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The discussion of how to become a successful long-term investor in my three-part series is now finished.  However, the journey is an ongoing one that takes discipline, constant learning, and monitoring your emotional reactions to fluctuations in the financial markets.  I discussed the history of stock market returns of the S&P 500 Index (dividends reinvested) from 1957-2018, the concept of risk, and also the futility of trying to engage in “market timing”.  But you may be asking yourself, why didn’t you tell me what stocks, bonds, and other assets to buy to build my investment portfolio?  That is a valid question, and there is an extremely important reason why that gets at the very heart of my overall discussion.

The best way to answer the question posed above is with an analogy.  Now my international readers will have to indulge me with this example.  My favorite sport is football which is the most popular sport in the world.  Most people in the United States refer to it as soccer and only watch if the men’s or women’s teams are competing in the World Cup.  I could tell you all about the reasons why football clubs rarely use a 4-4-2 formation.  Or I could talk about how the 4-2-3-1 formation has evolved in the Bundesliga.  We also could discuss why goalies now need to be good with their feet in order to pass from the backline.  Finally, I might even be more specific and give my rationale for why Liverpool in the Premier League uses a 4-4-3 formation given their current squad for the 2019-2020 season.

My analogy above relates to long-term investing because I would argue that you should not invest a single dollar in the stock or bond markets without knowing about the history of returns, risks and volatility, and “market timing”.  Most Financial Advisors (FAs), Certified Financial Planners (CFPs), and Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) jump right into the discussion of how to build an investment portfolio taking into account your financial goals and risk tolerance.  This conversation is directly related to the football analogy above.  Without a firm understanding of investing at a high level (or the general way football is played first), you are likely to fail in your resolve to stick with a long-term focus while investing.  For example, when you are asked if you can tolerate a 20% decline in the stock market, how should you answer?  I would say that, if you do not have some grasp of historical returns and the level of risk, you cannot properly answer.  Remember that we covered how often you will experience negative returns (including 20% declines) in the first article.  You need to understand the “composition of the forest before deciding how to deal with the trees”.

Here are the links to the three articles to have an understanding of first prior to jumping into the mix of long-term investing strategy and building an actual portfolio of investments.

Part 1 – Understanding Historical Stock Market Returns:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2019/09/23/successful-long-term-investing/

Part 2 – Understanding and Managing Risk:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2019/09/25/successful-long-term-investor-risk/

Part 3 – Giving up on the Allure of “Market Timing”:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2019/09/28/successful-long-term-investing-market-timing/

Once you have a firm grasp on these topics, you are ready to get your feet wet in the world of investing.

For those of you wanting a little bit of guidance because your intention is the manage your investments personally, I have written about this topic in the past.  I wrote a two-part series on how to build an investment portfolio and monitor the performance returns of that investment portfolio.  I have included the links below:

Part 1 – Building an Investment Portfolio:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2013/07/16/how-to-create-an-investment-portfolio-and-properly-measure-your-performance-part-1-of-2/

Part 2 – Monitoring the Performance of an Investment Portfolio:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2013/07/19/how-to-create-an-investment-portfolio-and-properly-measure-your-performance-part-2-of-2/

Those two articles above will provide you with some ways to go about creating your own investment portfolio without the assistance of a financial professional.  While it does contain a lot of information and suggestions, individual investors who are complete novices may find it easier and less confusing to seek out someone to guide them with investment selection, measuring risk tolerance, and understanding the goals of their financial plan.

In summary, I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts in regard to successful long-term investing.  As you can see successful investing has more to do with preparation, setting realistic expectations, and knowing how you personally respond to risk.  These topics need to be studied prior to investing money yourself or before going to seek out investment advice from a financial professional.  If you have any questions, comments, feedback, or disagreements, you can feel free to let me know.