Reading time: 3 minutes
Investing has a lot in common with maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.
A few common sense tips apply to both: diversify, be consistent, look out for fads, avoid extreme measures, keep emotions in check and think long term.
There’s also a staggering variety of strategies and decisions: Take the lift or the stairs? Active or passive? Intermittent fasting, intermittent trading? Every food group, every asset class?
You might find you’ve read about one approach being historically successful, only to discover later that doing the opposite can also be beneficial – or might even be better for you. Keto or paleo? Value or growth?
Taking the analogy further, there are a few lessons from health management we can apply to better shape our investment figures.
1. Be wary of fads
“Get rich quick” schemes are little different from “lose 5kg a week” schemes.
Fad diets may provide short-term results, but they are difficult to sustain and, ultimately, can deprive you of the essential nutrients that only balanced eating can offer.
It can be a similar story with investments. A big bet on an asset class or just one or two stocks might suddenly deliver a stellar increase – but how sustainable will your portfolio be for the long-term with that approach?
Remember, the time horizon is a lifetime, not just next summer.
2. Be rational, not emotional
We are often more emotional than rational when it comes to money and food.
It’s easy to trip up with the temptation to justify our preferences or choices for that treat or short-term reward when it comes to investing. But selling out a short-term gain is like over-indulging right after you exercise.
People also tend to panic-sell their investments when they fall, and buy new investments when they rise, or become too overweight in an asset class when markets are booming. These actions can affect your long-term investment goals.
Dollar-cost averaging is a strategy that encourages discipline and removes the emotional factors when it comes to investing.
It involves investing the same amount of money at regular intervals, for example monthly or quarterly – without regard to market movements. Investing a fixed dollar amount means that when prices are higher, your money buys fewer shares/ETF units, and when prices are lower, your money buys more.
It’s a straightforward strategy for investors to gradually deploy their equity, without being overly concerned about market volatility.
3. Diversify for balance
In considering a healthy diet, think about what nutrients you need and their proportions.
You need a combination of carbs, fats, protein, fibre etc. in the right amounts to achieve a balance. Keeping your investment portfolio in balance is equally important. A balanced diet and a balanced portfolio keep you in better shape for longer.
Just like diversifying your nutrition, try to spread your investment dollars effectively.
You can do this by investing across different asset classes, such as shares, property and bonds.
Diversification within asset classes is also important. For example, within equities, you should consider diversifying by investing in sharemarkets in different regions and in a range of industry sectors.
The wider your diversification, the less impact a dip in a few individual stocks will have on your overall portfolio.
You may be able to achieve this with just a few ETFs, unlocking access to entire sharemarkets, geographic regions, or sectors and themes – such as cybersecurity, climate change innovation, and cloud computing.
BetaShares also offers all-in-one diversified ETFs, which seek to assist with asset allocation decisions.
4. Rebalance your exercise and investing regime – but not too often
There are usually two different scenarios when it comes to how people exercise.
Some enjoy to mix it up: HIIT one day, running the next, maybe a few barre classes thrown in. Others are creatures of habit, choosing running, yoga, weightlifting, or swimming day-after-day, month after month.
There are pros and cons to both approaches, and the same lessons can be applied to investing. One of the most important is consistency and timing.
If you’re going to become better at any particular thing, you have to practise it regularly and consistently. Going to a variety of different studios or classes may hinder the momentum that comes with building a progressive training program and the chance to measure progress.
The same goes for investing. It’s tempting to switch up your investment strategy on a whim when you read a different school of thought, or when you hear what works for your best friend.
But you may find you’ll waste fees and incur unnecessary taxes if you chop and change your investment holdings too often.
However, just like the human body adapts over time, so do the markets. Rebalancing your exercise regime to achieve gains or goals is similar to rebalancing your investments.
When we become too accustomed to our regular exercise routine, it stops challenging us, and no longer generates the results that it once did.
Similarly, after investing for a while, with different portfolio holdings or asset classes moving, you may find your asset allocation mix may be too far off from your plan, changing the risk profile of your portfolio in the process.
There isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to rebalancing your exercise routine or investments.
For some investors in the accumulation stage, contributing new money to a portfolio may be a better alternative than selling one asset and buying another to rebalance. But an investor later in life, who doesn’t plan on contributing new funds, may prefer to sell overweight assets to rebalance.
Consider a disciplined plan for when you might rebalance either your investment portfolio or exercise regime.
One option could be setting a time – whether it be semi-annually or annually – to check how your fitness or financial goals are tracking and make a call.
Another option could be choosing to rebalance only when you build up to hitting a PB – or when your portfolio allocation deviates from your target asset allocation by more than a set percentage.
Effective wealth and health management is a mix of art and science, and the result of a combination of personal circumstances and the decisions we make on a daily basis.
Ultimately, discipline and common sense can go a long way.
You need to exercise regularly and eat right to keep healthy – just like you need to spend less than you earn, and invest sensibly and regularly to accumulate wealth.
Stick to your long-term plan, and the results will follow!