You turn on the TV and the media is at it again. The recession is near. A stock market crash is imminent. Bonds have negative yields. There is nowhere to hide. If you’re not investing in XYZ, you’re missing out.
You try to tune it out but the effects are inevitable. Anxiety rises. Fear creeps in. You question your ability to make good financial decisions. You wonder if it is ever possible to stop worrying about money.
But what if all you had to do was surrender to the fact that you can’t control everything? What if this one small mindset shift allowed you to stop worrying about money and start living?
This may seem out there… but stick with me. Mindful surrender is an important key to both your financial success and happiness.
What Is Mindful Surrender?
If you have spent any time reading my blogs, you know I am a huge proponent of keeping a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is a state of non-judgmental awareness of how things actually are. Surrender is the act of giving oneself up to a power or wisdom that is outside of you.
Mindful surrender is a radical acceptance of reality. When you mindfully surrender, you are both non-judgmentally aware of reality (you see it as it is) and you are actively allowing it to be as it is. Your surrender is an admission that you cannot predict it and don’t control it.
This is not a sign of weakness. It is an admission of a truth… you cannot predict or control everything. Admitting it allows you to focus on what you CAN control. Controlling what is controllable is the only path to improved outcomes. By allowing the rest to be as it is, you lessen your anxiety and your path becomes smoother.
The big question becomes, what can you control?
4 Areas You Can Control In Investing
1. Savings Rate
How much money are you saving every month? You can’t control how the markets will behave, but you can control how much you save. If your savings rate is low at the moment, ask yourself why. Do you have high-interest debt you need to pay down? Do you need to master the art of delayed gratification?
I recommend saving a percentage of every paycheck—at least 10%. This guarantees that your savings rate remains proportional to your income. As you progress in your career and make more money, you’ll save more than you did before.
In the words of Rob Berger, “The best thing money can buy is financial freedom.” If you’re willing to save a percentage of your income every month, you’ll have this freedom before you know it.
2. Appropriate Asset Allocation
What’s your asset allocation model? If stock market volatility is keeping you up at night (even though you know it’s necessary for long-term growth), it may be time to adjust your model.
If you chose a growth asset allocation of 80% equity and 20% fixed income when you were in your 30s, for example, you may need to change it if you’re in your late-50s and nearing retirement. In this case, you may change it to a more balanced model of 60% equity and 40% fixed income.
A good investor acts on their goals and plan. They won’t change their asset allocation just because the stock market is up or down. Instead, they’ll stick with their original model and rebalance as needed. The allocation doesn’t change until the plan changes.
3. Commitment To Diversification & Rebalancing
The third area you can control in investing is your commitment to diversification and rebalancing.
When you diversify, you spread your money across hundreds of investments so that if one loses money, your other investments make up for it. When your portfolio is broadly diversified, you don’t worry about individual stock performance because you know your portfolio as a whole will grow over-time.
Rebalancing at specific intervals—say annually—realigns your asset allocation and diversification. This periodic rebalancing allows you to automatically sell high and buy low. It creates a system where you no longer worry about short-term fads and investing fears—and it ensures your portfolio is always aligned with your financial goals.
I understand that this is NOT exciting, but remember… that is the point.
The American Psychological Association defines resilience as, “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors.”
I think of it as having the faith, patience, and discipline to know that circumstances will improve even when it doesn’t seem like it. We actually don’t need to know HOW they will improve if we believe THAT they will improve.
The truth is, even big issues resolve themselves with time. If the market is down, have faith, patience, and discipline to know it will improve. No one has ever secured their wealth by panicking and pulling out of the market at the wrong time.
When you log onto your investment account and see that your portfolio has dipped, know this—those are arbitrary numbers on a computer screen. That drop in your portfolio doesn’t matter unless you sell today. You only permanently lose money if you act.
If you choose resilience in the face of financial stressors, you’ll come out ahead when things improve (which I believe – and history teaches – they do).
The Bottom Line
Aside from these four areas, everything else can (and should) be mindfully surrendered. Which asset class will outperform, the direction of interest rates, the next election cycle, the timing of the next recession… these are all unknowable and aren’t necessary for financial success. They are sexy distractions from reality.
Beyond a few simple choices that have real power to improve outcomes, most other things (the things we find most often discussed in headlines) only soak up your time and energy and stoke your fear and anxiety.
Worrying doesn’t do any good. Focus on what you can do something about and forget the rest. When it comes to investing, that means focusing on the four simple areas above.
Ignore the headlines. This is the only way to create both better financial outcomes and a calmer, more enjoyable life.
If you want to learn more about developing resilience, healthy practices, and confidence with money, check out my book Mindful Money: Simple Practices for Reaching Your Financial Goals and Increasing Your Happiness Dividend.