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Ignorance is Bliss

There’s a joke circulating online that, if you commit a crime and you need to hide the evidence, you can stash it on page two of a Google search. At least 90 percent of the time, nobody looks there. In fact, about half of our clicks are bestowed on the first two hits we see

The serious implication behind the satire is that it remains at least as easy as ever to be overly influenced by what others have decided should be the most important information we receive. Behavioral finance has identified any number of ways we tend to give too much weight to just these sorts of hits that popular curators feed us. The results can tempt us into believing that leading financial news – the Chinese economy, global oil prices, interest rates, and so on – should be the driving force behind our next market moves. 

If it’s headline news, it’s already been incorporated into market pricing.

Even if we could predict the outcomes (we can’t) it’s too late to act on them – so you shouldn’t. Instead, consider the following observations related to the recent market correction. While perhaps less splashy, they are far more important to your enduring financial interests. 

  • An Associated Press writer shared this comment: “A wild move in the market one week ‘is not like seeing a unicorn,’ [Vanguard principal Fran] Kinniry said. ‘Stocks are volatile. But you’re not investing for one day or one week, you’re investing for 10 or 20 years.’” 
  • Seeing how often investors abandon their plans during financial crises, David Andrew of Australian-based Capital Partners commented, “Short of tearing up twenty dollar bills and throwing them away, I can’t think of a more destructive wealth management strategy.” 
  • Forbes’ “Tax Girl” Kelly Phillips Erb reminds us that a market drop need not represent a personal loss: “Even if you were to sell your stock today, just because it was worth less this morning than when you went to bed last night doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a realized loss.” 
  • In a June 2015 column, Morningstar’s Christine Benz comments, “When it comes to checking up on your portfolio, a policy of benign neglect invariably beats too much monitoring. Investors who pay attention to their portfolios’ daily values may find themselves berating themselves during the market’s periodic downdrafts or congratulating themselves too much when their balances are fat. … Taking a long view is usually more helpful.”

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