Way back in the glory days of October I started laying out a description of how I invest.
Previously, we looked at the different accounts that I use – the buckets that hold my investments. Now it’s time to look at the investments themselves.
What you’ll find is that I don’t follow the traditional advice here. I don’t think I’ve seen my strategy advocated by anyone anywhere. I’ve honestly been a bit hesitant to lay it out because it feels a bit odd coming from someone who is all about optimizing.
But here is where I will admit to, explain, and defend, my investing strategy.
FinCon is an annual gathering of folks that write and podcast about money. It’s four days of panels, talks, workshops, networking, and parties.
It was a lot of fun. I met some Internet friends in real life for the first time and I made a bunch of new friends. I learned a lot of new things, talked to a lot of great people, and drank a lot of free drinks.
I want to share with you all how I choose to invest. In order to do that, we first need to get back to basics.
Today I want to start with the accounts that I use.
Your investment accounts are basically the buckets in which you hold your investments.
This sounds like it should be simple. You open an investment account in the same way that you open a bank account. You put money into it and then you buy your investments.
It’s not quite that easy, however.
The government gives all sorts of different tax benefits to different people for different things. In order to get those tax benefits, you need to keep your investments in specific types of buckets. This means that you can end up with multiple buckets that you open yourself and multiple buckets that are opened by your employers.
There are a few other good books on habits (I recommend Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit), but Rubin’s big innovation was identifying different personality types. Some habit-building techniques work for some people, but there are very few universal approaches that work for everyone. Rubin divides her readers into four groups and then provides tips specific to each group.
Under Rubin’s framework, I am a Questioner.
“Questioners question all expectations, and they respond to an expectation only if they conclude that it makes sense. They’re motivated by reason, logic, and fairness. They wake up and think, ‘What needs to get done today, and why?’ They decide for themselves whether a course of action is a good idea, and they resist doing anything that seems to lack sound purpose.”
Beyond habit-building, this is a pretty good view into my permanent mindset. I ask “Why?” about pretty much everything, and if the answer is any variation of “Because that’s how we’ve always done it” then I’m out.
A lot of people in the personal finance space tune out politics and recommend that their readers do the same. I don’t agree with this approach. I follow politics closely and stay up to date on policy proposals and all sorts of nerdy wonkery.
That said, when approaching topics for this blog, I make sure that every article has a takeaway that you can use to directly improve your life. That rule helps me stay focused on helping people with my writing rather than just writing about areas of my own interest. This also means I usually don’t discuss policy proposals making their way through Congress.
Today I want to explore a quick tool called an 80/20 analysis that can help you achieve better results in a shorter period of time.
The 80/20 analysis is based on the Pareto Principle. This principle was named for Vilfredo Pareto, who found in the late 1800s that 80% of land in Italy was owned by 20% of Italians in the same way that 80% of the peas produced in his garden came from 20% of the peapods. This finding was one of many analyzing inequality and examining how the few end up with so much in our economies.
From this and similar findings of the tilting of economic benefits, Pareto decided that democracy was an illusion and a ruling class would always emerge from the 20%.
In modern parlance, this extreme conclusion has been ignored and the Pareto Principle has become more of a rule of thumb applied to a wide range of areas.
While my interest in politics and economics would push me to examine the implications for modern income inequality and the policy proposals to address it, this blog is about providing tools and information that is helpful to individuals.
So instead, we’ll be looking at the modern version.