How Often Should I Look at My Investments?
It can be tempting to frequently check your investment accounts, but this practice can actually do more harm than good.
July 7, 2022
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or investment advice. Always consult with a professional financial or investment advisor before making investment decisions.
When you invest, it’s best to invest for the long-term. But that doesn’t mean you can’t check progress along the way. Checking in on your brokerage account will allow you to monitor progress, reinvest dividends, rebalance your investments, and more.
But how often should you check? If you don’t check often enough, your asset allocation could get out of line with your goals. And if you check too frequently, you could end up stressing yourself out more than is necessary.
So, how often should you look at your investments — and why is it important to find the right balance?
Why should I check my investments?
Monitoring your investment portfolio is important for a few reasons:
Monitor progress: First and foremost, it’s a good idea to check in on your investments simply to see how they are doing. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to take action — but it’s always good to know how your investments are performing. And if you track your net worth, you can update your numbers each time that you check your investment account.
Rebalancing: If you have a diversified investment portfolio, you likely own many different stocks and/or different asset classes. You may have 80% stocks and 20% bonds, for example. Rebalancing refers to returning your asset mix to the original desired levels. If stocks do very well, that 80/20 split may drift to 82/18. By rebalancing, you would sell 2% of your stocks and buy 2% bonds to return to your desired asset allocation. Wondering how often to rebalance portfolio assets? It’s wise to rebalance at least once per year.
New investments: Frequent investing allows you to use dollar-cost averaging to slowly contribute more and more money to your portfolio. You may need to log into your account to transfer in money and buy additional assets — although it’s wise to set up automatic investing if you are able to.
Reinvest dividends: Many stocks and ETFs pay out dividends, which are income that the company shares with its stockholders. By default, dividends are usually paid in cash, and will sit in your brokerage account as cash. When you log into your account, you can choose to reinvest these funds back into stocks or other assets. Note: You can also set up automatic dividend reinvestment.
How often to rebalance portfolio
Rebalancing is a key reason why you should monitor your investments. Rebalancing involves buying and selling assets in order to return the portfolio to the desired asset allocation — 60% stocks, and 40% bonds, for example.
As for how often to rebalance portfolio funds, that depends on how involved you want to be.
Many investors choose to plan to rebalance ahead of time. They may rebalance every 3 months, every 6 months or every 12 months.
At a minimum, it’s wise to rebalance once a year.
Other investors choose to rebalance at certain weights of assets. For example, they might rebalance if their desired allocation drifts by 5% or more.
How often should I look at my investments?
Depending on how involved you want to be, it’s a good idea to check on your portfolio once every 1 to 12 months. A common recommendation is every quarter (3 months), but some investors check just once per year.
Ultimately, the decision is up to you. When contemplating, consider these questions:
Am I checking to take action, or merely to observe?
Does checking my portfolio bring me stress or peace of mind?
Am I being obsessive and checking too frequently? Or am I ignoring it and checking too infrequently?
Is checking my investments distracting me from higher-value activities?
Is it possible to check too frequently?
Yes, absolutely. Checking your investment accounts too frequently can lead to anxiety, unnecessary worry, and other downsides.
A survey from CNBC Select found that 49% of investors check their portfolios at least daily. This is clearly excessive and can lead to significant anxiety and worry that is largely unnecessary.
Checking this frequently can also lead to knee-jerk reactions, like selling assets when they decline slightly instead of holding on.
If you are investing for the long term, checking your portfolio about once every few months makes the most sense.
How to avoid checking too frequently
If you find yourself opening your investment app daily or checking your online brokerage account too often, how can you break this habit? Here are some ideas:
Revisit your goals: Remind yourself what you are investing for. If it’s for retirement, you likely have decades before you actually need that money. Next, ask yourself if checking is actually helping you reach those goals, or merely distracting you from living in the present moment.
Think long-term: The most successful investors know that it’s best to invest for the long term. Nobody can predict how the market will do in the next week, month or year — but over the long term, the stock market tends to go up. If you’re checking too frequently, focus your attention on your long-term goals.
Ignore the financial news: If you spend time reading financial news, you’ll likely be tempted to log in and check your own portfolio more often. By remembering that the news is just noise and distraction, you can find peace with checking your investments much less frequently.
Find a replacement habit: If checking your investments has become an impulsive action, you can “replace” the habit with something healthier. For example, you could opt to do 5 pushups each time you feel the urge, or choose to check your to-do list and accomplish something you’ve put off.
Focus on your circle of control: The “circle of control” concept focuses your energy on the things that are actually in your direct control. The day-to-day movements of the stock market are truly not in your control, so checking your balance frequently is likely just a distraction. What you can control, however, is your spending and saving habits. Instead of obsessing over your investment account balance, why not put in some effort to save a bit more money this month so that you can add more to your investment portfolio?
In the end, the decision of how frequently to check your investments is up to you.
A good rule of thumb is to check once every month to three months. If you want to be more actively involved, just monitor your behavior to make sure that you aren’t stressing yourself out — or making unnecessary trades via knee-jerk reactions.
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