Here is the permalink to the NY Times article.
It's an excellent article for investors to read right now, given the complacency that has crept into stock market valuations.
Since March 2009, we’ve watched the market rebound by 80 percent. Whether you’ve sat it out on the sidelines or think you can predict what comes next, I recommend you take a step back and remember a few things.
You are not as smart as you think. Overconfidence is a huge behavior
problem for investors. Overconfidence is what happens precisely because we think we know a lot about the subject, but overconfidence can lead us to make mistakes that in hindsight will be glaringly obvious (but the tricky part is that we didn’t know it at the time).
Following the herd doesn’t make it safe. I know it’s exciting and fun to be an investor in Apple or Google right now. Then there’s the talk about getting access to the private initial public offering of Facebook through Goldman Sachs. Buying because everyone else is buying is not an investment strategy. These companies may be great investments, but not just because everyone else is buying their stock.
We’re social animals who feel safer in numbers, but so do sheep. We take comfort in doing what everyone else is doing, and in the back of our minds we know that even if we’re wrong, at least we’ll be wrong with a bunch of other people. But it was the same line of thinking that led us to do very stupid things in high school just because “everyone else was doing it.”
Investing is about behavior, not skill. Maybe you’ll accuse me of beating a dead horse, but successful investing is about how you behave. Buying high and selling low is dumb, but it’s worth repeating given what I’m seeing in the market today. It’s important to remember that you could own a “mediocre” mutual fund, and if you behave correctly you can outperform 99 percent of your neighbors. On the other hand, if you spend your whole life searching for the “best” investment, you’ll ruin your entire lifetime return in one single behavioral mistake.
I know that what I’ve outlined sounds obvious and easy to scoff at, but the fact that it’s obvious didn’t keep investors from loading up on tech stocks in the late 1990s, bonds in 2002, and real estate in 2006. As we enter 2011, and the excitement of our financial New Year’s resolution starts to wear off, please remember that it’s worth taking the time to stop and think before you invest.