Monthly Market Insights: Control the Controllables

By Ankur Patel

After stormy conditions last month, April showers really did bring May flowers, with the S&P 500 ending the month up 5% and the Nasdaq up 7%. The primary driver? A lower inflation reading for April and continued earnings growth that propelled markets higher. Lower Treasury yields also helped buoy markets after fears of the 10-year Treasury hitting 5% abated.  

Although May was a positive month for the markets, it was chock-full of distractions that have easily diverted investors’ attention. We witnessed the resurgence of meme stocks, speculation around more crypto ETFs — ‌are we back in 2021? — and the revival of outdated market adages like “sell in May and go away.” And amid all the noise, Nvidia reported another stellar quarter of earnings.

Cutting through the noise

With so many demands for attention, how can investors know what to focus on? At Ellevest, we believe that the most effective way to keep on track when investing is to focus on what you can control — and not worry about what you can’t. 

Here are a few areas to keep top of mind when distractions get in the way.

Risk and return

While Nvidia's impressive earnings are noteworthy, obsessing over individual stocks can become a distraction. Remember, Nvidia now accounts for over 6% of the overall US stock market (S&P 500). If you own broad market funds, you likely already have exposure to the company. Before adding more, consider how much risk you're willing to take and how it fits into your overall portfolio strategy. Especially considering it may not be as sure of a thing in the long run as it seems.

Instead, focus your efforts on things you can control, like how much risk you're taking and how you’re managing that risk on an ongoing basis for your entire portfolio. Doing this will ensure you’re leveraging the full potential of all your assets versus a smaller investment that, even if works, doesn’t contribute significantly to your overall portfolio growth.

As a starting point, knowing your goals can help determine how much growth or income you might need. From there, here are a few tips on how to control for risk:

  • Asset allocation: Manage the mix of stocks, bonds, alternatives, and cash that you own. This mix is the primary driver of the long-term risk/return profile of your portfolio.

  • Diversification: Diversify properly within those asset classes and across various risk factors — liquidity, credit, sectors and regions, duration, etc.

  • Regularly invest excess cash and rebalance: These actions may seem small in the short term but can impact risk and potentially add significant value over the long term.


The urge to jump into meme stocks or the latest hot investment trend can be tempting but ultimately costly. Short-term trading rarely works and can detract from your long-term returns. Even the pros can’t consistently get this right.

Instead, focus on lowering your costs. Depending on the investment, there can be management fees, admin and/or custody fees, commissions, performance fees … you get the point. Costs can be a significant detractor to your returns and make a real difference over the long term. For example, using ETFs or index-based investing in public markets is a good way to be efficient. But if you’re paying high fees, just make sure it’s worth it — like in private markets where higher fees may lead to better returns or lower risk (or both).


Since crypto has started making a comeback, it’s reminded me of how important it is to think about taxes. Taxes end up being another significant detractor of returns over the long term, if not managed properly. As far as crypto goes, if you sell crypto in less than a year, it'll be taxed at full ordinary income rates. Or if you think instead of selling your bitcoin you’ll use it to buy something in the future without being taxed — think again. Even though crypto is marketed as a currency, the IRS will still treat spending crypto for purchases as a sale and tax you at capital gains rates.  

Minimizing taxes should be a part of every investor's strategy. Techniques like tax loss harvesting and asset location can help reduce current and future tax bills, adding meaningful value to your overall wealth over the long term.

In today's world, distractions are everywhere, but dwelling on them can be counterproductive. Control what you can control, and let your investments do the rest.

To learn more about Ellevest and how we help our clients build their wealth with a values-aligned investment strategy, you can schedule a call with us here.


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Ankur Patel

Ankur is a CFA® charterholder with more than 15 years of experience working in investment and wealth management. As Vice President of Ellevest Private Wealth Investments, Ankur partners with our financial advisors to build and implement portfolios for our private wealth clients.