The Difficulties Of Discipline


In a June 1999 interview with Businessweek, Warren Buffett is quoted as saying, “Success in investing doesn’t correlate with IQ. Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people in trouble investing.”

Michael Mauboussin, director of research at BlueMountain Capital Management (and prior to that, head of global financial strategies at Credit Suisse and chief investment strategist at Legg Mason Capital Management), seems to agree with Buffett. In his book, “More Than You Know,” Mauboussin wrote: “Investment philosophy is really about temperament, not raw intelligence. In fact, a proper temperament will beat high IQ all day long.”

Temperament is critical to successful investing because markets persistently test investor discipline with periods, often long ones, of volatile and/or poor performance. In my more than 20 years of > SEE MORE

Know Your Investor Personality


In his book, “The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need for the Right Financial Plan,” Larry Swedroe has a detailed discussion on how investors can choose the right asset allocation for them, with the focus being on determining one’s ability (capacity), willingness (tolerance) and need (the rate of return required to achieve a goal) to take risk.

To help with issues surrounding the willingness to take risk, risk tolerance questionnaires have become a very popular. Unfortunately, as Joachim Klement showed in his article, “Investor Risk Profiling: An Overview,” published in the June 2018 CFA Institute Research Foundation brief “Risk Profiling and Tolerance: Insights for the Private Wealth Manager,” the “current standard process of risk profiling through questionnaires is found to be highly unreliable and typically explains less than 15% of the variation in risky assets between investors. The cause is primarily the design of the questionnaires, which focus on socioeconomic variables and hypothetical scenarios to elicit the investor’s behavior.”

He went on to explain that there are three problems questionnaires typically fail to address: Our genetic predisposition affects our willingness to take on financial risks, the people we interact with shape our views, and the circumstances we experience in our lifetimes—in particular, > SEE MORE

Look Past Expense Ratios

The evidence is clear that investors are waking up to the fact that, while the past performance of actively managed mutual funds has no value as a predictor of future performance, expense ratios do—lower-cost funds persistently outperform higher-cost ones in the same asset class.

That has led many to choose passive strategies, such as indexing, when implementing investment plans because passive funds tend to have lower expense ratios. Within the broad category of passive investment strategies, index funds and ETFs tend to have the lowest expenses.

Based on my experience, most investors tend to believe that all passively managed funds in the same asset class are virtual substitutes for one another (meaning > SEE MORE