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How often should you check your stocks?

Stocks are a LONG-TERM investment. So stop checking them like they are your Twitter feed. Here's how often you SHOULD check your stocks.

Ramit Sethi

If you’re wondering how often you should check your stocks, you’re probably checking them too much. It frustrates me to no end when I see new investors constantly checking their stocks like it’s their Twitter feed. It seems like even the slightest dip in the market causes them to freak out and start selling everything.

I have one piece of advice for all you investment n00bz out there:


Sweating out the slightest variation of your stocks daily is a recipe for an anxiety attack AND poor financial management. I don’t check my stocks that often — they’re long-term investments.

SP BSE SENSEX Chart 1990 to 2013
Selling in 2009 would have cut your losses, and your gains – Wikimedia Image

But I get it — television pundits and so-called “investment experts” make you think that every up and down is the end of the world and deserves two hours of coverage.

Also, notice how they only ever cover the “sexy” stocks? Give me a break.

The fact of the matter is you shouldn’t even really “pick” stocks to begin with. Relying on a handful of individual stocks in the hopes of making money is a good recipe for disaster.

After all, you don’t understand a company’s finances. Hell, professional investors, economists, and fund managers — all of whom are paid millions every year — can’t beat the market either!

Remember: Investing isn’t about just picking stocks.

Now, if you actually enjoy reading Forbes and watching the pundits purely for entertainment purposes, then go right ahead. There’s nothing wrong with being entertained by Jim Cramer throwing chairs around on Mad Money.

But you also need to keep in mind that 99.999999% of the advice you see out there is pure fearmongering or entertainment. Ask yourself: do the pundits make money when their readers make money? Or do they make money from ratings and clicks? Exactly.

Two things to always keep in mind when it comes to stocks:

  1. The professionals are almost always wrong. The stock picks of pundits and so-called professionals are usually no better than pure chance and even professional money managers barely ever beat the market benchmark. In other words, they don’t just underperform, but they do it by A LOT.As William Bernstein, author of The Intelligent Asset Allocator, says: “There are two kinds of investors, be they large or small: Those who don’t know where the market is headed, and those who don’t know they don’t know.”
  2. It’s mostly just noise. If you’re a long-term investor (and you should be) you don’t need to check your stocks every day. You don’t even need to check your stocks every WEEK. I only check my stocks once or twice a month to make sure the automation is working.The daily changes in stocks are almost always noise — plain and simple. And very few (read: almost none) of your investments will be determined by the news of one day.

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Context is king in evaluating equities

I used to teach a class on investments. I would draw a picture of a rapidly declining stock and ask, “What should I do with my stocks?”

About 25% of the class shouted, “Sell!” and 25% said, “Hold it!” while a couple of people in the class muttered “Buy more.”

None of them were exactly right though. The truth is, you need more context.

If a stock like, say, Apple, falls a bunch, you have to look at the surrounding context and ask questions like:

  • Is the general market falling?
  • Are its peers (HP, Dell, etc) falling?
  • Has Apple performed this way before? What happened then?

Answering these questions provides a LOT more context to the situation and can both put your mind at ease and also help you make better judgements.

If stock is falling but its competitors are fine, it will almost definitely bounce back.

But if companies in that industry are cratering across the board…then you might want to start worrying.

But who REALLY wants to worry? Instead, I’d like to offer you a better solution when it comes to investing.

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Managing my stocks in a better way…

Bottom line: I don’t check my stocks every day and you shouldn’t either.

Instead, what I do is rely on a system that allows me to take the set-it-and-forget approach to my investments.

My portfolio guarantees my money is automatically going where it is supposed to.

That’s what I prefer to do — and it’s the same strategy recommended by Nobel Laureates and billionaire investors like Warren Buffett.

All it takes is two simple steps:

  1. Pick a low-cost, diversified index fund. These funds that invest your money across the whole market, so you don’t need to worry about picking the “best” stock.
  2. Automate your investing so you do it consistently. That way you can stop chasing stocks and relying on guesswork.

I’ve talked about automating your investments in hundreds of articles already — but I always feel like it needs to be said. It’s one of the easiest ways to ensure you’re investing your money properly and consistently.

Check out my 12-minute video on how you can set up your automatic system today.

If you are just starting out in investments, it’s great that you’re here.

For financial security, it’s more important than anything else to start early. And don’t worry if you think you’re a little late to the game. After all, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago…the second best time is today.

Man, I’m starting to sound like a fortune cookie.

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  1. avatar
    Jim McDermott

    The key to this is as you said, set up news alerts to keep an eye on the business and the sector. Flying blind is as nerve-wracking as watching a live ticker. You at least need to keep on top of the goings on so you’re not bit by another Enron or Tyco.

  2. avatar
    Moron John

    I’m a mid-term trader. While I have protective stops in place (and haven’t lost “a lot” in a long while, vs. recent losses you described that way), I check stocks for price movement. It’s not worry. And calling price and volume activity “noise” is a little crazy. Sometimes you get clear indications that stocks are breaking down. Wanna take the loss so you can watch more t.v.?

    I read 50 investment-oriented blogs. Today I put $20,000 into a CD at 5.31%. Yesterday I sold JNJ, crystalizing a $150 gain *based on what I saw in daily activity*. I earn $12/day on CD’s and money market funds. I hold one stock now (AMGN). Information *and knowledge* are keys. And investment-oriented blogs are very good sources for both fundamental and timely information.

    Some people seek a hands-off investment profile. Others don’t. Am I doing nothing? I’m probably tanning your hide, kid.

    I don’t own a televison.

  3. avatar

    Anyway,it is a new way in investment. Maybe it is useful to someones who are always busy with their own work.:)

  4. avatar

    I think what you said is exactly meaningful to me.
    I am not very patient and I sometimes are eager to know the results,which sometimes get me into trouble.
    I should learn a lesson from this.

  5. avatar

    Actually, I seem to remember someone telling me that missing the big days can have a huge impact 😉

  6. avatar

    I think that checking stocks continually is driven by whatever motivates people to check their RSS feeds, email, phone messages, etc. If it’s possible for something to happen, then it’s theoretically worth seeing if something happened.

    It’s not realistically worth it. I went on vacation for a week and just the thought of coming back to all the things I usually keep tabs on made me anxious.

  7. avatar
    Jack W.

    Tark, I think you missed the point of the article you referenced.

    Ramit was advocating that we not dump stocks simply because they show a decline, even a large one. Part of the reasoning behind this was that if you simply dump your stocks when they’re low, chances are you will miss some of the biggest increase days. The article points out that over a 10 year period, missing out on the 5 biggest days would have reduced your return by 22.65%.

    Monitoring your stock portfolio balances every day isn’t going to help you spot the “big days”. So, I don’t think his advice is contradictory.

  8. avatar

    This may have been covered before…. But besides IWTYTBR, what blogs are people reading?

  9. avatar
    Brian Carr

    This is great advice. I used to be someone who checked my stocks on an almost hourly basis – and it made me a worse investor. Now, I trust my research and my gut and stick with my trades. Obviously, if something unexpected happens, you have to react, but other than that, you should be in it for the long term.

  10. avatar
    Ken L.

    I do watch my investments nearly daily. But I don’t get freaked out by what they are or are not doing on a daily basis. I review my portfolio quarterly and don’t make changes more frequent than that. I may not even make changes on a quarterly basis. But I find it interesting to watch on a near daily basis. It doesn’t bother me or make me anxious.

    Are you saying that it is wrong to watch it daily or that it is only wrong to take action based on daily observations?

  11. avatar

    I probably check my stocks twice a day – not because I am always on the verge of buying or selling something, but just because I enjoy saying “ooh, I’m rich!” or “sh*t, I’m poor!” to my laptop. My laptop likes the extra conversation, too.

    But seriously, it’s not that bad to just stay on top of your stocks. The whole process takes me maybe 30 seconds a day – I just click on my bookmarked Yahoo! Finance profile and see what’s out there. Plus if you have a portfolio with Yahoo! they automatically ferret out financial news articles that mention your companies, so I can take another 10 seconds to check if any of the headlines seem worth looking into.

    But as you said, I follow my investments with this level of interest because I view it as a hobby as well as as an investment. Still, while it’s not as sound a strategy as long-term buy-and-hold investing, money can be made (and massively lost, of course) in shorter term stock buying. I made 25% in about a month this summer riding a wave of hype with Harris & Harris (TINY) and then selling it when I thought it had gone up too much too quickly – info I guessed at from my compulsive daily stock-checking.

  12. avatar
    Allan Drake

    You know why he said that the users that check their stocks everyday on their system are crazy? Because he makes more money money from inactivity fees. He wants them to forget and get charged 40 dollars every quarter.

  13. avatar

    I’m 16 and want to know when is the best time to buy and sell stocks? It’s kind of a smart gamble but I hear that a lot of the people who stick to a company, make wise decisions, and are patience, tend to get the most out of the stock market.

  14. avatar

    Just go with companies you think will do well and stick with them and build up over time, the HUGE players in this game are rock solid stable throughout the most insane economic insanity. Fear is what screws so many of us over. That being said if you see a stock that just sucks, don’t be scared to just sell. Don’t try wasting time saving a stock that’s going down the tubes by compensating your cash and buying more. Decide in advance how much you’re willing to lose and go with that. If its a small amount and your just getting started who cares, if its huge then set yourself protection points that you can live with. The beauty of stocks even though it is kind of a form of gambling is that you can protect yourself with limits, you don’t have to lose it all – buy you can make endless amounts of money.

  15. avatar
    Stocks to buy today

    The best part about trading groups is that the members goals are aligned with the goals of the website.Free stock pick websites align their goals with the insiders of the stocks

  16. avatar
    Jimmi Belle

    Your blogs are always gives me useful information but don’t you think intraday trading is beneficial . I took the intraday trading tips and had a good result with intraday trading at Multi Management and Future Solutions.

  17. avatar
    Steve from Arkansas

    I know you primarily addressed younger and pre-retirement readers with this post. As a slightly early retired couple who have considerably more money than we need I do use Personal Capital almost daily to check my net worth. It doesn't cause me any anxiety when my portfolio drops by $30k in a single day but it does give me a boost when it goes up that much. It is like a little reward to open the app and see that I've got enough saved in diverse investments to know that no matter what problems occur in the future for my spouse and I, money won't be one of them. It also gives me an easy way to determine that there hasn't been any fraud in my accounts because if the market is up and my investments are down then something fishy must have happened. It is kind of amazing to see that my net worth changes more on a daily basis sometimes than I started out making in a year as an engineer! The power of compound interest will make you wealthy if you just start saving early and in large amounts. In my case work was so much fun I worked way past my FI date which explains why I have extra $ now. I'm also leaving my investments alone since I've figured out how to make more than we spend working about 2-3 days a week at some fun and lucrative side gigs.

  18. avatar

    I check my stocks exactly as often as I check my twitter feed – once every few years when I remember I still have a twitter account.

  19. avatar

    I have to admit, I check my portfolio religiously. When the US election was happening and the market was tanking I had a feed going watching it hit the ground.

    My number 1 regret from that day is that I didn't have money to buy in. I wasn't expecting a bounce back of this magnitude, but I was confident of a resurgence and with a 5-10 year investing timeline I was happy to take that plunge.

  20. avatar

    What's the UK equivalent of Roth IRA and 401(k)?