By Karlan Tucker
If something you thought to be true turned out to be exactly the opposite, how soon would you want to know about the actual truth? It was once believed that the world was flat, and that the earth was the center of our solar system. It was also believed that atoms were the smallest particles in existence. These once-held truths are hardly given a second thought today. Our “new” way of thinking is the result of many years of advanced discoveries and facts being passed from generation to generation. But imagine how hard it must have been to grapple with the idea that one could actually sail around the earth rather than falling off the edge of it. People were mocked, ridiculed, and even persecuted for an idea so preposterous as the sun being the center of the solar system instead of the earth.
Fast-forward several hundred years. Although it now seems almost laughable to reflect on this way of thinking, we must not forget the human process of wrestling with truth, particularly when it goes against what we have been taught for much of our lives. Decisions become exponentially harder to make when they go against ingrained thought patterns.
Investing is no exception to this rule. When it comes to choosing our investments, the same mental challenges are present that were there hundreds of years ago. When choosing the best vehicles to invest our retirement funds, what we have been taught may or may not be true. We owe it to ourselves to perform the proper due diligence and consider the best place to invest our money in this ever-changing economic environment. Below are three suggestions that will help serve as catalysts to begin this process:
- Do not let your emotions get in the way of your investing. While this may be easier said than done, it is vital to making the best financial decisions. You need to base your financial choices on factual, sound evidence and not conventional wisdom. When you notice your emotions beginning to dictate your decisions, take a step back for as long as you need to gain composure. Remember, it was conventional wisdom that sent stocks down almost 50% during the great recession.
- When doing research, avoid publications that are clearly biased. When a magazine is littered with advertisements from mutual fund companies, it is probably going to be a pro-mutual funds publication. Not everyone is a financial expert – just because someone has a slew of letters behind their name doesn’t mean they know everything. Be aware of extreme language. When people start describing investments as a sure thing, bullet-proof or the worst idea ever, it could be a sign of a biased point of view.
- Perfection does not exist. If an investment existed that was entirely safe, 100% liquid and could outperform the market all the time, there would be no need for diversification. Everyone would simply place all of their money in this type of investment. This perfect investment vehicle simply does not exist. So remember: If something appears too good to be true, it probably is.