What caught my eye this week.

A fortnight ago I posted a couple of reader polls, asking you how often – and how – you checked up on your investment portfolio.

More than 2,600 of you voted! Thanks to everyone who did their click for England Monevator.

I promised to share the results. They might be especially interesting to those who check their portfolios less frequently.

(Because presumably you aren’t the sort to go back to the original article after a week to see how everyone else voted…)

How often is normal

The first big takeaway is that over half of Monevator readers (yes, who voted in this poll, statistic sticklers) check their portfolio at least once a week:

Indeed slightly more than 80% of us check our portfolios at least monthly!

This is a pretty incredible statistic. I’m hoping my co-blogger The Accumulator doesn’t read it, given how often he’s cautioned against fanatical portfolio monitoring.

Of course it’s reasonable to assume that regular Monevator readers are more engaged with their portfolios than most private investors. And also perhaps that the sort who will vote in a poll that’s of interest to investing nerds like us are also, well, investing nerds who are more likely to want to see how their portfolios are doing.

There’s no distinguishing between passive and naughty active investors here, either. Despite some friction at times, we do try to be a broad church.

Maybe most of Team Accumulator just smiled serenely on seeing the polls then glided down to the latest Guardian fancy house roundup in the weekly links?

Certainly my friends who invest completely passively (and where I’ve had something to do with it, which is how I know) typically have no idea what their portfolio is worth.

At least a couple have called me over the years to make sense of their platform’s online navigation. Up until then they’d mostly done everything by post!

Who does that now? To some extent the accessibility of our portfolios via the devices that surround us makes checking them regularly almost inevitable.

Check mate

If you had to phone up a person to ask for a snapshot – let alone wait for a reply in the mail – I doubt anyone would be checking anything very often.

But then again, I would never have invested so much and so young if it hadn’t been a hands-on experience. And I’m obviously an (over) engaged investor as a result who has achieved a measure of financial security pretty young as a result.

I’m sure I’ve invested more (and more often) because I check my portfolio at least daily. Indeed far more often at times, with it being so easily accessible via various sheets on my Google Drive net worth spreadsheet.

However I also do believe this has caused me more stress and hurt than even active investing had to. Particularly in a dire year like 2022 (dire at least for a naughty small cap / growth stock-leaning active investor like me.)

Tools of the trade(rs)

I am almost more surprised that so few of you use an automatically updated spreadsheet like I do. Our second poll suggests nearly 40% of you are trudging around the broker screens, which seems a faff to me:

One thing is clear – paper is indeed a dying medium for investors.

Meanwhile I’m impressed that 350 or so of you don’t track your portfolio at all. Is that because it’s size is so surplus to requirements or because you’re just getting started, I wonder?

It feels like one definition of being really rich: if you have to ask the price you’re not rich. Maybe it’s the same for sufficiently (eight-figure?) funded stashes.

I’ll let you know if I ever get there…

Portfolio monitoring pros and cons

It’s been a truism for as long as I’ve been blogging about personal finance that a largely hands-off approach to your portfolio will work best for most investors.

Choose a sound asset allocation, automate your saving and investing, and avoid checking things too often.

There was even that famous study that apparently showed that dead investors – who were unable to log into their dormant accounts to meddle – achieved the highest returns of all.

Interestingly, in reading around the subject I’ve found new research implying that being engaged leads to superior outcomes. Although of course it depends on what that engagement entails.

Trading penny stocks based on candlestick charts every morning is almost certainly not going to be a winning strategy, however engaged you are.

On the other hand, caring enough to log into your company’s pension portal to swap high-charging active funds for low-cost index trackers is a one-shot decision that will likely reap rewards for decades.

On balance, I still feel less is probably more. However bad I am at taking such advice myself.

That’s because staying strategically disengaged from your portfolio’s value most of the time has two big benefits.

Firstly you’ll be less tempted to fiddle with your plan or panic.

Secondly, every portfolio except Bernie Madoff’s spends most of its time below its latest high-water mark. Seeing you’re down (even if only on yesterday) makes you feel bad.

The science says the times you notice you’re up won’t balance it out, either. The pain of losses exceeds the joy of gains.

But you probably know that already. And I must admit that as a passionate investor who follows the markets like others football – not to mention a blog owner who hopes you’ll keep returning or better yet subscribe to read more of our articles – I’m glad so many of you are so fresh with your investments.

Just don’t tell the other guy!

Have a great weekend.

From Monevator

Are you lost in Neverland? Fear of investing is a familiar and costly story – Monevator

From the archive-ator: When to buy insurance – Monevator


Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view click through to read the article. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing to sites you visit a lot.

UK inflation dropped slightly to 10.5% in December… – Investment Week

…and energy bills are forecast to fall further later this year – City AM

Employers confronted over missing pension contributions [Search result]FT

Only two weeks to go until 31 January self-assessment tax deadline – LITRG

Lloyds and Halifax to close 40 more bank branches in England and Wales – Guardian

Changes to state pension top-ups come into force from April – Which

Amazon is shutting down its AmazonSmile charity initiative – Amazon

Super passive goes ballistic; active is atrocious [Search result]FT

Products and services

Hargreaves Lansdown launches electronic voting system – Investment Week

Could your savings earn a higher interest rate without you switching bank? – This Is Money

UK inflation: how everyday goods and services have shot up in price – Guardian

Open a SIPP with Interactive Investor and pay no SIPP fee for six months. Terms apply – Interactive Investor

How to earn rewards and freebies from your current account – Be Clever With Your Cash

The psychology of scams: how fraudsters trick their victims – Which

Cost of a basic funeral dips below £4,000 – This Is Money

Homes with storage to cut clutter, in pictures – Guardian

Comment and opinion

$1 trillion and counting: Jack Bogle’s legacy to investors – The Evidence-based Investor

Elevate – Banker on FIRE

Financial planning in your 20s is about setting up good habits – Oblivious Investor

FOMO: the worst financial trait – Morgan Housel

Five lessons from an awful year for the financial markets – A Wealth of Common Sense

Don’t bet the bank – Humble Dollar

The role of [US] real estate in an investment portfolio – Morningstar

Don’t buy a football club – The Motley Fool

Who pays for your credit card rewards? [US but relevant]Vox

Long-term investing maths mini-special

The most important equation (or why Bitcoin has to average 30% a year to break even with the S&P 500) – Klement on Investing

The long-term wins – A Wealth of Common Sense

Naughty corner: Active antics

The periodic table of commodity returns: 2013-2022 [Infographic]Visual Capitalist

Time to buy UK small-caps? [Search result]FT

Why hedge funds prefer higher interest rates – Institutional Investor

Should we listen to outperforming fund managers? – Behavioural Investment

Warren’s Way – Humble Dollar

Questioning the illiquidity premium – Fiduciary Wealth Partners [h/t Abnormal Returns]

Kindle book bargains

What Should I Do With My Life? by Po Bronson – £0.99 on Kindle

The Investment Trusts Handbook 2023 by Jonathan Davis et al – Free on Kindle

Stuffocation: Living More With Less by James Wallman – £0.99 on Kindle

Factfulness: Ten Reasons…Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling – £0.99 on Kindle

Environmental factors

It’s getting too hot to make snow – Wired

Invest in technology that removes CO2, says UN report – BBC

EVs: mini power plants on wheels – Wired

‘Super-tipping points’ could trigger cascade of climate progress – Guardian

Off our beat

What it’s like to be @Josh on InstagramSlate

Why the US and UK can’t stop fighting the metric system – The Verge

“The more we pulled back the carpet, the more we saw”Guardian

Job interviews are a nightmare, and only getting worse – Vox

And finally…

“The impression was gaining ground with me that it was a good thing to let the money be my slave and not make myself a slave to money..”
– John D. Rockefeller, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

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The post Weekend reading: Self-service portfolio checkout appeared first on Monevator.

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