Learn Why January Can Be Hazardous to Your Wealth
- Austin Pryor
- 2012 6 Jan
Perhaps you've never considered it, but the beginning of each new year is an especially dangerous time for you as an investor. Here’s why.
1. January and February is when you read and hear all about last year's investment "winners." You'll see stories about "the top-performing investments," "funds that should be in your portfolio now," "our stock picks for the new year," and so on.
These kinds of articles are misleading because the information is largely irrelevant. Unless there is good reason to believe all of last year's leaders will repeat as performance champions in 2012 (and history argues against it), the data is of little use in making better decisions about this year.
2. January and February is when you read and hear all about this year's "expert" forecasts. To the participants, forecasting is a good-natured contest, kind of like when you and your friends match wits with "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?" Unfortunately, the media add undeserved credibility to these forecasts merely by publishing them. The risk is that:
- Investors might take them seriously. Please don't. These people — though they are called "experts" — are only guessing.
Consider this example from over a decade ago. In January 2000, the financial magazine Barron's interviewed gurus from five of Wall Street's most prestigious institutions. Four of the five confidently predicted that 2000 would be a solid up year, with the Dow finishing in the 12,000-13,000 range. The lone dissenter said the Dow was more likely to drop 10% to the 10,200 level. Well, 2000 turned out to be a very volatile, weak year — the Dow finished at 10,788. The majority of the "experts" were off by 1,500-2,000 points! This isn't an isolated incident either. Almost no one predicted the astounding market implosion of 2008.
So what are the "experts" saying now about 2012? Who cares?
- Speculative forecasts can sidetrack you from following through on your own plan. The more you read about investing, the more you will encounter conflicting opinions and forecasts. There will always be another economic scenario, another argument for selling everything and putting your money in growth stocks, or gold, or Swiss francs, or whatever.
If you're like most investors I talk to, you don't need more knowledge; you need a greater resolve to follow through with the knowledge you already have.
3. January and February is when you are most likely to receive a ton of mail trying to sell you investment newsletters. As a newsletter publisher myself, let me pull back the curtain and give you the inside scoop. Studies show January and February are the two best months of the year for selling subscriptions to newsletters through the mail.
Calm and reasonable copy in direct mail doesn't sell as well as hype that plays upon human greed and/or fears. I receive mailings that contain the most audacious boasts concerning the alleged foresight of the Wizard who writes the newsletter being promoted. The impression is given I will soon be raking in 60%, 80%, and 100% returns on a regular basis if only I'll avail myself of their wisdom!
Here's the reality: Few things cause investors more losses than a short-term, get-rich-quick mentality. Patience, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, is in short supply among American investors today, many Christians included.
God doesn't expect us to have the foresight needed to lead the performance rankings each year. But He has given us the biblical guidance for setting priorities that we need to follow in order to "be found faithful."
In today's materialistic culture, that is an equally challenging task.
Published since 1990, Sound Mind Investing is America's best-selling financial newsletter written from a biblical perspective. Visit the Sound Mind Investing website .
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