How To Avoid The Top 12 Investing Mistakes

By David Edward Marcinko, MBA, CMP, CFP

Fees are down, expenses are up and the days of fat profit margins for physicians are over. Managed care in some form is here to stay. The tidal wave of baby boomers approaching retirement suggests the pendulum will not swing back to the “good old days” of fee-for-service medicine.
The U.S. government, the payer for more than 50 percent of the covered population, continues to ratchet down reimbursement. Accordingly, many doctors are now working harder than ever. Unfortunately, they are also prone to irrational investing behavior and making more investment mistakes than ever before.
Here are the Institute of Medical Business Advisors’ “dirty dozen” investing blunders of physicians. Indeed, we see these common miscues among a variety of medical professionals.

Mistake 1: Having No Investment Policy Statement
Just as one would not think of treating a patient without a careful history and physical examination, you should not embark on investing your hard earned capital without an investment policy statement (IPS). This important document separates do-it-yourself investors, financial salesmen, stockbrokers and amateurs from true financial professionals.
An IPS is a document specifically detailing what you want your money to do for you with an understanding of who is to do what and how they are supposed to do it. It may be three to five pages long for an individual physician, 10 to 15 pages for a small medical group retirement plan or dozens of pages for a clinic or hospital endowment fund.
Treatment plan: A properly written IPS should contain the following:
• Statement of purpose
• Statement of responsibilities
• Investment goals and objectives
• Proxy voting policy
• Trading and execution guidelines
• Asset mix guidelines
• Social policies or other restrictions
• Portfolio limitations
• Performance review benchmarks
• Administration and fee policy
• Communication policy
• Reporting policy

Mistake 2: Not Diversifying Portfolio Objectives
Although the media frenzy of a few years ago has subsided, anecdotes of easy money still abound and doctors may forget that investment portfolios serve a specific purpose (e.g., retirement, college funding, etc.) within the content of a broader financial plan. Moreover, a single investment may become too large or too small a portion of the portfolio. This may be due to market growth in one component or slack in another.
Treatment plan: Diversify, monitor your holdings and select components with your risks and goals in mind. Time horizon and risk tolerance are likely to change as will the investment environment. One key contribution of modern portfolio theory (MPT), according to the 1990 Nobel Prize winner Professor Harry Markowitz, PhD, is the understanding that diversification can reduce portfolio risk. Indeed, the specific risk of a single stock may overwhelm any justification for failing to diversify.
Consider investing in sectors like basic materials, capital goods, communications and services, technology, consumer cyclicals and non-cyclicals, healthcare, energy, financial services and utilities. Investors can purchase most as individual securities, in mutual funds or as newer exchange traded funds (ETFs) or worldwide equity benchmark shares. Do not forget about cash equivalents, treasuries, zero coupon and municipal bonds and international securities.

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