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The One-Year Rule and Your Portfolio

As city dwellers, everyone knows that space is limited. Parking spaces are rented out for hundreds of dollars a month, apartments the size of closets go for thousands, and a washing machine in your home is like owning your own brick of gold. You learn to minimize, do without, and purge regularly.

Because of this, my wife and I developed a rule that we use even to this day. It is our One Year Rule. If you have not seen it, thought about it, or worn it in a year, it’s gone. Several great charities would love to have this stuff, whether they can resell it for cash or recycle it for scrap metal. This a great rule because it allows you to reminisce about the year, think about how silly you are at times, and smile while you clean out your stuff. That torn flannel shirt you loved so much? One-year rule. That dress that was all the rage? One-year rule. If you wore neither in a year, move it out. It is amazing some of the things you can let go of. Halloween costumes? Haven’t you gone to a Ugly Sweater party in a few years? Why are you saving those magazines and catalogs, exactly? How else do Walkmans, Commodore 64’s, and Atari’s move out the door?

Some of these things have value; it's another man’s junk, right? Nowadays, you have eBay. Go for it. But be honest with yourself. Most people let things pile up and gather cobwebs. Living in the city, we had no choice, we had to purge. It is a little easier in the suburbs to let things go, but if you can stick to the one-year rule, it is amazing how organized your house becomes. We learned that without moving these things out, our lives just added more noise, and you never felt like you were on top of things because they were living on top of you. When you only have one closet with one closet shelf, inspecting that shelf regularly is a lot easier. It changes a little when you have multiple closets, but the idea stays the same. You have to minimize to maximize.

Recently I was lucky enough to hear John Huston speak. Check him out at In April of 2009, John and his expedition partner, Tyler Fish, became the first and only Americans to travel “unsupported” from land to the North Pole. This 55-day, 475-mile journey has been accomplished by only 13 expeditions and has been called the “toughest expedition on the planet.” To travel unsupported means to travel under one’s power without resupply. An unsupported expedition embodies the ethos of preparation, simplicity, self-reliance, and accountability, which John highlights in his motivational lectures. 

Listening to him speak about his preparation and training reminded me that he did a lot with very little. He spoke of loading a 300-pound pack he would drag behind him to make this grueling trip. Do you think they had to pack well? The rations, clothes, tent, hope, and dreams are in a tiny sled. Amazing. It reminded me of how you must pack, plan, and minimize everything to maximize your return. Their trek is a testament to ensuring you prepare, plan, and maximize with the minimum resources. It was a fantastic journey and a great read.

This is the same for your investment portfolio. You have to minimize to maximize. That stock you thought would be the next Facebook now trading below $1? Launch it. One-Year Rule. That stock that is underwater? After a few years, it is a dead investment.

Why do you have that boom box in the garage? Plan to hold it over your shoulder at the next tailgate? Please get rid of it and pick up a Jawbone or Bose that is the size of your hand and sounds better. Find the next trend and invest in it. Better yet, these “new devices” play music through your phone, and cassettes are not needed. Move them out!

Look, the worst case is you are wrong. It has never happened before, right? Odds are, you will be right, though. If that boom box looks like it is coming back in style, then go to the pawn shop and buy it back. In the meantime, clean your house and maximize the value of your portfolio. Hopefully, you get the point.

Get rid of the losers and maximize the winners. Do not have any regrets in moving on. Reminisce about why you bought the stock, if you can remember, laugh at yourself, and then sell it. If you have not researched a particular stock, looked up its competitors, followed earnings, or read about the company’s management in a year, it is time to move on. It is as much a dead investment as that set of Bobby Blank DVDs sitting in your game closet.

In the investment world, we call this rule rebalancing. Getting rid of your crap does rebalance you emotionally, that is for sure. Purging is therapeutic. We always recommend that you rebalance a portfolio at least every six months, and most professionals do this even quarterly. If you run your investments, you should rebalance them at least once a year, but then again, eBay exists, so why do you not sell your stuff on it? The reality is that once a year is okay, and two years is too long. This is not to get all Zen-like on you, but rebalancing keeps your portfolio centered and within your risk tolerance guidelines.

Use the one-year rule for your life and your investments. Remember, if you have not seen, thought about, or worn something in a year, let it go.

Happy New Year and Happy Purging!

You can reach Greg Farrall at Farrall Wealth 219-246-2516 or

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Please note rebalancing investments may cause investors to incur transaction costs and when rebalancing a non-retirement account, taxable events will be created that may increase your tax liability. Rebalancing a portfolio cannot assure a profit or protect against a loss in any given market environment.

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