If only. If only I’d actually invested some money in March of last year. If only I’d bought my first property before going off on my OE...
Conversely, 'if only' I’d sold. I’m sure a few Nike shareholders said that after Tiger Woods through an inability to keep his trousers zipped up.
My own personal example happened in August 1987. I’d sold most of my shares to pay for my OE, donned a backpack and headed to South America. I left my father in charge of selling one last share parcel. He held on, thinking I’d get a better price, which resulted in me being left with a worthless piece of paper. If only he’d sold, I could have spent another 10 weeks travelling – although I just accepted what happened and moved on.
Some of the best known ‘if onlys’ involve large companies that started small and have done phenomenally well. Here in New Zealand it was Brierleys. People who invested a small amount in the early days were paper millionaires at the height of the company’s fortunes.
Overseas it might be the Microsofts or Googles of the investing world that are ‘if onlys’ for people. Analysis done by Microsoft itself shows that shares bought in 1986 are worth 25 times that now.
Back to the question of March last year. Bargains abounded. If you’d bought into the Nasdaq composite index in March 2009 when it hit rock bottom at $1,268.65, you’d have made an 88% profit on paper by now.
Good investors learn from the if onlys and move forward, not dwelling too much on the past.
There are many causes of the ‘if only’ disease. Here are some thoughts on those reasons:
The tomorrow troubadours that put off to tomorrow what they could do today often live to regret their ways.
Time is an expensive commodity in our society and does hold people back. But they can decide to utter their last ‘if only’ only and get organised.
The fear of risk is deep seated in our psyches and is one that some people need to overcome. Others could do with switching this on.
It’s nigh impossible to time the market. You need to take a punt sometimes. If you struggle with this, the try dollar cost averaging.
If the partner is your problem (or you are and you don’t realise it), then finding out about your risk tolerances and even seeing a third party expert to mediate isn’t a bad idea.
It’s good to have a sounding board. For some people it’s their partner, parents, siblings or even a financial adviser. I also like networking groups. If you can join one or set one up you can often be motivated into taking action, or avoid silly mistakes.
The ‘if only’ sigh can also be dangerous when it comes to investing. I’m sure there were a fair few people in March 1987 going: if only I’d mortgaged the house and invested in shares I’d be as wealthy as….the Jonses.