Why do we invest? The simple and obvious answer is to make lots of money. But let's think this through a little more — after all, you are giving up spending today in order to save and invest for tomorrow.
There must be some reason — a future purpose or goal — for this sacrifice. Its importance (or present value in economics terms) must outweigh the satisfaction of today's spending.
Your investments represent hard-earned money that you have set aside for a future goal, whether it is to buy a home, pay for your child's university tuition fees, or to receive an income in retirement. These are the reasons we save, so we should have a proper investment strategy that focuses on how to reach these goals.
This is known as goal-based investing. It matters.
What is goal-based investing?
Goal-based investing involves planning and investing towards specific personal life goals, such as saving for children's education or retirement.
This is different from a traditional investing framework whereby investors work towards outperforming a market average or benchmark, or to optimise risk and reward matrices.
When you invest with a defined purpose of achieving a certain goal, you can better identify:
- How much you need to invest;
- The best investment strategy for you; and
- The appropriate level of risk you should take to get you there.
We often compare our investment success against short-term market returns or our friends' portfolio performances. But although it's great if our portfolio beats the S&P 500 or our friends' investments this quarter, what does that really mean for us? Investors sometimes equate the volatility of their portfolios as risk, or perhaps even more complex indicators such as value at risk (VaR).
But our real "risk" is not about underperforming a benchmark index. It is in fact the possibility that we do not reach our intended financial goals, and how far we are from those goals. It is being unable to afford the home we want or retire with the lifestyle we desire.
Our goals and priorities tend to change as we progress through different phases of our lives — learn more about life-stage investing and financial planning strategies for new parents. It is also important for married couples to set common goals and align their financial paths forward early on in the relationship.
How goal-based investing helps us stay disciplined
It will help us refrain from selling down our positions or changing our investment strategy to one that reduces our chances of reaching our goals, and instead focus on sticking to our investment plans.
Losing money this month, this quarter or this year isn't as scary when we know that we don't need that money for another 5, 10 or 20 years, and that we are still on track to reach our goals.
Once we decide on the "why", we can determine the "how" and use our goals to drive our investment strategies and monitor the progress.
Carefully simulating or calculating the chances of reaching our goals, and taking appropriate action to achieve those goals is a critically important part of this process. This will lead to better strategies as to how much to save and when, where to place our money, what types of portfolios to choose, as well as how much risk we should take and when.
Example of goal-based investing
This chart illustrates the scenario of someone who plans to start investing $1,000, followed by an additional $500 each month. He intends to use this money for his three-month sabbatical break that will happen around 10 years later. Based on the simulation, even if the financial markets are doing poorly, he will still have roughly $70,000, which will be more than enough to fund an extended sabbatical.
Imagine that you work and save diligently for 35 years. But by the time you are set to retire, your poor investment decisions in the past have led to a significant shortfall in funding your retirement needs. In fact, many Singaporeans are expecting to work beyond 65 due to increasing financial demands and higher costs of living.
You will thus have to either work beyond your intended retirement age or make drastic lifestyle changes to reduce spending. To learn how to use the 4% rule to prepare for retirement amid high inflation, click here. Retirees may also wish to use the time-bucket strategy to manage their income.
Regardless of short-term volatility in markets, good planning should still help you get to your goals. By building appropriate investment portfolios and taking into consideration when we actually need the money or how we want to spend the money in the future, we can take and manage an appropriate amount of risk in the process to improve our chances of success.
Goal-based investing forces you to focus on what really matters, it is a holistic process to get you to where you want to go, or where you need to go.
Endowus espouses a core-satellite investment approach to build a holistic portfolio that's most suitable to an individual's personal circumstances, in order to meet their future goals. It's a good idea for all investors to begin with a meaningful asset allocation to core portfolios for their essential financial goals (with Cash, CPF & SRS) before extending their investment holdings to satellite positions.
Next on the Endowus Fin.Lit Academy
Read the next article in the curriculum: Value vs growth stocks
Investment involves risk. The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up, and you may not get the full amount you invested. Past performance is not an indicator nor a guarantee of future performance. Rates of exchange may cause the value of investments to go up or down. Individual stock performance does not represent the return of a fund.
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