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Stony Brook Edward Jones

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By Michael Christodoulou

Michael Christodoulou
Michael Christodoulou

Now that we’ve gained at least some space from the COVID-19 pandemic, summer travel is heating up. But while you might be eager to hit the road, you won’t want your investments to take a vacation — you need them to work hard for you consistently. But how can you make this happen? 

Here are some ideas:

Know your destination.“If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter which path you take.” This bit of wisdom, paraphrased from the classic children’s book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, may be appropriate for, say, hikers exploring a new landscape. But as an investor, it matters a great deal which path you take. If you only dabble in investing, occasionally putting some money into one investment or another, it will be difficult to build a portfolio that’s consistently working in your best interest. It’s important to create a long-term investment strategy based on where you want to go in life — that is, how long you plan to work, what sort of retirement lifestyle you envision, and so on.

Match goals with investments. Some investments are designed to achieve certain goals. To illustrate: When you contribute to an IRA and a 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored plan, you’re investing for one specific, long-term goal: a comfortable retirement. While you can tap into these accounts for other purposes — though doing so might incur immediate taxes and penalties — they are designed to provide you with income during your retirement years. Similarly, you may have other investments for other purposes, such as a 529 education savings plan. Here’s the key point: Goals-based investing, by its nature, can help ensure your portfolio is always working on your behalf, in the way you intended.

Invest for growth. Ideally, hard work produces results, and one of the main results you want from your investments is growth — that is, you want your investments to appreciate in value so they can eventually help you meet your goals. But if you are overconcentrated in vehicles such as certificates of deposit (CDs) and government securities, you may end up lowering your growth potential. That’s not to say that CDs and Treasury bills are in some sense “lazy.” They can provide you with income and help you reduce the impact of market volatility on your portfolio. But to achieve most of your goals, you’ll need a reasonable number of growth-oriented investments working for you, with the exact percentage based on your needs and life stages.

Check your progress. How else can you ensure your investments aren’t just taking it easy? By checking up on them. If you follow a buy-and-hold strategy, your portfolio shouldn’t require many changes if it already reflects your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon. Too much buying and selling could jeopardize your ability to follow a consistent, long-term strategy. However, “buy and hold” doesn’t mean “buy and forget.” By reviewing your portfolio at least once a year, you can determine if your investments are performing as they should. If they’re not working for you as you’d like, you may need to make some changes.

If you’re traveling this summer, relax and enjoy yourself — but keep those investments working hard.

Michael Christodoulou, ChFC®, AAMS®, CRPC®, CRPS® is a Financial Advisor for Edward Jones in Stony Brook. Member SIPC.

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By Michael Christodoulou

Michael Christodoulou
Michael Christodoulou

On April 22, we observe Earth Day, an occasion that has inspired millions of people over the decades to take steps to clean up our world. Of course, your physical surroundings are important, but you also operate in other “ecosystems” – social, cultural and political. And you’ll need to consider your investment environment, too. How can you improve it?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Avoid “toxic” investment strategies. The dangers of pollution helped drive the creation of Earth Day. As an investor, you also need to watch out for “toxins” – particularly in the form of unhealthy investment techniques. For example, chasing after “hot” stocks can burn you. In the first place, by the time you’ve heard of them, they may already be cooling off. Second, and probably more important, these hot stocks just may be wrong for the investment mix that’s appropriate for your needs. Another toxic investment strategy: trying to “time” the market by “buying low and selling high.” No one can really predict when market highs and lows will occur, and if you’re always jumping in and out of the investment world, you’ll likely waste time and effort – not to mention money. Instead of looking for today’s hottest stocks or guessing where the market is heading, try to create and follow a long-term investment strategy based on your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon.
  • Reduce waste.From an environmental standpoint, the less waste and garbage we produce, the better it is for our planet. As an investor, can you find “wasteful” elements in your portfolio? It’s possible that you own some investments that may be redundant – that is, they are virtually indistinguishable from others you may have. Also, some investments, due to their risk profile or performance, no longer may be suitable for your needs. In either case – redundancy or unsuitability – you might be better off selling the investments and using the proceeds to purchase others that can be more helpful.
  • Recycle wisely.Recycling is a major part of the environmental movement. At first, though, you might not think the concept of recycling could apply to investing. But consider this: If you own stocks or mutual funds, you may receive dividends, and, like many people, you may choose to automatically reinvest those dividends back into the stocks or funds. So, in a sense, you are indeed “recycling” your dividend payments to boost your ownership stakes – without expending additional resources. And, in fact, this can be quite an effective and efficient way to increase your wealth over time.
  • Plant some “trees.”Planting trees has always been a key activity among boosters of the environment – with the recognition that their efforts will take years, or even decades, to reach fruition. When you invest, you must sometimes start small. By purchasing a limited amount of an investment and nurturing it over the years by adding more shares, you may one day have achieved significant growth. (Keep in mind, though, that there are no guarantees – variable investments such as stocks can lose principal.)

By making these and other moves, you can create a healthy investment environment – one that can help you achieve your long-term goals.

Michael Christodoulou, ChFC®, AAMS®, CRPC®, CRPS® is a Financial Advisor for Edward Jones in Stony Brook. Member SIPC.

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By Michael Christodoulou

Michael Christodoulou
Michael Christodoulou

The COVID-19 pandemic may end up changing our lives in some significant ways. To cite one example, it’s likely we’ll see a lot more people continue to work remotely, now that they’ve seen the effectiveness of tools such as videoconferencing. Education, too, may be forever changed in some ways. Perhaps just as important, though, is how many people may now think more about the future – including how they invest.

If you work with a financial professional, you may have connected with this individual over the past several months through a videoconferencing platform, rather than in person. Some people like this arrangement because it offers more scheduling flexibility and eliminates the time and effort of traveling to and from an appointment. Others, however, still prefer face-to-face contact and look forward to when such arrangements will again be practical and safe for everyone involved. But if you’re in the first group – that is, you prefer videoconferencing – you may now wish to use this communication method in the future, at least some of the time.

But beyond the physical aspects of your investing experience, you may now be looking at some changes in your investment strategy brought on, or at least suggested, by your reactions to the pandemic.

For example, many people – especially, but not exclusively, those whose employment was affected by the pandemic – found that they were coming up short in the area of liquidity. They didn’t have enough easily accessible savings to provide them with the cash they needed to meet their expenses until their employment situations stabilized. Consequently, some individuals were forced to dip into their long-term investments, such as their 401(k)s and IRAs. Generally speaking, this type of move is not ideal – these accounts are designed for retirement, so, the more you tap into them early, the less you’ll have available when you do retire. Furthermore, your withdrawals will likely be taxable, and, depending on your age, may also be subject to penalties.

If you were affected by this liquidity crunch, you can take steps now to avoid its recurrence. Your best move may be to build an emergency fund containing three to six months’ worth of living expenses, with the funds held in a separate, highly accessible account of cash or cash equivalents. Of course, given your regular expenses, it may take some time to build such an amount, but if you can commit yourself to putting away a certain amount of money each month, you will make progress. Even having a few hundred dollars in an emergency fund can help create more financial stability.

Apart from this new appreciation for short-term liquidity, though, the foundation for your overall financial future should remain essentially the same. In addition to building your emergency fund, you should still contribute what you can afford to your IRA, 401(k) and other retirement plans. If you have children you want to send to college, you might still explore college-funding vehicles such as a 529 plan. Higher education will still be expensive, even with an expansion in online learning programs.

Post-pandemic life may contain some differences, along with many similarities to life before. But it will always be a smart move to create a long-term financial strategy tailored to your individual needs, goals and risk tolerance.

Michael Christodoulou, ChFC®, AAMS®, CRPC®, CRPS®

Financial Advisor from the STONY BROOK EDWARD JONES

Edward Jones. Member SIPC.