The investing world can be a scary place. It can also be exciting. At times, it can seem like there’s nothing to it, and at other times it can seem like the most complicated thing you’ve ever done. All of the thoughts and emotions that are part of investing are enhanced because, after all, you are putting your money and your financial future at risk.
Risk and reward go hand in hand when you invest. You can be very conservative and not subject your investments to much risk, but then you are not going to get much in the way of return on your investment dollars. Or you can take a lot of risk, looking for the proverbial home run. That approach can lead to stellar returns, or it can lead to distressing losses.
So what is your strategy when it comes to investing your portfolio? Are you actively looking for that one piece of information that will give you the edge you need to catch the next wave of increasing prices of your favorite tech stock? Or maybe you suffer from “paralysis by analysis,” overwhelmed by the information flow and its potential impact on your portfolio? (For related reading, see: Information Overload: How It Hurts Investors.)
There is no shortage of investment strategies you can follow. In fact, just this morning we learned of a new strategy. A financial podcast that we listen to discussed a strategy that will buy or sell a company’s stock based on the tweets from our tweeter-in-chief, President Donald Trump. If he tweets a positive comment about a company, they will buy the stock, if it’s a negative tweet, they will sell it. Sounds crazy, right? But there are thousands of money managers in the investment world, and thousands of different strategies they use to try to get their edge.
When it comes to investing for the financial future we can’t, and won’t, play games like that. We follow a very disciplined approach to investing, based on a Nobel Prize-winning academic strategy that focuses on controlling what we can control. And we are smart enough to know that we can’t control the markets. This article is the first in a series that will explain our approach and the science behind it.
The First Step to Successful Investing: Humility
The first building block in the science behind this investment philosophy is the need to embrace market pricing. While that sounds a little complicated, it’s really not at all. It simply means that the financial markets are very efficient and that all of the information available on a particular stock, bond or other investment is reflected in the current price. Millions of investors around the world buy and sell investments every day, and the information they bring to the markets helps to set prices. When some new information affecting an investment comes out, it is immediately factored into the price of that investment.
Let's use the price of Apple stock as an example. If Apple is coming out with a new iPhone soon, you know about it, we know about it, and millions of people around the world know about it. There is no way to profit from any kind of information edge that you might think exists, even if it is only temporary. That’s why it’s not a good idea to run out and buy Apple stock when you hear the news. Years ago, there may have been some pieces of information that took time to work through the markets, but with today’s technology, that time gap has disappeared. Many of us have alerts on our smartphones that let us know in real time when some important news has been released. (For related reading, see: How the Internet Has Changed Investing.)
So the first step in putting an evidence-based strategy into action involves being humble enough to know that we don’t know more than the market. In our next posts we'll cover several more steps to fully build out this disciplined investing strategy.
(For more from this author, see: A Financial Lesson Teachers Should Learn.)