The secret to success can be boiled down to a single word…CONSISTENCY.
You see, each of us pretty well knows what steps need to be taken in order to achieve success for any particular goal. Let’s call these steps our ‘Action Plan’. And where we are uncertain of what our action plan should be, that information is almost always easily obtainable. Let’s look at a few examples:
Losing weight. For many people, losing weight (specifically, losing body fat) is a ‘recurring’ goal; sometimes achieved, and in many cases, rarely maintained. The simple part is developing the action plan for body fat loss: cut out sugar, alcohol (don’t ‘drink’ your calories), fried foods, bread and junk food (chips, French fries, etc.). We all know this and if you followed this plan 95% of the time (break the rules 1-3 meals per week), over the course of six to twelve months you’d experience significant success. Lack of success for this goal can be directly attributed to lack of consistency. One great resource is the app www.MyFitnessPal.com.
Fitness. If you’re committed to achieving a lean body you likely also have at least an idle interest in developing a fit body. As we all know fitness is achieved through some type of physical training. Depending on your specific fitness goal that training might include walking, jogging, running, interval training or some type of resistance training (weights, elastic bands, cross-fit, etc.). Again, developing an action plan is relatively simple or if you’re not sure of the best strategy, there are plenty of resources to help you including personal trainers, on-line resources or just ask someone who looks like you’d like to look! Figuring out what to do is pretty easy, it’s the lack of consistency that trips up most people. Here’s one simple, low cost suggestion. Finding the best adjustable dumbbells (guys may need 10 or 20 lbs. dumbbells) and while you are watching TV (mostly a time waster!) sit on the edge of a chair and do arm curls, arm extensions, shoulder presses. Then drop to the floor and do ab crunches or planks (during the commercials!). Finally, add leg squats and you’ve got a full body workout. Perform three to seven sets of twenty reps for each exercise three to six times a week and you have a fitness routine that will change your shape and that takes zero time out of your day! No excuses!
Relationships. Creating successful relationships isn’t all that difficult. You begin with respect for the other person and make sure that your ‘give’ versus ‘take’ needle points more heavily towards the give end of the spectrum. Again, consistency creates success.
Saving for college. If you have young children you know how important a college education is and you know how important it is to start saving early. Research shows that people with a college degree earn about double over a career compared to people with only a high school diploma. The action plan is simple: begin a monthly investment program in a 529 college savings plan. There are also lots of on-line tools to tell you how much to save (visit www.savingforcollege.com) but the simple action is to start with any amount…just get started and consistently continue to save. Increase your savings when you can.
If consistency is the key to success, how can we apply the concept to successful investing?
Successful investing trick #1: DOLLAR COST AVERAGING: Dollar cost averaging is a way of successfully investing over time. The trick is to consistently invest the same amount of money into a stock or stock mutual fund (same for bonds or bond funds). By doing so during good times and bad you are buying more shares when stocks are down and less when they are more expensive. Over time (years) this is a winning strategy.
Successful investing trick #2: ANNUAL REBALANCING: Whether you invest a lump sum of money (from an inheritance, for example) or you are investing each month, annual rebalancing across your portfolio forces you to consistently takes profits from ‘winners’ and reinvest in underperformers (buy low-sell high). For example, for our clients’ equity investments we invest an equal amount of money in a diversified basket of thirty stocks. Twelve months later, the stock weightings are ‘unequal’ because of a divergence of returns. Through rebalancing we are consistently taking profits from our best performers for the past twelve months and buying more shares of lower performers under the assumption that the underperformers of today will be the out-performers sometime over the market cycle (three to ten years).
So the next time you set a goal for yourself, be sure to focus the consistency of the execution of your action plan for that is where success is found.