Josh asks …

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Josh asks …

This past month I’m down 12.XX percent for my 401(k). I would like to withdraw the approximate 10,000 and buy a piece of property, but it hurts to take such a loss and sell at a low. What would you do?

Dunno … never had a 401k or equivalent 🙂

However, I do know this:

When trading investments, there’s no need to consider how much one investment is up/down this month, last month, last year, or even last decade v. another …

… only ask how much one investment is expected to be up/down next month, year, decade v. the other!

In other words, write down the current value of your existing investment (this case your 401k) and run two scenarios:

1. What would be my expected after tax outcome if I invested exactly what I have today in the 401k, without including entry/exit fees?

2. What would be my expected after tax outcome if I invested exactly what I have today in another investment vehicle, including entry fees (for the new investment, if any) and exit fees (for the existing investment, if any)?

In simple terms: forget that past and consider each day (or week, month, quarter, year, decade … depending on how often you want to be shifting stuff about) a new investment decision.

Just remember, that you incur costs and taxes when moving investments (which generally make shifting investments more difficult), so you need to:

a) lean heavily on your accountant’s tax advice and assistance in running after-tax numbers, and

b) lean towards investments that give you greater leverage to help overcome the tax/fee double-whammy, and

c) have a long-term planning horizon (that way one-off costs become less important, as compounding kicks in).

Real-estate just may give you that … but, run the numbers (with your accountant) to be sure!

Finally, consider the relative risks of the two investments … for example, dumping your 401k to invest in an Internet start-up may not be all that smart 😉

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Reader Comments

Thanks for the advice Adrian. I just read your answer to Shannon’s question, and it looks like I should be building the same team of people to help figure stuff like this out.

@ Josh – just make sure that ‘hired help’ (accountant, attorney, etc.) is only there to help you run the numbers: you provide the scenarios … you make the decision/s (perhaps, this is the part where ‘unpaid’ been-there-done-that mentors can help) …