Preparation Beats the Quest for Perfection

You probably have a friend who thinks about money and investments all the time. 

(Or, perhaps, YOU are that friend.)

You know the type: Always monitoring the markets. Constantly trying to identify the hottest mutual fund. Relentlessly keeping one eye on CNBC or Fox Business.

For some, this hyper-focus on money is thrilling, almost addictive. For most, it’s downright exhausting.

Here’s the truth: You don’t have to think about money every waking moment to be a successful investor.

In fact, the “why?” of a smart financial strategy, plan, or advisor is to liberate you, not make money your all-consuming obsession

I can understand why someone like me would watch a TV show about money (it’s my job!), but why would anyone else? I don’t watch shows (or visit websites) about dentistry, plumbing, pest extermination, or dry cleaning. Because I have experts who know about such things, I’m freed up to focus elsewhere.

So, why do some people spend hours researching the best performing mutual fund (last year, of course), or which company has the lowest expenses, or what stock pays the highest dividend, etc.?

I’m convinced it’s because they’re chasing “perfection.”

But at what cost? Consider: Will frantically moving your money from a highly respected mutual fund that saw “only” a 14.5% return last year to the “best” fund (that earned 17.9%) really make a big difference your life? 

Before you answer that, let me throw another question your way: what if things change?

I see that furrowed brow. You weren’t thinking about the manager of that hot fund possibly making a bad investment, were you? You were only thinking about that fund growing up to the sky (or even into outer space!). 

In the “perfect” world of our daydreams, everything goes exactly as planned. Nothing unexpected or unpleasant ever happens. 

But we don’t live in a “perfect” world, do we?

Here in the real world, taxes increase. Inflation persists. Markets are unpredictable. Interest rates don’t cooperate with your financial plan. Legislatures change the rules on some of your investment strategies. Or, worse, you get sued. Or experience a car crash. Or, God forbid, get sick and die early.

Think what a tragedy it would be if—while chasing perfection—you got blindsided by one of these real-life risks…and found yourself unprepared.

This is why a good financial strategy is first about preparation and protection, and only afterwards about the pursuit of—not “perfection”—but “better.” 

You can’t just cobble together a collection of “hot” mutual funds and call it a portfolio. That’s not a financial plan. In truth, that’s a gamble…that the lottery of life will be kind to you.

Try this thought experiment in which you get to choose one of two paths: 

Path 1 offers the possibility of one day having a $2 million portfolio. However, this will involve constant stress as you feverishly move your money here and there in pursuit of the “perfect” investment. Oh—and this path will also leave you completely unprepared for and unprotected against life’s unexpected events. If or when such things happen—poof—there goes your $2 million nest egg.

Path 2 gives you a solid shot at just $1.7 million. All along the way it protects you against adverse risks. There are no guarantees, of course, but 9 out of 10 seasoned advisors agree that $1.7 million in retirement assets is a good, conservative bet.

I suppose some folks might choose the first path. But the vast majority, when faced with this choice, will see the second path as the only reasonable one.

So, why do so many people have a “Path 1” financial plan?

Listen, when it comes to financial planning and investing, “perfection” is a mirage. Preparation is the wise choice.

To help you think through this and other related issues, I’ve created a comprehensive checklist of pre-retirement questions for people who are 60-something. It’s free if you’d like a copy. Just email me at, and I’ll send it to you right away.

Argent Advisors, Inc. is an SEC-registered investment adviser. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request. Please See Important Disclosure Information here.

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