Golfers should be better investors… while investors need to introduce themselves to some basic education
by Steve SelengutMr. Selengut is a private investor and a regular contributor to Advisor Magazine. He is the author of the book ‘The Brainwashing of the American Investor: The book that Wall Street does not want you to read.’ He can be reached at [email protected] Visit him here.
Editor’s note: This is Part II in a four part series, originally published by the author in 2009, just as the markets (both income and equity) began their recovery from “the financial crisis” correction. As is so often the case in life, and in finance as well… past is prologue.
You knew it the moment it left the club, that spark at contact when you catch it just right. You look up. It’s just reaching the top of its climb— and heading down right at the pin, a pin positioned left of center on the elevated green, much too close to the water. This could be the one! Four mouths hang open, not a sound. Then whack, the ball strikes low on the stick and disappears; the pin wobbles; the ball is nowhere to be seen—
Moe and Curley are certain it dropped into the hole as they hurry their tee shots and rush to their cart. “My buddy Stan holed out like that at Disney a few years ago”, you hear, as they search the cooler for four cold brewskis.
Larry isn’t ready to slap you on the back yet. “With my luck”, he says, “the ball would go dead left, down the hill and into the water”. He calmly puts his tee shot on the green, far to the right of the pin— about where you were really aiming. What are your expectations? What scenario fits your game today?
If it weren’t for optimism…
If it weren’t for optimism, few of us would continue to be golfers. The perfectly struck ball can encounter a myriad of obstacles on its way to your target. Experienced golfers expect some adversity, even when they are playing well. For most of us, it only takes one or two good shots to keep us coming back.
High handicappers shout “golfshot”— as one word, when they think one of those has occurred.
Similarly, if not for optimism, few investors would have the courage to take advantage of the hundreds of opportunities that are created every time the financial markets hit the wall and tumble down Canal Street into the Hudson.
Are you headed for an ace or a double bogey, a nice solid profit or another disappointment? The decisions we make at the highs and lows of our experience are the most significant, always. Were you selling or buying six months ago— eighteen months ago?
Just as Moe and Curley are certain the ball is in the cup as they rush to the green, many independent financial pros were certain that the markets would rebound throughout what seemed like twenty rounds without a single par.
After months of hazards, tree roots, hardpan, lip outs, and high winds in their faces, investors are experiencing a string of “gimmie” birdies— in the form of a robust rally. Once again, Investment Grade Value Stocks and income producing closed end funds are leading the way.
Were you selling or buying six months ago— eighteen months ago?
Being optimistic is critical for long-term investment success. When things don’t seem to be just right, ratcheting-up your focus on basic principles, fundamentals, and the cyclical realities of the playing field is the type of practice session that gets those security (and club) selections back on track.
Optimism needs to be controlled or it morphs into speculation— and speculation breeds both losses and snowmen. Most investors miss the early hours of the new party because their gurus don’t think it will be much fun. Eventually, market cycles repeat; with practice, so will your swing. Don’t forget to leave the party before midnight, pumpkin. Remaining focused on the QDI rules you’ve developed for your investment program, and the few swing thoughts that fine-tune your pre-shot routine, bridles the optimism and allows you to focus on the major hazards that could keep you from goal achievement.
In both golf and investing, too much thinking about too many inputs from too many experts is as bad for the game plan as simply doing the things that haven’t worked over and over again. The key to attaining and maintaining a satisfying skill level is to understand what it is that you should practice. You’re not going to three-putt less often by complaining about it. Find someone who rarely three-putts and ask for help. Focus on how things work, and you’ll formulate more accurate expectations.
An Investment ‘Mulligan’?
It’s easier and less expensive for golfers to practice than for investors and there’s a whole lot less at stake, financially. But practice means more than loosening up on the range and stroking a few putts before moving on to the “breakfast ball” or “Mulligan” that often describes your opening tee shot. Practice means addressing the problem areas of your last effort before the next one. You need to be confident that you have it right so you can focus on the new challenges of today’s pin placements.
Investment practice sessions are different, and I’ve learned that investors are more stubborn, lazy, impatient, and fickle than golfers. Both crave shortcuts to success and gadgets that will instantly improve their performance. But few investors are able to bring their focused course management skills to the long-term financial playing field.
Golfers will spend thousands on instruction, gadgets, machines, clinics, magazines, lessons, drivers, and putters. Investors love the gimmicks, shortcuts, and expert recommendations, but they seem allergic to anything really educational. They see it as a sign of weakness.
Golfers should be better investors. Investors need to introduce themselves to some basic education.