10 Questions Not to Ask - They Are Hurting Your Retirement Success

Please, stop asking these 10 questions about investing and retirement.

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1. What did the stock market do today?

What the stock market did today should have no relevance to you achieving your retirement goals. Why are you asking this question? If it was up, so what? If it was down, so what? What does that information tell you about your ability to live comfortably in retirement?

2. Are interest rates about to go up?

Who cares what interest rates will do? Ok, if you are a hedge fund manager or a mortgage broker, yes, this matters.

But when it comes to your long term goals, over the course of your retirement interest rates are going to go up, and they are going to go down. No one knows when. Make a plan that works regardless of the timing of these things.

3. What about the economy in China?

China’s economy is going to do whatever China’s economy is going to do. If you think you’re smart enough to figure out what it is going to do, and then act on that information to place trades and make a profit, than you shouldn’t be concerned about retirement at all.

4. Should I buy gold?

If things really do crash, what are you going to do with your gold? Shave off a piece and trade it for bread and eggs? If you’re worried about calamity a much better investment than gold would be a self-sustaining property that has its own water, energy, garden and livestock. But that would be too much work, wouldn’t it? Much easier to talk big and buy gold.

5. Would it be better if I wait until the election is over before I invest?

No one knows the answer to this question. History, however, says waiting was not usually the best course of action. Election years have been good years for stocks. During election years focus on who to vote for, not on how to invest depending on an unknown outcome.

6. Where can I find the highest yield on my investments?

Some of the largest scams in history (Bernie Madoff for example) were successful precisely because of the high yields they offer. High yields come with risk. Investments should be chosen based on the likelihood they can help you accomplish your goals – not based on choices with the highest yields.

7. How can I protect my retirement money from any losses?

Volatility, such as the serious downturn in the market experienced in 2008 and 2009, is not the same as a loss. Stop confusing volatility with losses. What you need in retirement is stable cash flow – the approach most likely to deliver that is often an approach that comes with volatility.

8. What is the earliest I can get my 401(k), Social Security, or pension?

If you have a serious health issue, you should be asking this question. Otherwise, what’s the point? Look for ways to delay tapping retirement assets, not ways to get to them as early as possible. The 80 year old you will thank you some day.

9. Should I buy XYZ stock? (Insert Apple/Google, or whatever stock is the darling of the year.)

Who are you asking? Do you think they know what that stock is going to do? If you want to own some for fun, go ahead. If you’re basing your retirement success on the outcome of owning this stock; that’s like taking the money to Vegas. Owning a single stock entails far more risk than owning a diversified portfolio of index funds. Why take that kind of risk with money you must live on some day?

10. What was the performance of that mutual fund last year?

Past performance of a mutual fund does not tell you what the fund will do in the future. This is a fact. Over long periods of time, certain asset classes are likely to deliver higher returns than others – but a single mutual fund may own an asset class, or use an investment style, that was in favor last year, and will be out of favor this year. Choose investments based on low fees and on the goals and objectives you have – not based on past performance. 

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