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behavioral finance

The Recession Obsession

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Over the last 18 months, I have heard more, read more, and been asked more about recession than any other financial topic. Many people were scarred by the great recession of 2008, and fear similar suffering may be coming. I understand the concern, but is this recession obsession helping investors reach their financial goals, or is it inadvertently hurting portfolio returns?

Misbehavior motivated by fear of downturn is far more costly than the downturns themselves, and that includes the great recession of 2008. When it comes to investing, we are truly our own worst enemy.

The economy cycles through phases of growth, peak, recession, and trough. Then it repeats. On average, a recession comes every 5.6 years and lasts 11 months.

Too much of a good thing?
Economic positives often turn into financial imbalances that are so excessive they need to be corrected (tech stocks in 2000, housing in 2008). When balance is restored, business and people should get back to normal and economic growth will turn positive again. This makes recessions, in hindsight, like relatively small speed bumps on the economic highway.

When is our fear of recession damaging?
The recession obsession can cause investors to try to avoid losses by sitting on the sidelines. Nobody knows when the market will drop or how far it will fall. Likewise, the upward bounces catch those sitting out by surprise. That’s why the best days in the market typically follow large pullbacks.

Since 1980, investors that stayed in the market 99.9 percent of the time and missed only the best five days would have missed out on a massive 35 percent! Increase the best days missed to just ten, and returns are cut in half!

What about the best days? Since 1998, six of the ten best days occurred within two weeks of the ten worst days. Thinking you can get one while avoiding the other is not reasonable.

As we enter the 11th year of the current economic expansion, it is helpful to know that some of the strongest market increases have occurred during the late stages of the cycle.

Those who avoid the market under the pretense of protection inadvertently keep themselves from receiving that potential growth. Investors who stay fully invested through entire cycles, including recessions, experience greater growth.

The best advice I can give, for your portfolio and your sanity, is to create a financial plan that works for you. Stick to that plan and don’t worry too much about economic cycles. The financial plans we create for clients account for pullbacks, downturns, and recessions. Although every year in the market won’t be positive, your long-term outlook will be.

(Secret recession tip: After the stock market has dropped significantly, it’s usually better to buy than to sell; think of it as a long-term buying opportunity.)

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Is Your Brain Risking Your Financial Success?

By | 2019, Newsletter | No Comments

The world is full of information, yet our brains are only capable of processing a certain amount. If we had to analyze every aspect of every situation or decision, we would never get anything done. In order to cope, our brains have created shortcuts to help us make sense of things. These cognitive shortcuts – known as heuristics – are rules of thumb or educated guesses. In many cases, being approximately right is good enough. However, there are times when these shortcuts are not good. Recognizing when they are creeping into our decision-making will help us determine if they are helpful or hurtful in our current situation. This is critical when it comes to your money.

Overconfidence

While confidence is good, overconfidence exaggerates our abilities and can cause us to underestimate the risk of being wrong. For example, you may pick a stock that is growing. If the stock price continues to go up, you conclude that you have a good strategy or a natural talent. However, when the stock plummets, you distance yourself from the truth, believing it was just bad luck. An overconfident person may even repeat the same mistake over and over again.

Framing

When we have already made up our minds, we place our existing perspective on all new information that comes our way. For example, expecting a drop in the stock market, you put a negative spin on any good news. People who frame eventually get a big surprise when they find out the cost of being wrong.

Anchoring

Every one of us has experiences that form our opinions. When we anchor ourselves to these opinions, we ignore anything that doesn’t fit our views. If you lost money investing in a recession, you might conclude that the stock market is too risky. Even when presented with a better perspective of its potential growth, you may still feel like there is too much risk.

Herding

Have you ever found yourself doing something you would not do on your own? Going along with what a larger group is doing, whether those actions are rational or not, even in the face of unfavorable outcomes is known as herding. You hear that investors are selling, so you sell, or you hear they are buying, so you buy more without considering how it impacts your financial plan.

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How Emotion Drives Your Money

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Emotional Response

Financial advertisements make inflammatory statements such as “You cannot afford losses like those of the last recession” or “Making the wrong Social Security decision can cost you thousands.” These advertisers want to make us feel that we need to make changes without considering the reality of our situation.

Everything we hear or see causes an emotional reaction; good or bad. Information we hear or see hits the amygdala, the center of emotion in our brain within 12 milliseconds.

Logical Response

It takes 40 milliseconds for the same information to hit the logical part of our brain, the cortex.

By that time our emotions have hijacked our brain, and we cannot think straight. There literally is no time for rational thinking. Our minds were made up before we even realized what was happening.

Finding a Solution

Next time you find your logic being hijacked by emotion, take a step back. Think to yourself: “What if the situation I am fearing does not happen?” “What if the opposite happens and things are better than I think?”

Your financial plan is the tool we use to prepare you for market volatility and prevent emotional decisions from sidetracking you from your important financial goals. If you do not have a plan or have not recently reviewed your plan, I invite you to meet with one of our financial advisors.

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Deceitful Guise of Financial Demise

By | 2019, Money Moxie | No Comments

Grace Groner was born in Lake County, Illinois, in 1909. She was orphaned at the age of twelve. Although she lived to be 100 years old, Grace never married or had children. Most of her life was lived in a small one-bedroom cottage. She shopped at rummage sales and never owned a car. She worked her entire career as a secretary, earning a modest income.

When Grace Groner passed away in 2010, she left over $7 million dollars to a foundation established for the benefit of students at Lake Forest College. How did she become so wealthy? She invested in stocks at a young age, reinvested her dividends, and stayed invested so compounding interest could work its magic.

Richard Fuscone was an ambitious man. He received an education at Harvard and the University of Chicago. He then went on to become a vice chairman for Merrill Lynch. He was so successful in the investment industry that he retired at the age of 40 to pursue other interests.
Richard owned two homes, one of which carried a mortgage of $66,000 a month. Richard Fuscone declared bankruptcy in the same year Grace Groner donated millions to charity.
Richard had a top-shelf education and an impressive background in finance. Grace had neither. How is that possible?

The answer is behavioral finance. Financial knowledge does not prevent bad financial decisions. Richard had an expert understanding of how markets and investments work, but behavioral finance is an entirely different animal, one he did not understand.

We, as wealth managers, are often judged by our investment management. However, that is only part of our service. The financial and behavioral advice we offer can make a more significant economic impact than people realize.

We work hard to ensure sound financial decisions are made and protect against bad ones, which are not always obvious and are usually made unknowingly.

We wouldn’t suggest one live like Grace, but we certainly wouldn’t recommend one live like Richard, who might have saved millions with a behavioral financial advisor and some quality advice.

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