Author: Scott Schatzle

Achieving Success

As the year comes to an end, it’s a good time to reflect upon the year behind us. The good things, the bad things, and the success we achieved along the way.

Sometimes we rely upon favorable circumstances to achieve success, but circumstances are often beyond our control. While our circumstances can make it easier or more difficult to achieve success, they do not create success on their own. Researchers have found that mental toughness and perseverance predict our level of success more than any other factor.

Making Your Own Success

Jeff Olson, author of The Slight Edge, found that our personal success in life comes down to a simple formula. We generally know what activities will produce success in a given realm. Then we just apply the formula – Create simple daily disciplines and do them without fail. Notice the word “simple?” These should be small things you can do daily.

Success isn’t a secret formula. Often the greatest difference between achieving average results and being successful comes down to consistently doing the simple daily disciplines, the daily habits. These habits may not appear to be working in the short-term, but they will compound over time. Having perseverance and mental toughness is crucial to achieving success.

Success in Investing

The media often refers to “smart money.” I don’t know why because they are known to make some pretty costly decisions. And intelligence has very little to do with investment success. Warren Buffett said that once you have an average IQ, what sets apart successful investors is their ability to control the urges that influence us to make unwise financial decisions.

These urges are natural, and they are hard to fight off. It takes mental toughness to ignore the feelings and headlines. It takes perseverance to remain disciplined and patient when the market is irrational.

But that is why you have me! I understand the urges, how we can alleviate them, and remain focused. I am here to help and guide you along your financial journey. Just like with a personal trainer, sometimes it is easier to exhibit mental toughness and persevere when you have someone cheering you on. Onward and upward!

– Scott

©2023 The Behavioral Finance Network. Used with permission.

Timing the Market

Why is it that many investors feel the urge to time the stock market? Since 1950, stocks have been in a bull market 83% of the time – despite all the crises and corrections.1 You would think investors would be happy with that kind of result. But that isn’t the case. Investors spend a lot of time and energy attempting to avoid losses, which ironically, leads to lower long-term performance.

The Cost of Timing the Market

Morningstar recently released their annual Mind the Gap report, which compares investor performance with the underlying investments. They found that, over the last 10 years, investors underperformed the very funds they were invested in by an average of 1.7% per year.2 This finding is not unique as it confirms what Vanguard also found.3

This underperformance is largely attributed to the timing of purchases and sales of securities. Investors are influenced to buy after things go up (chasing what is hot) and sell after experiencing losses as investors attempt to “get to safety.” But with a market that is historically positive most of the time, why do we feel the urge to try to time it?

Thank Your Brain

Our desire to avoid all losses, even losses that may be temporary, is driven by the way we are hardwired. Our brains are sensitive to financial loss because they are viewed as a threat. They threaten our comfort and potentially our livelihood. And what does the brain do with a threat? It seeks to avoid and eliminate it. Therefore, the urge to time the market is completely normal and natural. But that doesn’t mean it is beneficial.

Investors may wish to exert greater control over these urges so they can make better investment decisions. I think that is a wonderful endeavor, but it is difficult! You need almost superhuman willpower to overcome these innate urges.I have identified two ways that make it easier to control the urges to time the market:

1. Don’t watch the markets. If you don’t look, the urges lose their power.
2. Talk with me – that is what I am here for. Timely perspectives can help investors remain grounded and ensure decisions are in line with their plan.

– Scott

©2023 The Behavioral Finance Network. Used with permission.

1. Callie Cox, eToro, tweeted data on June 12, 2023 found at https://twitter.com/callieabost/status/1668360824593809410?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email
2. Morningstar, Mind the Gap, July 31, 2023
3. Vanguard, Advisor’s Alpha, July 2022

The Virtue of Slowing Down

Time is an interesting dimension. It is a fixed measurement, yet our perception of time varies greatly depending on what we are doing.

It has been said that the longest eight seconds in life is riding a bull. I never rode a bull and have no interest in testing that statement for myself. So, I will take it as fact. But even so, eight seconds is eight seconds – regardless of what we are doing.

It’s About Perception

Time seems to “fly” when we are engaged in a fun, exciting, or stimulating activity. And it appears to stand still when we are scared, anxious, or bored. In other words, the things we enjoy in life make it “go” quickly, while the things we dislike seem like they last for an eternity.

This means that when we are engaged in desirable activities, such as summer vacation with the family, it may be worthwhile to take a moment to slow down and reflect on the experience. This will allow us to relish the moments and the subsequent memories – which we can call upon during the more difficult times.

Slowing Down & Investing

Slowing down can also help us make better financial decisions. Financial information comes at us quickly, and because it has to do with gains and losses, can cause us to become emotional. Responding immediately is a natural impulse and can feel great when we are emotional, but it is seldom beneficial…especially when it has to do with money.

Slowing down empowers us to take a more mindful approach to the decision at hand. We are constantly bombarded by the news du jour, brash opinions, and impulses to respond quickly. How does one slow down? The first step is to commit to make more mindful, less emotional financial decisions. The next step is to contact me – I will help you through the process.

One of the things I love most about being an advisor is helping investors ignore the noise and take a more deliberate and mindful approach to their decision-making. It not only improves decisions, it also improves the investor experience. I am here for you!

– Scott

 

©2023 The Behavioral Finance Network. Used with permission.

 

The Eventual Recession

Since early last year economists, market experts, and even corporate CEOs were predicting a recession for this year. Most of them said it would happen early in the year.1 A recession was the consensus view among experts, almost a foregone conclusion. With inflation surging to 9% last summer and the Fed aggressively raising interest rates, it was an easy story to sell…and believe.

Fast forward to the present. The same experts that said we would already be in a recession are now pushing their recession forecasts to the end of the year and even into 2024. Because recessions are normal functions of capital markets, eventually we expect to get one. So long as forecasters keep pushing out the date, they won’t be wrong – just “early.” And that is the crux of financial forecasts: you have to be correct in prediction and timing.

Recessions Are Not Equal

Recessions come in different sizes and durations. Some are long and deep (Global Financial Crisis) and some are brief and shallow. And others, like the COVID-19 recession, were deep but very brief. In fact, most people don’t even realize we were in an official recession because it was the shortest recession in history and the recovery was swift.2

Many investors associate recessions with markets going down. Yes, that has happened and can happen. But markets have also gone up during recessions. Even if someone could accurately predict a recession, that doesn’t mean we would know how the markets will perform, which can influence an investor’s allocation.

A Greater Risk

While many people focus on the risk of a recession occurring, I think the greater risk is how investors respond to forecasts and expectations of a recession. After all, recessions don’t cause people to miss their financial targets. It’s investors’ reactions and investment decisions that influence their financial success (or failure). Peter Lynch said it best:

“Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections or trying to anticipate corrections than has been lost in corrections themselves.”

– Scott

 
1. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/12/23/why-everyone-thinks-a-recession-is-coming-in-2023.html
2. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/19/its-official-the-covid-recession-lasted-just-two-months-the-shortest-in-us-history.html

 

©2023 The Behavioral Finance Network. Used with permission.

Acting Like An Investor

Many investors today unknowingly act like speculators. How do I know this? Because they are more concerned and influenced by short-term stochastic changes in stock prices than in the underlying fundamentals of a company. And when coupled with a barrage of negative news stories, it can be very difficult to act like an investor.

Where Are the Investors?

Just this quarter we had a lot of news about inflation, a few bank failures, and predictions of recessions. Very few, if any, of the headlines were positive. And what was the result? The largest rush to cash since 2008. Year-to-date through mid-March, stock funds experienced $22 billion in withdrawals while money market funds increased by $97 billion.1

Despite this rush to cash, which is common among speculators (so-called “investors”), the S&P 500 index was up over 7% in the first quarter.2

Am I Investing?

If you are moving to cash or bonds during an uncertain time, you are not investing. You are emotionalizing (acting on emotions) and reacting to short-term market dynamics that may have a significant long-term cost.

Moving to cash is nothing more than trading potential long-term growth for temporary relief from negative news and stock price fluctuations. It is not investing.

Investing is owning securities for the long-term with recognition that the capital markets have always been uncertain and experienced fluctuation. Investors enter the “game” understanding that uncertainty and temporary negative returns are the price one must pay to participate in the long-term wealth generating power of capital markets.

Investing Together

Being an investor is not easy, but essential to help you achieve your goals. Patience and discipline are difficult especially when facing uncertainty and negative outlooks, but that is the reality of capital markets. Most short-term market outcomes (price movements & news) are nothing more than noise. That is why you have me; I will help you know what information is pertinent and helpful to reach your goals.

– Scott

 

©The Behavioral Finance Network

1. Refinitiv Lipper,as reported in Barron’s, March 19, 2023
2. S&P 500 Index Jan 1, 2023 – Mar 31, 2023

When Less Can Give You More

We are generally in the pursuit of more. More income, more recognition, more opportunities, more happiness etc. Because “more” often results in desirable outcomes, it is natural to think in terms of what we can get or do more of, rather than what we can do less of. But when it comes to investing, focusing on what we do less can yield us more return.

The Power of Doing Less

When it comes to investing, it isn’t about becoming more intelligent. It is about making fewer mistakes. It is about evaluating the performance of our holdings less often. It is less listening to the noise of forecasts and the financial media. It is becoming less impatient and less interested in the returns of others.

Fear of loss and fear of missing out are powerful emotions that can influence the best of us to make unwise decisions. Feelings are automatic and inherent in most of us, and we are hardwired to respond to those feelings. The less “tuning in” we do as investors, the less likely we are to be influenced to make hasty decisions.

Mistakes Happen

Every investor, even the very best of them, make mistakes. What separates the best investors from everyone else is that they have learned to make less mistakes. It’s not that they were born making fewer mistakes, it’s that they have chosen to recognize and learn from prior mistakes. It is more natural to ignore our mistakes or blame another (i.e. the stock market). But if we don’t admit and learn from our mistakes, we are bound to make more of them, not less of them.

Lessening Mistakes

We are hardwired to subconsciously rely on mental shortcuts and emotions when making decisions. This inevitably leads to mistakes. We can lessen our mistakes by creating a decision framework, a process. Setting up proper defenses and procedures can help us respond less emotionally and more purposefully to market and economic occurrences. And that is why you have me! I am here to help you make less mistakes and more decisions that are in line with your stated goals and objectives.

– Scott

 

©2023 The Behavioral Finance Network. Used with permission.

Resolutions and Habits

As New Year’s Day is now in the rearview mirror, we can surmise that people are struggling to keep their resolutions. Indeed some may have already given up, perhaps with a determination that next year will be the year. A long-term study by the University of Scranton found that less than 10% of resolutions become part of our lives.1

Such a high failure rate at resolutions of our own making should give us pause. Why are we so bad at keeping resolutions? Research shows that it may come down to two primary things: how we frame our resolution2 and taking too big of a leap – too big of a behavior change at once.

Framing Your Resolution for Success

Framing the resolution comes down to our actions. Many resolutions are to stop a bad habit. Stop smoking, stop eating sweets, stop using social media. Those are incredibly difficult to stop because of triggers (conscious and unconscious) that provoke a response. It is more productive to create a new habit in its place, so there is a response, just not the bad habit. For example, instead of smoking, perhaps you chew gum. Instead of looking at social media, you pick up a book. You select a positive habit to replace the bad habit.

Creating Habits That Stick

Resolutions can be aspirational, but we should be realistic and recognize we may need to create small habits that inch us in the direction of our resolution. To improve the likelihood of sticking with new habits, we should form ones that are not major deviations from our current lifestyle. Making a 1% change may not be noticeable or something to brag about, but they can be far more meaningful in the long run.

Once we master a new habit, we create another small habit that gets us one step closer to our resolution. This becomes a continues cycle of improvement that empowers and helps us become the person we want. A marathon is completed with many small steps, not a few giant leaps. We should view our personal resolutions in a similar manner.

Today is the Best Day to Start

No matter what, today is the best day to start a habit that will improve your life. Why today? Because it isn’t tomorrow. When we are forming small habits, we don’t face uncomfortable or unnatural changes to our lifestyle. Hence, there is no reason to procrastinate the day of achieving our resolutions.

– Scott

1. Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Did It, Forbes, Jan 1, 2013.
2. The Science Behind New Year’s Resolutions That Actually Stick, WSJ, Jan 27, 2023.

©2023 The Behavioral Finance Network

The Only Forecast That Matters

Most investors love economic and market forecasts. With the markets so uncertain and volatile, our brain craves some sort of idea of what the future holds. But the markets are unpredictable – evidenced by the fact that no one can consistently predict them with accuracy. Of course, a certain forecast will be right from time to time, just like a broke­­n clock. But market forecasts are not reliable, no matter what your brain tells you.

Unlike market and economic forecasts, my forecast is reliable and robust because it is based on enduring investment truths and investor behavior. These factors are more dependable than market outcomes and more important to an investor’s well-being.

My Forecast For 2023

In full disclosure, the following forecast is nearly identical to my forecast from last year and years prior to that.

  • The economy/market will do something that surprises us (and the experts). In hindsight we will wonder how we didn’t see it
  • The financial media will emotionalize headlines and short-term market moves to entice you to tune in – so they can achieve better ratings
  • Investors who watch the news and stock market often will experience more stress than those that don’t
  • Investors that move to cash, waiting for a “better time,” will suffer significant uncertainty and anxiety about when and how to get back in
  • Your investment decisions and reactions to market events will ­­have a significant impact on your personal investment return
  • You will be tempted to change your investment strategy based on market performance, expert forecasts, and/or your personal beliefs about the future

Conviction, patience, and discipline are virtues every investor should develop. They aren’t easy, yet they are essential for your success. As your advisor, one of my most important roles is helping you ignore the noise and focus on what really matters to your financial success.

I wish you a prosperous, fulfilling, and happy 2023. Thank you for allowing me to be your trusted partner along the journey.

– Scott

 

©2023 The Behavioral Finance Network. Used with permission.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

 

Tis the Season For Forecasts

It’s that time of year. It’s the time that every analyst, economist, and strategist will declare their forecasts for 2023. These forecasts come from well-educated, intelligent individuals – with many years of experience. Some of the forecasts will be made with much confidence. No matter. You shouldn’t heed them.

Folly of Forecasts

Historically, the accuracy of financial expert predictions is less than 50%.1 Why is that? It’s not that the experts aren’t intelligent or have bad information. It’s because the markets and economies are unpredictable. They always have been. The proof lies in the fact that no one has ever been able to consistently predict future market or economic outcomes.

Last month two highly experienced, well-known, and respected economists provided forecasts along with compelling evidence and arguments to support their forecast. Want to know what they said? The complete opposite of each other! One predicted market fragility and more frequent and violent economic shocks.2 The other said the inflation surge is over and expects the market to rally in December and continue into next year.3 Contradictory financial forecasts are commonplace because no one knows exactly how things will play out, despite relying on the same information.

Appeasing Uncertainty

Even when we understand that markets are unpredictable, we still want to read what the experts have to say. This is because our brain, while consisting of a lot of gray matter, hates gray areas. Not knowing can sometimes be worse than receiving bad news because the brain doesn’t know what decision to make today for a better future tomorrow.

Uncertainty is an inherent element of the markets. Rather than pretend some financial guru knows what will happen, it is best to understand the limits of our knowledge – and that of others. We should spend our time and attention on those things that are knowable (investment truths) and investment situations we control.

Having a durable investment strategy is essential. When we have a good plan we don’t need to worry about what will happen in the short term. We can allow our plan to guide our thoughts, perceptions, and actions. Do we invest based on the market movement, headline, or prediction of the day? Or do we invest according to a plan that follows enduring investment principles and is customized to our personal situation? I recommend the latter.

– Scott

©2022 The Behavioral Finance Network

1. CXO Advisory. Guru Grades
2. https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/currencies/top-economist-mohamed-el-erian-recession-global-economy-federal-reserve-2022-11
3. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/11/21/stocks-could-rally-as-much-as-20percent-in-2023-whartons-jeremy-siegel-says.html

Intentional Gratitude

Tis the season of gratitude. Thanksgiving is perhaps one of the most underappreciated holidays, but most needed. Given the difficult markets we have endured this year, being thankful may not come so easy. It may be necessary to practice intentional gratitude.  

There are so many things beyond our individual control – the vitriol in the media, strong political opinions, and the financial markets to name a few. These will continue with us, and if we aren’t careful could consume our thoughts, feelings, and our personal degree of contentment.

One way to create happiness, despite whatever circumstances we are in, is to practice gratitude. We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we control whether we choose to be grateful. We should be thankful for much; in fact, we probably don’t spend enough time counting our blessings. And that is life. While we do our best to be thankful, it is often short-lived.

Choosing to See the Good

With every decision, every life event, it is our choice to see the good in it. Even bad outcomes and decisions can be significant positives if we learn from them and become a better person. But we must choose that.

There are people who are thankful for the smallest things – you probably know a few. They are like magnets. We want to be around them because they exude love and joy. And then there those who are impossible to please, those we can’t wait to get away from. Who do you want to be this holiday season? Like it or not, we tend to take on traits of those we surround ourselves with. Want to be more grateful? Spend more time with people who practice gratitude regularly.

Thank You

I am grateful for you. Thank you for your trust and confidence in me. Thank you for the privilege to know and work with you. Thank you for taking my advice, even when it goes against what may feel right. Thank you for being a patient investor, I know it’s not always easy, especially this year. And thank you for choosing me as your partner on this journey.   

– Scott

©2022 The Behavioral Finance Network