What Kind of Investing is Better

One of the most dangerous investment attitudes (along with “this time it’s different”) is the complaint that “my investment isn’t doing anything.” The observation says more about the speaker than it does the alleged short-comings of the investment.

Of course this isn’t about lack of activity at all. Last week the market was really active – actively tanking. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the activity those people had in mind. If the alternative is being trapped in a nose-diving market, “doing nothing” can seem pretty attractive.

When people say the investment isn’t doing anything what they mean is “it isn’t making enough money.” There’s an old Wall Street sales pitch: “Your money isn’t working hard enough for you so hire me and I’ll fix that.” When I was a stockbroker, hearing that phrase always made me imagine the speaker physically whipping the client’s portfolio to make it pick up the pace like some poor galley slave in a Cecil B. DeMille movie.

I remember a revealing cartoon of a broker telling his client “Yes, your money was working for you but it quit and now it’s working for me.”