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Archives for August 2022

Human brain when investing

The human brain and investing

Although Oreo has his own letterbox next door, he likes nothing more than watching the world from ours. Perhaps it is a better vantage point; perhaps he likes to look at things from different perspectives; or, perhaps he sees an opportunity to seize more territory (or wealth), at Molly’s house while Molly’s asleep at the wheel (inside in front of the heater).

We will likely never know Oreo’s motivation, but here are five things I have learned from watching Oreo and Molly and the choices they are making:

Cats live in the moment

They take time to enjoy the sunshine or a warm fire. We should too. There is a lot of pleasure in life’s small moments, if only we stop, breathe and take it all in.

Curiosity doesn’t kill the cat; it keeps the cat alive

Cats are attuned to changes in their environment. They do not get emotionally invested in catching that mouse if a vicious dog is barking at them. But, if they learn that a fence contains the dog, they may well go back to hunting that mouse. They stay alive to what’s happening around them, making adjustments as necessary, without being consumed by it.

You don’t need to lick all four paws at once

Sometimes the right decision is to start smaller and to invest just a little. You may elect to clean just that one paw, or you may decide to make a bigger investment and wash all four. But not everything is an ‘all or nothing’ decision.

Cats land on their feet

Probably not if you drop them from a 30-storey building (please don’t try) but, like walking a tight rope, they move with such precision, grace and steeliness that, even faced with volatility, they get safely to the other side.

Cats do not really have nine lives

They are just good at assessing their risk. Oreo knows that as a strong, young cat, he can be a little braver. He does not need to spend as much time lining up his jump. His inherent strength, agility and balance allow him to take a risk. And, if he does get it wrong, he has a lifetime ahead of him to correct his error. Molly, on the other hand, as a much older cat, knows she needs to play it safe. She adopts a lower-risk strategy, opting to protect what she has, resisting the urge to chase the shiny new object promising high yields (that may not deliver). Like Molly, people generally become more risk averse as they get older meaning that investment strategies that work for a 25-year-old with no dependents probably won’t work for a 75-year-old.

While I draw some wonderful lessons from watching these two felines, for humans, the world is much more complex. Our brain is both amazingly evolved and concerningly flawed. We are filled with cognitive biases (it is estimated there are in excess of 200 biases) which can lead our thinking away from the correct judgement, without us even knowing. There are reasons for this.

Our brain is a slave to speed, efficiency and comfort. It dislikes uncertainty and it dislikes dissonance (two conflicting thoughts). Fortunately, or unfortunately, the brain is also a prediction machine. Where information is unknown, our brain will simply predict. And, to do that, it uses our past experiences. You see, when making decisions, we do not jump forward to a clean sheet of white paper and consider all information anew. No, we travel backwards into our memories and experiences – but not all of them, because not all memories are created and stored equally. And not all memories are real (yes, made-up memories really happen).

We do not store memories as they have occurred. We store them as we interpreted them at the time, which is why two people can have different recollections of the same event both vehemently believing they are right. Plus, we attach emotion to our memories meaning that a more emotional event will feature more heavily in our memory. That stands to reason, but it can also lead us to over-weighting one experience while discarding or ignoring another that may be equally or more relevant to the decision at hand.

In essence, we think, when we make decisions, that we are being rational, objective and well considered. When, in fact, quite often, we have formed the decision in our subconscious and everything else is a rationalisation after the fact. Our brains are almost too smart for us.

No one can completely overcome the flaws of the human brain (thought to be the most complex structure known to man). However, our aim, as your financial advisers, is to bring a balance of this type of awareness, robust analysis and empathy to better understand, identify and help implement a financial strategy that is tailored to you so that if we were all cats, Oreo can enjoy the letterbox and Molly can enjoy the fire.

Please note this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal, business or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today

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Quotes to embrace during volatile markets

2022 has been a volatile year for financial markets, with inflation at all-time highs and central banks around the world attempting to play catch-up via steep interest rate hikes. Global supply chain constraints, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and lockdowns in China have led to fear of a potential recession.

Australian markets have performed better than global counterparts, yet unfortunately, nothing has been safe (except cash). Global markets are down 10-20 percent for the year, bond markets have crashed 10 percent and the ASX is down nearly 10 percent as well. Property prices have also begun to stagnate, especially in the capital cities as the rising cost of borrowing puts a stop to the post- covid property boom.

Investors need to realise that corrections are normal and are part of a healthy market. A steep pullback in the market may provide opportunities to buy good quality companies at a lower price. This makes it even more important to turn down the noise, remain disciplined and stick to a long-term investment strategy. The following quotes should be kept top of mind when investing during volatile market conditions.

ASX 200 performance

*ASX 200 performance over last 12 months to 11/07/2022

1. “The stock market has predicted 9 of the past 5 recessions.” – Paul Samuelson

It does not mean much knowing or expecting an incoming recession as you will always be better off if you remain invested and more importantly, continue to invest during downturns.

2. “Everyone has the brainpower to make money in stocks. Not everyone has the stomach. If you are susceptible to selling everything in a panic, you ought to avoid stocks and mutual funds altogether.” – Peter Lynch

The only way to guarantee a loss is to sell during a correction and crystalising paper losses.

3. “In the short run, the market is a voting machine, but in the long run it is a weighing machine.” – Benjamin Graham

Markets are impossible to predict in the short term, however, quality companies will continue to perform in the long term.

4. “More money has been lost trying to anticipate and protect from corrections than actually in them.” – Peter Lynch

History has shown that corrections are nothing more than a temporary reset for the market if you remain invested.

5. “Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.” – Warren Buffett

The Oracle of Omaha (Warren Buffett) has outlined the importance of avoiding herd mentality. Do not buy during market peaks and add to your positions during steep downturns.

If you need assistance with your long-term investment plan, please reach out to your financial adviser.

Please note this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal, business or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today.

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