Featured entries from our Journal

Details Are Part of Our Difference

Embracing the Evidence at Anheuser-Busch – Mid 1980s

529 Best Practices

David Booth on How to Choose an Advisor

The One Minute Audio Clip You Need to Hear

Tag: investor behavior

Six Ways to Tell the Difference Between Real and Pretend Investors

The following is a piece former podcast guest and New York Times Columnist, Carl Richards wrote for his newsletter. We enjoyed his humorous take on “pretend” investors.

Pretending to be an investor is dangerous. It’s not like when you were a kid pretending to be a superhero. That’s because kids generally know better than to confuse “make-believe” for reality. It’s pretty rare that a child jumps off the roof because they actually think they can fly.

But when it comes to investing, adults confuse “make-believe” and reality all the time.

Don’t you think it’s time we grow up a little? 

Here are six ways to tell the difference between real and pretend investors to help get started.


  1. Pretend investors think that financial pornography is real, and therefore, the news ticker scrolling across the television screen represents actionable information.

Real investors know it might be entertaining, like going to the circus. But they would never make a decision because of it.

  1. Pretend investors think it makes perfect sense to change their investments based on what they hear in the news: There’s a new president, so act! He doesn’t like the Federal Reserve, so trade! He criticized bankers, so buy bank stocks!

Real investors make changes to their investments based on what happens in their own lives. If their goals change or there is a fundamental change in their financial situation, then they consider making a change in their investments. But they would never make a change based on someone yelling “buy” or “sell” on a Financial Pornography Network.

  1. Pretend investors think they need to monitor their investments all the time. (The little supercomputer they carry around in their pockets makes it so easy!)

Real investors know it takes a long time for a tree to grow, and it will not help to dig it up to see if the roots are still there. The same rule applies to investments. 

  1. Pretend investors talk about their investments—a lot. They say things like, “I’m long this, or short that.” They use jargon that often does not make sense, though it sounds kind of impressive if you don’t listen too closely. Sometimes they cheer for things like increased consumer spending, higher unemployment, or in some cases, even war.

Real investors understand the difference between the global economy and their personal economy, and choose to focus on the latter.

  1. Pretend investors worry endlessly about the news in some far-off part of the world and the impact that news will have on their portfolio.

Real investors focus on the things they can control, like saving a bit more next year, keeping their investment costs low, not paying fees unless it’s necessary, and managing their behavior by not buying high and selling low.

  1. Pretend investors complain endlessly about volatility in the markets, and focus on days.

Real investors are focused on enjoying the benefits of the returns the market generates over decades.


Look, if it feels like I’m getting in your face a little, it’s because I am.

But I’m doing it for you!

Jumping off the roof because you think you can fly can have disastrous consequences… it just so happens, so can throwing around your money because you think you know how to invest.

If any of the six items in bold above sound like you… you may want to think about what it means to be a real investor.

Or just jump off that roof, and see what happens.

Investing Alphabetically – Seriously?

Where would we be without alphabetic order in our life? Imagine if airports listed all departures randomly on their flight boards? We might never make it to the gate.

But should you find your investments alphabetically? When you’re presented with a list of available funds, should you prefer the ones that appear toward the top of the list?

This is not a trick question. Of course, the answer is no. It shouldn’t matter one bit where a fund name falls on an alphabetic list. And yet, amazingly, a recent study found that many investors may be unintentionally allowing “alphabeticity bias” to creep into their decisions anyway.

The study, “Alphabeticity Bias in 401(k) Investing,” is slated to be published in a forthcoming issue of The Financial Review. Investment selections in 401(k) retirement plans are often presented in alphabetic order, so the study’s authors took a look at whether plan participants were allowing that order to influence their choices. They found that, indeed, “alphabeticity – the order that fund names appear when listed in alphabetical order – significantly biases participants’ investment allocation decisions.” The longer the list of selections, the more alphabeticity bias appeared.

Why would we do this? The authors proposed the reason is related to another bias they called “satisficing.” When you’re reviewing an alphabetic list of choices, once you’ve found one that suits your purpose, you tend to give less consideration to the rest of the list. “My work here is done,” your brain tells you, and it shuts down … even if there may be an even better selection further on.

You shouldn’t, and we won’t, settle for next-best investments – in your retirement plan or anywhere else. Helping you avoid doing so is one way we encourage you to Take the Long View® when you invest.

Ask Your Future Self


John Jennings, IFOD Author and President, St. Louis Trust Company

There are so many songs, books and movies about what it would be like to travel in time. What if we told you there is one way you actually can – sort of – make good use of time travel with respect to your wealth?

Remember our friend John Jennings, and his Interesting Fact of the Day (IFOD) blog? John recently covered this subject in his IFOD post, “Discounting the Future,” and how this phenomenon can impact your personal and financial habits.

For example, when his daughter Claire decided to put off doing her homework, she told him she was “going to let future Claire worry about the project.” (I kind of hope my daughter Harper isn’t reading this!) She was prioritizing the instant gratification of enjoying her current leisure time, and discounting the more distant reward of having the project already completed by the time “future Claire” was wishing she could goof off.

When it comes to our money, discounting the future can trick us into treating future dollars as less valuable than current ones. For example, if someone offers you $100 today or $200 six months from now, you may opt for the instant cash, discounting the extra $100 your future self would have enjoyed. Which choice you’ll prefer can vary, depending on how far in the future you’re being asked to wait, as well as how much money is involved.

If we haven’t yet nailed the idea, please take a minute to read John’s phenomenal post, and be sure to look for comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s explanation of the concept. Before you know it, you’ll be asking yourself questions about what your future self will think about your current self for the next few weeks – and likely making better decisions for the long view.

Featured entries from our Journal

Details Are Part of Our Difference

Embracing the Evidence at Anheuser-Busch – Mid 1980s

529 Best Practices

David Booth on How to Choose an Advisor

The One Minute Audio Clip You Need to Hear

Hill Investment Group