If you don’t track your investing, you should not be investing.

Detailing and tracking your investments enables you to do two important things:

  1. Measure your success; and
  2. Make improvements

Measure your success

Tracking your progress is vital because if you can’t beat the market – buy an index fund, ETF or get expert advice to outsource your stock picking.

Indeed, if you cannot outperform the market over, say, three years it’s imperative you consider outsourcing your stock picking. For example, it costs 0.07% to own the iShares S&P 500 ETF (ASX: IVV) and it’s returned an average of 20.91% over five years and 7.65% over 10 years.

That’s right, for all those 200-page annual reports and sleepless nights; you could’ve just spent 0.07% (probably less than you spent on buying and selling shares) and taken your 20% return each year. Of course, there’s no guarantee that’ll happen again – but you never know!

Make improvements

2015 was the worst year for my personal share portfolio. My portfolio returned 8.05%, which I consider very lacklustre. Of course, it outdid the market by around 5.7%, but I made some mistakes that cost me dearly. Maybe I should buy the S&P 500 ETF! Believe me, I’m considering it — I already own a couple ETFs in my family’s portfolio.

Source: Sharesight

Source: Sharesight

My portfolio was brought down by a few terrible investment decisions. I can only say this because I tracked my portfolio. G8 Education Ltd (ASX: GEM) was a mistake. I was myopic and made an emotional sell decision with the losses of Slater & Gordon (see below) fresh in my memory. My warrants on Computershare Limited (ASX: CPU) cost me dearly, so too did my Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd (ASX: CCL) warrants. Accounting for most of the losses, however, was Senex Energy Ltd (ASX: SXY). Like my investment in Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) before it, my returns were walloped by plunging commodity prices — yet again. All investments considered, my losses on Senex Energy accounted for 38% of my capital losses, which I think says as much for my capital allocation as it does my stock research.

Slater & Gordon Limited (ASX: SGH) was the biggest wealth destroyer for my family’s portfolio, falling 87% for the year. Fortunately, I didn’t stick around to experience the full 87% collapse. Even still, it was painful for more reasons than the dollar value.

One of my key takeaways from my experience with G8 Education and Slater & Gordon is that I now believe I should avoid investing in services that do not add much value when corporatised. For example, does a law firm or childcare centre become meaningfully more valuable when it’s combined with one, two or three others? A year ago, I thought it did.

Woolworths Limited (ASX: WOW) was also a downer. I’m starting to think I overestimated its ability to turn its fortunes around after years of managerial complacency.

Spilt milk

I wouldn’t be an investor if I didn’t cry over spilt milk and contemplate the ‘what-ifs’. I made a capital gain on shares of Netcomm Wireless Ltd (ASX: NTC) in early 2015 when I sold out for 55 cents after buying at 42 cents. Eight months later and Netcomm is trading at $2.93 – 600% more than the price I sold it at.

4 investing resolutions for 2016

In the year ahead, I’ve decided to make four resolutions:

  1. Invest more overseas, especially in US markets.
  2. Focus on investing regularly, before bills, dinners and all other monthly expenses. Whether it’s $20 or $20,000 it doesn’t matter – every bit counts.
  3. Invest in myself. I recently took the plunge to make myself a level I Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) candidate (wish me luck!), but reading more investing books from greats like Buffett, Lynch and Munger is important; and mastering my behaviour is imperative. I also need to teach myself to avoid investing envy.
  4. Stay WITHIN my circle of competence, including avoiding resources stocks.

Foolish takeaway

My investing experience of 2015 has been one of learning. Indeed, my investing performance was (meaningfully) below my annual average. However, I’d much rather learn these lessons now, with more time and less capital at play, then 10 or 20 years from now.

Here’s to a happy and profitable 2016!

Our BEST dividend stock idea

The Motley Fool has just issued a brand-new report, complete with all the details on our expert analysts' #1 dividend stock for 2016 - and I think it is a GREAT buy! Simply, click here now for your FREE copy, including the name and code! No credit card details or payment required.

HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Motley Fool’s #1 Dividend Pick for 2017!

With its shares up 155% in just the last five years, this ‘under the radar’ consumer favourite is both a hot growth stock AND our expert’s #1 dividend pick for 2017. Now we’re pulling back the curtain for you... And all you have to do to discover the name, code and a full analysis is enter your email below!

Simply enter your email now to receive your copy of our brand-new FREE report, “The Motley Fool’s Top Dividend Stock for 2017.”

By clicking this button, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. We will use your email address only to keep you informed about updates to our website and about other products and services we think might interest you. You can unsubscribe from Take Stock at anytime. Please refer to our https://www.fool.com.au/financial-services-guide">Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information.

Motley Fool writer/analyst Owen Raszkiewicz owns shares of Slater &  Gordon and Computershare, and has a financial interest in G8 Education, Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd and Woolworths.

Owen welcomes your feedback on Google plus (see below), LinkedIn or you can follow him on Twitter @ASXinvest.

Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of Computershare. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.