Five Investing Resolutions for 2014

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2013 wasn’t exactly the Straits Times Index’s (SGX: ^STI) proudest year. Singapore’s benchmark index ended 31 Dec 2013 at 3,167 points, the exact same level it was at on 31 Dec 2012.

But here’s an important question: While the index had flat returns, did your portfolio do better or worse?

Carl Richards, author of The Behavior Gap, calls the difference between these two rates (you guessed it) the behavior gap — that is, between how an individual investor performs versus the market or some other pertinent benchmark. He writes (emphasis his):

Companies like Morningstar and Dalbar have done a bunch of studies that try to quantify the impact of investor behavior on real-life returns. The studies typically compare investors’ actual returns in stock funds to the average returns of the funds themselves. Just to be clear, they’re trying to compare the returns investors get to the returns investments get.

Is there really a difference? Oh, you bet there is. Typically, the studies find that the returns investors have earned over time are much lower than the returns of the average investment.”

Suffice it to say, the objective is at the very least to match the returns of the broader market, if not to beat them. With this in mind, here are five investing resolutions that would be wise for investors to adopt for 2014 and forward.

1. I will save a larger portion of my income

While saving and investing are two different things, they are obviously and intimately interwoven. That is to say, you can’t invest unless you have the money saved up to do so.

It’s for this reason that any list of investing resolutions (and particularly for beginning and burgeoning investors) would be incomplete without a nod to increasing your portfolio’s raw materials – savings.

2. I will not buy on margin

Beyond the fact that buying and owning stocks on margin is expensive, it magnifies losses and reduces flexibility when the market is down by exposing your portfolio to the dreaded margin call.

Yes, it sounds cool and risky to tell your friends and acquaintances that you operate on margin, but investing is about making money, not being cool.

3. I won’t chase investment fads

Initial public offerings and other “hot stocks” are fun to talk about at neighbourhood parties, but they can be – and are often – highly detrimental to an investor’s returns.

Energy and mineral-mining company Blumont Group (SGX: A33) would likely have made for some solid chest-thumping moments during its epic ascent from six cents a share on Aug 2012 to a high of S$2.45 – a gain of some 3980% – on 30 Sep 2013. But, the company ended up being detrimental for investors, as it eventually collapsed and is now selling for S$0.08 a share.

As for IPOs, for every big winner like Overseas Education (SGX: RQ1), which had a splendid 2013, there are also big losers like Tee Land (SGX: S9B) and Asian Pay Television Trust (SGX: S7OU).

Company Listing Date Listing Price Today’s Price % Change
Overseas Education 7 Feb 2013 S$0.480 S$0.825 72%
Tee Land 6 Jun 2013 S$0.54 S$0.32 -41%
Asian Pay Television Trust 29 May 2013 S$0.97 S$0.77 -21%

Source: S&P Capital IQ

Keep it simple. Reduce stress. Limit yourself to truly outstanding stocks with long track records of treating their shareholders well.

“If investing is entertaining, if you’re having fun, then you’re probably not making any money,” implores billionaire investor George Soros.

4. I won’t check my brokerage account more than once a week

If you check your brokerage account regularly, then you’re falling prey to emotions and a trading mind-set, not an investing one.

“I buy on the assumption that they could close the market the next day and not reopen it for five years,” says Warren Buffett. The point being, it doesn’t matter what happens in the market on a day-to-day basis. What matters is the long run.

Choose your stocks and funds carefully and then leave them alone.

5. I won’t allow greed or fear to influence my returns

This is the biggest problem most investors encounter. Greed causes us to buy stocks when they’re high. Fear then takes over when stocks fall, leading us to sell. It’s important to be cognizant of this.

And remember, over time, there’s reason to believe that the market’s general trend is likely to be up.

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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. This article was written by John Maxfield and first published on It has been edited for