Done In By Biases?

Howard Gold had a post at MarketWatch noting research that shows baby boomers have too much in equities relative to when they would be likely to retire. He talks about this being poor asset allocation strategy, that it plays into some behavioral finance issues, says that many people need to admit they can’t manage their own money and concludes that everyone should put their 401k money into the target date fund in their 401k most suited to their intended retirement date.

There are several very hasty generalizations to be sure but I really got a kick out of the following comment from a reader;

Also just past boomer, age 50, and most of my money is not in my 401k, it’s in my IRA, which is completely in div paying stocks. Shall I stroll over to the mirror and tell myself I don’t know how to manage my money? I don’t think so. Dump it all into target date funds? I don’t think so. It’s insulting that there is no consideration that maybe, just maybe, some of us holding large amounts of stock know what we’re doing because we’ve been doing it for 2-3 decades and fully know the risks and have been thru the ups and downs.

This is from some random person on the internet and clearly their assessment of themselves and all aspects of their comment could be correct for them but the comment is exactly the type of person Gold is talking about in that he says he’s all equities, says he knows what he is doing (Lake Woebegone?) and can ride the ups and downs just fine.

Again, his self-assessment may be correct but it may not be. How many people have said the exact same thing as this commenter only to turn out to be wrong? I’ve met many along the way.

Very common is over estimating risk tolerance or tolerance for volatility, if it weren’t common there would never be market panics.

In the comment I perceive a sense of infallibility of dividend stock investing in general as well as his ability to pick dividend stocks. Dividend investing is valid but is not infallible, no strategy is infallible. Occasionally something bad will happen with valid strategies that then causes panic or a throwing in of the towel at the absolute wrong time. Indexing was left for dead in the late 1990’s and then for much of the previous decade. Buying a broad domestic index fund was never invalid but it struggled for quite a while and will do so again at some point but the next time it struggles performance-wise it will still be just as valid, not infallible but valid.

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Author: Travis Esquivel

Travis Esquivel is an engineer, passionate soccer player and full-time dad. He enjoys writing about innovation and technology from time to time.

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