It almost never fails. In the middle of a weekday golf game, someone will ask if the market is up or down that day. Or, perhaps during my morning walk with the dog, someone will ask me what I think the stock market will do that day.
Since the market experiences more up days than down over time, as evidenced by the long-term upward trend for stock prices, I suppose the best guess to make would be to predict an up day, but it would be just that – a guess. To the golf buddies I generally ask why they care – they should be concentrating on improving their golf swing, and not distracted by the daily coming and goings of up and down days for the financial markets.
Since the 1990's inception of continuous financial markets' coverage on television and the easy access the Internet offers to view our investments in real time, there has been a trend toward distraction with the daily noise of the markets. This has manifested itself in the shortening of holding periods and a mentality of trading more than investing. It seems like investors feel they always need to be doing something to succeed. Gone are the days of sticking to a long-term plan, with short-term thinking inserted in its place. The problem is that most of us do not have the temperament to succeed as traders, and we play into the hands of the real pros when trying to enter their game.
An investor who has a time horizon of a few years or longer, tends to put the odds of success on his/her side.
Having to make fewer decisions means the likelihood of making fewer mistakes and a calmer approach should lead to clearer thinking when the markets hit their inevitable air pockets. This doesn't mean you have to buy life-long investments with every decision. It means that you're not concerned about the next three days or three weeks, instead expecting to profit in the next three to 30 years.
The harried demeanor of the talking heads on CNBC predicting the current correction turning into the next Armageddon, followed by the next one predicting Dow 30,000 is just around the corner does not foster a healthy environment for personal investment decisions. But it does draw viewers and sell commercial time. The most respected money managers and strategists I know say that if you are reacting to today's news in your investment portfolio, you are woefully behind the professionals who are likely taking the opposite side of the trade.
Have you noticed there is always a clock on the CNBC screen counting down to something? Perhaps it's the opening of the market or the closing or the next economic report being released. I believe this creates a sense that investors should always be doing something in their portfolio, but the best investors are generally those who are the least active.
My personal time watching financial markets' coverage on television probably totals only one hour a year. I suggest catching up on your portfolio a couple times a week, preferably in a quiet environment like one of the easily available financial websites like www.finance.yaoo.com and www.money.cnn.com or in the local paper's business section.
Remember, what's being talked about on financial television is what sells the most commercial time, not the best thing for your portfolio.
Tom Breiter is president of Breiter Capital Management, Inc., an Anna Maria based investment advisor. He can be reached at 778-1900. Some of the investment concepts highlighted in this column may carry the risk of loss of principal, and investors should determine appropriateness for their personal situation before investing. Visit www.breitercapital.com.