How To Overcome Your Fear Of Investing In The Stock Market

S&P 500 Historical ChartThis post is relevant for the following people:

* Who distrust the stock market.
* Who know they should take more risk but don’t because they’ve been burned before.
* Who don’t know much about the markets.
* Who are falling behind financially every day the bull market rages on.
* Who have the majority of their assets in cash, CDs, money market and checking accounts. (See CD Investment Alternatives)
* Who want a potentially higher rate of growth on their net worth.
* Who have grown a sizable financial nut and absolutely hate losing money.
* Who have a gambling tendency.

I’ve been investing in the stock markets since 1995 when Charles Schwab had a nascent online brokerage company. My father showed me his account one trading day and I was immediately hooked by all the green and red from various stock movements.

19 years isn’t a particularly long investment resume, but I did spend 13 years in the equities department of two major investment banks. Instead of buying and holding, I was neck deep into the sales and analysis of public companies. I’d meet with senior management, travel overseas to conferences, and visit company factories to kick the tires and make recommendations.

I remember traveling 26 hours to Anhui Province, China one year. My client and I landed at 2am, got to the hotel at 3am, visited the production facilities of Anhui Conch Cement (914 HK) at 9am for two hours and then caught a 2pm flight to Hong Kong to meet five more companies. The whole process of trying to fully understand companies before making an investment was exhausting, but necessary when other people’s money is at stake. Now compare how much research the average stock investor does before buying. Kind of scary.

The stock markets can be absolutely brutal to your net worth if you are not properly diversified. If you planned to retire in 2008-2010 you were absolutely crushed if most of your investments were in stocks. Everything has rebounded five years later, but that means you lost five years of financial freedom with a whole bunch of worrying while you worked through the recovery. 

Asset Allocation Review – How Much Richer Do You Feel In This Bull Market?

Hammock in HawaiiI’ve argued in the past why some of you may not feel wealthier with stock markets at record highs, but that was 15% lower ago! The S&P 500 is poised to have one of its best risk adjusted returns in history if it closes above 1,800 (+27%) in 2013. Besides stocks, housing prices are up double digits for the nation. If you own stocks and real estate, you should be feeling richer right? Maybe, maybe not.

Everything is relative when it comes to our finances. In a bull market, the wealthy get way more wealthy than the average person. Even if your $300,000 portfolio is up 30% to $390,000 this year, that’s nothing when Warren Buffet is up $10 billion! Who cares if your $800,000 house appreciated to $1 million when some 23 year old rejected a $3 billion cash dollar offer for his photo messenger app. Ah, the unfortunate curse of financial comparisons.

I’d like us to do some financial reflecting as the year winds down. It’s important we review our asset allocation every year and figure out how we feel about where we are to make future allocation decisions. It’s very hard to ascertain our risk tolerance without getting a little personal.


An Alternative To Peer-To-Peer Lending For A 5% Return On Investment

Growth Of P2P Lending Chart To $1 BillionSince first writing about my plans to invest more in P2P through, I’ve been having a difficult time mobilizing a sizable amount of assets to make a difference in my passive income stream portfolio. When I say sizable, I mean more than $50,000. The main reason is that I’m just not absolutely comfortable making loans to strangers, no matter how good their credit ratings.

I realize if I invest in over 100 of the highest rated loans, the chances are high that I will be able to earn at least 5% vs. the 7-8% advertised through P2P. But there’s something about my desire to invest my money to help someone I personally know that keeps most of my money away from P2P.

The best reason to borrow via P2P is to consolidate your debt into a lower interest rate P2P loan. I also have a soft spot for lending people money over Prosper to pay off medical bills. Accidents happen all the time, and they are usually not the victim’s fault. Every single other reason to borrow money over Prosper does not gel with my lending standards, even if the interest rate is higher. (Read: The Main Reasons To Borrow Through Peer-To-Peer Lending)

So I’m faced with the dilemma of continuously lending money to strangers at a 5-10% interest rate to consolidate their debts or lend money to a friend who started a hedge fund and is looking to build his assets under management. I’d like for you to weigh in on this decision because $150,000 is at stake.


Personal Capital Review – New Investment Features And A Meeting With The CEO

Bill Harris, CEO of Personal Capital

Bill Harris, CEO of Personal Capital

After two years of usage it’s finally time I do a unique review of Personal Capital from the perspective of an entrepreneur, an affiliate blogger, an equity shareholder and a fellow San Francisco resident. I’ve already highlighted in previous posts how I use Personal Capital to reduce portfolio fees and how to run various growth scenarios to better manage your 401(k) for retirement. Now I’d like to share with you some thoughts about the company after a two hour meeting I had with senior management.

If there’s one habit I’ve picked up working in finance since 1999, it’s the process of being as thorough as possible with every single financial related matter. One wrong move can be the difference between retiring comfortably on the beach before you’re 60, or working your tail off until the bitter end!

The main difference between Wall St. institutional investors and retail investors is access. If you’ve ever wondered where your higher fees for active fund management is going, part of it goes towards business trips to attend conferences, funding flights around the world to kick tires, and allowing analysts to meet with management wherever they may be. Index fund managers don’t have to do hardly any research except for how much to buy or sell to replicate an index to minimize tracking error.

I’ve literally sat in over 3000 one-one-one meetings with senior management of pre-IPO and publicly traded companies during my time on Wall St. Due to all the hours spent listening to some of the most critical minds asking questions, I cannot help but be critical in my analysis of my own personal investments and financial recommendations I make on Financial Samurai as well.

Why you should meet management one-on-one:

1) To observe the competence of management through the communication eloquence of their vision.

2) To observe body language that would indicate strength or weakness in the upcoming quarter or year.

3) To understand whether the CEO’s philosophies are consistent with the company’s stated philosophies and your own.

4) To see if the CEO, CFO, or COO are people you can trust with your grandmother’s hard earned savings.

5) To corroborate financial assumptions and things you hear on the street.

I’m very fortunate to live in San Francisco, the tech/internet hub of the world. So when Personal Capital invited me to drive down to Redwood City to have a chat with their CEO Bill Harris at HQ, I jumped at the chance.


A Way To Reduce Poor Financial Decisions And Build More Wealth

Sleeping man next to water fountainThings sure felt great at the top of the market in 2007. Stocks were on fire. Real estate could do no wrong. Turning 30 was only slightly depressing for several days. I even remember being surprised at how little then President George Bush was making vs. a third year VP in finance. Then the bottom fell out of in 2008 as Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers went buh-bye. Friends were getting fired left and right and all of a sudden nobody wanted to spend money anymore.

Things got so bad that I finally stopped feeling sorry for myself as my net worth took a plunge and started Financial Samurai in the summer of 2009. I had been putting it off for a couple years since work was so busy. Writing was a cathartic way of easing the financial pain. Reaching out to others online helped me put things in perspective that the world was still turning despite what the media constantly reported. Eventually the worst passed and we began to recover.

The events of 2008-2009 serve to remind me how incredibly naive and stupid I was to think the good times would last forever. Up until 2008, nothing noticeably bad had happened to me. I got into a decent college, miraculously passed seven rounds of 55 interviews to land my first job, was able to get a promotion to a new firm in SF two years later, made VP in 2005, and finished up my MBA the very next year. What could go wrong but everything.

Remembering poor financial decisions is a great way to counteract frivolous spending as well as minimize greed when it comes to investing. The method I use is called “Financial Mean Reversion,” which states that in order to justify spending unnecessary money, I’ve got to first make up for my spending errors.