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  • Writer's pictureBrock Williamson, CFP®

Magnifying the Present

It is human nature to focus more on the present than the future, which is in line with our basic instinct of survival.

We focus on the present because that is where “life happens” and we experience feelings such as pleasure, pain, anxiety, and peace. Every day we face cost-benefit tradeoffs that not only impact our lives today, but potentially for years to come. Because of our nature, we often select those things that bring immediate gratification while delaying its cost into the future.

Investing Tradeoffs

Perhaps the most frequent and material tradeoff investors face is whether to sell when markets go down and the outlook is negative (they receive immediate emotional relief) or remain disciplined to the strategy even as account values go down. The former is easy, the latter requires conviction and perseverance. The tradeoff comes down to emotional comfort today vs. potential for greater long-term returns.

“The real key to making money in stocks is not to get scared out of them.”

- Peter Lynch

Smart Today May Not Be Smart Tomorrow

We tend to extrapolate the present into the future, as if things will never change. When times are good, we feel good and may underestimate the risk. When things are bad, it’s about how much worse things are going to get – especially when you have exaggerated headlines that feeds into the doom and gloom.

But things change – they always do. We don’t know when or what may cause the change, but markets and economies are cyclical. What may seem smart today could end up being unwise and costly down the road. That is why your plan is so important. It is the anchor that helps us bridge the present to the future and helps us make sure the decisions we make today will be in your best interest tomorrow.

© The Behavioral Finance Network


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