8 Things You Get Wrong About Personal Finance

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moneyLet’s hope you don’t need the whole month of April to understand the importance of financial literacy. It’s all about grasping how money works–and, more importantly, how to make money work best for you at every stage of life.

Unfortunately, financial literacy eludes the majority of the world. According to Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services Global Financial Literacy survey, only 33% of adults worldwide understand basic concepts such as how credit card interest works, and retirement savings plans. Even in the U.S., only 57% of adults know their money stuff.

So what are the most common mistakes people make about money? We pulled together advice from our Wealth Creation Channel’s contributing columnists–all financial professionals–about the missteps they encounter most frequently with prospective customers and clients. See if you recognize any of these mistakes and misperceptions:

You Think You Can Consistently Beat the Market

“When it comes to investing, comparing your portfolio with a benchmark and trying to beat the market focuses the attention on relative success rather than a definitive long-term goal…

To be clear, comparing your portfolio with established benchmarks can be instrumental for a portion of your evaluation… Yet is the most important question for evaluation which of these indexes to use? Or is it whether your portfolio is meeting your individual and family goals and objectives? Is your objective to preserve wealth on an inflation-adjusted basis? Or is it to provide an inflation-adjusted cash flow to meet current and future needs? Or is it to grow wealth at some nominal return plus inflation? From my humble perspective, the more concrete, broader objectives seem to provide a better goal to shoot at than attempting to beat the market.” – Robert Klosterman, CFP

You Keep Your Portfolio Too Close to Home

“Most investors understand that diversification is essential to effective risk management and critical to long-term investment performance–excluding a major asset class from your portfolio could be introducing more volatility than is necessary. However, many people are surprised to learn that U.S. stocks represent just a little more than half of global market capitalization. Global markets behave differently at different times than the U.S. market, which means portfolios invested solely in U.S. stocks are under-diversified and are exposed to more volatility than is necessary.

Because it is impossible to know which markets will perform better or worse during any period of time, global diversification enables your portfolio to capture positive returns wherever and whenever they occur.” – Pete Woodring, RIA

You Think a Roth Contribution Adds to Your Tax Bill

Not so. “Saying a Roth IRA contribution increases your tax bill is the equivalent of saying that not giving to charity increases your tax bill. Sure, your tax bill could be lower if you made charitable contributions, but not making them doesn’t increase your tax bill. It just doesn’t lower it. The Roth IRA contribution works the same way.” – Jeffrey Levine, CPA

You Report Tax-Free Rollovers as Taxable Income

“If done properly, rollovers are tax free and are reported as such on tax forms prepared by the financial institution that distributed the money, on a form called a 1099-R. Don’t be confused though, if all distributions from retirement accounts are reported on this form, not just tax-free rollovers. The financial institution’s understanding of the taxability of the distribution is reflected on form 1099-R in two amounts: the gross distribution amount in box 1 and the taxable distribution amount in box 2. The gross distribution represents the money that left the account, and the taxable distribution is the amount of the distribution that the financial institution believes to be taxable.

You should check your tax return to confirm that the numbers shown on the 1099-R form are reflected on Form 1040 of your tax return. The amount of the rollover should be reported on line 15a or 16a and the amount of the rollover that is taxable should be reported on line 15b or 16b.” – Michael Rose, CFP

You Chase Hot Stock Tips Willy-Nilly

“If you’re managing your own portfolio, there are temptations that can lead you astray and cause you to veer away from the investment strategy you’ve settled on, and cost you a lot of money. For example: sooner or later you’re bound to hear a story about a company that’s headed for success–a great investment. The tip may come from a friend, a neighbor, an article you’ve read or even a new acquaintance at a bar. And if you have some funds available, it’s awfully tempting to think about investing in your new find. That’s the moment to step back–and beware. You might be falling into a classic investment trap.” – Harold Evensky, CFP

You Sell When There Is Blood in the Streets

“Invariably at the bottom of the market, our emotions have become so overwhelming that we convince ourselves that we really don’t know anything, and now it’s time to get out. Or we might think this whole investment process is rigged against us since it couldn’t be possibly our faults. This happens at precisely the most opportune time to be in the market.

But before we can muster the emotional fortitude to jump back in, our depression needs to wane and hope, relief, and optimism need to take over again so we can decide to invest now.

Understanding how this cycle repeats itself could make you a better investor, but there are no guarantees of that. You also need to learn to not let emotions have much of any part of the investing process. How can you accomplish this?

You need a plan. A logical plan based on fact, not emotion. You need to think like Mr. Spock in Star Trek.” – Charles C. Scott, AIF

You Think Retirement Is Just About Money

“In the world of finance, why is retirement still all about saving enough money so you can quit working? I see ads where retirement is all about your number or reaching a goal line–like retirement is the end…

My hope is that people see this season of their lives not as one of retirement, but more of a refocus or reimagine or retool. With all of the wisdom and experience one has at this stage of life, it should be one of the most exciting and rewarding eras of your existence.” – Scott Hanson, CFP

You Think Financial Planning Is Too Scary

“My daughters, Karolina and Sarina, enjoy making projects together and visiting the craft store. They wanted to learn how to knit because they love infinity scarves, but they were apprehensive about starting something new because they were afraid of making a mistake.

Clients often have the same bout of fear when they first start investing or planning for the future. Lack of experience can make people feel vulnerable or anxious. To help them overcome their fears, I told my daughters the same thing I tell my clients: Never let fear of the unknown prevent you from living your best lives.” – Marguerita M. Cheng, CFP

(Source: TCA)