DOLLARS AND SEN$E

BY CHRIS HANLY
Investment Consultant, Gary Goldberg Financial Services
This is about the time of year that I see investors breaking the New Year’s resolutions they formulated in September or October and committed to with solemnity in December. These are the worst kind of broken promises because, ultimately, the person you are hurting most is yourself. Below, the most common breaches and some things you can do about them.
Looking in the rear-view mirror. This is the time of year that investors – abetted by mutual fund company advertisements – chase last year’s returns by switching to funds, stocks and asset allocations that did well last year. I always like to say the reason the windshield is much larger than the rear-view mirror is because the important information lies ahead of you.  With the markets more or less flat last year, allocations with more fixed income fared better. But this year, I believe the S&P 500 will return at least 10 percent with an even larger total return.
Getting emotional . . . again. Many investors commit to the discipline of regular contributions into a diversified portfolio with a carefully considered asset allocation, only to run when the first bad news arrives or Dow takes a precipitous drop.  So far in 2012 we’ve been blessed with relative equanimity . . . but bad news is out there. How you feel on any given day does not change the facts.  However, acting on how you feel will change your circumstances, most likely for the worse, when you are acting on emotion.
Failure to consolidate. The commitment “to finally get my finances together” entered into so earnestly in the fall, frequently fades in January, when the apparent enormity of the task is at hand.  My experience has been that what gets measured gets managed. When it comes to investments having multiple accounts in multiple locations undermines, if not eliminates, your ability to measure how and what you are doing.
While there are some things that the financial services industry hasn’t quite mastered – fee disclosure, eliminating conflicts of interest and reigning in the prehensile tendencies of Wall Street chief executives to name a few – moving your money from one firm to another isn’t one of them. Filling out a simple ACAT (Automated Customer Account Transfer) form is all you need to do to say goodbye.
So far 2012 is off to a good start. After four very difficult years, the stars have aligned themselves, if not for spectacular returns, at least for very good ones. It would be a shame to miss out on them for want of a little follow through on New Year’s resolutions. Working with an advisor often helps keep you on track.

Christopher Hanly is an investment consultant with Gary Goldberg Financial Services in Suffern. He can be reached at (845) 368-2900 ext. 247 or chris.hanly@garygoldberg.com.