Sometimes I wonder how it’s possible I ended up blogging about personal finance. There is so much of it I find incredibly boring! I don’t like math, I like the results of investing but the process is a drag, and I would way rather spend money now than save it for later. Stick with me though…I don’t think it’s a bad thing.
In fact, I think it’s relatable. I might be in the minority when it comes to personal finance bloggers, but outside of our community, there are a lot of people who lack an interest in money. They have more exciting things to worry about than budgeting and investing. And that’s ok, but lack of interest is not a good excuse for not having your shit together. There are plenty of shortcuts you can take to make the money part run smoothly while you live your life.
For me, the one part of managing my finances I dread the most is investing. Watching my money grow is exciting, but researching fundamentals of a stock…
Instead, I take the easy way out. Some people spend hours analyzing their portfolios, but that’s not my style. Today I thought I’d share a few principles that guide my investment decisions in the hopes it will show how you can have success without much effort.
As you can probably guess, the number one thing I need when it comes to investing is easiness. I don’t want to make manual contributions, I don’t want to have to do research, I want to do a one-time set-up and let it ride.
There are a number of ways you can do this. Your bank will be able to set-up investment accounts for you with automatic contributions, you can find a financial advisor, or you can use an online robo-advisor. I chose the robo-advisor route because it’s cheap and you can get set-up online. AKA, you don’t have to have a face-to-face meeting with anyone. #introvertperks
I chose WealthSimple based on good reviews and the fact that their ads speak to me (only kind of joking). Their online application determines the best accounts for you and the most suitable risk profile. Once that’s done you can set-up contributions to come from your bank account every month and get invested in their low-cost funds.
Unless something happens that will change your risk or investment time frame there’s nothing more you need to do. If I’m honest, I rarely even look at my WealthSimple accounts. The money invested there is all for long-term needs, so I don’t need constant feedback on how it’s doing.
If it were possible to have a torrid love affair with automation I would (and no, not a sex robot!) It makes my life infinitely easier, it doesn’t judge me for watching hours of crappy TV, and I only need to tell it to do something once.
I’ve talked about how I automate my finances before, but it’s such a huge reason I’m able to budget and save money effectively that it is worth repeating.
Recurring bill payments: automated! Retirement savings: automated! Contributions to my vacation fund: automated! The only transactions I process each month manually are my credit cards bills because they vary. You’re not doing yourself any favours if you’re allowing your money to sit in your chequing account. It’s not earning anything! Give it a job, and let automation be its manager.
What You Can, When You Can
You don’t need a lot of money to invest. You can invest with only small sums of money.
Yes, I’m repeating myself, but it’s such a common misconception that I want to make sure you understand. Even if you can only afford to contribute $20 a month, that’s perfect. Just start. Set-up that automatic contribution for $20 a month and increase it when you can. If you get a raise, save more. If you get a bonus, save it. When it comes to investing, now is always better than never so don’t be afraid to start small and build up your base. You don’t need to have thousands of dollars to dip your toes in the market, and once you do, you’ll find it easier and easier to make it a habit.
Turn Off The Emotions
Money is emotional, that’s no surprise to anyone. Some people are better able to cope with drops in their investment portfolios, but no one is comfortable with it 100 per cent of the time. It’s important to be aware of how much risk you’re willing to take, but you also need to understand that there will always be waves you need to ride out.
We’ve all heard the adage to ‘buy low and sell high’, but that’s easier said than done. And if you are investing for the long-term, you shouldn’t be overly concerned about buying and selling anyways. The perk of simplifying your investments is that it takes a lot of the guesswork out of it. You need to sit back and let the markets do the thing and hope you come out ahead.
The best way to not let your emotions get the best of you? Stop looking at your portfolio!
What are you going to do if you log in to your account and notice that your values have dropped? You won’t be happy, but are you actually going to make a change? Will you sell low? Probably not. So why even bother putting yourself through that stress if it’s not going to change your end game? Technology is great for allowing us to automate our finances, but it’s not so great when it gives us instant access to our returns on our phones. I’m not saying never check-in, but try to limit it as much as you can. I usually take a peak every month or so and never on my phone.
No Unnecessary Risks
For every success story you hear about someone hitting the jackpot with a stock there are many more stories about people losing big money when they make a risky buy. There’s no guarantee you’ll see the upside, especially when you’re an uninterested investor who isn’t willing to put in the research time.
You know that motivational poster that was in everyone’s grade nine classroom:
That does not apply to investing. Shoot for the moon and you’re more likely to end up on an inhospitable planet.
Stocks can be fun to play around with, but if you want to take the easy route, then you’re better off sticking with low-cost index funds or ETF’s. You won’t see the huge returns that early investors in Apple, Amazon or Bitcoin can brag about but you’re more likely to see steady returns with much less volatility. And things won’t go entirely off the rails if you forget to check your portfolio or keep up the business news.
Have a Back-Up Plan
Investing should be for the long-term, or at least the medium-term. It’s not that your investments are necessarily locked-in and unable to be accessed, but you don’t want to have to get yourself in a position where you have to sell low. Any short-term money needs you have should be kept in high-interest savings where you’ll get a small amount of growth but no threat of decline.
It’s also a good idea to keep a stocked emergency fund on the sidelines so you can cover any unexpected expenses without having to dip into your investments. This is especially true if the bulk of your savings go towards retirement. You are allowed to withdraw money from an RRSP, but it will be taxed, which means you’ll need to pull out more than you need.
There is no wrong time to invest. There are better times, but if you have the money, then it’s always a good time. I’ve been asked the question about whether it’s better to make lump-sum contributions or contribute smaller amounts on a regular basis. My answer? Whenever you can. If you can make a lump-sum deposit because you just received a bonus, inheritance or sweet cheque from your side hustle, then go ahead and invest it. I wouldn’t suggest hanging on to it and splitting up the deposits over the next few months. You’ll be way more tempted to spend it that way!
However, if you get paid regularly, then it makes sense to make contributions from every paycheque. It’s the same logic. You don’t want the money burning a hole in your chequing account. The added benefit of making regular contributions is that you’re buying in at a variety of price points. Sometimes you’ll be buying in low and other times high, but those will average out and be slightly less risky than trying to time a lump-sum deposit.
Less Learning, More Doing
This may seem counterintuitive but hear me out. A common reason why many millennials don’t start investing is because they don’t understand it. That kind of thinking sets us back because you are never going to know everything. There are endless books, blogs, podcasts, etc. that teach you how to invest, but the best thing to do is start. You don’t need to know what a P/E Ratio is to start investing. Heck, you can go your entire life without understanding P/E Ratios and still be a successful investor.
Don’t get scared off by not having ‘enough’ knowledge. This is why platforms like WealthSimple are becoming so popular. All it takes is a few minutes of your time to fill out a quick questionnaire, and they’ll make all the hard decisions for you. Completely beginner friendly! And who knows, maybe investing is the motivation you need to get educated 😉
So, put down the textbook and open an account.
To Sum Up
I am not the person to come to if you want the latest stock tip (I can give you some names though), but just because I don’t have much interest in investing doesn’t mean I don’t do it. I’ve set-up a system for myself that is simple, efficient and hands-off. I get to reap the benefits of market growth and let someone else worry about stock picks.
Let’s chat…are you an avid investor or could you care less about stocks, bonds, and funds? What’s one investing principle you would add to the list?
This post was proofread by Grammarly.