Brock Williamson, CFP®
The Peril of Fashion & Investment Fads
Fads go in and out of style quickly and regularly. They always have and they always will. My fifteen-year-old teenage daughter started wearing jeans straight out of the 1980’s during her 2021, 9th grade school year. You know the stonewashed jeans that go up past the belly button and suck in tight around the rib cage, then have straight legs down to the shoes (see picture below). I was a child of the 80’s and I did not like “mom jeans” then and I don’t like them now. Call me out of touch or fashion deaf, but I don’t like them. I never have. However, the peer pressure many teens face during school years to follow the crowd and do the cool thing is very real and strong. When the “All the other girls are wearing them” comments happen, a huge psychological effect takes off in our brains. Without a reality check, you could be out shopping for the “80’s mom jeans” to follow the fad only to take them to the second-hand store the very next year.
The Investment Fads of 2021
Similar situations exist in the investment world. Meme stocks like “Gamestop and AMC” are similar to fashion fads. They will come into favor for the short term and will attract a lot of quick attention. Then, the fad will change and they will fall out of favor as investors realize the fundamentals of the business are not solid or the price of the company is way too high driven up by the hype of the fad. These stock prices are artificially high by headlines and social media posts, not by fundamental changes in the businesses.
Hype is the primary force behind the making of a fad. This is one way to discern the wisdom of an investment. Positive hype often drives prices significantly higher and fuels overconfidence for “investors”. The lack of positive hype can deflate an asset and cause “investors” to dig in even deeper with their speculative convictions. Hype initiates a fad; our emotions keep the fad going.
“Investing” in a fad is not real investing, it is speculating. This is because price movement is driven more by what someone says or how a group of people feel than the underlying value or business the asset represents. Such stimuli are highly sensitive and may change radically on a daily basis without any foundation. Fads can make or lose you a lot of money. A fad can be a fun and exciting way to “invest”. But beware, such excitement may be short lived. And the cost of the powerful, yet temporary, excitement may be significant.
Expect to see more fads (fashion and investments). There will be things that appear to work better than your strategy or current wardrobe. There will be talks of “this time is different” and “paradigm shifts” to rationalize opinions and investment decisions.
The ultimate question is whether you want your portfolio to be as exciting as the latest hip “mom jeans” fad, or whether you want it to be invested in a well-diversified time-tested portfolio that works for your retirement goals, not the latest fad. I advise the latter.
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