As individual investors, we are commonly drawn to what is going on in the market. Often, the things that draw us in are engineered to make us react. In doing so, we can often come up with reasons why we should buy or sell. When asked to explain our reasoning it is often a ‘gut feeling’ we have.
And, when it comes to your finances, “going with your gut” might not be the wisest adage to follow. In fact, it may work against you, particularly in periods of market turbulence. Before jumping to conclusions about your finances, consider what biases may be at work beneath your conscious radar.
Recency bias refers to the tendency for recent events to have a stronger influence on your decisions than more distant events. For example, when the market was in the midst of an 11-year bull run, you may have increased your investments in equities, hoping to take advantage of any further gains. By contrast, if you participated in the significant decline of equity markets during the past several weeks, you may be hesitant to stay the course or make prudent decisions like rebalancing back to stocks. Consider that neither of these perspectives may be entirely rational given that investment decisions should be based on your individual goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance.
Loss-aversion bias describes the tendency to fear losses more than celebrate equivalent gains. For example, you may experience joy at the thought of finding yourself $5,000 richer, but the thought of losing $5,000 might provoke a far greater fear. Loss aversion could cause you to hold on to a losing investment too long, with the fear of turning a paper loss into a real loss. In a down market, of course, most of your investments may show paper losses, so you might consider whether you are holding on to an investment that would be wise to sell within the context of your overall strategy.
It’s only natural to be concerned when the market drops, but expecting volatility and having a sound financial strategy in place may be the best defense when events roil the markets. This might also help prevent you from making investment decisions influenced by biases.
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