Every investor inevitably wants to put the blame on someone else when their portfolio takes a turn for the worse—and in the old days, there were plenty of people to point fingers at. But with so many individual investors acting as their own brokers and managers, it’s not so easy to blame someone else, and an article by Jason Zweig in The Wall Street Journal gives a little advice for what to do when the fault is your own.
Many investors will want to deny that they themselves are to blame, especially in the current environment with stocks down 8% so far in 2022. It’s hard to accept that the stock you believed in so fiercely when you bought it has now dropped exponentially. That’s cognitive dissonance at work, when beliefs and reality come into conflict. But there are some things investors can do to prepare for the moment when they have to face the reality that they’ve made an error.
First, Zweig writes, don’t be so open about your investing ideas. Talking about them to everyone you know will make you double down on your commitments instead of remaining flexible. Second, be up front about your mistakes. Take into account the possibility that you were so sure you were right that no evidence could prove you wrong, and estimate the probability that you were mistaken. Lastly, take a cue from General Dwight Eisenhower and prepare for being wrong by imagining that it’s already happened. The night before the D-Day invasion in 1944, he wrote a press release as if the Allied troops were defeated, ending the brief statement with: “If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.”
These actions might not prevent you from making a trade that turns out to be a mistake, Zweig writes, but it may allow you to save face and move on more quickly if you do make an error.