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Discipline and Investment Strategy

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Discipline and Investment Strategy

“There are no limitations to the mind except those we acknowledge.  Both poverty and riches are the offspring of thought.

Napoleon Hill

I’m struck more and more by the importance of the right mindset in the tasks we set for ourselves.  So often, we don’t achieve the things we want simply because we’ve gotten in our own way.

I know that’s been true in my life and I’ve seen it happen to my clients at times as well.

I’ve come to believe there are three essential mindsets that manifest themselves in very specific behaviors that are absolutely essential to achieving investment success.

Today, we’re going to talk about just one of those mindsets and one of the specific ways it manifests itself in successful investing.

Mindset: Discipline

Successful investing, whether it’s for retirement, education, building family money, or anything else, always starts with a plan.

In that plan you’ll determine all the steps you’ll have to take to reach your goals.

Once you know those steps, you have to have the discipline to continue doing the right things and continue avoiding the wrong things over and over for years and decades.

Family wealth, like a family business, is built by finding what has worked over time, adapting it to fit your goals, and sticking with it for the long term.

Behavior: Investment Strategy Discipline

“Shiny object syndrome” is a huge problem for most people’s investment strategy.

We can spend all kinds of time and energy developing a rational, long-term, goal-focused plan to achieve the life we want but if we don’t stick to the investment strategy that comes from that plan we’ll never get there.

True multi-generational wealth is achievable, but it won’t happen by constantly chasing the next hot thing.

Wall Street is constantly inventing new investment “products” to pitch to us.

There is always a new idea to chase – tech stocks in the late 90’s, real estate in the 2000’s, options, futures, private equity, hedge funds, limited partnerships, swaps, currencies, crypto, etc.

The list goes on and on.

In stocks we’ll most frequently be tempted to drift from our long-term investment strategy in market extremes – at the height of the bull markets and the depths of the inevitable bear markets.

Investment Discipline in the Good Times

When the stock market is booming through a bull market and becoming a bubble it’s usually led by one or two investment ideas.

Tech stocks in the late 90’s are the most recent example of this.  They led the market higher than it had ever been.  People became convinced the internet age had created a new era for business where the fundamentals of revenue and profit were ignored and replaced by page views and a slick story.

That’s when everyday investors were most tempted to abandon their long-term, diversified investment strategy to concentrate their portfolios in the hot sectors of the internet age: tech stocks, telecom stocks, internet companies, etc.

It proved to be a huge mistake.  The NASDAQ (the index that primarily tracks tech stocks) dropped almost 80% from March of 2000 to October of 2002 and didn’t fully recover until April of 2015.

Investment Discipline in the Bad Times

The other extreme is bear markets.  When markets have meaningful downturns, we’re all tempted to “get out until things look better”.

But by the time “things look better” the stock market is, historically, well into its recovery.

Historically, the stock market reaches its low point in a bear market and begins its recovery, on average, 107 days before the economic recession ends.  But it gets even worse than that because we don’t officially know when a recession ends until months later.

In the 2008-2009 Great Recession the market bottomed in March 2009 while the recession continued on for another 3 months, into June.

By the end of June, the S&P 500 had recovered more than 36% since its low point back in March.

But we didn’t get official recognition that the recession had come to an end until September 21st.  By that time, the S&P 500 was up 57% from its low point.

So, waiting until “things look better” cost investors something like 57% returns.

It’s the discipline of sticking with the plan, both when it seems to be working and when it doesn’t, that will get us to our goals.

So stick with your plan.  Stick with your investment strategy.  The markets face the uncertainty of the pandemic, the uncertainty of riots and arson, and the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming election.

No one knows exactly how these issue will sort themselves out.

But history is clear.  Abandoning, or adjusting, or “pausing” your investment strategy because of these legitimate concerns has always, without exception, been a mistake.

I believe this time will prove to be the same.

Hang in there!


PS – Next time we’ll dig into more mindsets and behaviors that lead to investment success.  Stay tuned!


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