Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The investing conundrum and how to make sense of it

I have been skimming through a few personal finance books and I'm not surprised by the wealth of contradicting information available. Give anyone an opportunity to sell their expertise, and the fight for the best type of advice can be deafening.

It's enough to make any layperson suspicious of these specialists dispensing the advice. If anything is for certain, it is that most people are going to advertise their strategy. There are books to sell and an audience to reach. This is not to say, however, that any of these experts are deliberately deceiving the public. They have apparently shared what has worked for them or their clients. What should be noted though, is that there may be a tendency to be biased and subjective about the advice they provide.

If you've been reading about investing, you're well aware of the numerous types of assets and accounts you can invest in. It can get confusing if you're just starting off. Now imagine being exposed to 'best practices' that many experts in the field of finance are selling. Walk into any library or bookstore and the titles of some books will have you believing there is only one way to invest - that which is given through the book. So if one author is highly recommending - and at times demanding - that the reader follow a particular set of investing guidelines, then how can any layperson dare try another investing method?

The best way to approach this problem is to first gain a basic understanding of your options. What works for one investor does not necessarily work for another. We all have different needs and priorities that can't be fulfilled with a one-size-fits all strategy. Once you have understood the types of funds and investments available, the next step is to shop around for a financial planner or advisor. While you may feel that the first consultation is your only option, finding the right advisor is very much like finding the right pair of shoes. You keep trying them on until you find the right one. The ideal advisor will take your needs and goals into consideration, answer all your questions without being defensive or dismissive, and understand your investing style. At no time should an investor ever feel pressured to buy into anything that feels uncomfortable.

As for the personal finance books that burden readers with too many strategies, take them in stride. Investing is an experience. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. The goal should be to constantly monitor your investments so you don't lose too much, and to avoid anything that promises an unrealistically large gain. The money can be moved to your discretion, but keep in mind that the best returns are those generated when you commit to an investment for the long-run. Go ahead and read those books, and use what applies and ignore what doesn't. But remember: there is no one ideal way to grow your savings, so don't be pressured into believing there ever is.

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