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What summer vacation can teach us about financial security

Summer months are a popular time for taking a vacation. But in the excitement of looking forward to the actual vacation, some people may not dedicate enough time to packing and forget to bring a crucial item.

A retirement portfolio is similar to a vacation in that it also requires careful, long-term planning. But are investors making the right choices in terms of building and maintaining their nest egg?

Here are two things that vacationers and investors should remember to have at all times, and one thing that they’re best off leaving behind.

Sunscreen: For those of you headed to a tropical paradise, sunscreen is an absolute must. There’s nothing worse than spending your entire vacation on an exotic beach only to return home with excruciating sunburns.

Investors can also avoid getting burned by a bad investment by applying a bit of sunscreen to their portfolio. You should talk to your financial advisor about making sure your portfolio isn’t overexposed to any particular asset class or market. Proper diversification can potentially offset market bursts.

Reading material: One of the most underrated—and often overlooked—items on the packing list is a good book. Vacations are a great time to catch up on your reading, whether it’s a recommendation from a friend or something you’ve been meaning to read for work. (Here is a list of 10 summer books from Publishers Weekly to get you started). Rest and relaxation may be the reason for your vacation, but keeping your mind active is important, too, if you want to stay productive when you get back to work.

Smart financial management requires the same approach. The markets are constantly changing, and, while much of the movement is just noise, it’s always useful to keep an eye on any long-term trends that may have a significant impact on your portfolio. For example, investment experts, business executives and economists are in general agreement that interest rates will rise at some point, which could affect the fixed income portion of your portfolio. (For more details on the projected rate hike, check out this piece from Greg Robb at MarketWatch). By staying up to date, you can increase your chances of a positive outcome for your retirement plans.

Technology: A vacation is also a good time to disconnect yourself from technology. Even the most seasoned business professionals can get worn down from obsessively checking their email every few minutes; it’s not really a vacation if you have to work the entire time. So for once try to leave your computers, tablets, smartphones and other gadgets at home — you’ll thank yourself later.

Getting too attached to your investment portfolio can be dangerous, too. Some investors like to check on the status of their holdings on a daily basis, just to see if they’ve made or lost money. But this obsessive behavior can lead to a short-sighted decision if an investor decides that he or she has suddenly lost too much. (Ken Little at About.com recently shared his tips on how often long-term investors should check stock prices). Talk to your advisor if you have legitimate concerns about your portfolio, but distancing yourself from day-to-day fluctuations can help avoid any unnecessary panic.