Archive for the ‘Investor Behavior’ Category
Yesterday I received an email from a doctor client of mine telling me how he had a conversation with some fellow doctors, and all of them are pulling their money out of stocks because they feel that with the market breaking new high after new high, a crash is imminent. He wanted my opinion.
First of all, while all of his doctor friends might feel a market crash is imminent and certain, there is simply no such thing as certainty in the stock market. All we can work with are odds. The following are the odds of market corrections:
|Magnitude of market decline||Frequency of occurrence (out of 64 years from 1950-2013)|
|>5%||Every year (94%)|
|>10%||Every two years (58%)|
|>20%||Every five years (20%)|
|>30%||Every ten years (10%)|
|>40%||Every fifty years (2%)|
My study also shows that the market breaking a new high does not substantially change the odds of returns. In other words, the odds of the market dropping over 20% in the next twelve months are still about one in five; the odds of the market dropping over 30% in the next twelve months are still about one in ten.
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Many people keep their bad annuity investment because it imposes a stiff surrender charge. This is a stereotypical example of sunk cost fallacy, an academic term which describes people throwing good money after bad.
Why surrender charges are sunk costs?
Imagine you were sold a $100k variable annuity with a ten year surrender period. The agent who sold you the contract collected a 10% commission, or $10,000. Where do you think this money came from?
Bingo! Your pocket. I hate to break it to you, but insurance companies are not in the charity business and they sure as heck aren’t gonna tell you that 10 of the 100Gs you just handed over to them are going to pay the agent’s commission! If they did that you’d pull your money out and rightly avoid them like the plague in the future.
It turns out there is a lot that we agree on, but not everything.
Here’s where we see eye to eye: 1) our definitions of deep and shallow risks are almost the same: 2) we both see market fluctuation as a shallow risk and 3) we both see inflation as the #1 deep risk.
Our agreement stops there however. Bernstein does not seem to believe behavior risk and agency risk are deep risks, as I do. Instead, he mentions the following three risks as deep risks in addition to inflation risk.
Recently, a prospective client of mine sent me an email asking about my thoughts on Bill Bernstein’s new book “Deep Risk.” I have not read the book yet, but I do have my own ideas about deep risk vs shallow risk.
I define shallow risk as a potential loss that you can recover from and deep risk as a loss that you cannot recover from.
Market volatility, for example, is a shallow risk. It is very visible and it is scary, there is even a TV channel devoted to it. (That TV channel is called CNBC.)
But taking on shallow risk is how you earn your investment keep. Thus, it should not be feared, it should be welcomed.
Now what are the deep risks you should ardently avoid? I can think of three: inflation risk, behavior risk and agency risk.
One very very sharp reader of my blog sent an email to me, and here is what it said:
Aren’t these 2 philosophies opposites of each other? If the market prices correctly based on all available information, how can the stock price be different from the expected dividend? Aren’t these 2 prize winning economists speaking in opposites?