Control What You Can Control: Goals-Based Investing

In my early twenties, I learned an invaluable tool for mitigating stress. It is pointless to spend a second of my time or an ounce of energy on a problem over which I have no influence. I have found it to be a principle applicable to dilemmas of every scale, which I will demonstrate with a few examples.

 

Small Scale:

After a long day at work, stuck in traffic for 45 minutes, I have two choices:

1. Let the frustration get to me. Allow my mood to diminish. Drive aggressively.

OR

2. Reset. Put on a podcast. Learn something new. Laugh at my favorite comedian.

 

With either choice, I’m getting home at the same time, but have the potential to benefit from only one.

 

Broad Scale:

A year into my career, I was constantly worried over whether my entry-level position (which I, quite frankly, did not enjoy) would lead me all the way to the finish line I had in sight.

I soon realized how preposterous this question was and how little control I had over the events that would influence my path. This lifted an enormous weight. I was able to put my head down and actually began to enjoy the work that I once dreaded.

The same principle can be applied to investing and I’ll tell you how.

If you spend your life chasing the best performing stock or investment fund of the week/month/year, odds are that you’ll never be satisfied. Hundreds of thousands of people make it their life’s work and not a single one has been able to “perfectly” navigate the ever-changing investment landscape. The bar for success is unreachable because no one selects the perfect investment mix every time. Constantly chasing this bar will only result in disappointment.

The key is to understand what success in investing means for YOU. Adjusting your mindset will allow you to avoid the worries and stress of a market fluctuating beyond your control.

These might be more helpful questions to ask. How much money will it take to retire comfortably? Have I put away enough to pay for my son’s or daughter’s college tuition? Have I positioned my investments to help me weather a poor economic period?

These are all questions that can be answered through thoughtful analysis and strategic investment planning.

  • You cannot determine, with certainty, what stock will perform best tomorrow. But you can select a portfolio of investments that, through disciplined management, will perform at a level that makes you feel confident about the prospect of retiring on time.
  • You may not know just what your child’s tuition costs will be or whether they will bring home a much-coveted scholarship. But you can put your savings into vehicles that will provide you with significant tax savings when those bills come due.
  • You can’t determine the exact date of the next market correction. But you can structure your investment portfolio to include assets that will mitigate the impact of the correction when it DOES come.

When it all seems overwhelming, take stock (pun intended) of the real-world objectives for which you’ve been saving and investing. Define your goals within those objectives.  And, whether on your own or with the help of a trusted financial advisor, identify the tangible actions that can be taken to improve your likelihood of success. Through these actions, you can take control despite working with a market that you can’t control.

With the confidence that YOU have done all that YOU can do to position your investments on solid ground, the worry of picking the perfect option each day should disappear.