We work hard for our money, yet seem to work harder deceiving ourselves when scrutinizing our financial decisions (Does anyone else have Donna Summer’s voice in their head now?).
We justify our financial fears rather than trying to identify the root causes, comforted by our litany of excuses. These personal mantras are repeated, bringing short-term comfort while validating our behaviour. The result is decision making which may very well be working in direct opposition to our long term goals.
1. "I just want to wait till things settle down a bit"
Volatility, or the ups and downs of the financial markets, understandably cause nervousness. However waiting for markets to “settle down” will often mean missed returns that are generated by this volatility.
2. "I just can't take the risk anymore"
By focusing exclusively on the downside of risk, ie of losing money, returns are foregone for the perceived safety of a single institution meaning short and long term needs and goals may not be met.
3. "I live in the now. I have plenty of time to save for __________ “
The impetuous decision to buy that big ticket item. Think it through, it may not be either-or, perhaps with a minor tweak here or there you can have the item now and stay on track to reach your goals.
4. "I don't care about capital gain. I just need the income"
Income is fine. But making income your sole focus can lead you down dangerous roads. Just ask anyone who invested in collateralised debt obligations.
5. "I want to get some of those losses back"
It's human nature to be emotionally attached to past bets, even the losing ones. But as the song says, you have to know when to fold 'em (I promise I’m not going to release a top 10 favourite songs inspired by this article!).
6. "But this stock/fund/strategy has been good to me"
We all have a tendency to hold on to winners too long. But without disciplined rebalancing, your portfolio can end up carrying much more risk than you bargained for.
7. "But I read an article that said..."
Investing by the headlines is like dressing based on yesterday's weather report. The news might be accurate, but the market usually has already reacted and moved on to worrying about something else.
8. "The guy at the bar/my uncle/my boss told me..."
The world is full of experts, many of them recycling stuff they've heard elsewhere. But even if their tips are right, this kind of advice rarely takes account of your circumstances.
9. "I just want certainty"
Wanting confidence in your investments is fine. But certainty? You can spend a lot of money trying to insure yourself against every possible outcome. It's cheaper to diversify.
10. "I'm too busy to think about this"
We often try to control things we can't change – like market and media noise - and neglect areas where our actions can make a difference – like costs. That's worth the effort.
Given how easy it is to pull the wool over our own eyes, it pays to seek independent advice. Look for someone who will take the time to understand your needs and circumstances. A good adviser can hold you to convictions made in your most lucid moments.