In the horse-and-buggy days, it was common to put blinders on your trusty steeds. It helped them narrow their frame of reference to the job at hand … or at hoof.
Even today, blinders remain a great strategy for those Budweiser Clydesdales. But for us humans, a similar behavioral bias known as narrow framing is more likely to knock us off-course than keep us sensibly invested.
What am I talking about? UCLA’s behavioral economist Shlomo Benartzi recently published an insightful Wall Street Journal piece on the subject. In it, he describes narrow framing as “a tendency to see investments without considering the context of the overall portfolio.”
“The first [narrow framing] mistake involves people taking too little risk, which often leads to lower investment returns. When we engage in narrow framing, we tend to focus on short-term losses. … The second mistake involves people taking on too much risk without realizing it. When we don’t think about our entire portfolio, it’s easy to overlook the fact that many of our different investments might fall or fail for similar reasons.”
In other words, overly narrow framing can result in ignoring instead of accurately assessing your own and the market’s landscape of inherent risks and potential rewards. You end up investing like a horse with blinders on – but nobody is steering the cart.
Fortunately, Benartzi offers a few practical solutions, which just happen to coincide with our way of doing business here at Hill Investment Group.
“Rely on information that reflects the biggest possible picture,” he advises, but “remember not to look at it too often.” Sounds a lot like our motto: Take the Long View®, don’t you think? Helping families view their big picture is core to our approach.
Benartzi also notes that today’s aggregation software – like our recently released HIG’s Client Portal – makes it easier than ever to see the grand scheme of things at a glance.
If you’ve never had the chance to catch the Budweiser Clydesdales in action, I recommend it highly. (No, a Super Bowl commercial doesn’t count.) But when it comes to your investments, let your advisor and today’s technological tools help you eliminate your narrow-framing blinders. Being blinded will only lead you astray.