Successful Investing – Helping Investors Avoid Common Investment Mistakes

The Top Mistakes made by Investors

In my dozen plus years of advising individuals and businesses I have found a number of common mistakes that have derailed even the best laid financial plans. I thought by sharing them I might be able to help others sidestep the pitfalls and the negative impact they can have on your portfolio and long-term financial plans.

1. Failing to establish a time horizon and investing accordingly -

If you have expenses that need to be funded in 3 years or less, you should not be investing the cash for them in the stock market or other risky investments. These monies should be carved out of your investment portfolio (the money earmarked for long-term investing) and invested appropriately in liquid assets such as money market funds or term-certain fixed income offerings. If the money is not going to be needed for 3 years or more, an investment plan should be established based upon specific a time horizon and risk tolerance for these funds.

2. Failing to thoroughly diversify your portfolio -

Many investors know about the concept of diversification and think that by owning different investments, they are diversified. Diversification of an investment portfolio makes good sense on an intuitive level. However, it wasn’t until Harry Markowitz published his model of portfolio selection that this concept became a formalized part of sound investment practice and formed the basis of today’s Modern Portfolio Theory. Beyond this basic concept of diversification, the key to Markowitz’s premise is the revelation that the risk of any investment can be reduced and/or performance increased by forming a portfolio of diverse and non-correlated assets. That is, it is important not just to seek a diversity of asset types, but also to seek assets that have low or near-zero correlations to one another. It’s not about owning different investments; it’s about owning different, non-correlated investments.

3. Letting potential tax implications rule your investment decisions –

Many investors delay selling an investment that has done well regardless of how good or bad the future looks for the holding. Their response is, “I will have to pay taxes if I sell.” By not selling, they set themselves up for not having to pay taxes at all – usually because the investment starts on a decline and their concern switches from “having to pay taxes” to one of “hoping for a turnaround.” Don’t be afraid to take some profits off the table. While taxes are an unpleasant result of investing, I prefer to look at them as a positive sign as it indicates you are making money and your investment plan is working.

4. Buying a stock based upon a “hot tip” -

Too many investors listen to a friend’s advice because he or she always seems to have the next “great” money making idea. They don’t take the time to assess the idea personally and jump in because it’s only a few thousand dollars they are investing. Unfortunately this is not investing – it’s gambling. If you want to gamble, go to Vegas and at least get free drinks, dinner, a show and a room for the risks you are taking. Any investment that is being considered for your portfolio should be thoroughly researched and have passed a comprehensive financial screening scrutiny.

5. Attempting to time the market -

Waiting an extra day, week, or month to try and buy in at the “right price” just doesn’t work. No one can predict the future. If they could they most likely wouldn’t be sharing this knowledge with you for free. Successful investors use time, patience and a disciplined approach to increase the likelihood of maximizing their investment returns – not trying to time the market. If you have done the research and the investment is sound and meets your criteria then buy it, regardless of timing.

6. Failing to regularly reevaluate your investments -

Over time all investment styles, strategies and types fall out of favor. So, like timing the market, it becomes virtually impossible to know what is going to be “hot” in the next bull market and what isn’t. For this reason it is always prudent to stay up-to-date on your investments to insure they are still the same investment that you originally purchased (segment drift and manager changes can be one reason they may have changed). If your investments consist solely of mutual funds then an annual review is a good place to start.

7. Basing investment decisions on emotion -

Maybe the stock market is going through a bad time because of a short-term geo-political or economic event. Stay calm and make an educated, well thought out decisions about what, if anything, to do. Assess whether the event will affect the economy long-term or if it’s just a short-term blip. The best move is often no move at all. If it is a short term incident, many times the smart, prudent investor will make additional investments because the current decline provides them with an excellent buying opportunity. The key to successful investing is to have a disciplined strategy and to stick with it.

8. Cashing out gains and dividends rather than reinvesting -

Once you’ve realized gains or had distributions and dividends paid out, insure they are reinvested back into your portfolio. If you pull out your capital gains, dividends and interest, your money won’t compound as quickly, thereby leaving you with a smaller chunk of change down the line. Letting your investments compound is one of the major tenets of successful investing.

9. Owning too much employer stock -

Many people get over-weighted in employer stock because of options and stock purchase plans made available in today’s competitive compensation packages. While these are great supplements to their annual salary they can put an employee in a position of having too much money invested in their employer’s stock. Additionally, it is quite common for people to invest in “what they know” and what do you know better than the company you work for? To compound the problem many people will add more employer stock to their 401k holdings and individual brokerage accounts. Not only does this create a diversification problem in their portfolio but it also subjects them to excessive single stock risk. A good rule of thumb to follow is to insure that no more than 5-10% of your entire investment portfolio is in any one single stock. If you find yourself in this situation the importance of creating a well thought out reduction strategy cannot be overstated.

10. Following the herd -

The most successful of all investors are moving in the opposite direction of what everyone else is doing. They buy when most are selling and sell when everyone else is buying. By following this simple plan you can preserve your capital and potentially sidestep the next bubble (can anyone remember real estate, internet stocks, and technology growth funds?).

11. Not investing at all –

Somehow in today’s society that Mocha Cappuccino Latte seems to take precedence over saving for the long-term. We are a society who wishes to satisfy the “here and now” rather than the securing our future. The important fact here is that those two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, BALANCE is the key in any long-term endeavor, but by always keeping an eye on the end goal you can make sure it is not out of mind while satiating the here and now.

12. Investing without a plan -

Investing without a plan and lacking the discipline to follow it is a sure way to lower your chances of success. The chances of obtaining any long term goal can be greatly enhanced by creating a strategy, following it and regularly reviewing it frequently enough so it reflects any changes that have taken place since implementation. Many investors start off with a small amount of money and start putting it to work without a plan. As time progresses they find they have a mish-mash of investments in their portfolio with no clear strategy or direction. It’s never too early to invest but it’s even better to invest early with a plan.

13. Taking too little risk -

Some people don’t want to take any risk and cannot stand the volatility involved with risky investments. While it may seem like you are keeping your money safe and secure by not taking risk, it is more than likely you are not because of inflation. If your time horizon is greater than 5 years it is recommended that you have no less than 25-30% in growth investments (i.e. stocks) in your portfolio to ward off the effects of inflation. The actual percentage to own is dependent upon many factors including but not limited to age, time horizon before money is needed, current financial situation, etc. A good general rule of thumb to use as a starting point for the percentage of equity you may include in your portfolio is “120 – your age.”

DIY Vermicomposting – A Worm Farm on a Budget

Have you wanted to set up a home worm farm, but been put off by the high cost of purchasing one of the neat “designer label” multi-tiered “vermicomposting” kits, promoted by garden centres and mail order companies? Well, let’s cut through the crap! – ITS ACTUALLY NO SECRET !!! -You can easily make your own DIY three bin kit for a just a few dollars and your worms will be as happy as little pigs in the yellow stuff, with no big bad wolf in sight. Moreover, you don’t need to be an expert handyman to achieve this!

  • Hardware stores, supermarkets and camping outlets sell tough, general purpose black (opaque) plastic storage containers for a very reasonable price. These are usually tapered so that they can be nested to facilitate stacking on the retailer’s shelves and come with a “snap-fit”ce lid. For your worm farm, you will need three of these tapered containers (but only one lid). For a simple home worm farm I would advise going for 12 gallon (45 litre) containers. Typically, they will be about 15 inches deep (400mm). You can go smaller, if you want.
  • In the first storage container, drill a 3/8 inch (15mm hole), centrally placed, in the side of the bin, just above the base. Insert a ½ inch (12mm) cheap plastic barrel or irrigation tap (with washers) into your hole and tighten fast with lock nuts – make sure you get a good seal – test by filling the container with tap water. This container is to be the lowest one in your stack and will retain the highly nutritional “worm tea” leachate, that will start dripping down from the composting bins above. Worm tea is a valuable liquid organic fertilizer, that can be diluted and used directly on your organic vegetables.

The two upper bins will actually hold the worms. They are to be identical and are prepared as follows : -

  • Drill a pattern of ¼ inch (6mm) holes across the entire base of each container for drainage and to allow drainage and the upward migration of the compost worms, these holes should be regularly spaced at approx two inch (50mm) centres in either direction.
  • For aeration, drill two rows of ¼ inch (6mm) holes at two inch (50mm) centres, in a continuous band around each of the bins. This band of holes would be about four inches (100mm) below the top rim of the bin.
  • It is not essential to drill holes in the lid, which is closed tightly over the upper bin. as you should get enough air through the sides.
  • You first set up the lower (sump) bin on bricks or blocks, allowing enough space to tap off the fluid from beneath it. Choose a shady location for the worm farm (in a shed or garage, if you are subject to frosts).
  • The second and third bins are “nested” within each other and dropped into the sump bin. To maintain a working space for the worms, and for accumulation of compost, you need a few spacers or packers of about six to eight inches height, between the two upper bins and some smaller packers of about four inches in the lower (sump) bin. You can use wood blocks or sealed food jars for packers. The packers also prevent the tapered worm bins from jamming together.
  • To prevent “nasty bugs” from squeezing in between the bins, you should close (caulk) the small gap between them with strips of shade cloth, or mosquito netting.

Now you are ready to go into production. Space prevents us from giving fully detailed notes here for the fine points of operating the system, such as choosing and feeding your worms, eradicating pests and maintaining the worm farm etc – you can visit our website for this information. However, just make sure that you cover the following points: -

  • Set up your worms in the top bin with a good (damp) fibrous bedding (or even shredded newspaper) and after a few days you will be ready to start feeding in your kitchen scraps. Cover the food with more bedding material to discourage pests and keep the lid closed.
  • Make sure the worm farm is never allowed to dry out, by sprinkling water over the bedding periodically, if there is not already enough moisture coming from the food scraps.
  • When the top bin has been fully productive for a while, the worms will multiply and compost will be start accumulating from the worm castings. When the quantity of compost is meaningful, stop putting feed into this bin and swap over the upper two bins by putting bin No 2 to the top of the stack, with bin No 1 now in the middle. Set up this new top bin with clean bedding, a small amount of the old castings and immediately start feeding your kitchen scraps into it. The worms will naturally migrate upwards towards the new food source, leaving the lower bin with only a few stragglers and ready for the harvesting of your compost within about three weeks after the swap.
  • All you need to do is to keep repeating the process of alternating the top two bins on a regular basis, taking out the compost, whenever it accumulates, and tapping off the worm tea from time to time. Use both products in your garden and grow delicious fully organic vegetables and stunning roses. Sit back and enjoy the fruit of your labours – your worms are doing most of the work anyway!

To see a detailed diagram of this simple worm farm, as described, and some illustrative photos, you can visit our web site at http://www.working-worms.com/

Happy worming!

Forex Trading Education

Lack of enough knowledge on Forex trading by many people has led to them to failing to trade successfully. This has led to many traders investing lots of their money to ensure they get tips of how to trade smartly so that they get enough profits. Forex education has helped many to get the right information needed to trade. Different traders have adapted different techniques depending on the kind of business they are engaged in. The adaptation of any technique in the market depends on how long the trader wants to do his trading transactions per day. Some traders prefer to be in the market all day long while others will just come and go. For one to acquire proper education, it is good to how long you will be in the market.

Different traders have different aims when they enter into the market. It is good to start short-time trading when you are in the market. This will be a good way to know the techniques used in the market before you engage in the long day trading. As a beginner, it is not advisable to engage in day long business because the price keeps on changing. It is good to start with short time business so that you can monitor the prices and know the time to trade. You should know that in long business there is risk of getting loss. Quality education is good as it helps one to know how to make huge profits from the Forex game.

Forex trading education is also available on the internet. This has made it easy for traders to access important information which has assisted them to run their transactions smoothly. They have accessed data that has acted as a guide to them on how to do Forex trade. The internet has also given a good platform where traders can get information on how to come up with a good Forex business plan.

When you want to get information on the best ways to carry out Forex trading, it is good to avoid overspending on the same. Be aware of many conmen out there who are ready to milk people’s money and disappear. It is also good to be cautious so that you are not sold off fake Forex trading software. Be aware of the methods of the information in the software. It is good to seek the education services from trusted sources. Look for a provider who has been in the industry for a long time.

Understanding Marketing – An Overview of Strategies, Costs, Dangers and Risks

What is Marketing?

Marketing is a business discipline through which the targeted consumer is affected to react positively to an offer. This can relate to the purchase of a product or a service, the joining of an organization, the endorsements of a candidate or ideology, the contribution or investment in a cause or company, or a variety of other choices of response.

The marketer can use a number of techniques to reach the consumer which can be based on artistic or scientific strategies, or a combination of the two.

Typically, the consumer is identified as a member of a particular segment of the populace, known as a market. For example, markets can be defined by age, income, area of ​​residence, home value, interest, buying habits, industry or profession, etc., which facilitates and simplifies the marketing process. Knowing to what the marketing effort is appealing greatly asserts the marketer in developing appropriate language, reasoning and incentives to find success in its marketing efforts.

Choosing to target a particular market as opposed to the entire universe also greatly controls marketing expenditures but also may limit response. If anyone anywhere can be a customer, sales expectations may be higher but marketing costs will certainly also need to be higher as well with such a huge target as its goal.

To address this dilemma, more creative means of marketing are sometimes utilized to assist with marketing message delivery. If what is being marketed is considered newsworthy and of public interest, editorial coverage in the media can greatly assist marketing efforts. Since this usually is not reliant on major marketing funds other than what is needed to support the development, distribution, and yes, marketing of press releases to editors and publishers, the advantages of such publicity can be priceless, albeit typically miraculous on such a large Scale.

Marketing is everywhere!

Everywhere we turn, everything we do is somehow connected to marketing, whenever we have been induced to participate in some activity because of it or develop an interest in some idea as a result of it. Whether we realize it or not, there are personal, political or commercial agendas cloaked as news we read in the paper, behind the books, movies and music we experience as part of our culture, and within the confines of our stores and supermarkets where we Shop. Of course, we easily recognize the blatant marketing efforts that reach us through direct mail, media advertising, and all over the Internet including the spam we receive ad nauseum . Marketing has become one of the most all-pervasive elements of life and we are fools if we do not question the validity or innocence of everything we read, see and hear.

Marketing is communication and education!

In order to be successful in business marketing, the customer must be reached in a variety of ways. First of all, not every customer gets the daily paper or listen to local radio. We have limited knowledge of which TV station they may watch, where they shop, what roads they travel or where they dine. Depending on what we are marketing, we may have to utilize a whole assortment of avenues of marketing to get their attention. And, if we reach them just once, that is hard enough to make a lasting impression. Marketing is necessary on a repeated basis in a diverse number of ways in an ever-changing presentation to insure that every customer can relate to it in some way, learn what we are offering and understand how it can benefit them. To achieve long-term customer loyalty, the targeted consumer needs to be coddled into familiarity with what we are selling so they feel it is something they really want as opposed to having it forced upon them as something they unfortunately need, only to find out later They were tricked!

Marketing Sounds Expensive!

Yes, marketing can get pricey particularly if it is done on a consistent basis. But in today's world, we have marketing options we never had even twenty or thirty years ago. Now, instead of paying for expensive printing and postage to mail a brochure or postcard to a targeted consumer, we can utilize email marketing, website presentations or online banner ads to reach the same market, usually at a fraction of the cost. Today, instead of buying expensive print advertising, we can work on improving our website's SEO (search engine optimization) – (something we can do for free, if we are so inclined) so that people in need of what we offer can find us through Internet searches, rather than our trying to find them at an astronomical expense.

What About Social Media Marketing?

In addition to alternative marketing options already mentioned, there is the latest craze for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other incredibly popular social media where people, young and old, spend hours developing relationships with "friends" they may never have met or ever will Meet. Yet they share intents secrets of their deepest thoughts and desires as well as actual photographic representations of the same which sometimes land people in trouble with the law, or at the very least, their employer, school or parents.

Whatever social media marketing is a worthy endeavor for businesses remains to be seen since businesses rarely accumulate millions of followers the way celebrities do. But as a way for customers to interact with a business for which they may have developed a fondness can not be disputed. Can this translate into more sales for the business? We'll have to wait and see, while continuing to devote precious time to composing meaningful 140-character tweets and building a Facebook "persona" for the business. From this writer's point of view, the only worthy social medium for business is that of LinkedIn since it provides a serious platform on which to create a business résumé where anyone interested in your professional stature can quickly summarize your capabilities, experience and accomplishments.

Marketing Can Be Intuitive

Much of what becomes marketing strategy is based more on common sense than on some mysterious scientific formula. As we see on a daily basis in stock market gyrations as well as political leanings, the herd mentality rules. On any particular day, if the Japanese or European stock or bond markets are selling off for one reason or another, you can safely bet that the US markets will follow suit. And in any political race, as we are witnessing in the US presidential primaries, the more one candidate gains ground, baby step by baby step, the more likely that candidate will become the party nominee. Today's world is governed by a minute-by-minute opinion survey measured by the endlessly publicized polls where people see what other people are thinking and use those results to form their own opinions. Monkey see, monkey do. The same holds true for marketing.

If we are told that a certain brand of coffee is the leading brand in America, we will probably believe what we are told, assume it tastes best, possibly buy it ourselves regardless of cost, and possibly adopt it as our own favorite. All because we were told everyone else was doing it. Safety in numbers, as they say.

It is ironic that those who become successful marketers usually dwell on the outskirts of the herd, have a more astute grasp of mass psychology, and approach business and life in a more innovative, creative and unique way, a mindset that they use to form the next Marketing phenomenon. The world is made up of leaders and followers: a few choice leaders and a glut of followers. It takes a lot more cumption to become a leader than it does to join the herd. That's why marketing is a profession based in psychological control by a choice few over the mindless masses who have no initiative or courage to decide for themselves.

What is the difference between marketing and selling?

Selling is one aspect of the greater process of marketing. Marketing begins long before the product or service is even ready to sell. Marketing encompasses the concept, naming, branding and promotion of the offer while selling is the much more individualized effort to convince a lead who has clearly responded to the marketing offer to make the purchase. You can not have one without the other, at least not easily. Marketing is a process by which we strive to reach the final goal of making the sale. Without marketing, the sales process is extremely difficult because the entire onus of educating the consumer about the offer is on the shoulders of the sales representative. On the other hand, if marketing has been successful, the sales rep can waltz in knowing the consumer is well apprised of the offer and can work his magic to convert the prospect into a satisfied customer.

What are some of the instruments of marketing?

There are many ways to market an offer, some of which are expensive, and others of which can be free. The methods we use that cost us dearly may not work as well as some of those we receive as a gift. Among the expensive ways are media advertising, direct mail, conference presentations, distribution of printed literature, online advertising, email marketing, etc. Of those that are free are efforts referred to as guerrilla marketing, which are things we do ourselves to spread the word, network and publicize what we are offering. This can include posting flyers on bulletin boards in supermarkets, libraries, delis, small shops, and government offices, etc. Every time we add a tag to our emails where people can click to go to our website, we are using guerrilla marketing at no cost. Making sure we are easily found in Internet searches through search engine optimization of our website or other online presence, is an excellent way to achieve free marketing. One way to do this is to register your company or organization on every possible free online directory in your industry, region or interest group which translates into exponential growth as time passes.

What is viral marketing?

Viral marketing (as it refers to the word "virus," meaning contagious and capable of spreading) is another means of free promotion facilitated by shrewd decisions we can make to further our cause. The easiest way to define viral marketing is that which is communicated by "word-of-mouth." Related to the herd mentality discussed above, if a friend or business acquaintance sins a product or service in a favorable light, we will be much more inclined to remember it and check it out. This can happen in a business meeting, at a mall, at a soccer game or over lunch. However, since most of us spend so much time on the Internet, it can happen practically everywhere we turn by clicking on the "like" buttons on Facebook or the "1" button on Google, among others. These are our personal endorsements where we give a "thumbs up" to something we have experienced and want to share with our friends so they too can enjoy it. Getting your offers out with such buttons attached can result in viral marketing in your favor.

Viral marketing can have powerful repercussions as experienced by one client with an online auto accessories store. Many of his customers frequent online special interest forums related to the model of car they drive where members discuss products that have installed and the source of their purchase, followed by a link to his refereed website. Such referrals are repeated in other ensuing discussions, multiplying the number of links back to his site, increasing the power of his SEO and catapulting him to the tops of Internet searches for what he sells. He paid nothing for this phenomenon of parlayed good fortune except the daily effort he consistently expends to offer top quality merchandise and equally excellent customer service.

Do you need marketing?

If you are in business, of course you do. While you can attempt to do as much of it as you can on your own, it is advised that you begin with a reliable base of professional name, logo, website and search engine optimization to get started on the right foot. From there, you can work on promotion via guerrilla marketing and seek professional marketing services as needed for special needs, like a strong, effective ad to run, the development of professional sales literature to distribute at an emerging show, or a direct mail promotion to Your list of repeat customers, for example. Some business people choose to handle their own taxes to save on the cost of using an accountant for such critical functions at the risk of getting audited. Likewise, you can certainly attempt to produce marketing tools yourself but for long-term branding purposes and best return on investment, it is advisory to leave marketing development to the professionals.