With markets looking wobbly in the face of continuing uncertainty in Washington over the fiscal cliff, many investors and financial planning clients find themselves either paralyzed, or tempted to rash action that may endanger their financial plans. To help them stay on track, Jeremy Welther, a principal and senior financial advisor at Madison, N.J.-based wealth management firm Brinton Eaton, offers these eight tips.
1. Stay diversified. While the bond market has "been on a tear" recently, investors shouldn't over-concentrate in any sector, even if its performing particularly well at the moment. A well-diversified portfolio should invest across a variety of industry sectors, and should include equities, fixed income, and alternative investments to balance risk.
2. Manage risks in a portfolio by rebalancing rigorously. As some sectors do better than others, regularly revisiting investments to make sure a portfolio keeps the intended balance is important. "It's counterintuitive, but it works," said Welther. "Systematically buying low and selling high allows you to reduce your overall risk and can actually help improve your returns over time."
3. Take the financial news with a grain of salt. "Many headlines contribute to negative investors behaviors," said Welther. "Don't let your emotions get the best of you. If you fall prey to the crisis du jour, you could enter and exit the markets at exactly the wrong times."
4. Review and update your financial plan periodically. Tax law changes, fluctuating markets, major life events and many other factors can require changes or adjustments, which the investor should discuss with their financial advisor.
5. Review beneficiaries. Investors should review their beneficiary designations to make sure the arrangements continue to reflect their wishes, and make sense in their overall estate plan. All beneficiary designations should also be outlined in their will.
6. Remember retirement. Savings and investments look likely to play an increasingly important role in ensuring a comfortable retirement, which means it's never too early to start planning, and every bit saved ahead of time is helpful.
7. Asset insurance coverage. It's important to review coverage in property and casualty, disability, liability, and long-term care to make sure the individual isn't overinsured (and paying to much) or underinsured.
8. Get a second opinion. If a financial plan isn't serving the individual's needs, or if the planner isn't offering the explanations and education the client needs, it may be time to consider a new advisor.