No one has enough time to do everything they'd like to do. If you don't feel like you can spend the effort to know everything about the investments you've made, you're not alone -- but with some helpful tips, you can keep up to date on your portfolio without getting fired for stealing glances at the financial news every minute of the day.
Of course, ideally, you'd take the time to keep up with news and financial results for all your stocks. If you can do that, you're in great shape -- you'll have a big advantage over many of your peers. But if you can't afford to focus so much of your efforts on your investing, here are the five things you really need to keep track of.
1. How much you're investing.
First and foremost, you need to know how much you're setting aside. That might sound ridiculously easy. But as this month's issue of the Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter highlights, a recent study from the University of Michigan found that half of all those surveyed didn't know how much they were contributing to their retirement plan accounts.
If you don't know how much you're investing, you obviously can't know what results to expect. And that brings us to the next thing you need to know ...
2. How much money you need for your goals.
In contrast to how much you're putting into your portfolio, it's a lot harder to figure out your end goal. For some things, like buying a new car or a down payment on a home, you might have a pretty good notion of how much you need. For other goals, though, such as putting kids through college or financing your retirement, it's a lot harder to figure out.
But by making some simple assumptions, you can bring even faraway goals closer to the present, so that you can analyze them properly. Fool retirement expert Robert Brokamp goes through the exercise in this month's RYR issue, but you can also apply his method to any financial goal you have.
3. Why you own what you own.
If you're like many investors, you may have a portfolio full of stocks without really knowing why any of them are there. Maybe you got a tip on one, heard some financial commentator pitch another, and inherited a third from a relative.
But you shouldn't keep old stocks in your portfolio like a basement full of old junk. If you don't have a good reason for owning a stock, you should strongly consider replacing it with another equity that boasts a more compelling story. That way, you'll know it belongs there -- and you'll also know ...
4. When your stocks don't belong in your portfolio anymore.
This sounds tricky, but it doesn't have to be. If you know why you own a stock, then you'll know when it no longer fits in your portfolio.
For instance, if you like dividends, you might have owned shares like US Bancorp
The same can hold true regardless of how you like to invest. For instance, growth stocks like TASER
5. When to cut your risk.
No, this isn't about timing the market. Your risk level depends on two things: your comfort as an investor and where you are in relation to your goals.
If you're decades away from your goals, and you have just a small amount squirreled away, being aggressive makes sense. But if you're just a few years from retiring, and you already have most of the money you need to be comfortable, you can afford to throttle back with higher-quality stocks such as IBM
So if you don't have the time to pore over your portfolio every day, don't worry. Just follow these five steps, and you'll know what you need to know to find investment success.
More on keeping up with your investments:
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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger got himself in trouble at previous jobs for watching the financial news too much. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy saves you time.