On the virtue of keeping it simple

Posted by on April 7, 2009 @ 9:05 am in Investing

The impact of unnecessarily complicating our lives became clear to me this weekend.

With 260,000 miles on our two cars, we decided this was the time to get that new car we’ve been talking about. We did the research, bought the car, and parked it in the garage. For now, we’ll use it on weekends and use our older ones until they’re too expensive to run.

The problem came when we tried to figure out how to program telephone numbers and addresses into the new car’s computer system. After an hour and a few interesting exchanges, we had only succeeded in getting our home address added. It was a humbling experience. Sometimes I think we mistake bells and whistles with sophistication.

This experience gave me pause. The message “keep it simple” should probably have been in the forefront of our thinking during the purchase decision. The gizmos were attractive—who wouldn’t want to record music off their CDs directly into the car, or put their own screen saver on the GPS?

The ramifications of a complicated setup, though, are that it takes time and asks for decisions you may not be prepared to make—and once it’s set, you probably won’t venture back to edit your choices because the first experience was so painful.

If I had approached investing this way, I’d probably have picked up every new mutual fund as it appeared, rather than sticking to my asset allocation and my admittedly no-frills approach to fund selection and portfolio construction.

I don’t believe you need a finance degree to make sound, reasoned investment decisions, and you don’t need an overly complicated portfolio to meet your goals. I probably should have thought about this before we bought the car!


• All investing is subject to risks.

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