Don't Forget The Crisis

The pain of the 2008-09 financial crisis and market meltdown was deep and lasting, but there are signs that investors are finally moving on, say Jason Zweig, Joe Light, and Liam Pleven of The Wall Street Journal.

In 2013, they report, investors put a net of $172 billion into equity mutual and exchange traded funds, more than the net total of what they pulled out from 2008-2012. But they caution that investors shouldn’t forget the lessons of the crisis. “Instead of sweeping those memories aside, investors need to reflect honestly about what that bear market meant, how it affected their behavior then and how it ought to factor into their thinking now,” they write.

One key lesson: Beware “expert” opinions, many of which were wrong in 08-09. “Current prices already reflect the sum of stock-market buyers’ and sellers’ opinions,” they say. “If one investor is bullish, there must be another investor on the other side at the current price, notes Philip Tetlock, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.”

They also say investors should honestly remember how they felt during the crisis and bear market, because as times have gotten better many are fooling themselves into thinking they can handle more risk than they really can. “What they should be asking is this: Am I fooling myself into remembering my losses as less painful than they were? Am I itching to take risks that my own history should warn me I will end up regretting? Am I counting on willpower alone to enable me to stay invested and to rebalance through another crash?” they write.

Other lessons the trio cites: Limit risk-taking and question performance figures — with regard to the latter they note that five-year performance data touted by mutual funds now don’t include the bear market.