Investor vs. Investments

In a Walk Kelly comic strip there was a possum named Pogo, and in the 1971 Earth Day posting Pogo uttered the philosophical revelation; “We have met the enemy and he is us”.  Nowhere is this time-tested tale more evident than in watching investor behaviors.  Observe that I did NOT say it was evident in studying or looking at investments, but rather in investor behaviors.

As our clients are well aware of our dislike for how the financial services industry operates.  On average, we think it’s products are bad, it’s advice shallow, it’s fees too high, and it’s performance too low.  Yes, we try very hard to do it differently on all of those fronts, but that’s not our point here.  Our point is that we could ignore all those challenges, and use ‘middle-of-the-road’ performance investment products and would STILL have you do better than the vast majority of people by successfully managing your emotions and biases.

Look at the Image above.  Because of the explosion in data, computing power, disclosures, services, and financial products over the past 50 years, there have been new and significant advances in the financial services industry.  Unfortunately, what has NOT advanced during this time is investor behavior.  Routinely, investors not only underperform the market, but they underperform their own investments.  You will note that in this randomly chosen 20-year return slides lists large companies (domestic / international), bond indices, and even commodities, and all their returns are 6-8% on average.  However, look on the far right side and you’ll see something really surprising; the investor in those investments underperformed the broad market index by about 40% over 20-year periods!

There is no data to say you can pick the right stocks, or time precisely when it’s good or bad to get into stocks.  It’s beyond the scope of this writing, but you know you also can’t control the market.  What you can control, however, is how you act.  One of our main jobs is to help you act the right way.  Some fairly well-known people (Warren Buffett) think the stock market is going higher, and I could find just as many who think it is going lower.

Let me close with this quote from Peter Lynch: “Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections, or trying to anticipate corrections, than has been lost in corrections themselves.”