Jonathan Clements from the Wall Street Journal decided to don his psychologist hat and evaluate the muddled minds of investors. He discovered four mindsets that hinder people from investing intelligently.
Let’s face it, amassing a decent-size nest egg isn’t exactly rocket science. All we have to do is save regularly, buy a few low-cost mutual funds and patiently await our reward. Yet most of us scorn such humble simplicity. Instead, we are too confident and too clever.
* People buy the investments they wish they bought at some other time. As the price as an investment rises, investors should “grow leery” of the value. Instead, people jump on the bandwagon for last year’s hot stock or commodity. If it works out in the short term, the investor feels like a genius and gains confidence to make more unsafe moves.
* People want to get even. If Jack’s identically-housed neighbor sold her dwelling last year for $1 million, Jack will have a hard time settling for $800,000. “[This is] about avoiding regret. If we sell for less than we paid or less than the neighbors got, we have to admit we made a mistake, with all the associated pangs of regret.”
* People shy away from their falling investments. In some cases, falling prices represent deteriorating “underlying fundamentals.” Clements uses the example of Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS), and he believes the lower prices make them a better investment, with no damage to the fundamentals.
* People have no self-control. With the negative savings rate in the United States, we would rather spend now than put away our money and invest for the future. We convince ourselves that everything will be okay in the end. Jonathan Clements believes this may be our biggest mistake.
I can only speak for myself and say I believe I’ll be fine in the end. I’m working hard, saving money, making money in places I never thought I would be if you asked me a few years ago, finishing a master’s degree and contemplating my next steps in career and education, and always learning about investing. If I were to live like I was in 1999, spending more money on the commute alone than I was making, I would not be able to say the same.
Thanks to Jim Mahar for sharing the link.
Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published August 24, 2006.