Learning to be a great trader (or investor) requires a kind of maniacal devotion to your craft. Anyone who doubts this is likely headed for a fall. If being at the apex of the investment world is your goal, that is fantastic. However that is not the case with the vast majority of people with a brokerage account. A number of years ago I wrote:
I don’t know whether the number is 99%, 99.5% or 90%. What I do know is that most people don’t want to trade. They don’t want to watch the screens or get caught up in the day-to-day mayhem that is today’s markets. Even a large percentage of people who think they want to trade, when push comes to shove, find out they don’t have the stomach for it.
That does not let the other 99% of the population off the hook. You still need to become smart consumer of financial information. You need to know what you don’t know about investing. That is why for many investors a robo-advisor is a great solution to their investment needs. We can also call this the 80% solution in honor Carl Richards at the Behavior Gap who recently sent out an e-mail in support of the ‘80% percenters’ out there. He writes:
Eighty percenters spend most of their lives in the steep part of the learning curve, where progress comes at breakneck speeds. Uncertainty is high, and the next step is scary and unknown.
Leaving aside the scary, next step(s). Being an 80%-er when its comes to investing means you are a smart consumer who can fend off the pitches from financial salesmen (and women). Anthony Isola at A Teachable Moment has a great post up that highlights four questions you should be able to answer in regards to somebody’s pitch, especially someone selling financial products. In short, you need to have a ‘financial BS detector.’ As Isola writes:
Heed the advice from Mr. Adler. “If on one or more of the foregoing counts, the speaker has failed to satisfy you, so that you are left unable to answer these questions or are left in serious doubt about what the answers are, you should remain unpersuaded.”
Protect yourself by getting the right answers to these questions before making any decisions regarding your retirement account.
If you don’t ask these questions, who will?
If nothing else an investment education should give you the ability withstand an onslaught from even the best salesperson in the world. It is easy to get sucked into the investment maelstrom. There is always something to learn, something new that pops up. That is also why it is becoming ever more difficult to generate investment alpha. Thankfully for most investors being, as Carl Richards says, an 80%-er is sufficient to reach your to your investment goals and fend off even the most sophisticated pitch.