Successful Investor Secrets

The investment world can change dramatically from one month to the next. But these secrets of successful investors never go out of style.

Successful investing can be one of your biggest allies in the quest for long-term financial security. Unfortunately, unsuccessful investing can leave you wishing you’d kept your money in the bank.

So what are the secrets to making your investments achieve what you want them to achieve?
Here are some of the tactics used by successful investors around the world.

1. Start with a plan

Smart investors don’t just look for ‘good’ investments. They look for investments that will help them achieve specific goals.

You may be seeking a return above that available on cash or term deposits. In this case there are other investments such as shares and fixed income, which may be expected to generate higher returns than cash over the long term, however, they are also more volatile, so investors need to consider both the risk and return components of their portfolio.

2. Diversify widely

One of the main goals of investing may be to ensure you have a mix of assets that are likely to perform well at different times – helping you survive any downturn in a specific market or industry sector.

While many Australian investors are heavily exposed to Australian shares, a well-diversified portfolio will generally hold assets in each of the major asset classes (e.g. Australian and international shares, property, fixed income and cash).

3. Watch your costs

It’s easy to get fixated on the returns your investments can generate. But successful investors always keep track of, and seek to minimise, the fees and taxes associated with owning them.

A ‘buy and hold’ strategy can help you avoid transaction costs like brokerage, or buy and sell spreads from managed funds. It can also help you reduce capital gains tax, which generally decreases by 50% when you’ve held an asset for over 12 months.

4. Market Timing Risks

Attempting to time the market can be both difficult and dangerous to your portfolio. Market timing risks missing periods of strong performance, which can adversely impact a portfolio. Morningstar recently conducted a review of investment returns over 20 years, and determined that by being fully invested, investors generated a return of 8.7% p.a. However, the same investment that missed the top 10 returning days would have returned 6.1% p.a.

Despite periods of significant volatility on a daily basis, over the long term, investments in assets such as Australian Shares have generated strong returns.

5. Don’t panic

When share markets retreat (which they inevitably do), smart investors don’t hit the panic button and sell long-term investments based on short term volatility – this is made easier by following Step 1 “Start with a Plan”.

Instead, if you continue to invest during a market downturn, you may be able to buy high-quality investments at a lower price than you could if you waited for markets to recover.

Following the GFC, when the stock market bottomed in early 2009, many investors sold out of equities and held large proportions of cash in their portfolios. The opportunity cost of this decision has meant that some investors have missed a significant rally over the past decade.

6. Protect your assets

Even a carefully constructed investment strategy can come unstuck if you need access to your money in an emergency.

A smart strategy is to ensure you maintain a sizeable cash reserve, and put in place appropriate insurance such as income, TPD and life insurance. Having appropriate insurances in place can help prevent the need for a ‘fire sale’ of your investments if you suffer a serious illness or accident.

Tip: Income protection typically replaces up to 75% of your income if you can’t work due to an illness or accident.

Prune, adapt and budget: Managing the rising cost of living

If you’re organised with your finances, the high cost of living doesn’t have to mean diminished savings.

The increasing cost of goods and services – from food and housing to transport and utilities – is a reality most Australians have to face every day.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that living expenses for employee households were up by 2 per cent in September 2018 compared to a year ago. Among self‑funded retiree households and age pension recipients, living costs rose by 2.3 per cent and 2.2 per cent respectively.[1]

But don’t panic. By being organised and smart about your finances, you could manage rising costs without draining your savings and sacrificing your financial security.

Cut back on major expenses

Reducing your expenses is an obvious way to manage the high cost of living. But rather than taking a piecemeal approach, it may be more effective to cut back on the largest drains on your funds.

For a start, you may want to trim costs in areas that, according to the ABS, account for more than half of Australian households’ weekly expenditure: housing, food and drinks, and transport.[2] Do you really need a second car? Can you negotiate a lower mortgage rate with your lender? Paring discretionary expenses in these areas may result in big savings.

Reduce your lifestyle costs

It may be worth auditing your lifestyle expenses to see if you could do some pruning. These costs can burn a big hole in your pocket if you don’t monitor or check them. Research shows that Australians spent $145 billion on lifestyle goods and services in 2017.[3]

While you don’t have to give up all the things you enjoy, cutting down on, for example, your overseas holidays or dining out could go a long way towards reducing your costs. Savings in these areas may help you cover essential expenses or boost your nest egg and investments.

Create a budget

Having a budget and sticking to it may help you minimise unnecessary expenses. A budget tracks your weekly or monthly spending and may help ensure you have enough money to cover essentials while being flexible enough to manage unexpected or increased costs.

To create a budget that factors in your income, expenses and financial obligations, it is recommended that you consult a professional financial adviser. Your adviser may also suggest ways to manage your costs and build up your savings.

Supplement your income

Increasing your income could be another way to ride out the rising cost of living. You could do this by taking on extra work in your spare time or starting a side business. And in today’s digital sharing economy, earning extra money in a way that suits you has never been easier. Become a private tutor in your field of expertise. If you’re an avid gardener, advertise your gardening services online and in your community. Rent out your car or a spare room in your house, join the drive-share economy or even pet sit. By having one or two side gigs, you won’t have to dip into your savings just to meet the rising cost of living.

If you have enough savings on top of your emergency fund, you may want to consider investing to grow your capital. Your financial adviser could recommend strategies to help you generate an income from your investments.

The high costs of goods and services may affect your savings and lead to money-related stress. But if you’re smart about your finances, you could keep your cost of living in check and remain financially secure.


[1] Mozo, August 2017, ‘Australians eating away savings, spending a whopping $4 billion on food and drink per month’. Accessible at:

[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics, September 2017, ‘Household Expenditure Survey, Australia: Summary of Results, 2015–16. Accessible at: Features32015-16

[3] Australian Bureau of Statistics, September 2018, ‘Selected Living Cost Indexes, Australia’. Accessible at: