• Tlotliso Phakisi, Investment Analyst

Avoid these investment pitfalls

As even the most experienced investors will attest, the world of investing is riddled with hidden pitfalls that can easily trap the unwary and prevent you from achieving your investment goals.

Here are five common investment mistakes, as well as some tips for avoiding them on your own investment journey:

1. Ignoring your investment goals

The first step in any successful investment strategy is to set clear investment goals, unique to your financial situation.

Without these goals, or a clear sense of direction for your investment strategy, you could quickly fall prey to chasing fleeting market trends, selecting the wrong types of investments and continuously switching your portfolio with costly results.

Create your list of goals by mapping out exactly what you want to achieve, the time horizon for each of your goals, how much you will reasonably be able to invest, and the risk you will be willing to take with your funds. This should include short-term goals, such as saving towards an education course or an emergency fund, or long-term goals, such as a deposit on a home, a child’s education or your retirement.

For example, if one of your goals was to save R50 000 towards a deposit on a home within five years, selecting an investment product that aims to achieve annual returns of CPI plus 5% (net of fees) would mean that you would need to invest just R646 each month.

By comparison, placing your savings in a zero-interest bank account would mean that you would need to save over R833 every month to reach your goal, adding up to an extra R11 220 over five years.

2. Allowing emotions to guide your decisions

Making knee-jerk decisions based on short-term news and market movements often comes at the expense of your long-term investment results.

For example, many investors were quick to sell when the market began falling towards the end of 2018, fearing that the drop would be prolonged. However, these investors then missed out on the market’s subsequent rally, as it gained as much as 8% within the first quarter of 2019.

Unfortunately, many investors also rely on news headlines or “braai recommendations” from friends and family for investment advice rather than conducting their own research or consulting with a professional financial advisor.

This increases the likelihood of succumbing to your investment biases, missing out on market opportunities by giving in to short-term anxiety, or investing based on hype rather than objective valuations and fundamentals.

Some investors also choose to disinvest after six months or a year when their portfolios deliver disappointing short-term results, rather than giving these portfolios and their investments the time they need to perform. This not only carries tax implications, but also means that you could miss out on periods of far better growth.

3. Failing to spread your investment risk

All investments carry some degree of risk, and one of the most effective ways to manage this risk is through diversification, or by spreading your investments across different asset classes such as cash instruments, property, bonds and equities, as well as across different regions and sectors.

Different asset classes