Being a successful investor starts with setting — and sticking to — sound investment goals. But with the volatility of the markets this year, planning for anything may seem like a fool’s errand. Whether you’re new to investing and aren’t sure where to start or have some investing experience, but haven’t dared look at your portfolio in months, now is the time to set or adjust your investment goals. Here’s how you can get started.
If You’re New to Investing
Are you looking to buy a new car in a few years? Do you envision helping your kids pay for some or all of their college expenses? Would you like to be able to travel when you retire? New investors should begin by thinking about their personal goals and categorize them by how quickly they want to achieve them.
Divide a sheet of paper into three columns: short-term, mid-term, and long-term. List goals that may take a few months to a few years to achieve under “Short-Term,” goals that may take between five and ten years under “Mid-Term,” and anything that will take longer than ten years under “Long-Term.”
Next, examine your finances and determine how much you can realistically save each month towards each goal. Then, using the shortfall between your anticipated savings and the cost of each goal, determine your investment target — how much you’ll need to earn through investments for each goal.
Conduct this exercise for each goal, keeping in mind that your income may increase and that, if you’re paying down debt, you may have more to save over time. Doing so will help you establish your investment goals, determine your investment strategy for each goal, and inform your asset purchases.
If You’re Already Investing
Examine how your assets have performed in light of your investment targets. Take a look at your investing strategy for each target. Are the assumptions you made when you began investing still true? Does it make sense to adjust your strategy, by selling some assets or buying new ones? Assess the likely future performance of your assets to determine if it’s prudent to make some changes.
Also, reexamine your financial goals in light of your present circumstances. Make sure the goals you established when you began investing are the same goals you have today. You may need to develop new goals and new investment targets.
The key to achieving any investing goal is a well-thought-out plan, which is where new investors should start. But all plans require periodic review and readjustment based on evolving dynamics. So if you have an investment portfolio, resolve to evaluate your portfolio by year’s end, and at least once every six months in 2021.