December 2018 | Posted By Matt Hall

A “Royal Ease” Pose (photo by Matt Hall)

Unruffled serenity. We love that expression. It’s exactly what we seek to bring to our clients – especially when the volume of market noise rises to a roar, as it has in the latter half of 2018. We can’t claim credit for the phrase, though it does pair with our own tagline, Take the Long View®. Both are aimed at detaching emotions from market swings, whether high or low. The long-term view has always sloped up and to the right, but in the short run it’s unpredictable.

Who else can help bring a sense of calm in these times? We point you to Jason Zweig of The Wall Street Journal. Ever since Zweig launched his Intelligent Investor column a decade ago (succeeding the equally adept Jonathan Clements), it’s been far easier to list his few underwhelming columns than the vast majority we’ve enjoyed. His brilliant book, “Your Money & Your Brain” also has a permanent place on our recommended reading list.

As high a bar as Zweig has set for himself, we were particularly pleased by his recent column on market volatility and a behavioral bias known as herd mentality. The article explores a volume of evidence suggesting investors and even portfolio managers are strongly influenced by the “emotional contagion” of their neighbors. This results in market participants in communities, cities and even states mimicking one another’s trading habits, often to their detriment.

“Investors probably behave like their neighbors because gossip, news and beliefs spread by word of mouth,” says Zweig.

His suggested antidote to catching this communicable “disease” strongly reflects our own. Pointing to investment legend and economist Benjamin Graham (Warren Buffett’s mentor), Zweig describes how Graham went out of his way to cultivate “unruffled serenity,” strengthened by “a certain aloofness,” to ward off the constant peer pressure to react to random market noise.

Zweig concludes:

“With markets gyrating, unruffled serenity may become important again. If volatility scares you, spend more time with family and friends who don’t obsess over stocks. You’ll be happier now—and, probably, richer later on.”