The Bad Bet Trifecta


Let us briefly summarize the three most common sentiments that investors experience.  They manifest themselves in utterings like;

  1. With the world in such miserable shape due to (insert name) crisis, and the market down by 28%, I think the bottom is falling out. We need to sell and protect the little bit we have left.
  2. The market is doing so well lately that it simply cannot last. It has to crash.  Should we get out now?
  3. Look at how much money everyone is making these days. We have to get into (pick one; (a) real estate, (b) US stocks, (c) gold, (d) anything else that has recently been hot compared to its peers).  We’re being left behind and look like chumps.

Of all the sucker bets in the world, the above trifecta has cost investors trillions of dollars and ruined the hopes and dreams of many a family.

The issue is not whether worry or greed are common emotions, but whether these primal tendencies serve investors well.  We’re sure you can empathize with these sentiments, and possibly fell prey to them yourself at some point in your past.  The bigger problem is not that you emote these feelings (that’s natural), but that everyone around you is shouting them as inevitable fact.  If you didn’t feel or hear them in 2007-2008, you were either dead or on really good drugs.

Forbes magazine recently published an article called “5 Costly Emotional Mistakes Investors Make in Wall Street”.  In it, they disclose;

“The harmful effects of these five forms of investment behavior are well documented in behavioral finance literature. According to a study of 66,465 households possessing accounts with discount brokers for the period 1991–1996 (a bullish market), those who traded frequently earned 11.4 percent return, while the overall market gained 17.9 percent.  …. The bottom line: Investing with emotions can be harmful to your portfolio.”  (Forbes magazine, May 27, 2013, Panos Mourdoukoutas).

The antidote to the above is faith.  That word is most often heard in religious circles but we assure you it has a grotto named after it in the investor realms as well.  Faith is one of the three aspects of investor behavior that is imperative to financial success (Yes, we’ll cover the other two in future writings).  But, just like religious faith, it is sometimes very hard to hold in challenging times.  Still, we are rewarded for it if we stay the course.

Keep fighting the good fight.  Stay the course.  Let fear and greed be emotions you recognize yet overcome by being convinced of a better tomorrow by avoiding them.