If you haven’t looked at a calendar lately, we only have a couple more weeks left in 2015. Crazy, I know, but it’s a reality none the less. Amidst all your holiday planning and trying to get ready for the New Year there is one thing that far too many let slide by – their investments.
I generally advise a laid back approach to investing, though one that regularly checks in on the performance of your portfolio. Year-end is a perfect time to look at your investments as long as you don’t wait until the absolute last minute; after all, you need to give yourself enough time do what you want with your investments. The great thing is you still have a few weeks to implement some of the following year-end investment tips below.
Open An IRA
In my online brokerage days the same thing happened every year – without fail. Someone would call in on December 31st wanting to know if they could open a particular kind of IRA only to find out it wouldn’t be open prior to year end. The angry client simply didn’t realize it was a regulation we had to abide by, not an unwillingness to open an account. In my opinion, you knew about December 31 for 364 days, so I have little sympathy.
Likely the most important of my investment tips is to open an IRA today if you do not have one. That doesn’t mean you have to fund it right now, as you have until April 15th of next year to do that but you do need to have it open prior to year end for it to count. There are a variety of brokers that can help you open an IRA, but if you wait until the last minute, getting it done in person can save time. If that is something you want to be able to do, then a brokerage like Scottrade can be a great option as they have over 500 branches nationwide.
If you’d like to open an IRA, but have limited funds, below are some of the brokerages you can open an IRA with for $500 or less:
Look At Your Fees
I’ve spoken about investment fees before and hate them. So, it goes without saying that one of my investment tips for year-end is to analyze what kind of fees you’re paying on your investments. There are quite a few to look at, including:
- Mutual fund fees
- Account maintenance fees
The point in all of this is you want more of your money working for you and not the person or firm managing your investments. You worked hard for your money so why give it to someone else?
Looking at fees only at year end though is only going half way. For this investment tip to work you need to stay on top of them throughout the year to keep them from becoming a drag on your portfolio. This can be a challenge if you have multiple investment accounts, or simply want something streamlined that gives a snapshot of your fees as a whole. For that reason, I love to use Personal Capital as it’s free to use and they have a fee analyzer that helps you to determine what fat can be trimmed. Sign up for a free Personal Capital account today and take advantage of the tools they have to offer.
Rebalance Your Portfolio
If you weren’t paying attention to the market this year, it has been all over the place. Thus, your investments have probably shifted some and are likely no longer lined up with your allocations. The last thing you want to do is ignore that at year-end and risk it not being lined up with your risk tolerance or where your goals are at.
This, again, is another reason why I like to use Personal Capital as it can help with that since I have multiple investment accounts. Different people suggest different intervals at which to rebalance a portfolio though I tend to recommend the once a year approach to keep it simple. If you have a 401(k) through your employer, check to see if they can automate this for you going forward as many 401(k) plans offer it at no charge.
Avoid Abrupt Decisions
The no-brainer amongst my year-end investment tips is to not act rashly. I saw it happen every year. Someone would freak out and sell everything to just sit in cash. I understand the emotion, but it displays little forethought. It goes without saying you need to keep a long-term view to your investing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take action. You just need to act wisely. Doing so will help you:
- Avoid the wash sale rule
- Harvest tax losses so as to mitigate any potential gains
If there is a taxable issue at stake you will, of course, want to speak with a tax professional. I spoke to far too many people who acted rashly only to get themselves up a creek for their taxes, so be aware of that before acting.
All These Investment Tips Involve Getting Started
As with most things related to investing in the stock market many of my investment tips for year-end are tied to one thing…getting started! Far too many discount the role of time and how it plays into growing your money. Getting started can mean many things. That could mean simply opening a brokerage account, putting some money in it and starting to invest. It can mean educating yourself and finding some investment books to help you wrap your mind around how to get started.
If you allowed this year to go by without investing, it might seem like nothing. But, a year can mean a lot. However, all of us have to start somewhere and we’ve all made mistakes (myself included…far too many times) so the key is to simply get started and the rest will take care of itself.
Additional resource: If you’d like to start investing, but have limited funds, consider Motif Investing. You can open a Motif Investing account with as little as $250 and create your own portfolio with up to 30 stocks or ETFs. I personally use Motif Investing as they provide a great way to diversify and start investing. They also offer promotions for new accounts!
What are some of your investment tips for year-end? What is one thing you’d like to accomplish investment-wise in 2016? Have you opened an IRA yet? If not, what are you waiting for?
Photo courtesy of: Artotem