New Year's Eve is one of my favorite times of the year.
And not because I look forward to the lavish parties folks like to hold on that final night of the year.
In fact, I don't party at all.
My wife and I have actually established a neat little ritual that lets us say adios to the outgoing year... and to welcome in the new one by setting some goals for the one that's coming in.
We dress up and go out for a late dinner - usually at one of the nice local eateries that we like and support. But before we do, the two of us always sit by the fire and have our most important "family talk" of the year.
Each year, you see, I write an "annual report" that details our achievements for that year. These can include accomplishments at work or in the civic projects we're involved with, great investments we've made, and projects we've completed.
As my wife and I sit by the fire, we review that "report" - and celebrate our accomplishments. And then we establish goals for the New Year - creating an "action plan" whose success or failure we'll review at our "chat" the following New Year's Eve.
I'm sharing this story for a reason: My wife and I have been doing this for more than a decade now. That's long enough to see that this "tradition" has had a positive impact on our lives.
And it points to a habit that I believe every investor should develop.
I'm talking about developing a personal investment plan.
It can help make you a winner. In fact, it can help make you rich.
And today I'm going to show you how...
A Superhighway to Super Wealth
You've heard me say this many times - the road to wealth is paved with high tech.
And like any journey, you're more likely to arrive at your intended destination safely, on time - and without getting lost - if you have a proper map.
And that "map" is essentially what an investment-action plan is all about.
I'm speaking from years of experience.
There's a very good reason that an investment-action plan breeds success: The actual process of creating the plan - and being honest about your goals, your feelings about risk, and about the amount of capital you have to work with - dramatically elevates the odds that you're going to succeed.
With that in mind, let's go through just what your specific action plan might actually look like.
Let's take a look at how you can use these guidelines to start putting together your action plan for 2014.
You need to:
- Detail Your Goals and Objectives: This section is crucial because your goals - how much you need and when you'll need it - influence every other part of the plan. It might start out with a statement akin to: "I intend to retire in 20 years, and know that I will need to have a net worth of at least $2 million to make this happen." Your objectives might include some near-term goals, as well, such as funding your child's college education, buying a vacation house, setting up a foundation, or retiring to travel abroad. Be sure to list all your goals, as well as the estimated costs. And don't forget to include your dreams - buying an antique car, a boat, or that small farm "upstate." After all, dreams are what make life special.
- Assess Your Feelings About Risk: You need to be honest as you assess your capacity for risk. After all, the greatest investment plan in the world won't work if you won't stick with it. For instance, if volatility freaks you out, maybe you choose investments - such as exchange-traded funds (ETFs) - that still offer high average annual gains, but that don't have the wild swings that the underlying individual stocks might experience. On the other hand, if you have ambitious (aggressive) financial goals, or are getting a late start, you're going to have to look at higher-growth investments - which, by definition, carry higher risks. Being honest about risk will help you come to terms with this reality.
- Draw a Map: Goals are great, but you have to figure out how you're going to reach that destination. You need to work out how much you need to be putting away today, tomorrow, and next year in order to get where you want to be. Make sure you're taking advantage of all that's available - like the company "match" in your 401(k).
- Start Now: As part of your statement of purpose, make sure you say what you're going to do in 2014. It might read something like "invest in quality technology stocks with the potential to double my money."
Somewhere in your plan, make sure to address the specific steps you've been putting off - such as making better use of stop losses to protect your capital and profits. It might also include a target return for your portfolio - for instance, stating that you're pursuing 25% gains.
Working the Plan
Now that you've done your review, you need to put it all together. This part of the document will detail your plan:
- Investment Focus: In this part, you will specify the areas where you are already invested and where you want to go. It gives you a bird's-eye view of how you intend to blend things like real-estate, bonds, precious metals, retirement accounts, and, of course, technology stocks. Detail how you need to rebalance your holdings, shedding losers and searching for new potential winners.
- Success Journal: It's important that you keep track of your investment decisions and why you made them. That way, if you are making mistakes that cost you money, you can review the results you got so that you can make better decisions next time. You also should commit to reviewing your trading journal at specific intervals, no less than once a quarter - monthly is better. You want to uncover destructive patterns before they cost you serious money.
- Tools and Education: You should commit yourself to continuing to improve your skills as an investor. There are several ways you can do this, such as attending seminars on how to chart stocks or taking a newsletter written by an editor you trust and who has a good track record.
Happy New Year!
From the Editor: Michael has been following a 4,250% growth story that will help his readers start off 2014 with a bang.