Can’t Stop Looking

Richard Quinn

LIKE MANY RETIREES, I have a 401(k), a brokerage account and a couple of modest rollover IRAs, plus a small—very small—annuity purchased 35 years ago in my more naive days.

Unlike most retirees, I also have a pension. My pension and our Social Security benefits comprise the income that covers our ongoing spending.

Why then am I addicted to checking my investment performance every day? Ask me and I’ll know my 401(k) balance. In fact, on any given day, I can tell you my net worth. Wait, let me check the value of my house since yesterday. I view my Bloomberg Watchlist several times a day, triggering unjustified elation or depression.

What’s wrong with me? I fear I have a bit of Scrooge DNA.

Shares of my former employer’s stock make up a significant portion of my brokerage account. It’s an S&P 500 company, its share price moves very little and it has paid a dividend for more than 100 years. Still, I look every day and I react to each up and down. My wife says she’s tired of hearing about it. I have no intention of selling shares and the dividends are reinvested. I track each dividend payment to see how many new shares are acquired.

Do I need help? Is it just greed?

I admit I get a kick out of seeing my account balances grow. I view it as a measure of success—not the most important type of success, I acknowledge—but it is some measure of accomplishment.

I remember advising employees, “Don’t check your 401(k) every day. Just set it and forget it.” Is there a difference between looking at investments and trading every day? I’m not sure. If my wife and I were living off our investments, I’d be stressed out on a daily basis.

Any advice on my affliction?

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