JUMPING ON THINGS THAT SUPPORT YOUR ARGUMENT AND IGNORING THINGS THAT DON'T
People who make bad money decisions can often rationalise them. They will jump on anything that supports their argument, and ignoring everything that doesn’t. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say when it comes to money, some of us have an astounding ability to lie to ourselves.
These arguments are often elaborate short-term excuses that we use to justify behaviour that runs counter to our own long-term interests.
Here are 10 of my favourites:
1. "I just want to wait till things become clearer."
It's understandable to feel unnerved by volatile markets. But waiting for volatility to "clear" before investing often results in missing the return that goes with the risk. There always seems to be something to worry about.
2. "I just can't take the risk anymore."
By focusing exclusively on the risk of losing money and paying a premium for safety, we can end up with insufficient funds to retire on. Avoiding risk also means missing the upside.
3. "I want to live today. Tomorrow can look after itself."
Often used to justify a reckless purchase. It's not either-or. You can live today AND mind your savings. You just need to keep to your budget.
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.
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 the newspaper 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 arm chair 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 out independent advice from someone who understands your needs and your circumstances and who keeps you to the promises you made to yourself in your most lucid moments.
Call it the 'no more excuses' strategy.
This article was produced with the assistance of Dimensional Fund Advisers