To me, the fruits of investing sometimes seem ephemeral. Even income investors subconsciously cheer on capital gains, but much of our wealth is on loan to the whims of the stock market. One bad day can wipe out years of steady gains, and a good day of green may barely offset years of decline in a stocks fortune. While progress can be tracked by measuring your increase in dividend income year over year, this process can be agonizingly slow. In the beginning, your annual increases are huge in terms of percentage since relatively small amounts of money have been committed so far, but the actual dollar amount increase is also relatively low. Then once your investing accounts grow larger, it becomes harder to move the needle on your results. The absolute dividends collected become greater, but the percentage point increases grow smaller by the month. One can become mad watching your dividends collected grow over time, while waiting for the hopefully inevitable day they become large enough to make a material difference in your financial life. The danger is in becoming discouraged before that day, and losing sight of your long term goals.
So what is an investor to do in the meantime? For me, I like to make sure at least some of my dividends are sent to me in a good, old fashion paper check. Instead of automatically reinvesting my dividends from stocks held at Computershare, when I opened my accounts I elected to take my dividend funds by check every quarter. Receiving a paper check may harken back to more archaic times, but it is tangible way to feel the rewards of your investing. Right at the beginning, you must wait for the check to arrive in the mail like a letter. Instead of a digital entry in a brokerage account, a piece of paper is delivered to you stating exactly how much you earned this quarter for putting a portion your capital at risk. The company logo is typically on the check too, which lets you see exactly which firm has sent you fresh investment capital. Then, in order to receive the cash benefits of your reward, you have to do even more steps. At the very minimum, you must open up your phone and manually deposit your check into your checking account via your banking app. If you're easily bored, like me, you drive to the bank on the way to run other errands and hand it over to the teller. Then, one to two business days later, the funds clear, and you finally have your cash ready to use however you wish. This may be slower, less efficient, and give you a few days less where the money is unavailable to you. However, this simple act of taking some dividends by check makes the investing process slightly more real and tangible. The hope is when the results become tangible, it becomes easier to stick with your goals and not lose sight of the long term. In an age with instant updates on nearly every piece of investing information, focus on the long term can be lost far too quickly.