How to Save Time Keeping up with Your Stock Investments

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Brexit is making waves in the stock market again, leading some investors to check their stocks obsessively to decide what to do. But checking your stocks often isn’t necessarily the best long-term investment strategy, as Brexit’s previous bounce history illustrates. Following the Brexit referendum this June, global markets dropped $2 trillion in the resulting panic. But a week later, investors were buying everything again, causing Wells Capital Management chief investment strategist Jim Paulsen to label the panic a “wimpy crisis.” Experienced investors know that investment success is a result of long-term strategy and isn’t gained by hovering over your daily stocks. In fact, checking your stocks too often can actually hurt your performance, not to mention your quality of life. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t check your stocks too often and how you can spend less time checking your investments and more time enjoying their rewards.

The Problem of Loss Aversion

Financial app provider SigFig has done research that shows people who check their portfolios too frequently actually earn less on their investments. The average SigFig user checks their portfolio eight times a month. Those who check their portfolios daily earn 0.2 percent less per year than the average user, while those who check twice a day earn 0.4 percent less, mainly because they traded too often.
The underlying explanation for why checking your portfolio too often can be counterproductive lies in a phenomenon called loss aversion, first documented by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in 1984. Loss aversion basically means that people are afraid of losing money more than they like making it, so given a choice, most people are more likely to choose a conservative financial option than a risky one. Applied to investing, this means that the more often people check their portfolios, the more worried about losing money they become and the less likely they are to implement a risk that can grow their earnings, even if it’s a mathematically-sound, calculated risk.

How Often to Check

So how often should you check your investment portfolio? Investments grow or decline over a series of quarters, so you need to give them sufficient time to perform before you can make a sound long-term decision. For most people, checking once a quarter is more than sufficient, and for some, even that can be too much, says certified financial planner Owen Malcolm. Most experts believe that rebalancing your portfolio once or twice a year is plenty. CFA Institute research found that for most investors, especially those using taxable accounts, rebalancing once a year was only necessary if your asset allocation was performing more than 5 percent off your target goal. If you need additional motivation to refrain from checking too often, chartered financial analyst Bob Phillips makes the point that rebalancing involves a transaction, which incurs costs, so the loss averse may wish to take this into account.

Tools to Stay on Top of Your Portfolio

Fortunately, no matter how often you prefer to check up on your investments, today’s technology makes it easy to keep your portfolio on track through automation and easy to see your investments as often as you want. Apps such as Personal Capital Finance and SigFig Wealth Management sync with your investment accounts to provide you with up-to-the-minute overviews of your performance as well as long-term views of and advice for your portfolio, plus the opportunity to work with a qualified financial advisor from your mobile device. SigFig also powers the USA TODAY MONEY Portfolio Tracker, which lets you log in securely to see your accounts. If you’re using a Samsung Galaxy S7 edge you can even use the edge of your phone to quickly check in without having to unlock your phone for even faster access to your information. You only need to invest a few minutes to see how your investments are growing.

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