Terry Savage: Know your money personality

Terry Savage, Tribune Content Agency on

Instead of focusing on the wild gyrations of the stock market, this is a perfect time to look inward and understand your personal reaction to the headlines. And the stock market certainly has been making headlines in recent weeks.

Instead of the feared October bear market, there was a dramatic rally. But the real headlines are frequently made on an intraday basis, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping more than 500 points, then rebounding to close in positive territory. Or vice versa.

As an investor, how do you feel when you hear the stock market report on the car radio or the evening news?

Be honest about your reaction. Does a falling stock market give you a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, triggering worries about your retirement lifestyle? Or do you merely smile and wonder about the next traffic or weather report? Do you immediately check individual stock prices of your holdings? Do you think twice about buying that new car?

All those reactions give you an insight into your own investment personality. And instead of being ruled by emotion or paralyzed by fear, you need a sensible plan. And you might even need a trusted financial professional to help you not only make that plan, but help you stick to it.

This advice is not for speculators. Or even for members of Cramer’s investment club on CNBC. By definition, they are timing both the market and individual stocks. For some it becomes an obsession, and for others it is a mental challenge. But if you’re reading this column in your local newspaper, I’m thinking you have a longer-term perspective. Until you don’t!


So to keep you on a steady investment course, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Don’t confuse volatility with risk. The daily or intraday swings of the market can make investing feel as scary as riding a roller-coaster. In fact, you’ve probably heard of the VIX — the ticker symbol for the CBOE Volatility Index. Many use the index as a warning signal, or opportunity, to understand market fluctuations. Traders actually love volatility, a chance to make short-term bets and hopefully profits.

But if you’re not a day trader, you can safely ignore volatility and instead be concerned about what happens to your money over the long run. The road to your retirement date may have twists and turns, but as long as you get to — and through — your retirement years with enough money to last your lifetime, you don’t need to worry about beating the market in the short run

Morningstar’s market historians have reviewed the performance of large company stocks (with dividends reinvested) over the last 100 years. In today's terms, that would be equivalent to an S&P 500 stock index fund that you likely have in your company retirement plan.


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