Saturday, April 30, 2011

Religion And Investments Don't Mix

Zealotry may have a place in religion or social causes, but I prefer my beliefs to be rooted more in logic. Reason should triumph over dogma, but it won't faze the fanatic.

Investing should be driven by reason, not any other discipline. Obtaining good, consistent investment results is difficult and, over the long haul, impossible if clear thinking isn't the main driver of financial decisions. There's no place for religious zealotry in investing. Blind Faith leads to the poorhouse.

I intend on never visiting the poorhouse. That doesn't mean that bad investment decisions aren't in my future. I make them regularly, but they won't be mistakes of a major magnitude. Logic, financial analysis, and fear will keep losses to a minimum. I try hard to not turn any investment thesis into religion. I'm open to different opinions and criticism and if my thinking is proven to be flawed I'll exit. Not so for many investors.

I run across religious fervor daily for various investments. Irrational fervor and devotion for their positions. It's generally present in niche investments that have done extremely well and that performance has a missionary's impact on the converted. Nothing fazed the high-tech devotee during the bubble, the sub-prime/housing guru several years ago, the rare earth minerals fanatic, and the all-in commodities speculator of today. Logic is of little value when weighed against a continuing uptrend. Belief in continued success is paramount and that thesis is to be defended, no matter how weak the argument.

Miracles happen in connection with organized religion and they can happen also in investing. Timing is unpredictable and an irrational investment trend can go on for much longer than it should. But, investing results shouldn't be dependent on miracles and that is what is required if logic is taken out of the process.

Sell a security short, write an article detailing the reasoning, and wait for the attacks. The faithful respond with vitriol and very few facts supporting their position. They are in the investment because it has gone up, they have become converts, and they believe it will always go up. It won't and they will be in the poorhouse. Investing, long term, is about making analytical decisions, not miracles. There's no place for religion in investments.

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