Nearly one third (31 percent) of investors said they would rather spend an hour sitting in traffic rather than rebalancing their portfolios, according to a recent study from Wells Fargo.

Many investors’ natural “wait-and-see” tendencies could be hindering investment return over time, according to a new report by Brent Leadbetter, John West and Amie Ko at Research Affiliates. In their report, the Research Affiliates cited the Wells Fargo study about investors' inertia as evidence that ordinary individuals, left to their own devices, could harm themselves.

Systemically rebalancing investment portfolios in a timely manner can help keep clients on the road to achieving their financial goals -- improving long-term risk-adjusted returns and investment outcomes.  For example, as if June 30, a portfolio with a 60/40 allocation of stocks and bonds, respectively, would have expected volatility of 8.6 percent, compared with volatility of 11.4 percent, a 30 percent increase, for an 80/20 portfolio, Research Affiliates said. Regular rebalancing can help investors maintain risk exposure that matches their tolerance, it added.

One problem: Most investors would rather be in bumper-to-bumper traffic rather than face-to-face with their portfolios, Research Affiliates said. This could be because traffic is a routine occurrence where drivers can passively spend the time listening to the radio, podcasts, or audiobooks.

Rebalancing requires investors to actively engage with their investments. They are forced to endure the highly emotional task of buying more assets that may have under-performed and selling assets that have proven to be winners in the recent past, the report said.

Maintaining a disciplined approach when rebalancing is key to staying on track. Financial advisors can help investors overcome their behavioral barriers by adopting a systematic rebalancing approach, the study found.

Advisors can first help clients to identify their limiting financial behaviors, the report said. Next, enacting a rules-based rebalancing framework, free of emotion and subjectivity, will create clear guidelines for investors. By “institutionalizing contrarian investment behavior,” advisors can dramatically increase the likelihood that their clients will receive the benefits of rebalancing, the study suggests.