Here I am satisfying my need to consume university-priced pitchers at a local brewery last night at book club. It was a $20 night out, which never happens!
I am not an Optimizer. Granted, I LOOOOOOVE reading blogs that get into the weeds with detailed tax, investment and savings strategies but I am not that person. I enjoy a rousing debate and when personal finance keeners bring out the calculators and start fighting, I make some popcorn and watch. But I am not that person.
I don’t budget down to every penny. I don’t know the asset allocation of every ETF available on the market. I just see which ones have the average allocations that represent the markets/indexes/regions I want (and the fees I don’t) and then I push the BUY button. I know that this makes some people deeply, deeply uncomfortable.
But here is the thing: I know SO MANY PEOPLE who just walk into a bank/sign up for a salesperson to take 1% of their money (whether they are good at making YOU money or not) and then they just wipe their hands and walk away. They feel confident that a “professional” is taking care of their money when they are truly getting scammed.
Conversely, I know people who are DOING NOTHING. Scared of the stock market, they let their cash accumulate in accounts where their cash is being slowly eroded by inflation. Even sticking that into a 5% GIC would be at least doing something that would at least be stemming the hemorrhage of your buying power to inflation.
Both of these kinds of people are doing the exact same thing: they don’t trust themselves enough to learn the basics and they are scared that they will lose everything. So they make the most inefficient decisions possible because it feels comfortable.
Don’t get me wrong, I think money psychology is super important. You have to make decisions that help you sleep at night. But I feel like you can only make those decisions if you have all of the facts and oftentimes people don’t. They try and play it safe because they don’t know (or don’t want to learn) the basics of how to invest and in the process they allow themselves to fall victim to a predatory financial sales community or lose their money as it gets eroded by inflation over time. Sure, it may feel good to be stagnant and/or ignorant today but what this means is that you will lose your access to a secure or even bountiful retirement. The longer you wait, the more you lose.
People often get the impression that I know the ins-and-out of the stock market because I do enjoy discussing it, either in our Money Mondays group or with friends. But in reality I only really know how the basics work. And more controversially, I truly believe the following things:
1 – Most Financial Advisors don’t know more than you could learn on your own by reading a few books. Still scared? Get a fee-only FA. They are worth the money to help build you a plan without draining your nest egg.
2 – The average person doesn’t need to know much more than the basics of the stock market (although, I do recommend they learn as much as possible!).
3 – Inflation is like losing money every year. We tend to feel good psychologically if our $100000 stays at $100000 from one year to the next. But, realistically you can only buy $97000 worth of goods this year with that money when inflation is at 3%. That’s actually a $3000 loss that you don’t see.
Things that you do need to know:
1 – Invest regularly, preferably you can set it up to automatically fund your accounts and then forget it(ish).
2 – How ETFs/Index funds (and maybe even Robo-Advisors) work.
3 – Know what tax shelters are available to you in your country and learn how to use them (ie: retirement accounts)
4 – Only look at your accounts once a year.
Some people are on the cusp of having a coronary just reading that. But I am not an Optimizer, I am a Satisfier. I am satisfied to point myself in the right direction and then hobble down that road. I am not sprinting to some ridiculous goal of making my bajillions on stock tips, I am looking to make a decent decision (buying the index for an average return) while minimizing my losses (fees, inflation). The average return of the S&P is 11+% (1957-2021) and the average return of the TSX is 9+% between (1960-2020). So logic dictates what Jack Bogel introduced to the world: if you buy the entire thing as an index fund, your returns will follow the market.
Of course, I am simplifying things (and nothing works out 100% of the time) but that is the beauty of it: it’s that simple! You don’t need through reams of company reports and a deep knowledge of how every company you buy works. You just need to know that you are heading down a road that even when it gets winding and rocky (when the average return is down, like last year) will eventually take you to where you are going. As a satisfier, that is good enough for me. You give up huge gains for steady growth and the ability to sleep at night.
I do my budget the exact same way. I lay out all of the mandatory things (bills, savings) and set it up to come out of my account as much as I can. Whatever is leftover is mine to do with what I want. I don’t do a zero-budget where every single penny has to be allocated like an Optimizer would. Being a Satisfier, I just have to be concerned about my obligations and then the rest is mine to toss around. Of course, I am frugal in many ways (how does a green bean know that it is a generic vs name brand green bean?) and that allows me to save more in my day-to-day life on things I don’t care about. But that means I can just allocate more to my more expensive habits, like travel.
“BuT tUcKeR, aRe YoU sAyInG pEoPlE sHoUlD bUy InVeStMeNtS tHeY dOn’T uNdErStAnd?”
No. I am saying that they only need to know the basics, not become experts*. Historically, over time, the stock market always goes up**. If the bottom falls out of the entire economy, we won’t even have to worry about our investments because we will need to grab our leather thongs and fire guitars and wander out into the Mad Max desert.
If you are still worried, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE read JL Collins’ book, The Simple Path to Wealth which will give you more info to change your life than any other book out there.
*I am not a Financial Planner nor do I play one on tv. Quite frankly, they’re probably acting too.
**It doesn’t mean it always will in the future but again: we’ll have bigger problems if it comes to that…