The 5 Reasons Why I am Gradually Moving More of My Money to Exchange Traded Funds

In the recent months I have begun moving more and more of my money to index funds/exchange traded funds. Below I list the 5 main reasons why I have chosen to do this.

1. Picking Stocks Takes Time

I love researching and picking my own stocks, especially when they turn out to be big winners. However, in order to pick the right stocks it takes time and patience.

When I pick stocks I am very meticulous in my research. I only pick stocks that appear to be a great companies at a good value.

Finding these stocks takes time.

In order to free up time for my other ventures, I have begun investing more and more into exchange traded funds, also known as ETF’s.

2. My Chances of Beating the Market are Slim

I know that the chance of me beating the market as a whole is slim. While I love researching and picking stocks, it is highly likely that my returns will be subpar, or right at the market at best.

Instead of hoping to match the market and maybe beat it, I have instead chosen to invest my money into the very funds I am trying to beat.

This goes hand in hand with #1 listed above. Why spend so much time matching the market when I can buy an ETF in the market?

3. Diversification is Simpler

Trying to diversify a portfolio with many stocks can prove to be a difficult challenge. This is another reason I have chosen to invest more in ETF’s.

Consider this: I have one Total Stock Market ETF and on Total Bond Market ETF. It is much easier for me to balance this portfolio than if I am juggling with 20 different stocks and bonds in my portfolio all at one time.

4. Keeping Track of Stocks Takes Time

I noted above that picking stocks takes time, but tracking your own stocks takes even more time.

In order to maintain your portfolio, you need to have some idea of how your stock positions are performing.

So you need to stay updated on the stock’s news and know when a good exit point for you will be.

I have lost out in some instances where I waited too long to sell a stock. As a result, I am still holding some stocks that have proven to be losers which brings me to #5.

5. It’s Hard to Cut Losses

With individual stocks it is hard to cut losses and move on. This is something that I have struggled with.

I currently own some stock in 3D Technology (DDD) which has dropped 39% since I bought in about a year ago.

What is holding me back?

If I had to guess, it would be the loss aversion theory in action. I wrote a post about loss aversion which you can check out here.

Do you pick your own stocks or do you opt to invest in an exchange traded fund instead? Why did you choose one over the other? 

Free for Five Days: “Get Rid of Debt Forever: A Guide to Understanding and Conquering Debt”

I am making this post to inform you that my first eBook, “Get Rid of Debt Forever: A Guide to Understanding and Conquering Debt” is available for download on Amazon for free for the next five days.

From August 21, 2014 to August 25, 2014, you can have the book sent straight to your Kindle or any other device and it will be completely free. All you have to do is go Get Rid of Debt Forever: A Guide to Understanding and Conquering Debt and click download to have it sent to you today.

This book (along with other projects) has taken up quite a bit of my time. As a result, I have not been blogging as frequently as I would like, and I apologize for that.

But, I have learned a lot in this process and I want to use this blog post to discuss what you will find in my book, why I decided to create this book, and what I learned in the process.

What You Will Find

The eBook I created is a collection of blog posts that I have made on this site, along with a few added chapters not found here, organized and put into one place.

You see, I originally intended on creating a comprehensive guide on personal finance that would be found on this blog. I came up with this idea back in April and it seemed like a great idea at the time, but then I recognized something.

My realization

I realized that I was writing A LOT. And I was only writing on one individual topic which was debt. If I was going to create a comprehensive guide on personal finance, it would take a LONG time.

What I decided to do was repackage these blog posts on debt into an eBook. I was originally planning on giving this eBook away as an incentive for people to subscribe to the blog. Then I changed my mind and decided I wanted to publish it on Amazon, which I’ll get to in a minute.

So I decided to repackage the book, add some chapters and make it more organized, and edit it to make it a little less informal and free from error (at least that’s what I hope!).

Why Did I do This?

I mentioned above that I was going to give this book away as an email opt-in book. There are a couple big reasons why I wanted to publish my eBook on Amazon instead.

Reason #1: I wanted to create my own product

The first reason is quite simple. I wanted to create my own product that I could sell. I wanted a product that has my name on it that I could put out there for people to purchase.

At the end of the day, that is why we are here. I thought it would be great to repackage these posts, make them more organized and better written, and allow people to purchase my product.

What I hope is that people get some great value out of this eBook and that it will help them.

Also, I want to work on some advertising and marketing skills. By creating my OWN product to sell, I can create advertisements to sell something that can give me some sort of a return on investment.

In the process, I will sharpen my advertising skills which will help me dramatically in the future.

Reason #2: I wanted to learn the Kindle Direct Publishing platform

I plan on writing a lot more in the future. This will include many eBooks which I want to sell to help solve people’s problems.

For this reason, I want to learn the process of creating a book and putting it on the Kindle platform. I have learned A LOT in the process. Discover what I learned in the next section of this post.

For this reason, I figured I might as well learn this platform and process now so that I won’t have to face this learning curve in the future.

What Did I Learn From Writing this Book?

Writing is hard. Despite the fact that this is a short eBook, it was still a long process. Creating, editing, and now advertising has proven to be a challenging process.

When writing a book it would seem that writing should take up the most time. Not for me. The thing that took me the longest was the editing and formatting of this book.

It took a while to make sure everything sounded good and the format of the book was good for the Kindle platform. I went through a few rounds of editing with my girlfriend which took a little longer than I was hoping.

Also, creating the cover is another challenging process. Luckily for me, my girlfriend grew up doing graphic design and was able to help create a pretty good looking cover photo for my book.

Creating is fun. I love creating something and putting it out there for all to read. For me, writing is such a rewarding experience. So much that I plan on creating and releasing another book soon.

Staying balanced is hard. I have had to balance writing and editing with my full-time job, along with social media for this blog, blogging, and having a life.

As a result, my blog has suffered. I haven’t written a post in about a month here. It is difficult balancing all of these things but a lot of people do it and I’m not going to complain.

The Most Important Lesson of All

Even if I fail it is okay.

I would be perfectly fine if my book sales don’t take off. Obviously I’d be happier if I made a million sales of course, but if sales fall flat I won’t have any regrets.

What I have learned through this entire process is more valuable than anything. Even if I fail, no one can take away those skills I acquired and the knowledge that I obtained. These skills can transfer over to other areas in my life down the road.

On top of that, I have something to show for my time. Instead of wasting time on TV or fooling around, I have an actual product that I can point to and shows what I did.

Finally, if I didn’t try, I never would have learned anything new at all.

Takeaway

Writing a book is fun. I recommend anyone try it out. It’s not easy by any means and it takes time and it probably won’t be worth it money-wise. But the experience you gain will be completely worth it.

Once again, you can get my eBook “Get Rid of Debt Forever: A Guide to Understanding and Conquering Your Debt” completely free on Amazon for the next five days. Click the picture below to check it out!

I would love to hear your feedback, so if you could leave a review on Amazon I would greatly appreciate it!

Get Rid of Debt Cover

From August 21 to August 25 you can get your copy of my eBook completely free!

Your Fear of Losing Will End Up Costing You Big Time

I was discussing the stock market with one of my co-workers the other day, and we were talking about how stocks are generally overvalued and how the market will have to come back down eventually.

He said “This is why I don’t want to invest in the market right now. Everything is just too high and it’s going to fall eventually. I would rather wait for things to come down to get started.”

I don’t blame him for not wanted to invest everything in stocks right now, but he could invest a small portion of his money in stocks and put the other portion into other forms of investments. Keep in mind, he didn’t invest in the market when it was high in 2007, but he also didn’t invest in 2009 when it hit rock bottom.

It’s not unusual for first time investors to have this mentality

Many first time investors hesitate when it comes to investing. Personally, I spent a couple of years dreaming of investing but never took the leap of faith. What was holding me back those two years is the same thing that holds back many first time investors: loss aversion.

The loss aversion theory explains why many people are afraid to get started. People will make excuses as to why they don’t want to invest in the stock market because they are scared of losing money.

But, this begs the question, when exactly do you plan on investing in the market?

What I saw with my co-worker was a classic example of the loss aversion theory in action. He was so afraid of losing money in the market. As a result, he has not investing in the stock market at all in the past 8 years.

So you may be wondering “What exactly is the loss aversion theory?”

The theory states that people have a tendency to value gains and losses differently. So if something is presented in terms of gains and losses, people are more likely to pick the item based off the gains presentation.

Why do we value gains and losses differently?

This is due to the fact that people strongly prefer to avoid losses rather than acquiring gains of the same amount. In some studies, they have showed that the pain of losing is almost twice as strong as the pain of gaining.

In one example, people were given the option of risking $5,000 to make $10,000 on a flip of a coin. Many people would forgo the gain just so that they didn’t lose any money.

Think about that one for a second. If you could flip a coin and make $10,000 or lose $5,000, would you take that chance? Truth is, you really should take that chance. 50% of the time your will come out ahead with $10,000. What do you think you would do in this situation? Why?

How can you apply loss aversion theory to investing?

The thing about loss aversion is this: it causes people to stay in stagnant positions just so that they don’t have to risk losing any money. Due to the fact that people are so afraid of losing, they will stay in a position that is worse in the long run.

For example, some individuals would stick with losing investments over a long period of time because they don’t want to realize losses. As a result, they will ride down with a sinking ship so that they don’t have to experience the pain of losing…until it is too late of course.

To make matters worse, some people will actually invest more money into a losing stock to average out the cost of their investment. This makes it seem as though the stock hasn’t lost as much value.

How can you avoid the loss aversion bias?

Above I have illustrated two situations in investing that are subject to the loss aversion bias.

The first one being new investors who just don’t get started because they are afraid to lose money.

The second one being experienced investors who hold on to losing stock positions because they do not want to realize losses, which would turn paper losses into actual money losses.

How can new investors avoid the loss aversion bias?

For new investors, it is important to realize that there is some risk to investing in the stock market. You need to understand that your investments may lose value in the short term.

What you also need to know is that the market has been upward trending for the past 130 years and more. You can’t let your fear of losses hold you back from investing.

Another way to hedge your losses is to make sure your portfolio is well diversified. Make sure you have your money invested across a range of stock indexes, bonds, and other investment types. This will help limit your losses over the long haul and make you less likely to lose your money.

Finally, you need to stop worrying and accept the fact that you could lose money. You need to grow comfortable with the fact that your portfolio will have extremely high days and extremely lows days. The most important thing is to weather the storm and not panic on those bad days.

How can experienced investors avoid the loss aversion bias?

My advice for experienced investors is quite different from new investors. New investors are afraid of losing money from the get go whereas experienced investors are afraid of realizing losses on certain investments.

For experienced investors, you need to maintain a long term view of investments. It is important for you to understand how a loss will impact your portfolio as a whole.

One way you can avoid holding on to a losing stock for too long is to place a stop loss order on that stock. This will force you to sell your stock once it hits a certain low point.

Another good thing to remember is that selling investments at a loss will actually help you. When you sell at a loss, you will be able to offset any short term and long term taxable gains.

Final word to experienced investors

Do not hold onto a stock longer than you should. If there are legitimate, solid indications of a sign to sell your stock now, you should absolutely sell.

Now, this doesn’t mean every time a tv pundit tells you a stock is a sell that you should sell it. However, if a company is going through turmoil and revenues and profits are way down, then you should probably sell before it is too late.

You don’t want to hold on to a stock just because you hope it will go up in value. You shouldn’t buy a stock which you hope goes up in value, so why would you have that mentality for a stock you currently own?

What do you think?

What do you think about the loss aversion theory? Have there been times where you didn’t do something because you were afraid of losing? Can you apply this theory to other areas of your life?

What is anchoring and how can it make you spend money?

Anchoring is a psychological heuristic that influences your ability to assess probability and make decisions. Anchoring is the common human tendency to rely on the first piece of information which is available to them, known as the anchor.

In more general terms, anchoring is the idea that we start with some information, a specific number for instance, and then work our way from there to make a decision.anchoring makes you spend money

Case study

Drazen Prelec and Dan Ariely conducted an experiment at MIT in 2006 where they had students bid on various items, such as a bottle of wine, a cordless trackball, and a textbook.

They had student write down the last two digits of their social security number, and had them pretend that this was the original price of the item. They then held an “auction” where they asked each student how much they would pay for each item.

For example, if the last two digits of their social security were “82”, the student would write down 82 on the top of their page, and then write $82 next to every item listed on the sheet of paper in front of them. Once this was done, the professors would describe each product, and the students would write down how much they bid on each item.

Remarkably, the students with the highest social security numbers (from 80-99) bid the highest amounts and those with the lowest (1-20) bid the least amount. As a matter of fact, those who had a social security number in the upper 20 percent bid 216 to 346 percent higher than those in the lowest 20 percent!

The crazy thing about this study is that the student did not believe writing down their social security number next to each individual item would affect their bidding. However, that number next to each item subconsciously made the students spend more (or less) than their peers depending on how high or low their social security number was.

What does this study prove?

We are affected by the first number that we see when it comes to making a decision. Although you can deny it all you want, anchoring is a common way that people make decisions, especially when it comes to making a purchase. The study above, along with many others, have shown that people use the initial number as a starting point and then work their way up or down from there.

Businesses use anchoring to make you buy more

How often have you bought a product because it was 50 percent off? Or how often have you bought something from the grocery store just because it was buy one get one free, even though you didn’t really need it? Did you ever stop to wonder why you bought that product?

Anchoring is the reason we buy products that are on sale and listed so cheaply. We have an initial number in our head, and we work our way from there to make decisions. If you don’t have a number already in your head, manufactures will certainly remind you what retail price is.

How can you avoid anchoring?

Unfortunately, studies have shown that it is almost impossible for us to avoid anchoring. They show that the moment we are presented with an anchor, our minds are contaminated and have a tendency to always go back to that number.

Take gas prices for example. Personally, my anchor for gas prices is around $2.30, which is the price gas was when I first started driving a car. It was the first number that I was familiar with when I had to first pay gas, and every time the price of gas goes up I think back to the days when it was only $2.30 a gallon.

If I can’t avoid anchoring, what can I do?

Anchoring is hard to avoid. The fact is, we do it on a daily basis. One way you can avoid anchoring through your purchases is the ask yourself: do I need this? Sure, it’s great to see something that is 50% off, but does that change the fact whether or not you really need that item? Probably not.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do is be more aware of anchoring and seeing how it effects you in your everyday life as a consumer. By understanding that you make irrational decisions due to anchoring, you will be more likely to make wiser decisions in the future.

What purchases have you made due to the anchoring effect? 

Businesses know how to make you buy a product. Don’t become a victim of their mind tricks.

What an amazing deal! I can’t believe I’m getting such a steal! 

When buying a product on credit, it’s not hard to fall victim to believing you got a great deal. Big companies know how consumers think and they know how to get a product into their hands as quickly as possible. Millions of dollars are spent advertising and researching consumer behavior.

One technique companies use to peddle their product onto consumers is to make them believe they are getting an amazing deal. I’m sure you’ve seen infomercials which tout that you can buy a product with “6 easy payments of $99 a month, no money down!” Would you still but the product if they told you it was “$600 dollars plus interest at a ridiculously high interest rate!” I don’t think so.

This same thing goes for cars. In the last article I discussed the negatives of taking out car loans. Once again, companies with throw out phrases like “only $299 a month for 60 months.” For them, it’s all about framing and making your gigantic purchase seem not so gigantic. When you spend a little amount over a long period of time you are dying a very slow but painful financial death of a thousand cuts. You become a servant to the lender and lose any chance at financial freedom.

The little things add up on both sides of the coin

You know how saving small amounts over time can add up? Well spending small amounts over time can have that same effect, except you suffer instead of benefiting. Don’t get fooled into thinking you aren’t paying a lot. Don’t look at purchases as payments in monthly installments. Take a step back and realize what the total cost of your purchase is, and then decide if it is really worth it to you.

We are all victims of the instant gratification bug

Instant gratification. We are all guilty of it. How could we not be. We live in the of the fastest generations ever. I was on Amazon the other day looking for books to read and stumbled across one that was on my short list of books to read. I went to the page for the book and in less than 10 seconds and the click of a single button, that book was delivered to my Kindle. I even commented to my friend how scary it was that I just bought something with the single click of a button.

With how quickly it is to buy things now, it is easy to get tripped up and knocked off the path to financial independence. In a matter of seconds you can spend hundreds, heck, even thousands of dollars. Back in the olden times you actually had to get in your car, drive to a store, find the item you wanted before you could even purchase it. You had time to think about the purchase you were about to make before you made it. By the time you got to the store you may have even reconsidered making the purchase altogether.

Once again, companies are behind making it easier for consumers to buy products. The faster you can buy a product, the less time you have to think about whether or not you truly needed it. It is their job to figure out how to get a product into your hands as fast as possible. Look around you. It’s everywhere. Fast food, Wal-Mart on every corner, one click purchases.

Considerations you should make before a major purchase

1)      Do I really need this product?I advise you, before you buy a product, take exactly three minutes before you click buy and consider the following:

2)      Will I still be satisfied with this product in six months?

3)      Does this product help improve my life?

4)      Is this not an impulse purchase?

5)      Can I afford this product without going into debt?

6)      Finally, Do I have a good reason for this purchase?

psychology of debt

The more “Yes” answers you have, the more likely it is that your purchase is a good one. It can be a dangerous trap when you combine instant gratification with credit cards. Not only are you mindlessly buying something, you are buying it with debt which can take months or years to pay off. This is precisely why I advise you take at least three minutes to really think about what you are about to do. Don’t set yourself back two years for a purchase you made in ten seconds.

Summary

  • Companies know how consumers think, and will make a large purchase appear smaller by giving you the cost per month instead of the total cost of a product.
  • Just like saving a little bit adds up over time, spending a little bit in monthly installments will add up over time. Understand the actual cost of your purchase.
  • Companies know consumers seek instant gratification and have responded by making products quicker and easier to buy.
  • Take into consideration the six questions I listed above before you make a major purchase. Don’t let a split second decision set you back years.

Photo Credit/Flickr User Paul Inkles

The Psychology of Debt: Part One

psychology of debt

Close your eyes and think about a time when you entered into debt. What was your thought process as you made the decision to take out that loan? While it is simple to say that you just needed to borrow the money, it is important to look deeper at your mindset when you entered into debt. How you think about money and debt can have a huge impact on your financial decisions down the road. By understand the mind and psychology behind debt, you can greatly improve your future decisions regarding debt management. When you are finished with this series of articles you will have gained insight on why people enter into debt, how you’re impressions of money impacts debt decisions, the need for instant gratification, and the psychological concept known as “conspicuous consumption.”

Why do we get into debt?

Debt opens up opportunities to make purchases you couldn’t have made otherwise. It’s only recently that credit cards and other forms of credit have risen to popularity. As you know, having debt is a doubled edged sword which can be amazing if utilized right, but absolutely horrific if used incorrectly.

You subconsciously believe you have more than you do

Credit cards give you the impression of having more money than you really do. If you have access to a card with a $1,000 limit it appears that you have $1,000 that you are allowed to spend. Mentally, you believe that I you actually have the money in your hands and freedom to purchase whatever you may like. You don’t really have to consider whether or not you can afford the purchase. Instead, your mindset shifts into thinking “I still have money left on my card, so I can make this purchase. I may not have the money right now but I can make payments and figure out all of that stuff later.” Don’t be a person who needs to “figure it out later.” If you need to figure out how you are going to afford something, you can’t afford it. Put your card back into your wallet and walk out of the store.

You begin to justify your purchase when you believe you have money to spend just because you have maxed out your card. One way of justifying a purchase was already mentioned, “figuring it out.” Other ways people justify purchases is by telling themselves that it is “just this one time. It won’t happen again.” The issue with this is that once you do it one time is so much easier to do it again. Look at drug addicts. How many started out by saying they were just going to take one hit? It can be a slippery slope if you fall into the “just this one time” trap.

Another justification is that you will make more money and that you can afford minimum payments until then. Maybe you are expecting a raise or maybe waiting on a big check from one of your clients. Whatever the case may be, you justify your large purchase because you will be “making more money soon.” Avoid this pitfall as well and remember, don’t spend money that you haven’t yet earned. You are putting the cart before the horse if you do otherwise.

Have you ever justified one of your credit card purchases only to regret it later? What was your justification?

Photo Credit/Flickr user digitalbob8