Lately we’ve heard from some investors who are unhappy with some of their investments, particularly their more aggressive investing picks. They want to rebuild their portfolios, but are reluctant to sell anything at today’s lower prices.
We think that’s a mistake. Obviously you want to think things through and make sure you are not holding low-quality investments, or investments that are wrong for your portfolio. Once you’ve done that, our view is that you should switch to higher quality and more appropriate investments right away.
You have nothing to gain by making back any losses you may have in the same aggressive investing selections that gave you those losses. Nor are you any more likely to regain your losses by holding on to the same stocks. In fact, if your investments are genuinely poor quality (rather than simply a bad aggressive investing choice for you), there’s a risk that they will cost you even more money, the longer you hold them.
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Aggressive investing stock selections generally don’t have the secure hold on the growing or at least stable clientele that many conservative stocks have. When something goes wrong with aggressive investments, there is great risk of serious, if not total, loss.
That’s why we look at many stocks before singling out our favourites for aggressive investing, which we cover in Stock Pickers Digest. We also try to choose those with as much underlying value and as many hidden assets as possible. This is the best way to cut risk, for conservative and aggressive investors alike.
If you are investing outside of an RRSP or other registered fund, there is also a tax angle to consider. Switching at lower prices gives you a better tax deferral. If you sell an investment and switch to something else when prices are low, you’ll have a smaller gain on which you’ll have to pay capital-gains taxes (or a larger loss that you can use to offset other capital gains).
If you hold off and the market goes up, your current stocks and those you want to replace them with may both rise. So your sales will produce a bigger capital gain or smaller capital loss, reducing your opportunity for tax deferral.
If you hold investments you should get rid of, but you can’t bring yourself to sell, it pays to examine your motives. It may be that you are hesitating due to pride – you don’t want to admit you made an investment mistake. That’s a poor basis for making investment decisions.
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