Passion. We almost always see it in a positive light. It’s an admirable trait, the driving force that brings us closer to our hopes and dreams, something that compels us—romantically or otherwise. But when it comes to investing, there’s real power in being dispassionate. However, it’s much easier said than done.
Just like the general news media, purveyors of financial information are trading on passion. Journalists know that people are more likely to listen, watch, or read (a real challenge in a world plagued by seven-second attention spans) when there’s something at stake—especially if that something is their money. The axiom holds true: if it bleeds, it leads.
Think about it. Are you more likely to buy a newspaper with a headline that reads, “Everything’s fine” or one screaming “THE END IS NEAR!!”?
Ultimately, though—at least as far as financial reporting goes—99 times out of 100 everything is fine. And even when it’s not, it’s rarely as bad as what the media leads the public to believe. And therein lies the problem: for investors, that media-generated passion often leads to panic.
So, what does the average investor do? They ignore every financial rule in the book including buy low, sell high and that which goes down comes back up. Rather than holding out when things get a bit hairy and prices start to drop, the panicked investor scrambles to get out with the rest of the crowd.
It’s one thing if they’re still working. In that case, they can eventually refuel with funds from future paychecks. Retirees end up facing a much darker scenario. When they make passion-driven plays, there’s a lot more risk involved; they can’t just put back what they’ve let go. But it’s the logistics of their current situation that often creates the issue: the combination of too much time and money on one’s hands quickly leads to less of both.
So, how do you make it through with your sanity—and your savings—intact? The secret is to actually be a little less passionate in your approach— dispassionate, even. How do you do that? There are a few options. The first is to simply turn off your TV, get offline, or use that newspaper as lining for your birdcage. The second is to become familiar with market cycles, which serve as far more logical—and less fear-driven—indicators of where we are and where the market is heading (for a quick overview, click here). And the third is to get someone to do it for you—a bonafide professional with years of experience navigating ups and downs, someone who can be the voice of reason regardless of what the talking heads are saying. While these options certainly provide less of a thrill than today’s twenty-four hour news cycle, I can promise you that all of them are better than falling prey to it.