When you have established an investment portfolio, it can be easy to ignore the funds and the social and economic forces that may be acting on them. In fact, it’s healthy to ignore them to some extent. Making emotional investment decisions is imprudent. Consequently, it can lead to devastating losses even as you seek to improve financial investments.
However, it’s possible to find a middle ground.
Rather than investing and forgetting, or jumping at every market correction, try to learn as much as you can. Accordingly, study investing, historic trends, and future projections. Base your decisions on your research, advice you seek from other savvy investors, and careful planning. Keep a close eye on your money without overdoing your interactions. You will reap generous rewards for your efforts in the future.
A lot of that success comes down to your approach.
As LifestyleInvestor Justin Donald says, “The ultra-wealthy can take the action required for greater success because they think very differently. If you want to shift your mindset and emerge with a brighter future—mindset matters. Spending time with individuals with the mindset you want is critical to your financial success.”
Along with transforming your thinking and your approach to investing, there are several changes you can make to improve your financial investments and create the future of your dreams, whether you’re looking for a luxurious early retirement with lots of travel, or are working hard to improve your current lifestyle.
1. Find smarter ways to save your money.
Many people rely on standard savings accounts to create a rainy day fund, or look no further than their employer’s 401K option when socking away cash for far-away retirement days.
There’s nothing wrong with sticking cash into an emergency fund in a savings account, or with participating in employer retirement accounts—but if your investment strategy stops there, you’re going to miss out on a lot of growth potential.
But before you begin putting extra cash into new investment vehicles, it’s a good idea to evaluate your life, habits, and current cash flow.
Find ways you can cut corners and save by making lifestyle adjustments. Evaluate whether you’re throwing away cash unnecessarily on subscriptions or items you barely use. You might be surprised how fast a little change here or there adds up.
After you’ve identified your savings goals and cut your unnecessary spending, you’ll have more cash to put into higher-performing instruments. You may want to consider a mix of short- and long-term options, depending on your cash flow, goals, and how much you want to have on hand in liquid reserves.
For retirement, look into Roth IRAs and long-term stock, bond, and real estate investment mixes. Taking on the services of a financial advisor to help you plan for retirement is a smart move. Read everything you can about investing long-term, and resist the urge to pull funds out of your accounts during market corrections.
For shorter-term goals, consider short-term bonds, index funds, certificates of deposit, and other options. Try to find a sweet spot that minimizes your risk while maximizing your money’s earning potential.
2. Work on bringing up your credit score.
It’s also important to take a hard look at debts and other obligations that may be draining your funds.
Good debts (that often have rates that fall below inflation and help you build your credit rating) include your mortgage, auto loan, and possibly even student loans. But if you’re carrying high-interest debt, especially credit card debt, it’s vital to address that before you begin putting cash into investment options.
As you reduce revolving debt, your debt-to-income ratio will improve, as will your overall credit usage. This will work to improve your credit score.
Other good habits and financial hygiene will help you bring up your credit score, including continuing to make all of your payments on time, keeping a healthy mix of accounts, and avoiding opening too many new accounts.
Check your credit score once a year (you can do this for free at annualcreditreport.com) and confirm that everything looks healthy and all of the items on your record belong there.
Once your score increases, you’ll start to open up new opportunities for yourself. You’ll have access to better rates and a wider range of options when you do apply for financing, whether you’re buying a new car or taking out a loan to replace your roof.
3. Build your knowledge of how money and investments work.
Before jumping into any investments, it’s smart to do some homework to learn as much as you can about what you’re doing with your money.
It makes sense, right? You wouldn’t buy a car or a new appliance for your home without comparing options, reading about the item’s reliability, and evaluating whether it’s a good use of your money. It’s the same with any investment.
Take some time to read up on investment strategies, and surround yourself with people who are smart investors. Try to build close friendships with people who understand money and use and invest it wisely. You will naturally absorb their habits and learn from them over time. Your life will reflect the circumstances of your closest friends.
4. Be prudent in your spending habits.
One of the best ways to invest in your future is to create a budget and avoid spending money unwisely. There are many ways you can cut corners by taking a close look at your spending and changing a few habits. Ask yourself a few questions.
If I only stream movies and shows one day every other month, is it worth spending roughly $150/year for my subscription? Is it time to quit smoking and put my cigarette money into my future? Can I cut back on food and drink expenses by eating more at home or packing my lunches?
Try to resist making impulsive purchases. You can also consider purchasing a hybrid or other fuel-efficient vehicle, or requiring a two-day “cooling off” period for yourself before buying anything over $50.
Chances are, once the impulse to gratify yourself wears off and you get some perspective, you’ll decide you don’t really need a third pair of boots or a new gadget after all. You’ll increase your cash flow and save yourself from buyer’s remorse. Win-Win.
5. Consider establishing passive income streams.
Once your finances are in a good place, your spending is under control, your credit is improving and you have a little extra cash flow, you might consider investments that take some pressure off of you to work simply to cover monthly expenses.
If you can set up investments that pay regular returns (which in turn pay your bills), you can invest your time into fulfilling activities and employment. This is the sort of upward spiral you want to start.
Real estate is a great option to create passive income, and there are several ways to invst in it, depending on your available resources and your goals.
If you have enough income (or maybe a small inheritance from a great aunt), you could invest some of it into property that you rent out to a business or residential tenant. Just keep in mind that acting as a landlord comes with responsibility to your tenants—and property. Expect to continue investing in maintenance and upkeep so that your property doesn’t degrade.
If you don’t want the direct responsibility of managing property, you have a couple of options.
You could hire a property management company to take care of maintenance and tenant needs. Alternatively, you could invest in real estate funds instead of buying your own property. This can take some of the responsibility off your shoulders and allow you to benefit from a smaller capital commitment.
There are other passive income streams you can investigate as well, from becoming a silent business partner to setting up an online course in a subject you’ve mastered. Different options require different up front commitments or skill sets. Do your research to evaluate what might work best for you.
6. Keep an eye on your investments and make prudent adjustments.
As your financial literacy improves, you will want to keep an eye on your investments. Periodically evaluate whether all of your investments are prudent. Make sure they fit your goals and are likely to continue working for to improve your financial investments in the short- or long-term.
This is where it’s important to educate yourself. Seek advice when you aren’t certain. Surround yourself with savvy investors who can clue you in to market forces you might not yet understand.
You don’t ever want to be jumpy or pull out of an investment just because of market corrections. This is especially the case if your investing goals are long term.
However, it’s not a bad idea to sit down with your books. Meet with your investment advisor at regular intervals to evaluate your financial health. You don’t want to neglect your investments, just as you wouldn’t neglect the care of a car or any other major purchase.
The bottom line when improving your investments is to keep your eye on the prize. Evaluate your goals and create an investment strategy that works to create the lifestyle you want.
Learn as much as you can and carefully evaluate your investment decisions. Keep a growth mindset. Continue to learn and to reevaluate your goals and strategy over time. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
A little forethought and careful planning can improve the returns on your financial investments. Similarly, it can help lead to the life you want and deserve. Remember that you are not just investing to grow your wealth. You’ve growing your wealth to invest in yourself.