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Can’t Stop Looking

Richard Quinn, 1:53 am ET

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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James McGlynn CFA RICP®
James McGlynn CFA RICP®
1 month ago

I think the cure is a bear market. In a bull market you get the positive feedback and can look to rebalance by taking profits. In a bear market it is painful to see that you should have sold.

mytimetotravel
mytimetotravel
1 month ago

So, you like seeing your balance go up, and it sounds like you take no action when that happens. What will you do when it goes down? I spent a good part of my early retirement traveling, and didn’t look at my accounts for months. Saved me doing something stupid during the 2008 crash. At home I take a look once a month or so, to see if I need to rebalance. I take a serious look at whether I need to change my asset allocation or fund choice maybe once every three or four years.

I agree with the comment about not holding a lot of a single stock, especially if the same company pays your pension! Isn’t that advice Financial Planning 101?

R Quinn
R Quinn
1 month ago
Reply to  mytimetotravel

Normally I would agree regarding holding employer stock, but as I mentioned that stock is a significant portion of brokerage account, but not so of total investments. In addition, the shares were all free to me as stock awards while working.

Mike Zaccardi
Mike Zaccardi
1 month ago

Rick’s right. Our community of HD writers knows many of the right answers, but we too are prone to bad behavior and biases. Maybe more so. We shouldn’t cast angst on ourselves for it.

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
1 month ago

It seems many of HD’s contributors have the same “affliction”. One of my favorite things is when one of our accounts, or our net worth crests a numerical milestone, like the next $100,000. The last time I told my wife our net worth passed a 0.25M mark, she replied “great, now can you take out the trash”. So we don’t share the affliction.

An
An
1 month ago

Stop listening to the daily noise. Spend that time finding new ways to give back to your community.
You know what they say about “Idle hands……”

Last edited 1 month ago by An
Stan Blue
Stan Blue
1 month ago

Here is my unsolicited advice. Sell most of your former employer’s stock. Too risky to have such a large position in an individual stock.

Randy Dobkin
Randy Dobkin
1 month ago

I retired earlier this year, although my wife still works. I too check our portfolio value multiple times per day, as Quicken makes it easy. I also have a habit of having Quicken tell me how much our portfolio has gained since I stopped working.

My investment plan allows for trading only to rebalance, and so far in retirement my hybrid bucket/asset allocation scheme has not indicated a need to rebalance.

Last edited 1 month ago by Randy Dobkin
Langston Holland
Langston Holland
1 month ago

Any advice on my affliction?

Does it have to be good advice? : )

My addiction is rooting for my asset allocation to skew past the 5% threshold I use to sell the winner to buy more of the loser (thus bring the allocation back to target). I don’t care which horse wins a particular race ’cause they’re both mine.

It’s been fun recently to see the foreign allocation gaining. I won’t be surprised at all if Jonathan’s heavy foreign bet takes the crown! : )

Last edited 1 month ago by Langston Holland
David Powell
David Powell
1 month ago

Checking balances is free so what’s not to like? Too, with account security policies what they are it’s better checking often than rarely in case you’re hacked. My habit is weekly but that could change in retirement.

Ormode
Ormode
1 month ago

I am retired, and I do pretty much the same thing – I follow a lot of stocks I don’t even own. I do still buy stock regularly, so I’m always looking for ideas, which are getting hard to find.

kristinehayes2014
kristinehayes2014
1 month ago

Not sure I can help…I pretty much know what my account balances and net worth are at any moment of any day. I have recently switched to a different method of checking my retirement account balances. I only do so on days when the stock market has gone up (or on days when I know a contribution has been made to the account). I avoid the days when I know the balance has fallen…is that wrong?

SanLouisKid
SanLouisKid
1 month ago

This sounds like completely normal behavior to me. If you have to go to one extreme (never checking) or the other (checking daily), I think the better choice is daily. With the internet it’s much easier to do. So, what are doing with the other 23 hours and 55 minutes? (smile)

R Quinn
R Quinn
1 month ago
Reply to  SanLouisKid

Thanks for the support. The rest of the time i’m writing for HumbleDollar or embroiled in FB or Twitter debates😎

Michael1
Michael1
1 month ago

There’s definitely a difference. I also know our numbers and “check” frequently, but trade very rarely.

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