Your Path to The Golden Ticket

Published September 15th, 2022
Reading Time: 4 minutes
behavioral gap

Written by:

Christian J. Moon, CFP®
Zoe Network Advisor

Your Path to The Golden Ticket

Published September 15th, 2022 
Reading Time: 4 minutes
behavioral gap

Written by:

Christian J. Moon, CFP®
Zoe Network Advisor

Over the last 30 years, the average investor lagged the market (global stocks and bonds) by around 3% annually. This phenomenon is called the behavior gap.

Famous late-night comedian John Oliver once paralleled the journey of the successful investor with the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As the story goes, all the children except for Charlie succumbed to the enticing traps while making their way toward the golden ticket, ultimately trading away their golden opportunity for something far less valuable. Similarly, investors are presented with countless diversions along the path to investment success.

Over the last 30 years, the average investor lagged the market (global stocks and bonds collectively as measured by indexes) by around 3% annually. This phenomenon is called the behavior gap. So how can an investor avoid acting like chocolate-hungry children? To prevent your behavior gap from becoming more significant, we’ll review some of the most costly investor deviations. 

Impulsive Decisions & Missed Opportunities

The average investor tends to prefer avoiding losses over achieving gains. Unfortunately, an overwhelming amount of individuals tend to skew their investment decisions to that end. When the stock market starts to dip, many investors rush to sell their investments and hold cash until they believe it is safe to re-enter the market. 

A few years ago, I met a prospective client that divulged that he had sold all the investments inside his 401(k) in the wake of the 2008 recession. Nothing could convince him that it was safe enough to repurchase his original investment holdings. Instead, he sat in cash for over ten years while US stocks appreciated more than 300% in value! The graph below exemplifies the risk of sitting on the sidelines after market downturns.

behavior gap

Making the Right Investment Choices

At the end of 2022, in the United States alone, there were more than seven thousand mutual funds (and slightly more ETFs), each one vying to capture your attention and investment dollars. For every boring index fund that replicates the holdings of a stated index, there were at least ten actively managed funds seeking to outperform their benchmarks after fees –  few of these funds delivered on that intention. Your chances of picking one that did so over the last 20 years are less than 5%. As Warren Buffet once stated, “Most institutional and individual investors will find that the best way to own common stocks is through an index fund that charges minimal fees.”

behavior gap

Benefits that Outweigh the Costs

Familiar to most investors is the miracle of compounding interest or the possible exponential growth through earnings on earnings. However, fewer are aware of the forgone compound interest opportunity when they allocate investment dollars toward fees and expenses, which can be staggering (as seen in the chart below). Fortunately, today’s passive index funds come with minimal costs. Some of which have no management fee. Compared to the countless investment options with fees higher than 1.73% annually. Most investment advisors will ultimately charge between .50% to 1.25% annually for their services. The key here is to ensure that the benefits of the financial, emotional, and time savings are greater than the cost. Generally, if you have an advisor who proactively addresses retirement, tax, and risk management planning, there is ample opportunity for the benefits to outweigh the cost. However, if all you’re getting is an annual phone call and holiday cards, you may consider searching for a new advisor.

behavior gap

Closing the Behavior Gap

The obstacles and traps are not the only parallel between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the voyage of an investor. The endings are similar as well. Both of these stories have a solution, one in which, by avoiding temptations, there is a lucky winner. 

By staying invested through the troughs and peaks of the market, using low-cost index funds, and avoiding unnecessary fees, you will slowly be able to close the behavior gap. Like Charlie, the golden ticket could be yours in the form of an extra 3% annually, which could easily mean growing the funds available for you and your loved ones to enjoy. Maybe even enough for a chocolate factory!

Disclosure: This blog is not investment advice and should not be relied on for such advice or as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting, tax, legal or financial advisors. The observations of industry trends should not be read as recommendations for stocks or sectors.

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