To whom it may concern. I'm probably tip toeing in the tulips by myself with this next idea, I hope I present it well.There are gamblers of every size and shape. They gamble at Native American casinos, they gamble on river boats, in Atlantic City, Reno and of course Las Vegas. Most gamblers lose money, it is how the house can afford to buy you a $10 prime rib all you can eat buffet. Most gamblers know they are going to lose money; they came to PLAY. If you watch ESPN from time to time you get introduced to a completely different type of gambler, the professional. In truth not all pros work the tournies for lights, cameras and bracelets. What is consistent among the pros is their level of knowledge and skill. They are not gambling junkies looking for a fix nor are they lucky. They know how to play the game so that they profit over the long haul. They know how much money they need to sit down at a table or get invited to a private room. The amount of money they need has nothing to do with entry cash it has everything to do with how much they need to stay in the game long enough to win the big hands. Pro gamblers are grinders, they wait and wait for the right hand to come their way. The little pots are ways to mark time while they wait. It does not matter if they win or lose the little pots because that is not how they pay their rent. After hours of grinding small pots the right hand gets dealt and they play the table with skill, BAM!, in one hand the rent is paid. Pro gamblers do not gamble, they work the odds and they work the table. ____Investing is not gambling and gambling is not investing. People are people and people behave around money in pretty consistent ways. One constant is that people dream of easy money. They dream of pulling the lever and winning a car, scratching a ticket and wining 50k, the pretty lady pulls the right ping-pong balls and poof they are millionaires. Part of the fun of a casino is the same kind of fun we get by going to the theater or a movie, we suspend our practicality for a while so we can enjoy the fantasy. Each pull of a lever, each bet at a table is fun because we COULD win BIG. Most of us leave with less cash in our pocket then we had when we walked in and we knew that was the most likely outcome, for the 2-3 hours we were there it just didn't matter because it was fun. Here is the rub, the unfortunate truth, the dream of easy money pervades the entire investing realm. The industry uses it to convince people to give them their money. People convince themselves they don't need to do the hard part and they will get rich anyway. Many do-it-yourself'er investors have read piles of the industry's propaganda about how markets work and how easily they can capture that easy money. These folks then read "Investing-for-morons" and "All-you-need-to-know" books and decide they can do it too. They are right they can do it, but they can't do it the same lazy way that is being advertised in the pretty pamphlets laid out on the pretty tables down at the bank. The biggest mistake made by most investors, young, old, novice, veteran is the easy money trap. "All I need to do is X". Seriously, if that was true, then all the boomers and Gen X'rs would have had their houses bought and paid for and we would not have had a financial melt down. If it is that easy everyone would do it, we would all be living in Lake Wobegon with our beautiful spouses and surrounded by our above average children. Fishing is fun and its not hard to do. If you want to eat every day fishing has to be worked at. It can still be fun.Gambling is fun and it is not hard to do. If you want to eat every day it has to be worked at. It can still be fun.Investing is fun and its not hard to do. If you want to eat every day it has to be worked at. It can still be fun. Show me a lake with Kokanee salmon and at the end of the summer I'll show you a freezer full of salmon fillets. Show me a stream with trout and grayling and I'll have tons of fun and eat most days but winter will be filled with beans. I'm not callous or patient enough to grind gambling for a living nor do I like being food for the predators higher up on the food chain. I'll play the wheel if I have enough of a stake to hang in for a while, if not I'll play the quarter machines for bells and giggles. Investing is a part time gig, a serious hobby. I put my time in and I work my methods. If the methods are not panning out this month/quarter I wait, because they will. I hold no fantasy that I will be the next whomever or that I will turn my tiny stake into a private island. Me and my money put on our hard hats and grab our lunch buckets and we head off to work, we punch our clock and we get paid; most days we enjoy our work. Most people will not be better off DCA'ing into an index, not because its a poor method but because they do it for the wrong reasons. People DCA into an index because of the easy money trap. People chase pennies or rocket stocks because of the easy money trap. If your investing/business plan looks or sounds like the pretty pamphlets and letters the pros send you I'm willing to guarantee below average results. If your method or business model involves "All I need to do is . . ." or "All I need is the right _____" I'm willing to guarantee below average long run returns. A crummy business plan is going to create a crummy business. It does not matter if you use ETFs, Index funds, stocks, bonds, CEFs or managed funds. Your results will be founded not on the assets chosen and deployed but on the thought, management and effort put into working your assets and your methods. As odd as it may sound you can successfully DCA into an index when it is done with thought, consistency and you are willing to adapt as times change. You can also throw money away by thoughtlessly DCA'ing without consideration to you, your needs and market conditions. DCA'ing works, until it doesn't if you respect that and adapt to it you can do better than the average bear. If you think it works just because it does then I'm willing to bet the market will teach you a nasty lesson in due time, refuse to learn the lesson and the market will roll you again and again. I'm a value investor and if I am not careful I will buy a bunch of safe do nothing value trap investments. Anyone can buy "value stocks" or "value funds" not everyone in the game is consistently making money. I am willing to bet the one's that are making money put in the time and effort to separate cheap from value. I know Charlie and Quill put their screen time in each week to work their methods and they both get paid for their time. If you ask them they will spell out their potential pit falls and traps they need to dodge. If you really want to invest, use the mirror and look yourself dead in the eye and don't move from that mirror until both of you are convinced that the easy money dream is on the shelf. jack
Jack, Kudos to you for that post. It was heart-felt, and it comes from the voice of experience and from a very sensible point of view, classic value-investing, as Ben Graham espoused and explained it. Since you mention me, let me try to add to what you started. The typical, would-be investor takes an obnoxious, unjustified pride in distinguishing what he/she does from “gamblers”, but there isn’t a lick of difference. Both are making bets about an unknowable future, as are traders and speculators. The details might differ from one discipline to the next, but all four are faced with the task of managing risk, so that winnings, on average and over the long haul, exceed losses. That’s it. That’s all this investing, trading, gambling, speculating stuff is all about, having a tested strategy (most likely that you yourself built) for achieving a positive expectancy (in an asset class that interest you) and then actually executing that strategy in a methodical, disciplined manner, day after day, week after week, year after year, good markets and bad. Said another way, as Jake Bernstein does in his book, The Investor’s Quotient, You don’t trade markets. You trade your beliefs about those markets. Therefore, you are the one who creates your losses, and you are the one who creates your profits. For sure, luck plays a role, both good and bad, which is nothing you can do anything about. But you own your profits, and you own your losses, and it’s up to you to ensure, as best you can, that profits exceed losses in a fairly consistently manner that is proportional to effort made and risk assumed. Now comes the Catch-22. How can you know which parts of the investing, trading, speculating, gambling world might work for you? By actually trying enough of them to get a good sense of who you are and what you can do, which means, initially, you’re going to chew through a fair chunk of time and money until you find something that matches your means and ends and really does feel like “home base”, your very own niche in a world of uncertainty that you’ve discovered is a plenty good-enough match for who you are as a unique human being. Money, Mind, Market. The three have to be in synch if success is to be achieved. But most people want to jump the third part of the trilogy for assuming the other two will, somehow, take care of themselves. Well, no, they won’t, as too many would-be investors, from beginners to Nobel Prize winners, soon discover as their losses mount and they don’t understand why. You used looking in a mirror as a metaphor for self-knowledge, self-awareness. I'd put the matter this way. "You can lie to yourself, but you can't lie to markets. So, why even try?" That means that when you realize you aren't thinking clearly, that when you are being pushed by Fear, or pulled by Greed, instead of rational, impartial analysis, you bench yourself right then and there, shut down your computer, and take a walk. Exercising that sort of self-restraint isn't going to eliminate all of your mistakes (nothing an do that), but it will cut down on them, so that you are seeing in each decision you make everything that you should be seeing. Where does that sort of discipline come from? From practice, practice, practice (and lots and lots of mistakes) ROTFL. Charlie
The typical, would-be investor takes an obnoxious, unjustified pride in distinguishing what he/she does from “gamblers”, but there isn’t a lick of difference. Both are making bets about an unknowable future, as are traders and speculatorsI see it as:Investor - takes an equity position in a company they believe will grow faster than a risk-free investment, and makes their purchases based on the actual fundementals and business of that company. Generally mid to long term.Trader - can take an equity investment, often takes a deritive based on an equity with the hope of being able to sell that investment for more than they paid for it (or if they are selling options, that they won't be on the hook down the road and can keep the premium) Generally takes a short to mid term view.Gambler - with the exception of the few games where skill can make a difference (such as poker, which is where I believe most professional gamblers make money), you're playing against the house, and the house is going to win, which is why you don't see "the world series of roulette"You can do
I see it as:If you think Investor > trader > gambler than your ego is quite possibly in the way or will be in the future. For the most part Investor, Trader and Gambler are individually defined terms. We can look them up in a dictionary but in practice we use them as we personally define them. If you label anything you think is stupid gambling or trading and what you do as investing then your definitions are likely to get you into trouble. If you label the various things that you do as investing, trading and gambling in order to remind yourself of the risks being taken and the probable outcomes then they become useful terms. It is possible to invest in real estate, and we know that many house flippers who thought they were investing were gambling, in essence betting on not being the one stuck with the hot potato. Who was the investor that got caught and who was the gambler? I would suggest that the investor had/has a plan for when the flip flopped while the gambler did the chicken little dance and then lost far more than he/she could afford. I for one have tossed out trying to nuance a difference between a trader and an investor. Depending on what side of the fence you sit on one is a subset of the other. jack
I, for one, have tossed out trying to nuance a difference between a trader and an investor. Depending on what side of the fence you sit on, one is a subset of the other. Jack, Gees, you're smart. (Or more accurately, I agree with you. LOL) Some traders define "investors" as "traders who don't know how to use a stop" when they see someone riding losses down. Or, again, "Don't turn a trade into an investment." Typically, "investors" do have longer intended holding-periods than "traders", and they tend to use wider stops (or none at all), and they tend to make their entry decisions on the basis of the specifics of the underlying rather than the market action that is pricing the underlying. But both are making bets based on an unknowable future, and both need to manage their risks. So it makes better sense to me to focus on the tasks they have in common rather than indulge in the useless, social self-promotion that investors do when they say, "I'm an investor." If I really had to categorize what I do with bonds (which is to buy across the yield-curve and up and down the credit-spectrum, and then hold to maturity), then I might seem to be an "investor". But, operationally, I'm just someone who saw a way to game the odds of an asset-class and who borrows from wherever he has to the tools and needed to turn a profit on the risks accepted. In other words, I'm just a card-counting gambler who found an exploitable edge in the casino game called "Bond Investing". Charlie
Charlie,Operationally I define an investor as someone who is actively managing their assets in way that manages long term and short term risks while seeking a reasonable profit. Beyond that it is a matter of preferred method of activity and asset class(es). Speculators are gamblers refusing to be labeled in such crass and condescending terms. jack
Speculators are gamblers refusing to be labeled in such crass and condescending terms.I see "speculator" as just another term for "applied macro-economist". Speculators are the "top-down" guys, whereas "investors" are their "bottoms-up" counterparts. The "quants" of the investing world are the "gamblers (in the good sense of that term), and "traders" are those who emphasize "price" above all else. Any of them can make good money, as can any hybrid combo. So it doesn't matter which hat one chooses to wear, but it probably does determine where one hangs out, who one reads, and who one admires and tries to emulate. A sports analogy might found in fishing. I'm not a "bass guy" even though I've got a lot of respect for the best of them who tend to be very good limnologists. Ditto the limestone trouters who tend to be very good etymologists. That kind of action just isn't my game. My preference is high-gradient, deep-canyon, freestone waters and trout that have been there at least the last 10,000 years, not hatchery dogs or invasive species like brooks or browns, even though they are truly beautiful fish. I want the water to myself, and I don't care that fish size is going to be small. Can I do the bushwhack it's going to take, and will there be fish where fish should be? If so, I've had a good day and leave nothing behind but footprints and take away nothing but memories. For a few hours, I've crossed into their world and then departed, which isn't to say that when the opportunity presents itself, I won't troll for crappies or cane-pole for bluegills. Fishing is fishing. But one is special to me the way others are not.
LOLYou say see "speculator" as just another term for "applied macro-economist"I say a speculator is someone willing to bet there will be enough chairs for him sit down when the music stops but not the other guy. He will have a chair to sit in precisely because he "is not one of those other guys".I say an investor in commodities has skills, knowledge and plan that manages risks and leverages opportunities for profit. She will have a chair to sit in because she arranged in advanced to have one. You say The "quants" of the investing world are the "gamblers (in the good sense of that term)I say the quants are mechanical investors with really, really good algorithms and that know how to proportion their allocations to control their risks. Their counter parts are "sophisticated investors" who are convinced the black box is a magic money maker. Pick your fish aka investing style within in each self selecting category there are going to be investors and those convincing themselves they are wicked smart. I suspect there are more of the later then the former in each group. jack
Pick your fish (aka, investing style) within in each self-selecting category. There are going to be investors and those convincing themselves they are wicked smart. I suspect there are more of the later then the former in each group.Jack, I don't disagree that within any group (for any activity) there are going to be those who perform better/worse than others. But by the "hat" each tries to wear there might also be where he/she tries to find an edge. Someone like Soros or Rogers isn't really a bottoms-up investor. They are top-down speculators who try to identify and bet on broad trends. Someone like Buffet is a combo of bottoms-up and top-down, but he isn't a quant. Etc. etc. One by one, it's possible to sort through the world of money managers (to use a broadly neutral term) and to guess into which corner of the quadrant they might fit and whether one would want to join up with them. What that could mean, in a forum like this where beginners are trying to see what parts of money-management might be a good fit to the interests and skills they already bring with them, is that their choices are both broader than they imagine and narrower. In fact, in his book, Jay Schabacker's Winning in Mutual Funds, he argues such a thing in Chapters Two (Knowing Yourself), Chapter Three (Asset Allocation for Buy and Hold and Back of the Envelope Investors) and Chapter Four (Market Timing per the Business Cycle). I really like that book, and it's one I can go back and reread with pleasure and new insights gained. When I take the quizzes by which he sorts people into areas and activities they might do well at, I finding myself agreeing with him. I'm really not, and really don't want to be, the sort of number-cruncher you are. No matter how important I think those skills are, nor matter how much I might wistfully want to be one them, that just isn't how I make my investing decisions or could gain an edge. I would get bogged down in the details or back away from every risk. But I can make a game-theoretic approach work for me, because I know I don't have to be right about every detail or even about the broad outlines. I've just gotta be not wrong too often, which is a low threshold to meet. I can, and have, executed on a new position with as little as two minutes due-diligence and have been right nearly every time. E.g., if you're micing out parts and the position is awkward, a common piece of advice from experienced hands is this: "Measure long; measure wrong." The immediacy, accuracy, and directness of first impressions becomes distorted with continued studying. Even Buffet says the same. "If ten minutes with their financials doesn't tell you as much as you need to know, you're looking too hard for something that isn't there." Chartists will tell you the same. "Some charts have nothing to say. So go to the next one. Don't torture the data to make it confess to what you want it to tell you." In Meyers-Briggs terminology, those who prefer to make "snap decisions" are "intuitors". Force them to slow down, and they're going to short-circuit. But force a "deliberator" to speed up, and he will short-circuit. Force an "investor" to quantify the odds, and he won't even understand what you're asking. Etc. So I'd rather celebrate the diversity that can be found among "money-managers" and let beginners try as many of the possible variations as they can until they find something that feels like a good fit rather than saying, as they are generally told, "Of course, you want to be an investor. That's the only proven, sensible approach to appreciating capital." Well, No, it isn't. As a field-guide to money-managers suggests, there are many ways to doing this stuff as there are people doing it. But their successes (or failures) don't concern you, because they aren't you, and you aren't them."Caminante, no hay camino,se hace camino al andar."
It is possible to invest in real estate, and we know that many house flippers who thought they were investing were gambling, in essence betting on not being the one stuck with the hot potato. Who was the investor that got caught and who was the gambler? I would suggest that the investor had/has a plan for when the flip flopped while the gambler did the chicken little dance and then lost far more than he/she could afford. I'm not saying one is better than the other - I just put them in that order as they came into mind.I agree exactly - a real estate investor has thought their purchase through (and has a back up plan for when he can't sell in 6 weeks), while someone who is hoping to turn around next month and sell a house for a quick profit without a plan is simply gambling.I purchased a small amount of GM stock in the fall of 2009 before they went BK. I completely expected them to go BK at some point down the road, but they were so violatile back then I was hoping to make a few hundred dollars quick. I wouldn't even consider what I was doing at that time trading, since I really had no clue what was going to happen, and just said one day "hey, GM seems to be swinging back and forth these days" and bought $500 worth. It was a very small percentage of my portfolio, and I was comfortable with the risk that they could declare BK the next morning. I ended up making money on that one. Same thing with Diana Shipping - up 46%. Office Depot, I'm still down 36%.
Charlie,I fully agree that there are many ways to, what I am defining as, invest. Bottom up, top down, charts, financial statements, momentum . . . I am also saying within each method there is a larger group that is performing similar motions within the same systems while fooling themselves into believing they are investing. What defines an investor is not desire or distorted self image or the fact that they own "investments". What defines an investor is not the assets they hold or the methods they use to make buy, hold, sell decisions. What defines an investor is that they leave the realm of fantasy, easy money, no work, all-I-gotta-do-is behind. An investor uses money and various assets as tools to complete the work of investing. Label the other sub-group whatever you choose, they differ from investors in that they actually believe that once they "put money to work" they have put in all the effort necessary. Investors work a system, the others expect the system to work. Investors recognized that they make mistakes, the others believe the system to be faulty. Investors realize that their system may not work under all conditions, the others believe the game is rigged if their system does not work under all conditions. The investor refuses to passively accept what is doled out, the others believe that this is as good as it gets. The two main differences are the level of involvement and what they choose to see in the mirror. The ugly truth is we are completely capable of fooling ourselves that we are involved and that we are investing. "I'm doing all the right things therefore I must be an investor". The statement fails because the first part is distorted by the individual insistence that they are investor before making the statement. What they are actually saying is "I'm investor therefor I must be doing the right things therefore I must be an investor". Its circular logic designed to make the individual feel good as opposed to honest self reflection that helps one better themselves. The statement "My 401k and my IRA are fully funded every year" does not make the statement maker an investor. All that has been proven is that they can follow instructions. They may be an investor working a system or they may be a hope'r blindly following a recipe. The hard part is convincing the hope'r that they are not actually investing; it often takes a "I've got to do something different this time" arsewhooping to open the door to that A-HA moment. jack
Jack, It’s clear that you are very clear about how you define “investors” and “Investing”. But I’d slice up the world of “capital appreciators” (to use a broadly neutral term) this way: those whose results can mostly be explained by luck, and those whose results can be mostly explained by method, and within “methods” I would put “investing”, which is just one of the many ways capital can be appreciated. Let’s run through some examples. If someone does a daily walk or bike ride, maybe covering 500-2,500 miles a year, it’s likely he will spot a few lost coins on the ground. Method does play a part in those gains, but they are mostly due to luck, and they were incidental to the purpose of the walk or ride. They are “pennies from heaven”, fun to find, but a hard way to earn one’s living, as are all “treasure searches”. But if treasure hunting is done in a disciplined manner that produces success, can it be excluded from the definition of “investing”? I think not. E.g., Mel Fisher might not be everyone’s idea of a workaday "investor”. But he has more in common with Buffet or Soros than he does with the latest lottery winner. If someone buys CDS and other principal-protected instrument in a ruthlessly-efficient fashion, always obtaining the very top dollar, can such a person be called an “investor”? Not according to me. I don’t care how hard, or how well, he is working his “method”. After paying taxes on his gains and subtracting a realistic rate of inflation, he is depleting his purchasing-power in every instance except the rare times when he is buying at the top of the interest-rate cycle. The other 90-95% percent of the time, such a person is merely being a competent cash-manager. This is a skill a capital-appreciator might find useful, but it isn’t necessary to him. (He can be a very sloppy cash-manager, but an excellent capital-appreciator.) Such a person can be called a “capital conserver” in the same way he might be called an “energy conserver”. But he is certainly isn’t earning a living for himself if he’s trading for his own account. He is merely spending down already accumulated capital in a conserving manner. Let’s pause here and examine the four terms that have been introduced so far: ‘currency’, ‘cash’, ‘capital’, and ‘purchasing-power’. Is the goal of investing to increase capital, or purchasing-power? What if the goal is neither? What if the person merely wants to move his present purchasing-power forward to the future against the time when he might need it, and he takes on no more risk, and makes no more effort, than is required to do that? In other words, he’s after the “lazy money” and the “easy money”, and that is plenty good-enough for him. Maybe, he uses a minimalist approach such as annual rebalancing across a traditional set of asset-classes. Maybe, something else. As I’m understanding your definition of “investor”, such a person wouldn’t be one, which he would find surprising and not very useful. Same-same with a floor trader. In what sense he is not an investor as well? He bought a seat on the exchange, and, if he’s good at making markets (aka, has invested his time and capital well), he makes his living. Nor would I exclude a systems trader from the definition of "investing". I've got a friend who's an "algo trader", completely hands off. His computer does all the work, and he can support himself. In what sense isn't he an investor, too? It took him three years of hard work, a lot of capital and effort, to build and test his system. But now his effort, engagement, and involvement (qualities you see as important) are nearly zero. What I'd suggest is this. Anyone can call him or herself an "investor", and many people do. But of those, how many (using whatever methods they choose) could meet their self-professed goals unless they were trivially defined as "having more cash next year than this, markets permitting"? That's why I don't think "investors" can claim first place among capital appreciators which is a loosely coherent group that also included traders, speculators, gamblers, top-down, bottoms-up, quants, quals, techs, chartists, fundies, game-theorists, etc., and needn't be done for the purpose for providing a living. A hook, worm, bobber, cane pole and bream from under the boat house are "fishing" just as much as yamame taken with artificials thrown with high-end graphite. What matters is whether the angler can read the water and make an appropriate presentation and whether he knows he's just fishing for fun or whether the effort has a more serious purpose. Charlie
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