Advisor Insight

Don’t panic and lose sight of long-term plans

Financial advisors on investing

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With market volatility making headlines, it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day ups and downs, panic, and lose sight of your long-term investment goals. What's a worried investor to do? Here are the top 10 tips for effective long-term investment strategies from two certified financial planners and members of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council — Jeff Rose, founder and CEO of Alliance Wealth Management, and Tim Maurer, director of personal finance for Buckingham and The BAM Alliance.

— By CNBC's Kenneth Kiesnoski
Posted 24 February 2016

1. Skip the lattes and start saving

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"There's no question that little financial decisions add up, but it's more often the big ones that have a long-term impact," said Tim Maurer of The BAM Alliance. "So, by all means, pay attention to the individual decisions you make with cash daily, but pay even more attention to how much you spend on housing and transportation, how much you dedicate to saving in your retirement plans, and the biggest driver of them all — the maintenance of your career path."

2. Do some cost analysis

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"Approaching retirement requires you to be lean and mean with all costs," said Jeff Rose of Alliance Wealth Management. "The two biggest costs you can control are your investments and your living expenses.

"On your investments, do you know your 'all in' cost?" he added. "That includes fees paid to your advisor, brokerage fees, transactions fees, and internal costs of your mutual funds and exchange traded funds.

"On living expenses, it's important to know what are the total costs of your essentials: insurance, food, housing, etc.," Rose said. "Identify the costs that could be eliminated if things get tight."

3. Set sights on goals

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"Investing without a goal is like taking a vacation without a clear destination in sight," Rose of Alliance Wealth Management said. "While lifetime goals are important, it's often easier to shorten the time frame to three years out.

"Boosting your emergency fund, increasing your 401(k) contribution to 15 percent, and maxing out your Roth IRAs are all goals you can work towards in the next three years — and implement steps today to make it happen."

4. Gauge your risk tolerance

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"The theory of risk aversion suggests that we feel the pain of losses twice as much as we enjoy the pleasure of gains," said Maurer at The BAM Alliance. "Therefore, most of us should err on the side of conservatism when building our portfolios, because a more conservative investment strategy that you stick with is always better than a more aggressive plan that you abandon."

5. Think both liquid and longer-term

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"Think about allocating your financial assets in accordance to their prospective uses: cash for short-term needs, conservatively oriented taxable investments for mid-term needs, and growth-oriented retirement plan investments for long-term needs," Maurer of The BAM Alliance said.

6. Make stocks a cornerstone ...

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"The purpose of investing in stocks is to make money long-term," Maurer of The BAM Alliance said. "The purpose of investing in bonds is to stay invested in stocks when the market is volatile.

"Having too much in stocks will likely generate more portfolio volatility than most are willing to endure, but not having enough invested in stocks will drastically lower the probability of meeting your long-term goals," he added.

7. ... But also diversify your portfolio

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"Not putting all your eggs in one basket is so cliche but is so true," Rose of Alliance Wealth Management said. "Investors should start with the basics, with an employer-sponsored plan and an IRA.

"From there, look to diversify with other strategies, such as peer-to-peer lending, collectibles, real estate, and other non-traditional investments," he said.

8. Rebalance now and then

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"Rebalancing is not likely to make-or-break your long-term financial plan — but it is an excellent way to improve your chances by systematizing the process of buying low and selling high, and maintaining an appropriately risk-adjusted portfolio," Maurer of The BAM Alliance said.

9. Don't get too emotional

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"The stock market is down 10 percent — who cares?" Rose of Alliance Wealth Management said. "The real question is: How does that impact your goals?

"Too many times investors make knee-jerk reactions, which can cost them a good chunk of potential gains by letting their emotions drive their investment decisions," he said.

10. Hire a financial advisor

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"Would you self-diagnosis a serious medical condition by doing a quick Google search?" asked Rose of Alliance Wealth Management. "Then why try to invest for retirement without seeking the guidance of a trusted professional?

"Hiring an advisor who has a fiduciary obligation to your financial success is one of the best actions you can take," he said.