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.”

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.

Improving Your Flight Experience With Southwest Airlines

Despite the economic fares, Southwest Airlines is often criticized for its services and delays. You're at times hear complaints about the lack of punctuality or the discomforts passengers experience while choosing the airline. This is not entirely a true picture. If you've managed to score a good flight deal, this no way means you're in for a bad flight experience.

Here are some helpful tips through which you can score a good seat when flying with Southwest Airlines without ruining your inflight experience.

1. Ask About the Flight

Most of the times, you'll experience a full flight when flying with the airline. When boarding, ask the gate agent about the condition of the flight. If the flight is full, you just have to bear along with others. However, if you have a window or aisle seat, chances are that you'll survive much better than the others!

2. Avoid the C Group

As a rule of thumb, it is a big no to being traveling when you're in the C Group. If you wish to maintain your sanity, avoid it at all possible times, even when you're in the desperate need of flying somewhere. This is where the passengers mostly experience the greatest amount of discomforts. If you've landed there unknowingly, the window and aisle seat will always turn out to be a savior!

3. Opt for the Front

Front seats of the plane are the best when flying with Southwest Airlines. If you've managed to check in early, chances are that you'll land in the front ones and have a peaceful flight. Once that is filled up, passengers are likely to resort to the rear ones. If you're traveling on a lucky day, you might have the front one entirely to yourself.

4. Traveling with a Kid

It's not always bad to take along a young kid with you on your travels. On Southwest flights, most of the passengers would do their best to avoid sitting next to a kid. If you're traveling with one, this is an amazing chance to have some space to yourself. This is not one of the nicest things to be experiencing, but with so much going on it only makes sense!

5. EarlyBird

Instead of begging, yelling or fighting, Southwest Airlines has given you a decent option when it comes to flying with them. The EarlyBird option is a great choice to opt for in this regard and allows you to check in early, against a payment. Although most people would not fancy the idea of ​​paying for the sake of boarding, it is still worth it if you're worried about what seat you'll end up in.

Five Qualities Ensuring Marketing Strategy Success

Marketing is itself a strategy and so no marketing plan is completely fool-proof. There are some qualities that must be met to be able to consider it effective and this will help in converting customers to make marketing successful. A marketing plan is a frame work that must be followed to transform into a killer strategy. Here are five qualities proving its capabilities in the marketing strategy.

Focus on the product

Product focus is not simple as it always is focused towards the market. The product varies in demand depending on the age, gender and trend. In case it is about clothing, then women in 50s if they are working would prefer formal, quality and semi formal dresses, while the youngger adults may have a different focus on the product. In case you also have shoes to offer, you can help women show how they can look tall and in this way this will include shorter women who would love to gain height, so your marketing focus widens more effectively.

Focus on the market

The market focus should be defined. It is impossible to please everyone and if you try doing so, you are going to be under severe pressure and ultimately result in losses. Focus on the market fashion, but decide first if your focus is with male or female and without fail consider the age factor. By focusing on the market you will see the likes of your target audience. The other factors worth considering are the purchasing power of your audiences. If you find there is a diverse taste, set your goals by dividing, choosing and conquering the market.

Have measurable information

Anything to be marketed should be quantifiable and must be ideally in numbers. Include all the details, major and minor as detailed information has a crucial role in marketing. A strategy is a must for any good marketing plan to see success. The plan that is the marketing strategy should be measurable to know the ROI. If your business is new, you can have both marketing plans, short and long. They can be interconnected. However, ensure the goals are attainable.

Accountability and responsibility

Marketing strategy is about being accountable and this in combination with responsibility alone paves way to success and to achieve better results. Marketing plan fails to work in groups than individuals. It is best for each individual to have a specific task and to bring good results. At the same time paying attention to individual's accounting helps you keep a vigilant eye on their handling of responsibilities. Without fail reprimand the failures and do not forget to reward the achievers. A perfect marketing plan requires absolute involvement that one must be committed to it. Each person should know their job and also should be aware of the consequences.

Reviews

A marketing strategy is a planning process and an effective marketing plan handles everything from tracking performance to setting goals and measuring the units quantifiable. However, regular reviewing and revision is essential. Do not wait until the last day, keep reviewing regularly and change the plans in-between if essential.