Cents and Sensibility


Saturday, May 26, 2001

Don’t invest
using emotions

WE have the full range of emotions, and it's important to express them -- but not in the investment arena.

Emotions such as greed and fear can do serious damage to your investment plans. How? Let's look at greed first.

Contrary to what you may have seen depicted in movies about Wall Street, greed is not good. Suppose you observe that a particular stock, or group of stocks, is doing extremely well. You conclude that somebody has to be making a lot of money -- so why not you? Why not jump on the bandwagon?

Here's why not: The bandwagon already may be going downhill. By the time you -- and millions of others -- have read all the articles on "today's hot stocks," these stocks may be losing momentum and cooling off. Stocks simply do not stay "hot" for long periods of time. So, once you've identified a stock that's done extremely well for a while, it's logical to assume that its performance may well flatten out -- or even drop.

The lesson? Don't be greedy. Buy a company because its long-term prospects are good, or because its management is innovative, or because its products will be highly sought-after for many years to come. But don't buy it just because its stock price is currently soaring.

Now, let's turn to fear. If you're already investing in a particular stock, and its price is falling, you may fear losing money. So, to "cut your losses," you sell your stock, or group of stocks, before the price can fall further. Yet, market history is full of examples of stocks or sectors that have done terribly one year, only to perform very well the next. If you let fear drive your investment decisions, you'll rob yourself of the chance to participate in a rally that may be near.

Of course, there are many legitimate reasons to sell a stock. The firm may have weak management, its products may have lost their competitive edge or your own investment goals may have changed. But if you sell a stock, try to do so when its price is up -- not down.

Pay heed to these words: "Past performance is no indication of future results." The Securities and Exchange Commission requires this statement to appear on every prospectus. There's a simple reason for this warning: Things change.

Guy Steele is a financial planner and head
of the Pali Palms office of Edward Jones. Send
planning and investing questions to him at 970
N. Kalaheo Ave., Suite C-210, Kailua, HI, 96734,
or by email at:

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