With investing, patience is sometimes the best strategy
Brad Pitt plays Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane in "Moneyball," a baseball film that's not really all that much about baseball. It's really about a manager who goes against the traditional tide of players who bunt; steal bases or rack up high batting averages - to favor guys who can simply get on base. Beane's novel approach sparks an all-out rebellion within the team, but then the A's start winning.
In baseball, being disciplined and playing to your strengths are key to getting to first base. Investing is very similar. It's not so much about picking a fund manager who knocks the cover off the ball year after year. It's about getting in the game, staying focused and patient, and waiting for the perfect pitch.
Here are five pointers that apply equally to retirement planning, or to baseball:
1. Step up to the plate - Make a commitment to yourself to contribute as much as you can to your retirement account. This will help you reach your long-term goal of financial independence.
2. Make the most of the opportunity - In investing, time is your friend. Use the power of regular contributions and compounded returns to build your retirement savings. If you earn an annual bonus, consider saving half.
3. Don't get distracted by your emotions - Ignore the crowd. Markets can go up and down quite a bit day-to-day or month-to-month. But historically, over longer periods of 10 or 20 years they have almost always trended upward. 
4. Look over every pitch, because they're not all the same - Even between 1999 and 2010, when the broad U.S. stock market as measured by the S&P 500 was basically flat, other asset classes such as mid-cap stocks and emerging markets stocks did pretty well. It's important to spread your investments around the field, by diversifying your sources of return (typically large cap stocks, small cap stocks, international stocks and bonds). 
5. Go against the crowd - Beane had to ignore his emotions in the face of statistics that showed that on-base percentages were the key to winning baseball games. Studies of retirement-plan participant behavior have shown that emotions have a bigger impact on success than the market's actual performance.  If you let your emotions take control, it's more likely that you'll sell your funds at the bottom and buy back in at the top (the opposite of what a sensible investor does).
Improve Your Batting Average
Unlike investing, baseball is irrational. Batters can make millions of dollars by simply successfully hitting one out of every three pitches. Batting percentages, even for professional ballplayers, would be considered a near failure in any other field of human endeavor. To stay focused on your retirement objective, consider your personal retirement batting average as the percentage of your salary you set aside each month. By investing a regular amount of your paycheck, whether it's 10%, 13% or 17%, you can improve your odds of reaching your retirement goals.
 Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.
 Although a diversified portfolio may carry less risk and smooth your returns over time, it cannot protect against market losses. International investing involves certain risks, such as currency fluctuations, economic instability and political developments. Investments in small and/or midsize companies increase the risk of greater price fluctuations. Funds that invest in bonds are subject to certain risks including interest-rate risk, credit risk and inflation risk. As interest rates rise, the prices of bonds fall. Long-term bonds are more exposed to interest-rate risk than short-term bonds. Unlike bonds, bond funds have ongoing fees and expenses. Funds that invest in government securities are not guaranteed.
 Source: Dalbar Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior (QAIB) Report 2011. Since 1994, Dalbar has studied the effects of investor decisions to buy, sell and switch into and out of mutual funds over various timeframes. The results show that the average investor earns less than market performance.
Michelle Maccio is the founder of the Maccio Financial Group. For more information, visit the company website at www.macciofg.com, or call (860) 426-1407.