The Money, Honey: How Often Should I Check my Stock Portfolio?
A question I’m often asked is this: how regularly should I check my stock portfolio? Here’s what I tell that person: as often as you are comfortable doing so.
I know this is kind of a nebulous, vague answer, but it has to be that way, because there are as many answers as there are portfolio owners. Some stock owners don’t want to know anything about their stocks, even preferring that the management of that portfolio rests in the hands of a “professional” who gives them an update once a year, sending them the necessary statement telling them whether or not they can afford to live past 50. These are the “bottom line” people: just tell them the bottom line – will they have enough money to survive? They don’t want to know the details, don’t care which stocks they own, what the price-to-earnings ratio might be, don’t give a hoot whether their stocks are part of the Fortune 500 or not. Are they going up rather than going down? As I said, bottom line people.
The next group of watchers are those who manage their own portfolios but also don’t care to check more often than once or twice a year. Let’s say that one of their New Year’s Day tasks – along with weight loss promises – is to look at the stock portfolio they own to see if these are the stocks they want to carry into the coming year. If the answer is yes, then they’re fine; they put them away for another year and go about their business. Perhaps in June they might take them out and look at them again, just to be sure. Or they might not look at them again until the next New Year’s Day. Their feeling is that one year is about the time it takes for a stock to prove itself worthy or a failure. They are content to watch and wait. If they feel that a stock needs replacing, they are willing to do the research to find that replacement. They don’t trust the professionals to do the job for them. That being the case, they might spend some part of December doing the online work or reading that it takes to be prepared should they need a new stock in their portfolio.
Next group might be the monthly watchers. Every month, let’s say the first of the month, they check their statements or go online to see how their portfolio is doing. Again, they’re willing to do some work to replace whatever they feel isn’t measuring up to the standards they set for themselves when they put their portfolio in place. Were they looking for a certain percentage growth in the portfolio overall? Which stocks, then, are not cutting it? Those would be eliminated, and replacements would be put in. But they are not going to spend a lot of extra time other than a monthly check-up to do this.
Then there are the weekly overseers. Every weekend they look at how they’re doing, seeing how the stock market has treated them the previous week. Because they are on the go and don’t have time to monitor during the week, they look forward to a “check-up” on the weekend. In this way they can make adjustments on Monday mornings to set them up for the next week.
The last category of stock watchers are the daily lookers. These are people who for whatever reason have access to their computers or televisions on a daily basis and therefore can monitor their stock portfolios constantly while the stock market is open. They can tell you at any given moment what the market is doing and how their particular portfolio is faring. You have to have a certain stamina to survive this kind of intense scrutiny, but many people wouldn’t have it any other way. “If I can’t watch my stocks every hour of the day when the market is open,” one investor told me, “then I don’t want to be in the market. I need that kind of control.” And yes, it is a control issue. These are the people who need to be able to sell a stock in an instant…and often do so.
Which kind of stock investor are you? There’s a pretty broad spectrum represented here. Take your pick. The good news is that there isn’t a right or wrong way to oversee your stock portfolio; there’s just a way that makes you comfortable and assures you a good night’s sleep.