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4 Lessons March Madness Can Teach Us About Investing

March Madness Basketball Money

 

It’s that time of year again…the most exciting month in college sports for basketball fans- March Madness! As we know, March Madness is always a wild ride with upsets, underdogs, and blowouts. With that in mind, here are four creative lessons from March Madness that apply to the world of investing:


1. THE “EXPERTS” ARE CLUELESS.

The odds of filling out the perfect bracket are 1 in 9 quintillion. Yet, we still tune into ESPN and all the other sports commentators to hear their picks as if they have the answers. However, their picks are no better than a coin flip.

 

In the financial industry, often, such forecasting is just marketing for a product. While predicting the winners in March Madness is impossible, so is being able to predict the direction of the market. The reality is we all know that there will be upsets (or market corrections). We just don’t know when they will happen.

 

2. THE DRAMA GOES UP THE MORE YOU WATCH.

The more you watch the NCAA tournament, the more emotional you become about the outcomes. Watching the drama of March Madness is a great form of entertainment, but watching the market closely can make you more susceptible to making poor investment decisions. This is known among behavior finance experts as ‘Myopic loss aversion’.

 

If an investor checks their portfolio daily, they will experience many days of losses. Conversely, the longer the timeframe between checks, the less likely it is that the portfolio will experience losses. Given that investors feel the pain of losses far greater than they feel the pleasure of gains, they are likely to not only experience disappointment if they check their portfolios with great frequency, but they are more likely to panic and sell as the pain of losses becomes intolerable.

 

3. EMOTIONS SHOULD BE LEFT OUT OF THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS.

When it comes to filling out your bracket, it’s always tempting to choose your alma mater or the local fan favorite to advance further than what evidence and probability might suggest. However, a good rule of thumb for both filling out your brackets as well as investing is to avoid making emotionally driven choices. We might want our emotions to be right and help us choose wisely, but when it comes to investing, making decisions based on fear, greed, anxiety, or even hopefulness can sometimes do more harm.

 

4. DON'T FORGET THE IMPORTANCE OF A GREAT COACH.

In basketball, and in sports in general, the coach is a crucial member of the team. Coaches can motivate players and can be a calming influence when emotions run high, helping their team stay on track.

One of the most valuable benefits clients have in working with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ is having a good behavioral coach. We act as an emotional circuit breaker circumventing clients’ tendencies to chase returns or run for cover in emotionally charged markets. Left alone, investors often lack both understanding and discipline, allowing themselves to be swayed by headlines and advertisements. 

Matter of fact, this Barron’s article cites several studies that found that over long periods, behavioral coaching can provide 1.50% of added value to a client’s portfolio.


About the Author:

Desmond Henry, a financial planner in Topeka, KS

Desmond Henry is a fee-only CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and founder of Afflora Financial Life Planning in Topeka, Kansas. He helps the retiring/retired plan their finances and invest their money. CLICK HERE to learn more.