RP: The financial media likes to make investing seem exciting. But, in fact, successful investing isn’t particularly exciting at all. Allan Roth is an adviser and investment writer based in Colorado. Why, I started by asking him, do so many people seem to seek excitement in investing?
AR: Well, I think there’s a couple of reasons. Number one: human nature wants excitement, doesn’t want boring. And we want to feel like we’re in control, like we know what’s going to happen. And then two: the industry doesn’t make a whole lot of money off of people buying the broadest market cap - as I call it, dumb beta - that really works, type of funds. So, the industry uses our emotions against us.
RP: What, then, does Allan make of investment magazines and newspaper money sections. The messages they put out are often very appealing and difficult to ignore.
AR: Yes, absolutely. And by the way, I really got my start writing for Money Magazine. I wrote an undercover column called The Mole, which was an inside look at my industry. But of course, no-one’s going to buy a magazine that says minimize expenses and emotions, maximise diversification and discipline, understand that we don’t know the future, rebalance, etc. I wouldn’t buy that magazine.
RP: Simply put, the financial media needs to entertain to generate income and sales. If you can’t see it as entertainment, you might just want to ignore it.
AR: So my advice is to try to ignore all of that. Whenever you see a prediction, ask yourself: "Do they know something that the market doesn’t already know?" Everyone said: oh my gosh! Bond bubble. Interest rates were going up. The Fed’s going to increase rates. And guess what? The Fed increased rates (the overnight rate, in the US) and bond rates went down. Because that information was already priced into the market. The more you think you know what’s going to happen, the more likely you’re following the herd.
RP: Interestingly, Allan admits he does allow himself just a little entertainment as an investor. Alongside his index fund portfolio, he buys no more than two stocks a year.
AR: It exercises a piece of my brain that wants to have a little fun. Because the index funds are incredibly dull and boring. And I set rules on my gambling fund portfolio. So it’s okay to do that as long as you have rules.
RP: So, remember: investing isn’t supposed to be exciting. If it is, you probably aren’t doing it right.
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