Several weeks ago, I shared an interview with behavioral economist and recent winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, Professor Richard Thaler (here). So when I read Martello Investments’ monthly commentary this week, I thought it perfect to share their piece with you. Below is an excerpt from Artie and Charlie.
Earlier this month, Richard Thaler received the Nobel Prize in Economics, and his recognition was long overdue. In a world where conventional economics is driven by simplifying assumptions — assumptions like “markets are efficient” and “investors are rational” — Thaler’s contributions to the field as one of the founding fathers of behavioral finance bring a realistic perspective. The underlying principles of behavioral finance, blending financial theory with psychology, accept the emotional and cognitive biases of most investors. Instead of assuming investors are rational, Thaler and others acknowledge that, on the contrary, most investors are irrational, emotional creatures that are driven by a combination of greed, fear, and fallacy, and that it is these behavioral issues that can cause bubbles and overreactions.
Despite tidy econometric models that peg investors as rational creatures, we value the contributions of the behavioral camp; we believe that emotions and irrational decision-making tend to govern investor behavior, oftentimes to the detriment of the investor. There are numerous behavioral biases prevalent in investing; some of the more notable include loss aversion (losses are generally 2-3X more painful than the positive feelings associated with similarly sized gains), confirmation bias (only pay attention to opinions that agree with you), and endowment bias (what we own is more valuable than what we don’t). Ultimately, these behavioral fallacies can result in investors buying high (chasing) and selling low (out of frustration and fear), the consequences of which are long-term wealth destruction.