This is my third year playing fantasy football so I am no longer a novice.  When I finished second to last my first year, no one took notice because they figured I was a rookie and of course, a girl who doesn’t know anything.  They were right.  Last year in a complete surprise to everyone, especially me and especially to my husband, I took first place.  A big shout out in thanks to Sebastian Jankowski the kicker for the Oakland Raiders, who if you looked at the points he brought in, you’d have thought he was a running back, and to my quarterback Jay Cutler Chicago Bears who had a great season last year.  This is a new season with new challenges, and once again I am holding my own and enjoying playing in my family league.  Truthfully, I like to play to stay connected with family and friends, and I have to admit that I love to “trash talk.”

Last week as I was checking my team for injuries and to make sure all of my wide receivers didn’t have a “bye” this week, it occurred to me the same things that make you a good fantasy football manager, make you a good investor.  So if you are a first rate fantasy player, you may just be a money maker.  Here are some of the “crossover” skills and how they apply to investing:

1. If you don’t know what you are doing – let the experts pick.  In fantasy football, I have no idea who to pick and in what order. Since my husband and sons are in the league as competitors, they not only don’t help me, but I fear they feed me misinformation.  So I am on my own and this year, I watched the draft and let the experts pick for me.  Investing is the same way.  The individual investor is often wrong – buying right before the drop and selling right before the rebound.

A recent study by Fidelity Investments showed investors who moved to cash in 2008, ended up with a 2% return by the end of the following year and investors who stayed the course with their funds ended up with 100% returns.   Investors can choose a variety of types of accounts that are managed such as Target Date funds – aimed at your retirement date this type of fund starts out aggressive and becomes more conservative as it glides toward that date, Pre-mixed funds or Asset allocation funds—the manager invests based on your risk tolerance, or Balanced funds – the manager generally will have half in stocks and half in bonds and cash.  For higher account balances, your financial planner sets you up with a money manager who invests based on your individual needs.

2. Get another opinion (and not misinformation).  Let’s face it, if a player is
still available after the draft, then it means to me that no one wanted the guy.  But when I have injuries on my roster, I have to go in and pick up some available players on waivers.  Since I don’t know what I am doing, I use the Yahoo fan points to see what other managers think of this guy.  I also consult the “Bleachers” report that Yahoo sends out.  In other words, I send out feelers to see what the trends are on a player before I make a decision – at least it is somewhat educated.  (Since my husband and sons won’t give me a straight story on anyone.)

With investing, there are many ways to get a second opinion on an investment or mutual fund.  The best is to ask an unbiased expert.  Check your workplace to see what services you have.  If you have a financial helpline or an Ask a Planner service, you can pass an idea by a Certified Financial Planner™ professional who can give you an unbiased opinion on your investment or strategy.  Another unbiased source of information is Morningstar investors and the Motley Fools.  Smart Money and Kiplinger also put out some very good annual mutual fund issues which rank mutual funds.

3. Check your stats (and investments) regularly.  There is nothing worse than forgetting to check your team, only to find after the game has started that your best running back is injured and not playing.  I read that average fantasy football player spends nine hours per week working their team.  I can totally see that, not because I do it but I live with a sports fanatic who has to watch the pre-game, then the game with both the TV on and the radio (who knows why!), and then watches the wrap ups.  I always think to myself, “Didn’t we just watch the game?  Do we really need to watch the highlights and get the commentary for the game we just watched?”  I will never understand that.  But I personally spend about an hour a week working on my team.  Wont’ work without that minimum time commitment.

Investing is the same way.  Investors who spend at least an hour a week checking their investments or simply reading about personal finance, investing and the economy, will stay on top of trends (this blog counts!).  This does not always mean making changes and moving your money every week – quite the contrary.  It does mean educating yourself on finance – even if it is just the basics.  Having a solid base of knowledge helps investors to dismiss the “noise” and be able to discern the important information.

Some personal finance sources I like are:

The Wall St Journal Personal Finance

Investing 101 by Kathy Kristoff

Smart Money Personal Finance

The Motley Fool

Some people take to finances easier than others.  I met a sweet lady today at an Ask a Planner meeting who really had absolutely no idea what investments she had in her 401(k).  She isn’t a finance person at all.  When I brought up the idea of reading about finance an hour a week, at first she was hesitant because she’d rather read about literature than finance.  But it made sense to her that she had a knowledge gap, and needed to know enough to make good decisions and to keep her from making bad ones.  She did have #2 down and we got her set up on #1.  I think she’ll end up doing just fine.