So my lesson to the intern — and to myself — was this: Attention, activity, and arbeiten (it’s German, look it up) are often no match for a simple, consistent, and yes, boring, plan.
The article makes the case that buy-n-hold gives winners time to win big, while actively managing a portfolio leads to overthinking, mistakes, higher taxes and fees. Clearly, the SID board is presenting a very serious challenge to this wisdom.
I don’t think so.
His high attention/activity account was in an after-tax, non-sheltered account. Therefore, his frictional costs were significantly higher than if he had been doing so in a tax-sheltered account.
Saul and others on this board buy with the intention of holding for the long-term and only sell under two conditions: either something drastically better comes along, or something changes with the company making it no longer a great investment (see Saul’s discussion on why he sold out of SHOP).
I was recently in a discussion with someone who was absolutely convinced that one “couldn’t beat the market”, and “Even Buffet says so, he won that 10-year bet with HEDGE FUND managers! If professionals can’t do it, no one can!”.
I considered these fairly ignorant statements on a number of levels to say the least. But it did really get me thinking about the whole index fund idea. Why is it such a good idea if it’s merely an average of the returns of the entire market? And, if it is easy to beat the market, why would people bother with an index fund?
I also had a discussion with another Fool the other day about a CNBC article discussing how much money you’d have had you invested in AMZN in 1997 and just left it there. The jist of the conversation was how CNBC and the mainstream media don’t teach anyone anything about investing. They provide click-bait articles that prove that hind-sight is always and make you feel regret and inadequacy.
Combining all these disparate thoughts, here is my main point…
Every investment thesis is highly dependent upon the audience it is intended for:
- The Index Fund thesis is intended for the “average person” who knows nothing at all about business, investing, finance, etc. They have no knowledge of these things and no interest at all in learning about them. But they do know that they need to survive on whatever they can save, and since they can’t possibly beat the market without knowledge of these things, the best they can do is match the markets.
The mainstream media re-enforces this, as do people like John Bogle, Warren Buffett, and now the various mutual fund companies like Vanguard and Fidelity. Though, if you actually listen to what both Bogle and Buffett say, you will hear them point out that this thesis is specifically for people who want to know nothing and just let their money compound over time through no effort of their own. The do NOT actually say “you can’t beat the market”.
The long-term-buy-and-hold thesis, aka “Foolish Investing”, as preached by The Motley Fool, is geared toward those who may not know anything about business, investing, finance, etc. yet but are interested and willing to learn. For these people, beating the market can be as simple as buying the latest Stock Advisor recommendations or Best Buy Now stocks and just letting it ride with little to no effort for a very long time. Eventually many will start to learn and understand what makes a Foolish investment and take a little more active participation in their portfolios and beat the market handily by adding to their winners, culling their losers, and consistently adding new money to their portfolios.
The Aggressive Growth/Saul Approach - This is clearly an approach that is designed for those who are very hands-on and actively seek out great companies at great prices and are not at all hesitant to dig into company financials, SEC reports, quarterly earnings, read all sorts of news articles and understand and know who the leaders of their companies are and how they think.
Matt’s article was very much intended for that middle group, which is probably the vast majority of the Stock Advisor and greater Motley Fool community base. Saul’s board, and his investing paradigm are not that type of person. The people in the first two groups actually can not do what is done here on this board. They don’t have it in them. It’s actually impossible for them to even comprehend how it’s done, and likely wouldn’t even believe what they read here were they to be confronted with the evidence.
I experienced exactly that reaction from the person I was discussing the index fund thesis with. He was going on about digging into researching different index funds, all to squeeze out an extra couple of points of performance by investing in 3 or 4 different indexes vs. just one. When I asked him why he bothered, he said because index funds are proven to be the best investments. He thought I was insane for claiming to have have averaged a 30% ROI over 10 years. He thought I should write a book, because even the best hedge fund managers can’t achieve that! And he nearly flipped out on me when I told him that what I do wasn’t hard, and that I’m nothing special at all. Lots of people do this, and way better than me!
So, no, I don’t think that this board presents any challenge to this wisdom, since this wisdom is meant for people very, very different from those on this board. We have a different type of wisdom those people are not yet ready to hear, and many may never be ready to hear it. The wisdom here is only for those ready to hear it, and ready to act on it.
Paul - who was ready for this wisdom a decade ago, but found it barely 10 months ago…