You Can’t Time the Market (or Can You?)

I just added new Article 8.5 – “Timing the Market” to the Mindfully Investing pantheon.  The central concepts from the article are covered in this post.

Article 8.5 – Timing the Market

Whether you can time the market or not really has mostly to do with how you define your terms.  This is why you will see arguments on both sides of the issue in the personal finance world.  People too often define “timing the market” in such a way that it supports their arguments, and then fail to recognize the tilted playing field they’ve created.

Given that a mindful investing approach requires an empirical and logical reason for doing anything, we need to cover two concepts about timing the market, which can be distinguished by their relative time frames:

  • Short-term timing – This means buying and selling stocks in time spans roughly less than a year (daily, weekly, monthly).
  • Long-term timing – This means investing decisions based on stock market movements that occur over many years, such as the time between when you start to invest and when you withdraw money in retirement.

So, let’s tackle each concept in turn.

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Is Your Blog Included? – Update to A Guide to Personal Finance Blogs

The Guide to Personal Finance Blogs has been freshly updated as of mid-July 2017.

The Guide now includes 1151 personal finance blogs.  Beyond adding nearly 150 new blogs, what else has changed in the Guide?

  • Some blogs were deleted because the sites no longer exist, the link to the site is now broken, the site is blank, or the site no longer contains any personal finance information of consequence.
  • The rolling re-surveys of existing blogs continues.  As I discuss in the Guide methods, I have been revisiting existing sites to track any evolution in the bloggers’ styles and topic focus over time.  I plan to re-survey sites at a pace that ensures all information is less than 9 to 12 months old, with the average time since the last survey in the 3 to 6 month range.
  • The data tables have been updated to include more cross indexing between the various blog metrics of style, topic, theme, geography, blogger types, and posting frequency.
  • In particular, I’ve created summary categories for blog styles, blog topic focus, and blog themes that now appear in most of the data tables.
  • The Blogs over Time posting frequency is now being tracked daily, but updated once a week on Saturdays.  This should still give you a good sense of which blogs are posting regularly (i.e., within the last one, two, three or four weeks).

I did not delete any blogs due to inactivity.  Rest assured that if you’ve experienced a posting hiatus lately, your blog is still present and accounted for in the Guide.

It’s also worth noting that I continue to cross check the Guide database against the Rockstar Finance directory.  Through this process I’ve determined that the Guide contains all the Rockstar Finance listed blogs (as of July 11) as well as about two dozen additional blogs not found in the RSF directory.  Also, unlike the RSF directory, I am not tagging any blogs as “inactive” after 6 months without a post.

If you like the Guide to Personal Finance Blogs, please tell others about it.  The whole idea behind the Guide is to help readers find their ideal bloggers that they don’t even know about yet.  If you are a personal finance blogger please mention the Guide in a post or on social media.  As more bloggers mention the Guide, the more this cross-pollination process will bring potential new readers back to your blog.  The Guide is only in its infancy and I am already observing a periodically very  high click-through rate to blogs mentioned in the Guide.  This could be a substantial source of traffic for many bloggers, but only if more people participate.  Mentioning the Guide only takes a few minutes and will bring you new readers over time.

 

You Don’t Deserve FIRE!

So far this year I’ve read hundreds of personal finance blog posts about the wonders of FIRE (financial independence/retire early).*  It seems to be an accepted truism that working toward FIRE is enviable, laudable, ethical, and just all around better for the planet and human beings as a species.  Some folks gently resist and say that FIRE is a personal choice; see Ben Carlson’s recent post as an example.  But few bloggers actually question the merits of FIRE as a personal choice.  A couple of recent exceptions are posts from “Tired, Broke, and Over It” and “Ninja Budgeter”.   If you’ve read any of my blog, you know that my delusion detector is fully activated when everyone seems to agree on the same thing.  Contrarian thinking is a hallmark of prudent investing, and it’s also a mindful way to approach personal finance and life in general.  The best method I know to understand whether accepted wisdom equals truth is to look at both sides of the argument.

FIRE Is Bad for the Planet

Playing Around All the Time

Maybe FIRE is good for you, but is it good for me?  Is it good for society?  I can cite numerous reasons why FIRE may light your fire, but doesn’t do anyone else much good:

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A Guide to Personal Finance Blogs – Update to the Blog Topics Page

I’ve recently updated the Blog Topics page in A Guide Personal Finance Blogs.  The Guide includes over 1000 personal finance blogs, which I reviewed to determine the primary topic focus or mix of topics covered by each blog.  To help show what’s new with this update, here’s an excerpt of the top portion of the updated Blog Topic data table.

You can click on the image above to go directly to the page with the full interactive data table, which can be sorted, filtered, and searched.

The primary new item in the Blog Topics information has to do with the “Blog Theme“, which is shown in the two right-most columns of the table.  I added the new Blog Theme because of several social media discussions I’ve had with personal finance bloggers and readers recently.  For example, the blogger at Our Next Life tweeted whether anyone had a list of women FIRE (financial independence/retire early) bloggers.

The question is interesting, because it presumes we all know what a FIRE blog looks like, and assigning any particular blog to this category just takes common sense.  In reality, I’ve found there are infinite shades of gray.  For example, bloggers on one end of the spectrum clearly identify their blog’s main focus as FIRE, and then when you look at their blog, they post a lot about FIRE issues.  On the other end of the spectrum are bloggers who don’t really describe their blogs as being about FIRE, but they spend at least some time writing about FIRE issues.  And somewhere in the middle may be blogs that are advertised as being about FIRE, but don’t actually post much about FIRE.  Similarly, there are blogs with many posts about FIRE, but the blogger advertises that the blog is about “budgeting” or “frugality” or something apparently different.

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A Guide to Personal Finance Blogs – Blogger “Types” Just Added

I’ve added a new analysis of Blogger Types to A Guide to Personal Finance Blogs.

This newest addition to A Guide to Personal Finance Blogs provides a handy way to find bloggers who are writing about life situations most relevant to you.  Want to only read personal finance stories from bloggers who are young, single income, with kids, and working in the United States IT industry?  Want bloggers fitting some other esoteric combination of characteristics?  Well, this is the place to find all of them.  Similar to other parts of the Guide to Personal Finance Blogs, all the biographical data on over 1000 personal finance blogs are provided in a large table that can be sorted, filtered, and searched with direct links to all the blogs.

Blogger Types

However, I wanted to go beyond a simple tabulation of all the biographical data.  I wanted to add some way to sort through this huge haystack of information and help you quickly find “types” or overall categories of bloggers that you might want to explore.  So, the interactive table also includes a “blogger type” column.  Essentially this boils down all the information on age, gender, income type, kids status, and retirement status into common groups.  It might be more accurate to call these “stereotypes” given any such grouping can’t describe every individual situation perfectly.  Nonetheless, the graphic above provides a summary of one such blogger type: the so called “Young Family” blogger.

What’s interesting is that over 77% of the bloggers can be put into five relatively neat biographical categories.  You could swim through all the data for a long time before these patterns became clear.  So, the blogger types provide a much quicker way to focus in on groups of bloggers that most interest you. You can better understand each of the five primary blogger types with the full infographic.

Blogger Profession

The other complexity I tried to sort out is the issue of blogger profession.  If you’ve ever read a few personal finance blog lists, you’ve probably quickly noticed that there are a bewildering array of professional titles and names used by bloggers and folks trying to list them.  In some cases the descriptions are relatively formal or specific, while others are playful or generic.  Perhaps you’re an expert in professional titles, but personally, I really don’t know the differences between a “project manager”, a “product manager”, and a “program manager”.  So, specific professional titles don’t really help me figure out who to read next, and I’d wager most people would agree.  Conversely, I understand the large-scale differences between, for example, an “Engineer” and an “Opera Singer”.  The trick is sorting and grouping these professional names into categories that are meaningful for most folks, while understanding such groupings may gloss over details relevant to a few readers.

Accordingly, I resolved all these professional titles and names down to 26 general professional categories, which are defined in more detail on the profession definitions page.  The resulting professional categories for every blog are provided in the blogger type data table.

Feedback

I’d be very interested if anyone has any input on the utility of this analysis and supporting table or ways that I can further improve on the analysis.  The whole point of the Guide to Personal Finance Blogs is to provide a useful connection between the reader and their not-yet-found favorite blogger.  If you need something different to meet that goal, I want to know about it.