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Blog | Fee Only Certified Financial Planner Washington DC

I like to write about what happens in our lives and how it can relate to our financial lives. Not always but most of the time. So keep checking in. I'm glad to have you reading along.

Shadow, or no?

“Man, this predicting stuff is hard work.”

“Man, this predicting stuff is hard work.”

On February 2, 2019 good ol' Punxatawny Phil did not see his shadow. And for those of you keeping score at home, it's only the 10th time in 123 recorded instance he did not see his shadow. So will we have an early spring, as legend suggests we will? According to this USA Today story, Punxatawny Phil doesn't have a very stellar track record.

Yet for those of us that don't care for winter (yeah, that's me over here holding my hand up high!), this bit of "news" brings about a source of excitement, perhaps even glee. Optimism abounds and folks talk about it like it's some kind of sure thing. Even if it's only folklore.

Phil might be right and we might get an early spring.

But who's to say old man winter won't make a grand re-entrance sometime in late March or even April? We could get a blizzard in the DC area in March - it's happened. In fact, in the last 20 years, we've had 3 snowstorms dump 6+ inches of snow on our region. Two of those were in the last 5 years. Come on, Phil - you better be right THIS TIME!

So it's possible, right? Of course it is. Predicting anything in the future is an act of sheer folly, at best. Weather, outcomes, market performance, your life.

Yet here I am praying and hoping my friend Phil nails it this time around. Even though I know his track record is no bueno, I'm holding out hope.

Investing carries the same type of stigma. When we invest our money into a mutual fund and we ask that fund's manager(s) to invest our money for us, we are holding out hope. Optimism abounds that he/she will be able to outperform the market. We place an extreme amount of confidence in that person's ability to predict the following:

  • when to get in and out of the market (market timing)

  • what companies will over/under perform (stock picking)

Yet we know, just like Punxatawny Phil, predicting the future is a futile effort. In fact, our investments likely come with the following disclaimer:

Past performance is NOT indicative of future results.

Or something to that extent.

Imagine for a moment if the stock market went up or went down for the year based on whether Phil saw his shadow or not. OMG.

For some of us, our fund managers are doing the same thing. They are looking for economic indicators or political events or specific prices to buy/sell. And they are making guesses I mean predictions based on these events.

Will they be correct? For your sake, I hope so.

Research tells us otherwise. Check out the video over there >>>

Our chances of getting higher returns by simply investing in the market (being average!) are better than if we rely on someone else's predictive ability - either through stock picking or market timing - to try and beat the market.

When it comes to investments, I'm not fine with holding out hope that our fund's manager will or will not see his shadow, I mean beat the market.

Rather than rely on hope, optimism, and predictive ability, do the following:

  • be average, and be okay with it

  • diversify your investments

  • behave, behave, behave (read: stay in the market)

Notice, these are all factors we can control.

On the other hand, I am fine with holding out hope that Punxatawny Phil is right this time around. I'll be optimistic. If he's wrong, no big deal. It's the just weather and eventually spring will get here. I don't have any control over it, anyhow.