“A vision without a strategy remains an illusion.” Lee Bolman
While the quote above applies to almost any situation in life, I’ve found it to be most useful when it comes to money. For example, if you want to buy a new car, you will need a strategy for the down payment. Want to avoid falling into a retirement trap. You guessed it. You need to have a long-term strategy.
But, how exactly can you develop a winning strategy for your money? Well, here are seven ways to get you on your way.
1. Don’t invest in anything you don’t understand.
“I’ve worked super hard for my money and don’t gamble it on investments I don’t understand,” says Grant Sabatier, founder of Millennial Money. “So many people, especially now that they know I have some money, try to sell me stupid investments. I don’t listen to pitches unless I solicit them.”
“An investment has to be really compelling for me to go beyond my core investing strategy,” he adds. “A vast majority of my money has been made and still sits in the following investments.”
“There’s a big difference between long-term and short-term investing,” says Sabatier. “A lot of people don’t invest in stocks because they are afraid of losing money in the short term – which only really matters if you need the money in the short term.”
What if you’re investing for the long term? “I don’t know of any better investment than equities or real estate,” he says. “Sure, stocks can go down, but over any 10 year period in history, they are always up at least 7% per year when the gains and losses are averaged out. So here is how I invest for the long and short term.”
2. Investing is a marathon, not a sprint.
Warren Buffett once said, “It’s much easier to invest for the long term because you know what is going to happen. You know, in my view, with a very high probability you know what is going to happen 10 and 20 years from now in a major way, and I don’t have the faintest idea what is going to happen tomorrow or next week.”
When it comes to investing, this is spot on. After all, the stock market can fluctuate wildly. In turn, this can cause you to panic. But, maintaining your composure ensures a more efficient allocation of capital for the long run.
In fact, to keep this long-term perspective, investor Chris D. Redd suggests borrowing the following tricks from marathon runners;
- Preparation. Just like a marathon runner, you need to train. You can do this by educating yourself on investments, opportunities, and risks.
- Patience. It takes a while to complete a race. The same is true with investing. So you need to say on track and wait for returns.
- Perseverance. As with marathons, you will experience obstacles. But, you need to be resilient and adjust your strategy as needed.
- Focus. “Marathon runners have to have focus and vision of reaching and crossing the finish line,” says Redd. “Investors may never see the finish line because of evolving goals, but they have to have focus and vision of the exact strategies they want to execute, the type of risks they are willing to take, and the type of returns they want to achieve.”
3. Optimize your tax-advantaged accounts.
For the uninitiated, a tax-advantaged account is a savings plan or financial account. However, what makes these accounts stand out is that they come with a tax benefit such as a tax deferral or tax exemption.
Tax-advantaged accounts are popular options when it comes to saving for college, retirement, or future healthcare expenses. Common examples of investments within a tax-advantaged account include stocks, funds, high-yield bonds, REITs, and annuities.
There are two types of tax-advantaged accounts;
- Pre-tax or tax-deferred investment accounts. Here you would delay paying taxes on investment gains — usually once you make a withdrawal. Traditional 401(k), 403(b), or 457(b) plans are the most common types of employer-sponsored savings plans that are tax-deferred. Traditional IRAs and annuities are also tax-deferred. All of these can be utilized to give you a tax break right now.
- After-tax investment account. A Roth IRA is the most well-known example. With this type, your money can grow tax-free.
Which tax-advantaged account should you choose? That depends on factors like your income and financial goals. But, you should also consider the following;
- Make sure you contribute all the required amount to receive the employer’s match for your contributions to your 401(k) or similar plan if your employer offers a matching contribution. After all, free money is free money.
- Put as much money as you can into a Roth IRA.
- Your employer-sponsored plan should be maxed out with any remaining funds.
Whatever money you have left, you can contribute to a tax-advantaged account like an annuity. This will guarantee you a retirement income. Plus, it’s tax-deferred, and there aren’t any contribution limits.
4. Have habits, drive growth.
“When you develop good habits around money, you’re allowing yourself to have a long-term plan,” says Phoebe Story, M.S., a financial advisor at Northwestern Mutual. In addition to being intentional with your spending and saving, you will ensure you are working toward your goals.
“Not having good money habits leaves people vulnerable to basing most financial decisions on their impulses at the time, rather than with what is in their long-term interests,” says Hersh Shefrin, Ph.D., behavioral finance expert, and professor of finance at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business.
“Sound financial decision-making involves being well balanced, and overreliance on impulse buys typically produces a lack of balance,” Shefrin explains that good habits can also help you manage your bank account better since this prevents you from reacting on impulse and instinct.
Moreover, healthy habits can drive financial growth. In particular, here are the habits that you should focus on if you want to increase your wealth;
- Establish specific and attainable life goals.
- Always live within your means.
- Build a solid cash reserve so that you handle emergencies.
- Use debt strategically. For example, a mortgage is a good type of debt, while maxing out your credit card on a pair of Yeezy’s is bad debt.
- Have an organized retirement plan, such as contributing to a 401(k).
- Get more bang for your buck. An example would be dishing out the money for a quality pair of shoes that will last instead of cheapos that you’ll have to replace frequently.
- Leverage your employer benefits, such as retirement matches and health insurance.
- Expand your financial knowledge through reading or following financial experts on social media.
- Develop multiple streams of income.
- Make your health a priority so that you miss less work and won’t have long-term healthcare expenses.
5. Dream of diversification.
“Diversification is an investment strategy where you own a variety of assets that will perform differently over time,” explains Due Founder and CEO John Rampon. “The idea is that it provides security and mitigates risk. If an investment fails or underperforms, you won’t lose everything.”
In other words, this ensures that when it comes to your money, you aren’t putting all of your eggs in one basket.
Ideally, you should evenly spread out investments between the following types of mutual funds;
- Growth and income
- Aggressive growth
Your portfolio could also consist of bonds, CDs, savings accounts, and even real estate. At the same time, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. In fact, it’s advised that you limit yourself to about 15 to 30 different investments.
6. Consistency is key.
Again, wealth is built over time through consistency. But, that requires patience and level-headiness. And, it also involves consistency — think back to Aesop’s classic fable The Hare & The Tortoise for inspiration.
For example, let’s say that you diligently invest 15% of your gross income into a 401(k)s and IRA on a monthly basis. After steadily contributing to your retirement funds for years, you’ll eventually have an account balance that’s in the seven figures.
7. Adhere to the Jedi Code.
A Jedi seeks not adventure or excitement, for a Jedi is passive, calm, and at peace.
Even if you aren’t a Star Wars fan, there’s a lot to learn from the Jedi Code. Case in point, the above entry. Which, you want to believe it or not, can be used to develop a winning strategy for your money.
As previously mentioned, you need patience and consistency when it comes to your money. This is must true with investing. Sure, it’s not as exciting as partaking in the drama of GameStop. In fact, it’s downright boring.
However, being lazy is your best bet if you want to win at the stock market. Additionally, a Harvard psychologist has found that you’ll be happier when you have a time-centric mindset instead of a money mindset. What’s more, you’ll have better social connections, healthier relationships, and greater job satisfaction.
There’s another takeaway from the Jedi Code. And, it has to do with the word “passive.” In this situation, a passive income.
Making money passively means earning money without having to do anything. For example, you might say that this is where you can make money while sleeping. While I don’t believe that often happens literally, I think you have a general understanding of passive income.
Rentals, sales of information products, and affiliate marketing are common passive income examples. Dividend stocks, lending money to others, and even annuities are additional examples. While it takes some time and money upfront, passive income grants financial freedom, secures your financial future and reduces stress and anxiety.