The last decade has seen great advancements in technology and one of the industries that has seen the most growth is the financial industry. In this day and age, most financial transactions can be initiated by the tap of a screen. Trading a stock means clicking a button. Sending money is a swipe away. Shopping for houses is as easy as having an internet connection and knowing what zip code you are looking for.
As in many cases, the easier the access to the financial sector becomes, the more likely people will make irrational and unwise decisions. Take, for example, the stock market. With easy-to-use apps, people are getting into the market at unprecedented rates. Usually that is good, as we know that over the long term the stock market helps build wealth. However, because many people who are getting in with such ease are uneducated on the dynamics of the market, they end up making bad moves that hurt them financially. For example, many people are making completely speculative investments based on hopes and dreams and not on reality, and in turn, are driving up stocks that are completely worthless. Or they are piling into the market at its peak, thinking that this time around it will continue on an indefinite uptrend. The “dot com bubble” in the early 2000s saw similar activity and the end result was not good.
So, while we have all been blessed to live in a time where technology gives us access to markets that were previously unavailable to the average person, it is vital to stay diligent and grounded. A few points that are important to consider as you make financial decisions:
Greed will kill your finances. As greed settles in, the chances of you taking unnecessary risks increases and it is downhill from there.
A prudent investment strategy needs to be based on evidence, not hype. When finding a place to put your money, you must perform due diligence to make sure it is going somewhere with a track record of good results.
Leveraging is a horrible idea unless it is a mortgage on a property that you can afford.
Never make long-term financial decisions based off of your best-case scenario or highest earning years. Instead, use multi-year average earnings and then discount it when making decisions on what you can or cannot afford payments on.
High fees and high turnover in your investment portfolio will destroy your portfolio balance.
Being passive does pay off in the investment world. Many times, people think that they need to constantly change their portfolio holdings if they want to succeed. Finding a good place to park your money and leaving it alone often brings better results than constantly changing things.
You cannot time the markets. Accepting this will help you avoid the common pitfalls of buying high and selling low. Finding good investments and consistently adding to them will usually yield you a better result.
Considering more than your financial return when making an investment does lead to long-term happiness. Knowing your money is invested in an ethical company that does work that lines up with your value system is better than investing in a company that operates counter to your value system, even if the monetary return is slightly less.
Budgeting does work. A recent study showed that, out of their participants, only 40% of people earned more than they spent. It was also interesting that only 42% of people in the study kept a budget. Seems like there may be some correlation.
Finance is a marathon, not a sprint. God does not intend for us to be either rich or poor, but instead calls us to be diligent with what he gives us and to add to it over time. Being consistent with your finances will benefit you more than looking for speculative investments.
A lot of these points seem like they are basic lessons, but a recent study showed that only 57% of people in the US and 68% of Canadians are financially literate. While that’s higher than the world average, it is lower than many western/advanced countries. So, although access to the financial sector through technology is increasing at a rapid pace, it seems like the education about how to engage with it is not always moving as fast. At a time when everything is accessible, it becomes much more important to be grounded in what you do or do not believe. Above are just a few lessons that I feel are important to consider. However, each person needs to take time to decide what is important, relevant, and in line with their value system. If you do not take time figuring that out, there is a big chance you will fall victim to irrational financial decision-making.