Investing is a confusing endeavor for many people, so much so that an entire industry has grown up around giving advice to those in need. Sometimes that advice works out and sometimes it doesn't. Let's look at few timeworn concepts that don't always work out so well for investors despite the industry's recommendations. There are few absolutes in the world of investing, but for decades leading up to the late 2000s, there were a few Wall Street mantras that investors were told over and over again. Here are some of the best and the worst investing advice you've probably heard.

Advice to Reconsider

1. Diversify
Diversification has long been held up as a way to protect your portfolio. The theory holds that when some investments lose value, others will gain. For example, investing in emerging markets and small cap stocks instead of just blue chips is touted as a way to protect your portfolio. A global recession can override that theory.

2. Buy Term and Invest the Rest
Whole life insurance policies have been panned for decades. Critics cite the low rate of return they provide and highlight how investing in the stock market can provide significantly greater gains. While it is true that whole life policies pay low rates of interest, any positive rate of return beats the negative 40% delivered by the last bear market.

3. Money Markets are as Safe as Cash
Money market accounts have been marketed as "safe" for so long that 401(k) plans often list them as "cash". The flash crash serves as a stark reminder to investors about the need to truly understanding their portfolios. (Find out more in Money Market Mayhem: The Reserve Fund Meltdown.)

4. Don't Pay Off Your Mortgage
The logic stated that investing your money would generate a greater return than paying off your mortgage. When bear markets hit, this logic goes out the window. Sure, real estate values can fall too, but even in a declining real estate market the bank doesn't foreclose on a home that is paid off.

5. Real Estate is a Safe Investment
The idea that you house would always increase in value seemed like a safe premise. Multiple years of hefty price declines debunked this myth. (Check out Simple Ways To Invest In Real Estate for more information.)

6. Holding Many Stocks Provides Diversification
This time-worn gem fails to hold up when a global recession pushes nearly all stock markets down. Yes, there are exceptions, as a few markets always manage to stay positive, but not many investors manage to pick the right markets in advance. (Learn more in Diversification Beyond Stocks.)

7. Fixed Rate Annuities are a Bad Investment
Fixed-rate annuities have been heavily criticized for their hefty fees and complex rules. None of those factors seemed to bother annuity investors who enjoy positive returns throughout even the worst bear markets.

Is It Really Bad Advice?
So are all of those common bits of advice simply bad? Perhaps not at the time there were given, but none of them work out too well for investors expecting to retire when a major bear market hits and the global economy meltdown on all fronts. Keep in mind that any idea is a good one until it doesn't work.

Advice That Never Goes Out of Style

Like a broken clock, all advice is good at least once in a while. If you are looking for timeless gems like the little black dress that never goes out of style, consider these…

1. Have a Plan
The old cliché is true. Nobody plans to fail, but many fail to plan. Having a comprehensive financial plan in place, understanding your goals, and proactively managing your investments are never bad ideas.

2. Have a Cash Cushion
The emergency fund is always a classic fashion. Like an insurance policy, you hope you never need to use it, but if you do, its there when you need it. (To learn how, check out Why You Absolutely Need An Emergency Fund.)

3. Live Below Your Means
If you make a habit of spending less that you earn, it will be much easier to survive if your earnings decline. Losing your job is never fun, but losing your house and car too make the situation significantly worse.

4. Nothing is Risk Free
Even money market funds can be problematic. Don't even put money in an investment, even it is being sold to you by your best friend, with the idea that there is no way you can lose money. Bernie Madoff's friends learned that lesson the hard way.

5. Nothing Rises Forever
From the S&P 500 to real estate prices, this little truism has proven itself over and over again. If there was ever a safe bet, this is it.

6. If it Sounds Too Good to be True, it is
Hope and greed cause investors do put their faith in the strangest things. Apply common sense before handing over your money.

7. Read the Disclosures
This may be the most boring, least exciting concept, but remember; Past performance is not indicative of future results; this product is not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. This product is not a deposit or other obligation of, or guaranteed by, the bank. And last but not least, this product is subject to investment risks, including possible loss of the principle amount invested. (For more, see 5 "New" Rules For Safe Investing.)

The Bottom Line
Not all advice is good advice, but it isn't all bad either. Learn as much as you can and make the decision for yourself. In the end, you'll find what advice works best for you and your investing style.

Related Articles
  1. Financial Advisors

    5 Things All Financial Advisors Should Know About ETFs

    Discover five things all financial advisors should know about ETFs, including when ETFs may be a better choice for your clients than mutual funds.
  2. Stock Analysis

    The Top 5 ETFs to Track the Nasdaq in 2016

    Check out five ETFs tracking the NASDAQ that investors should consider heading into 2016, including the famous PowerShares QQQ Trust.
  3. Investing Basics

    Fee-Only Financial Advisors: What You Need To Know

    Are you considering hiring a fee-only financial advisor or one who is compensated via commissions? Read this first.
  4. Investing

    In Search of the Rate-Proof Portfolio

    After October’s better-than-expected employment report, a December Federal Reserve (Fed) liftoff is looking more likely than it was earlier this fall.
  5. Investing

    Time to Bring Active Back into a Portfolio?

    While stocks have rallied since the economic recovery in 2009, many active portfolio managers have struggled to deliver investor returns in excess.
  6. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    The Democratization of the Hedge Fund Industry

    The coveted compensations of hedge fund managers are protected by barriers of entry to the industry, but one recent startup is working to break those barriers.
  7. Retirement

    Two Heads Are Better Than One With Your Finances

    We discuss the advantages of seeking professional help when it comes to managing our retirement account.
  8. Personal Finance

    How the Social Security Reboot May Affect You

    While there’s still potential for some “tweaking” around your Social Security retirement benefits, I’d like to share some insight on what we know now.
  9. Professionals

    A Day in the Life of a Hedge Fund Manager

    Learn what a typical early morning to late evening workday for a hedge fund manager consists of and looks like from beginning to end.
  10. Stock Analysis

    Why did Wal-Mart's Stock Take a Fall in 2015?

    Wal-Mart is the largest company in the world, with a sterling track-record of profits and dividends. So why has its stock fallen sharply in 2015?
  1. Are 401ks FDIC insured?

    The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) works as a protector for customers when banks and financial institutions ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How liquid are Vanguard mutual funds?

    The Vanguard mutual fund family is one of the largest and most well-recognized fund family in the financial industry. Its ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Does the FDIC cover identity theft?

    When a third party gains access to your bank account and conducts transactions without your consent, the FDIC does not have ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Do financial advisors charge VATs?

    The Personal Finance Society (PFS) and with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have outlined when a value-added tax ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Does the FDIC cover credit unions?

    The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) does not cover credit unions. The FDIC only insures deposits in banks and ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Which mutual funds made money in 2008?

    Out of the 2,800 mutual funds that Morningstar, Inc., the leading provider of independent investment research in North America, ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Cyber Monday

    An expression used in online retailing to describe the Monday following U.S. Thanksgiving weekend. Cyber Monday is generally ...
  2. Bar Chart

    A style of chart used by some technical analysts, on which, as illustrated below, the top of the vertical line indicates ...
  3. Take A Bath

    A slang term referring to the situation of an investor who has experienced a large loss from an investment or speculative ...
  4. Black Friday

    1. A day of stock market catastrophe. Originally, September 24, 1869, was deemed Black Friday. The crash was sparked by gold ...
  5. Turkey

    Slang for an investment that yields disappointing results or turns out worse than expected. Failed business deals, securities ...
  6. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
Trading Center