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Resolved: Look Less

Ron Wayne, 2:13 am ET

TOO MUCH FREE TIME, coupled with easy access to the internet, create a problem for this retiree. I obsessively check my IRA at least once—and often several times—each day.

I retired two years early with an above-average Social Security payment and a decent state pension, but not a whole lot in my IRA, which is my only retirement savings. Experts say I need much more, but a job loss in my late 50s, and the inability to find an equivalent position in my field and at the same pay level, have left me far behind where I’d hoped to be.

My account is like my baby. I want to make sure it stays healthy and grows. But there’s not much I can do most days, as the markets gyrate up and down.

I don’t actually make frequent changes. I know investing is for the long haul, but when you’re age 65, the road might be short. I look at the many mutual funds and individual stocks, and ponder my choices. Here’s what the software tells me:

  • My stock holdings have drifted higher than my target allocation.
  • The “style” of my stock holdings looks pretty similar to a benchmark that follows the U.S. stock market.
  • The “style” of my bond holdings appears pretty similar to a benchmark that follows the U.S. investment-grade bond market.
  • The portfolio doesn’t appear to be too heavily weighted in the stocks or bonds of any one company.

I need to learn to trust my decisions and let go of this IRA babysitting. It’s my New Year’s resolution to end this obsession and check the account no more than once a day, if that.

It has become almost a hobby to find and research investments. Admittedly, that can be enjoyable. But it’s time for a new hobby—one that’s less stressful.

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Richard Gore
Richard Gore
4 months ago

I have the exact same problem and the same resolution. I enjoy every aspect of researching companies for my investment portfolio. However, I have noticed over the years that my biggest mistakes has been selling my winners to early. Hence, I believe my returns would be enhanced by some benign neglect.

Of course, the problem is breaking ingrained habits. My solution is to find a new hobby and that is also both challenging and enjoyable and to take the place of my investment monitoring. I’ve started an online chemistry course to keep me distracted during the transition.

I wish you the best with your resolution!

BriA
BriA
4 months ago

I stumbled across one of your articles today, and it brought me to this one. Having survivied a very similar scenario (it is happening everywhere), I began to feel much better when I realized that my state annuity, which gives me a guaranteed monthly amount, was the equivalent of having $800K invested in the stock market, being drawn upon for that same monthly amount. Who knew?! However, no matter what happens in the stock market (which could tank at any time, as we have all experienced at least twice, both in 1999, and 2008, and now overdue for the next “tanking”), it is possible that we might be better off with the state annuity. Just saying … I do think you will achieve your goal of being debt free; you are doing all of the right things from a frugal/wise approach. * At this point, I and many “real” financial advisors, will assure you that it is fine for you to tell your children to pay for the remainder of their education, etc., because that is your gift to them in several ways, 1) they learn to be self-sufficient and they are young enough to clear that debt while you are not; 2) and you will be able to sustain yourself as you grow older, without putting a financial burden on them in the future, when they are growing their own families, trying to buy their own house, etc. That action is the loving thing to do as a good parent. Do it without feeling guilty. * So that your beloveds do not end up where we did due to financial ignorance, have them read Trent Hamm’s article, $15 Retirement Plan (Google it). The information in that article is one of the very few times that something that “looks too good to be true,” is actually true. I could really have benefited from this knowledge in my 20s! * Best wishes to you. You cannot control the future, but you are being wise now, instead of throwing up your hands and not doing anything. Good for you!

Ronald Wayne
Ronald Wayne
4 months ago
Reply to  BriA

Thanks so much for your supportive words!

Jerome Enad
Jerome Enad
4 months ago

I just put all of my tickers in a Watchlist on Yahoo Finance and check the prices of my holdings once, or more, a day on Yahoo while browsing the Internet on my phone without obsessing on the absolute value of my portfolio.

Ginger Williams
Ginger Williams
4 months ago

You mentioned a state pension, then said that you have less in your IRA than experts advise. Have those experts considered the value of your pension?

Most retirement calculators indicate that I need at least $1.5 million to retire, but they ignore my state pension. Between us, my employer and I contribute 15% of my salary to that pension, so it’s more valuable than my IRA and 403b combined.

That said, I agree that checking balances several times a day isn’t productive. Have you considered finding a part-time hobby job? A retired friend tells me that the 15 hours a week she works at independent cinema pays for groceries and gas, while giving her a mostly fun, low stress, and cheap way to occupy herself. It doesn’t pay what her career did, but she enjoys the independent cinema vibe.

Ronald Wayne
Ronald Wayne
4 months ago

If we ever get past this pandemic, I hope to find a part-time job. Your friend’s job sounds great!

steveark
steveark
4 months ago

I check my entire net worth, in 20 different accounts, using Personal Capital. I do that several times a day. Why not, it only takes a single tap on my phone and my fingerprint on the screen to do it. I don’t see a problem with it and whether it is way up or way down I don’t do a thing with the information. But since it always shows several million dollars it generally makes me feel pretty good either way. I am curious why you don’t have a larger retirement fund. You mentioned you are getting a higher than average Social Security payment, that’s only possible if you earned higher than normal wages for a very long time. Usually that goes hand in hand with a larger than average IRA?

Ronald Wayne
Ronald Wayne
4 months ago
Reply to  steveark

I would definitely feel good with that much money! After being jobless for 18 months and with a son in college to support, I pretty much started at scratch at age 60 in a position that paid me what I had made in my 30s. I made it through four years but technically retired at age 62, and my IRA is the result of money I received through this state program. I would have stayed longer and accumulated more, but Covid was a threat to old men like me, and the university was offering a modest early retirement offer to reduce expenses in 2020. And I was not suited for the job, which made it stressful and for such poor pay.

R Quinn
R Quinn
4 months ago

Don’t feel bad, I do the same thing. My recent consolidation brokerage account, 401k and IRAs with Fidelity has made it easier to do. Not sure if that is good or bad.

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