents want to be able to provide a college education for their children, buy a bigger house, or expand their business, and while working towards all of those, they want to ensure the financial security of their loved ones. These all become intricately linked pieces of your financial puzzle.

A financial plan is about carefully forging those pieces and fitting them in their proper place so that they work effectively together towards your vision. If a piece is missing or doesn’t fit quite right, it could skew all of the other pieces. As you become financially successful, more pieces are needed to complete the financial puzzle, such as risk management, tax strategies, and estate planning. Because of their impact on the total financial puzzle, it is critical to have a well-conceived, integrated plan.

The financial planning process enables you to focus clearly on your specific goals while addressing all of your concerns so they are no longer obstacles. And, having a well-conceived, comprehensive financial plan enables you to shutout the constant drone of doom and gloom, because, in the long-term, your plan is all that matters. 

Investors Beware: The Media Noise can be Deafening

Most people would argue that living in a digital world, with instant access to an endless stream of information has made us smarter and more self-empowered than past generations. Investors believe that it has “leveled the playing field”, enabling them to make investment decisions based on the same information once only available to the investment pros. The incessant quest for information has reached such a fever pitch that the media outlets, including the cable channels, print media, and now the blogosphere, are churning out content 24/7, and it still isn’t enough to satiate peoples’ ravenous appetite for information. So, it’s all good? WRONG.

There is a much stronger argument that can be made that, for people in general and investors especially, information overload not only makes it more difficult to make rational decisions, it often leads to behavior that can be harmful, if not devastating to your financial health. While there has obviously been a marked increase in the quantity of information, the quality of the information will always be in question. Where you have quantity without quality, all you really have is “noise.” And for people who really should be listening for legitimate financial advice and relevant information, it can be deafening.

How to Choose the Right Investment Advisor

With the proliferation of investment and personal finance websites, investors have access to a boundless number resources and tools once only available to financial professionals. And, while an increasing number of investors consider themselves to be at least somewhat self-directed in their investment decisions, the ever expanding world of investments and the increasing complexity of the financial markets require much more than a part-time approach to planning.  With so much at stake, it would be important to seek the guidance of a qualified and trusted investment advisor, if for no other reason than to validate their own plans and decisions. Choosing the right investment advisor can, therefore, be one of the more critical decisions a physician makes.

When looking for any professional advisor, it is important to be able to match their characteristics, temperament, client profile and experience level to your own profile. In the case of an investment advisor, the more you know about your financial situation, your investment objectives and preferences, and your tolerance for risk, the more thoroughly you will be able to evaluate an investment advisor to determine if they are a match.  Before meeting with an investment advisor, conduct a thorough assessment of your current situation and establish clearly defined goals and objectives.

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