I can admit to being, at times, a yo-yo dieter. There was a 3 year stint on Atkins. A program where I drank shakes all day and ate Lean Cuisines and salad at night. That went on for about 6 months. Low-fat, low-carb, high-fiber, cabbage soup, grapefruits; you name it, I’ve tried it. If you flip through infomercials or look around online for more than 20 minutes, you’ll find the opportunity exists to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on fast and easy ways to a fitter, trimmer you.
Most of these gimmicks end up the same, a lot of initial bang for your buck followed by disappointing long term results. It turns out it’s very difficult to go your whole life without eating a piece of bread and even harder to exist on 1,000 calories/day for more than a few months. Who knew?
What’s the diet industry doing? Selling you a short term solution to a long term problem. By the time you realize that the program doesn’t work, they’ve already cashed the check and are on to developing the next product to sell you. In the long run, the only thing that gets any lighter is your wallet. Spending millions to make billions selling an expertise they don’t have in the first place.
The very same thing exists in the financial services industry. Only in this case, the stakes are often much, much higher. CNBC, the Wall Street Journal, countless magazines and newsletters all full of advertisers promoting one thing; hand over some money and you’ll get rich. It will be easy, you won’t have to be patient and, of course, it’s a sure thing!
How do you get to a fitter, trimmer you? You eat less and work out more. You skip the desserts, control the portions, and get to the gym or out on the walking or bike trail more often. Short of maybe a gym membership, your cost is nothing. In the last six months, I’ve started a new fitness regimen and started cutting little things out here and there. My progress? Not as quick as I’d like it to be, but slowly the pounds are coming off and the strength and endurance tolerances are rising. I’ve always known this is the right way to go, we all do, it has just never had the instant gratification appeal of the other sales pitches. That said, none of the other pitches worked in the end. My new plan, on the other hand, seems like something I can stick with in the long run, is not too restrictive and I’ve surrounded myself with people who will keep me honest and support me through the good days and the bad.
How do you achieve a successful, long term investment experience? You invest in as broad and diversified a portfolio as you can across domestic, international, small and large companies. You invest your fixed income portion in cash and extremely high quality, short term bonds so that your “safe” money behaves as advertised. There will be good times, there will be bad. But, rather than spend your money on gimmicks or fads, put it towards building a support team with your interests in mind that can help you build your plan and then keep you on track throughout your investment horizon.
Be it your diet or your finances, it is always important to keep in mind who is delivering a message and what their incentive is in delivering that message. If the diet and financial services industries are willing to spend millions of dollars to make sure you listen to them, do you think the advice they offer is in your best interests out of the kindness of their heart? The bottom line, in both cases, is they’re selling a product and an expertise they don’t have, playing on our desire for an easy answer, a quick fix, a golden egg. Turn off the noise and ignore what you know will not work in the end. Eat less, workout more, stay invested, diversified and rebalance when needed. The results won’t always be as exciting, but your goals for physical, emotional and financial fitness will be met.
Chip Workman, CFP®