Retirement Planning: How Investors Determine Their TIDE Traits

Hourglass projecting a dollar sign as shadow.
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In the world of investing, there’s no shortage of sayings that invoke the tides

A single company’s stellar earnings report can buoy its whole sector because the tide lifts all boats. Traders have to execute at just the right moment because the tide waits for no one. 

Warren Buffett, the most successful investor in history, once said, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

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Powerful imagery, indeed — but none of that can help you become a better retirement planner. 

Luckily, the portfolio managers at Charles Schwab spelled out an on-theme acronym that can: 

  • Time
  • Interest
  • Discipline
  • Expertise

By recognizing and fine-tuning their TIDE traits, investors can hone their long-term money-management skills, keep their investing emotions in check, build a portfolio that serves their retirement goals and help turn the tide in their favor.

Time: The Only Investment That’s as Valuable as Money

Time is a key ingredient for successful investing and retirement planning because compound interest needs a lot of it to work its magic. But in this case, time refers to the hours that aspiring retirees dedicate to learning, monitoring their investments and putting their plans into action.

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So, how much time should someone spend obsessing over their investments? The answer, of course, is that it will vary considerably depending on the person and the portfolio. 

A CFP writing for Motley Fool cited what many people consider to be the industry standard: about five to 10 hours per week. 

That’s just a guideline. Your specific number will depend on the complexity of your investments, how frequently you change your holdings and your experience and expertise. 

According to Schwab, however, consistency is more important than the number of hours spent. 

Interest: When It Wanes, So Do Your Returns

Like time, more than one kind of interest can impact your retirement plan. The “I” in “TIDE” doesn’t refer to the interest that can grow your savings or increase your debt — it’s the interest you take in managing your money and your investments. 

Schwab cautions that if your interest fades over time, your results won’t be far behind. 

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It’s easy to stay engaged when your investments are winning and your growth chart is climbing high. But when the market stalls and your investments feel stale, it’s easy to lose focus, get bored and tune out.

One way to keep your passion from fading is to dedicate a small percentage of your portfolio — Forbes says the industry standard is up to 5% — to something fun, exciting and risky. Maybe it’s crypto or biotech, maybe it’s stock picking or frequent trades. The what doesn’t really matter. If it keeps you engaged and interested in your portfolio at large, you can pick your own poison.

Discipline: Creating a Plan Is One Thing — the Key Is Sticking to It

Your ability to stay in the pocket and stick to your retirement strategy through market volatility and economic turmoil is where the “D” in TIDE comes in: Discipline. Schwab outlines four remedies to the kind of emotional, fear-based decision-making that throws so many undisciplined investors off their game plans when the going gets tough: 

  • Develop screening criteria to vet potential investments that never change regardless of the investing climate.  
  • Use a blend of fundamental and technical analysis to identify the right companies to buy and sell and the right time to make the trade, whether the market is up or down. 
  • Set clear buy and sell rules that determine how you’ll cut losses and harvest profits regardless of how the market behaves.
  • Create a strategy for consistently monitoring and reviewing your portfolio during both upswings and downturns.
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Expertise: Commit to Mastering Your Investments

The final letter in the acronym requires you to become an expert in your portfolio’s holdings. That means dedicating yourself to becoming proficient in not just the specific companies you buy, but the sectors in which they operate, the strategies that drive their business plans and the challenges and opportunities they face. 

It also means taking the time — full circle back to the first letter — to continue refining your own specific strategy until you reach the finish line. The object, after all, is to create a plan that suits your particular retirement goals and timeline instead of just flowing with the tide.

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About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.
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