Behavioural Finance: Loss Aversion
What is Loss Aversion?
Loss aversion kept our ancestors alive. It also keeps you from being a successful investor.
Almost all investors feel uncomfortable due to negative short-term movements in stock prices similar to the drastic ones we have seen over the past few years. In behavioral finance, this concept is defined as the “loss aversion” bias. This concept is explained by Daniel Crosby, Ph.D. in his book "The Behavioral Investor," as he takes a look at loss aversion and its roots in evolution.
In early human societies, avoiding loss was key to survival. In order to ensure their survival, our ancestors developed a strong instinct to avoid losses and to protect their resources. This instinct has carried over into modern times and influences the way that individuals approach investments. In the realm of investing, this bias can:
- Lead individuals to focus on short-term price movements and avoid investing in markets altogether, even though investing in a well-diversified portfolio over the long-term is the logical thing to do.
- Lead individuals to act impulsively in the face of short-term market movements, rather than taking a long-term perspective. This behavior can result in selling stocks when prices are low, missing out on potential gains, and not realizing the full potential of their investments.
Markets definitely reward patience and inaction in times of uncertainty. Individuals who are able to remain calm and resist the urge to act impulsively in the face of market volatility almost definitely achieve better investment outcomes. By taking a long-term perspective and avoiding the knee-jerk reactions that result from loss aversion, investors can achieve better returns and realize the full potential of their portfolios.
Humans are wired to act; markets tend to reward inaction.
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