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Welcome to Customize Wall Street

What can you expect to learn on this website that you probably wouldn’t find in other blogs dealing with finance and the economy?

I approach my writing differently from many financial “experts.” I am not going tell you how to “hit home runs” or how to beat the stock market. I don’t feel it’s either productive, or ethical, to give readers the unrealistic hope expectation that they could get better investment performance returns, than professional experts, just because they’ve read my book or my articles posted on this website. In the real world, studies have shown that something in the area of 75%-80% of all professional portfolio managers do not deliver better performance returns than the popular benchmark indices of the general stock market. Most people are not going to “win the lottery” or get rich from a “tip” they received at a cocktail party or get better stock market performance than the well-known S&P 500 Index. My purpose is different.

I have a two-fold purpose with articles I write and post for readers on this website. Firstly, I try to convince my readers that if you’re going to invest, whether they be stocks and mutual funds, or any other category of investments, that you should establish a reason, a purpose. Your purpose should be to set a goal, meaning an understanding what you are trying to achieve, for any and all investments you make. Without a goal and a purpose, then your endeavor is nothing more than entertainment. If such is the case, I suggest you might be better entertained in a casino.

Secondly, I want to help readers develop a frame of mind that is more objective, less emotional, and less stressful, than is frequently the case for those of us dealing with Wall Street and the stock market.

For many folks, we accept changes in things such as housing prices, gasoline prices, and prices at the supermarket, as being normal fluctuations in the cost of living. Most of us accept such price changes as being relatively routine. We actually appreciate it when most prices go down. For example, cheaper gasoline prices are usually viewed as a welcome relief from the high cost of transportation. Why shouldn’t lower prices be equally welcome by investors in the stock market? Why has Wall Street and the financial media programmed us to worry over downside moves with stock prices? Aren’t these actually opportunities to buy more high-quality stocks at cheaper prices? I personally do not feel the bottom will fall out of our US economy, just because stock prices swing up and down like a pendulum.

Generally speaking, I approach my writing of these articles as an attempt to help educate my readers, while not sounding like it should be “my way or the highway.” I offer a different perspective to the endeavor of saving and investing toward one’s financial future. In my desire to help folks seeking a secure financial future, I emphasize the setting of goals for the investments you make, and the implementation of a plan to achieve them.

With this approach of attempting to educate my readers, I would like to introduce just a few “lessons” in this first article. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned during life in general, and in my years as a mutual fund portfolio manager.

First lesson: Everyone makes mistakes, especially in the endeavor of stock investing. I candidly admit I’ve made as many as the next person. Where I differ from many folks, is that I try my best to learn from my mistakes, and in the long-run benefit from them. Let’s benefit from the mistakes we make by learning how to avoid making them again. I strongly urge you not to beat yourself up when mistakes happen. It is my belief that people might face less personal stress and worry, if they learn from their mistakes and actually treat them more like the “trial and error” of life.

Second lesson: Life in general should be viewed as an ongoing process, that evolves over the years. Far too many of us resist change in our lives. We often think of such things as finally getting that job we’d been seeking, or buying that first home, or at last becoming empty-nesters, or entering the retirement years on a fixed-income, as being fixed occurrences that will never change. In reality, life is a long journey filled with a variety of changes that require adaptation and readiness. Most importantly, the single biggest change in life, to which we must all adapt, is that we get older. Keep in mind that not all change is necessarily good, and not all change is necessarily bad. But, it happens.

The lesson here is that the better we learn to adapt to change, no matter what it might be, the more we can reduce stress and worry when such occurs. Adapting to change means that one can respond rationally, and not just reactively, when it happens. If something bad, or even tragic, occurs, then let’s respond as rationally and wisely as possible. Alternatively, if something changes that’s for the good, let’s learn to take it in stride, and try to appreciate that piece of good fortune. Try your utmost not to ruin whatever great opportunity has presented itself.

Third lesson: Try to identify and understand the difference between those things in life that you can control, as opposed to those thing over which you have no control. Try to devote more energy and time to things you can control, and less emotional stress and worry over the ones you cannot control.

For example, in the world of the stock market, you can control which stocks you decide to buy and the amount of money you decide to invest. You cannot control the ups and downs of the stock market or prices of the stocks. If you don’t like what’s happening with things you cannot control, then take action in ways you can control. Some people like it when the stock market goes down, so they use their money and buy more. Other people are unhappy when the stock market goes down, so they sell their holdings and withdraw their money. Other people actually don’t care if the market goes up or down, because they understand it’s a pendulum that swings back and forth. In all these cases, you’ll reduce you level of stress and worry if you understand that your actions should involve things over which you have control.

In conclusion, I strongly urge you to treat mistakes as learning experiences; to be flexible and adaptable to changes you face in life; and, to make decisions based on things over which you have control, as opposed to that which you do not.

In future postings, I plan to write about a variety of financial topics, especially those focusing on saving and investing for one’s sound financial future. I will do my utmost to present ideas that will help readers achieve whatever financial goals they seek. In addition, I will, from time to time, present commentary on current national and world events that I feel impact, directly or indirectly, our ability as Americans to understand and cope with challenges to our personal economic and financial situations.

Harvey Neiman

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