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Improving Investor Behavior – Managing Your Time Like Money

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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, April 21, 2019.

As a financial advisor, I am typically hired by clients to help them manage their resources. Most often, these are financial resources including cash, investments, etc. Sometimes I help people to manage their business resources such as connecting professionals, encouraging action, and providing advice to help make sound decisions. But there is one resource that I help investors to consider, one that we all have, but tend to be terrible at managing.

That resource is time.

Because time is finite (we all have precisely the same amount of minutes in the day – 1,440 to be exact), it is our single greatest asset. We can’t create more of it, and it will continue to disappear if we choose not to use it. As a result, time is even more valuable than money. Ask anyone on their deathbed if they’d rather have $100k or another year to enjoy their friends and family and I’m sure you’ll hear the same answer time and again.

Historically, “traditional” companies sell products and services in exchange for cash, the most common currency. We trade money for a full pantry, warm clothes, and reliable transportation. We’ve come to expect this type of transaction, and we use software, services, and even financial advisors to help us manage money for products or services type purchases. But what about the businesses built to capture our most important currency?

Today many companies sell their products in exchange for time and attention. These companies tend to be web-based. Think services like Facebook, Instagram, Google, Netflix, etc. They exchange their product for your time. As a result, attention has become the most valuable currency in Silicon Valley and the war to collect more of it is fierce.

This results in the exploitation of some of our worst characteristics as humans. Consider the “pull-to-refresh” action in some of these apps. Sometimes we are rewarded with a new post, match, or picture. Sometimes we are not. But this intermittent reward is exactly what hooks people. Feels a lot like a slot machine, doesn’t it? There are studies on the chemical reaction that people experience, and yes it is very much an addiction.

Because attention has become so valuable, apps and services are designed to gather as much of it as possible, regardless of the psychological toll it may be taking on the user. This has a profound effect on people who may not be keeping track of their time budget. Just how much time did you spend on Facebook last week?

Recently I was introduced to the book, Making Time written by two early Google programmers who were instrumental in the creation of Gmail. The authors of the book laid out many examples of how technology rules our lives, and our time. They point out all the defaults that come with the devices we have in our pockets, purses, briefcases, at home, on our desks, and yes even on our wrists. If you think about time as a currency, you begin to change your mindset on how you spend your time, who takes (steals) your time, and how you might invest your time.

So many freely “pay up” with their time wallet, not thinking about time as a currency. How you invest the time in your time wallet is critical. Managing money can, and should, be applied similarly to how we manage time.  Wealth can be created and saved, but once the time is spent, it’s gone forever.

So I encourage you to apply some of the same methods we use to manage money and apply them to your time currency.

First, take stock of what you have. Without making an effort to change anything, merely monitor your time. Where are you spending it? How much of it is productive? How much of it is leisure? Where do you spend it and with whom? Track this and gain insight into where you currently stand.

Second, build out a budget. Ideally, how much sleep would you like to get? Do you want to budget an hour of your time for exercise? What about self-development via reading or taking a class? The habits we follow and the small things we do every day ultimately define us. Take the time to build out a budget and set an agenda for yourself. This will limit the feeling of being pushed and pulled in different directions all day.

Third, monitor and alter the budget as life changes. Nothing is set in stone and life is continually evolving. Your time budget should evolve as well. As you move toward making work a choice, your priorities are likely to change. Without working all day, you’ll find an ample amount of new time to budget. But I’ll bet the time spent at work resulted in feelings of productivity, accomplishment, and pride. Remember to find ways to keep these emotional “banks” topped off with revisions to your time budget.

Fourth, find ways to create more time. Now I’m not encouraging you to buy a second-hand Delorean, but there are ways to stretch the time you have available. For instance, hiring a fitness coach may result in a better workout, ultimately resulting in fewer visits to the gym or a better result in the same amount of time. A housekeeper may return time spent cleaning and dusting. Meal prepping on a Sunday means less time cooking throughout the week. Building a team of helpers and creating processes means you can accomplish more in the same amount of time.

Time is a resource, just like cash and investments. And while we are all blessed with it, it is still more valuable than gold. Take stock of how you spend your time and invest it well. It will pay a dividend greater than any available in the market.

Steve Booren

Steve Booren

Steve started his investment career in 1978 with the NYSE investment firm EF Hutton, working in the environment of a large investment company. Desiring to provide clients with objective investment advice, he founded Prosperion Financial Advisors. Learn more about Steve here.

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Improving Investor Behavior – Learn to Love a Falling Market

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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, January 20, 2019.

The financial markets have given investors quite a ride in the past few months. Not only have we seen a drop in the prices, but the volatility and multiple-percentage point days seems to have investors feeling a little seasick. The first thing queasy people want to do is to get off the boat.

This is precisely the wrong thing to do, and here’s why. Thinking fluctuation is bad for investors is an incorrect perspective. Volatility is the stock market’s way of redistributing shares of great companies to their rightful long-term owners. When markets fluctuate as they have in recent months, it is nearly impossible to divorce yourself from the emotional powers of fear and greed. The price per share does not matter unless you are buying that day, or selling that day. Other than some “entertainment value.” daily fluctuation should be ignored.

“What makes stocks valuable in the long run is not the market. It is the profitability of the companies you own,” said Peter Lynch in Worth Magazine in 1995. I agree with him. Over time, as corporations become more valuable, sooner or later, their shares will sell for a higher price. Our contention is you need to remember you own a piece of successful, profitable companies.

When we experience moments in time like this past December, when prices decline temporarily, investors tend to get anxious and fearful. If you are a long-term investor who likes owning great-dividend paying companies, the short-term volatility should be irrelevant. If you do not intend to sell any investments for many years to come, why worry about what the prices are today? Short-term price declines cause many investors angst. That emotional heartburn is just one reason it makes sense to work with a professional who can help keep you on track.

Managing assets for the past 40 years, I often feel I live in what might be described as “investment manager hell.” When clients are excited, almost giddy with enthusiasm about the markets and economy, I tend to feel frustrated. Moments like these usually mean my favorite companies are overvalued.

On the other hand, when clients express frustration, anger, fear, or anxiety about the markets, I tend to get excited. This usually means my favorite companies are on sale. Remember that falling prices mean better deals. Sometimes the price drops so far, and so hard, it’s possible to pick up shares at fire sale prices. Panic can be an expensive emotion for sellers.

Rather than get caught up in the moment, we look toward the future and what opportunities may develop for investments. This is investment manager hell – loving “bad” markets and hating “good” markets. When you work diligently to understand each of the companies you may own as an investor, you realize the value of the company is the sum of the future cash flow that a company may generate. The higher the current stock price, the more over-valued that investment may be. Likewise the lower the price today, the more under-valued that company is. It may be a great time to increase ownership shares.

When prices are temporarily falling, rather than be fearful, recognize that you can purchase company stocks at lower prices. Try to make it a practice to never react to prices alone. A more in-depth, thoughtful approach is necessary to evaluate how a company is doing. Price should not be the sole indicator.

How you think about market fluctuation and, more importantly, what you do about it takes discipline. Often investors let fear and greed override common sense or wisdom. Don’t be a victim of the market. Remember, the best time to buy is when things go on sale. Investments are no different. Great investments, like great products or services, sometimes offer discounts. When they come along, buy them, keep them for a long time, and watch how that investment can pay off.

Steve Booren

Steve Booren

Steve started his investment career in 1978 with the NYSE investment firm EF Hutton, working in the environment of a large investment company. Desiring to provide clients with objective investment advice, he founded Prosperion Financial Advisors. Learn more about Steve here.

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Improving Investor Behavior – Fear of Missing Out

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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, September 16, 2018.

When you are stuck in traffic on the interstate, creeping along, do you find yourself wanting to switch from one lane to another? Do you glance to the left and see the “fast lane,” and are envious of how quickly they are moving? You look for an opening, signal and move over to gain some speed… only to come to a stop. You then notice the car you were following in the lane to the right moves along past you. A few minutes later, it has moved way ahead, out of sight.

This is an illustration to which investors can relate. Making a move from one strategy to another – one that looks more attractive because it is moving along faster than you are –  often has the same frustrating result. As with driving, you may take the risk and make a financial strategy change to feel like you are getting ahead, only to find yourself coming to a stop since you made that investment at the wrong time, or for the wrong reason. This is FOMO or the Fear of Missing Out.

Buying an investment in today’s world is rather easy. From apps on your phone to Mutual Fund stores in strip malls, purchasing investments has never been simpler. What previously involved a call to your broker to make an investment purchase is now even easier with these multiple alternatives.  Investment companies, however, thrive on investors making changes whether it comes from transaction commissions or asset management fees.

Some financial companies encourage lane-changing behavior, where investors hop from one product or strategy to another, in an attempt to “beat the market.” Frankly, beating the market is a lot of work (and luck). You must buy something before the value rises, sell it high, and reinvest those dollars in the next low-value stock that goes up in price. One’s ability to do this consistently is practically non-existent. Yet people believe they can, spurred on by a variety of messaging we receive. The bottom line is that investing takes discipline.

We also know that FOMO has a close cousin: Comparison. Comparing is said to be human nature. We tend to examine what we have, make, how we look, and where we live to others. The funny thing about this habit is that there is never a winner. That is because there will always be someone, somewhere with more than what you have, look better than you do, have a bigger house, etc. The habit of comparison envelops people and can significantly harm their investment behavior. It plants the seed for FOMO and leads to comparing how fast you are going versus the person in the other lane.

I encourage my clients to measure progress. Are you on plan or target? If so, great! If not, what adjustments do you need to make to get back in your lane and make progress toward your destination? Measuring how far you’ve come is a much healthier measure than judging against perfection. Comparing yourself to someone else, or to an ideal, only generates negative feelings and emotions. Measure progress, not perfection.

At the end of the day, the only reason people invest and save is for income – either income today or income tomorrow. Attempting to grow your money pile bigger and bigger may sound appealing, but capital gains are an unreliable source of income. Trying to trade your way up the pile is a lot of work and a goal for which few have the skill and discipline to achieve. Most financial advisors coach people to build up a financial “retirement pile” then spend down or make distributions based on a “safe” distribution rate. Growth is an unreliable source of income, and that strategy can lead to unfortunate timing decisions.

On the contrary, stay focused on a strategy with a history of success. Ignore the whispering emotions of fear or greed, and you can reach your destination with a lot less “lane-changing risk.” We believe in investing in great companies with a broad business moat. They sell their goods or services to everyone, everywhere, every day, and share a portion of the profits with their owner-shareholders in the form of a dividend. Dividends may not be the only path for investor success, but if there is a better one, I have yet to find it.

Decide your destination and map out a course. Be very careful making those lane changes.

Steve Booren

Steve Booren

Steve started his investment career in 1978 with the NYSE investment firm EF Hutton, working in the environment of a large investment company. Desiring to provide clients with objective investment advice, he founded Prosperion Financial Advisors. Learn more about Steve here.

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Improving Investor Behavior – The Prosperity Mindset

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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, August 19, 2018.

Wealth is a mindset. In my years as a financial advisor I’ve worked with many wealthy individuals who have everyday-type jobs. From bus drivers to teachers, entrepreneurs to an administrative assistant at the Chamber of Commerce, I’ve learned that income is not the best determinate of future wealth. Instead it’s a mindset, one I like to call the prosperity mindset.

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Steve Booren

Steve Booren

Steve started his investment career in 1978 with the NYSE investment firm EF Hutton, working in the environment of a large investment company. Desiring to provide clients with objective investment advice, he founded Prosperion Financial Advisors. Learn more about Steve here.

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Improving Investor Behavior – Make Steady Savings Your Strategy

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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, May 18, 2018.

There’s $15 on the line, and your buddy is stepping up to a 10 footer for a birdie on the 18th hole. It’s a slippery putt, but not slippery enough. As he takes his shot, human nature kicks in. “Miss it, miss it,” we say to ourselves. But there is no level of hoping or wishing we can do to have any measurable effect on that putt.

As humans, we do this a lot. We look at all manner of situations and hope for different outcomes. We hope the Broncos win. We hope to live well into our 100s. We hope the stock market goes up. In all of these situations, there’s very little we can do to affect what happens. We get so caught up hoping for one thing or another, that we forget the little steps we can take to improve our odds of success. Living to 100 is a hope; eating healthy and exercising is a choice. And when it comes to finance, choosing how much to save is far more important than hoping for better market returns.

Market performance tends to be the singular focus of investors and investment media alike. How is the market performing? What are the benchmarks doing? At what level are my holdings? All of these questions are similar in one regard: they are reactionary. They focus on elements that cannot be controlled.

Investment returns are important. The magic of compounding interest, sometimes called the eighth wonder of the world, is what helps rigorous savers be able to retire as millionaires. Regular old savings rates, however, can have a profound impact on the value of a portfolio over a lifetime. For compounding interest to work its magic, it has to have something on which to work. Consistency is a virtue, and it is an element YOU can control.

Life is filled with challenges, expenses, and emergencies, all of which can derail the best of intentions when it comes to saving. Having a method for saving becomes essential. Often that means “paying yourself first.” For example, can you have your employer automatically contribute to your 401(k) from your paycheck? Great! The sting of savings might hurt at first, but after a couple of months, you may not notice it. That’s the goal. We want to automate savings as much as possible. As a best practice, we encourage a 10-25 percent savings rate. The more you save, the better the outcome. It’s better to save 10 percent every month than 25 percent once or twice a year. Save until it hurts and make it a habit.

Pensions once made this easy for would-be retirees. Employees didn’t need to think about saving for retirement; it just happened. As retirement savings continues to shift away from companies and toward individual employees, making “saving” a routine becomes even more important. The great thing about Independent alternatives such as 401(k) plans is they allow you to contribute at your savings rate. You get to control how much you want to put in and where that money is invested, as well as take comfort in knowing that it’s your money, now and into the future.  These plans are designed to reward diligent savers.

Tomorrow the market may go up, down or sideways. No one knows which way it will move, and those who say they do are just guessing. The problem with guessing is that it is inherently inconsistent. Some days you’re right, and other days you’re wrong. How much you choose to save is controlled only by you. The consistency with which you choose to save is a decision over which you have complete control. The more you save, the less the market has to perform to end up with the same result. Steady savings over a lifetime helps take the “hoping” out of a retirement plan.

Praying to the golf gods won’t help us win the round. What we can do is take lessons, get a coach and practice. We can hit the driving range, and improve our odds that by the last hole it won’t matter if he sinks the 10 footer. Our goal is to stroll up to the 18th green a few shots ahead. This scenario relates to what consistent saving achieves. Make it a habit, practice it regularly, and watch your retirement account grow.

Steve Booren

Steve Booren

Steve started his investment career in 1978 with the NYSE investment firm EF Hutton, working in the environment of a large investment company. Desiring to provide clients with objective investment advice, he founded Prosperion Financial Advisors. Learn more about Steve here.

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Social Media – Helping or Hurting Your Investment Behavior?

During a recent client meeting we ended up on the subject of social media, and the effect it can have on a business. Unfavorable press coverage led to an echo of bad news on social media among this client’s customers, and it was continuing to harm his business with no end in sight.

I was curious about the public’s persistent reaction, and why he believed the story was still in the news cycle many weeks later. Was his customer base being fickle? Were competitors spreading false and redundant stories? His response: social media. Once a key marketing strategy for his company, social media has quickly turned into a sore spot.

He explained that as the public hears about small incidents, they turn to social networks to share the information, which is then amplified and repeated, creating a snowball effect. Suddenly isolated incidents create nation-wide panic. The small problems become bigger than expected and a stampede occurs.

As a financial advisor I started thinking about how this applies to investors. Consider both DIYers and new investors, those who are not deeply grounded, long-term, experienced investors. Could social media be driving investors toward short-term thinking? Could it be the volume and loudness of media in general? Could this be pushing investors to make choices detrimental to the longevity of their wealth?

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Steve Booren

Steve Booren

Steve started his investment career in 1978 with the NYSE investment firm EF Hutton, working in the environment of a large investment company. Desiring to provide clients with objective investment advice, he founded Prosperion Financial Advisors. Learn more about Steve here.

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The Future of Denver’s Skyline

Steve Booren

Steve Booren

Steve started his investment career in 1978 with the NYSE investment firm EF Hutton, working in the environment of a large investment company. Desiring to provide clients with objective investment advice, he founded Prosperion Financial Advisors. Learn more about Steve here.

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Confusing Volatility and Risk

I believe it is imperative for investors to understand the difference between volatility and risk. Though often used synonymously, these are two very distinct ideas. We think success can be increased by clearly understanding the distinction between these financial principles. Let’s start by taking a look at risk.

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Steve Booren

Steve Booren

Steve started his investment career in 1978 with the NYSE investment firm EF Hutton, working in the environment of a large investment company. Desiring to provide clients with objective investment advice, he founded Prosperion Financial Advisors. Learn more about Steve here.

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Now Available: Millionaire in the Making by John Booren

In the last year, I’ve had the realization that there are far too many people living in the most financially impactful years of their lives who lack the necessary planning and guidance to make wise financial decisions. The kind of decisions that will dramatically impact their future.

Those families and individuals I’m referring to are typically in their 20s or 30s and may be far removed from the retirement they hope to have one day. What they fail to realize is that they are slowly losing the greatest element an investor has, one that can’t be bought or recovered: time.

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John Booren

John Booren

John started his investment career in 2012 after graduating from Colorado State University with a bachelor’s degree in Financial Planning. His desire is to provide care and guidance for individuals and families through all aspects of their financial life. Learn more about John here.

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How to Invest for the Goal of Growing Income

Why do you invest?

It’s a simple question, but one so few people consider. Investors often fail to understand their reason for making investments, for saving money, or for what they invest in. They fail to ask themselves the fundamental question for making an investment – to discover their “why.”

I believe the biggest why of investing is income. Either income for today, or income for tomorrow. My reasoning is simple: income is what we spend, and spending is how we use money as a resource. All roads lead back to income. So how can we position a portfolio for maximum income either for use today or in the future?

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Steve Booren

Steve Booren

Steve started his investment career in 1978 with the NYSE investment firm EF Hutton, working in the environment of a large investment company. Desiring to provide clients with objective investment advice, he founded Prosperion Financial Advisors. Learn more about Steve here.

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