Tracking Your Progress

  • Monitoring your investment progress doesn’t have to be an obsessive routine, especially if you’re investing toward long-term goals.
  • Choose an asset allocation in line with your risk tolerance and investment horizon.
  • Follow market indices and news to become a savvier, more knowledgeable investor.

Keeping tabs on your portfolio

Tracking investment “progress” can be either an exuberant experience or a disappointing one.

Stocks go up — go down. Bull markets can blaze ahead on positive economic news and euphoria. Bear markets may retreat at the scent of danger.

For most long-term investment goals, a quarterly check-in is enough.

Even market analysts’ worthy predictions and recommendations aren’t perfect science, of course. That’s why they use terms like “upside potential,“ “downside risk,” “overweighting,” and “underweighting” when describing securities and portfolios.

Which all leaves the typical investor in a conundrum of sorts: Should you keep a close eye on your portfolio and check it every day, week, or month? Or should you diversify your holdings, check less frequently, and rely on the professional advice of a trusted Financial Advisor?

How often?

If you’re like most people, you’ll save a lot of time and stress if you choose the second course. In fact, for most long–term investment goals, a quarterly check-in is enough.

That’s true in part because one stock-market trend has stood the test of time: its historical long-term upward tendency. Look at any chart showing the market’s movements over longer timespans, and here’s what you’ll see: Though we’ve had our share of market dips — even recessions — over the years, given enough time, the market has been on an upward climb since, well, it was invented.

An infographic that says quarterly portfolio check in. For most long term investment goals, a quarterly check in is enough.

Since you can never be sure when a prolonged bear market will set in, consider choosing an asset allocation — in other words, a diverse mix of investments — that suits your investment horizon and tolerance for risk.

When long term is too long

If your investment horizon is more limited — like investing to save for a teenage child’s college education — you’ll want to be even more careful to balance investment growth potential with risk tolerance.

You may even find yourself wanting to check your progress a little more often. As always, it’s your call.

What tools are available?

For many investment accounts, your chief tracking tool is your quarterly statement. Comparing each new statement to previous ones is the most obvious way to keep track of your investment progress. Are you satisfied with your investment earnings since the last statement? Is your account growing at the rate you’d expected?

If you have online access to your account, you should be able to check progress as frequently as you wish just by logging in.

Benchmark your progress

Some of the most closely watched market indices are the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500), and NASDAQ Composite. They can provide benchmarks, or comparison points, for your own portfolio. Pick an index or two that hold the same or similar stocks to your own portfolio. Compare your performance to the indices’.

For many investment accounts, your chief tracking tool is your quarterly statement.

Observing stock indices and following market news are great ways to learn more about markets and the economy and how they impact your portfolio. You can also find indices tied to fixed–income and other investments.

Let an advisor help keep track

If you don’t want to shoulder the responsibility of thinking through and tracking your investments, consider working with one of our Financial Advisors.

An advisor can help you balance your savings and investment goals with your financial circumstances and risk tolerance. He or she will track your progress, update you with regular reports, and help you make adjustments to your plan should the markets or life events ever push you off-course.

Next steps

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