Investing Lessons from Brexit

The impact of Britain’s vote to leave the EU may take years to play out, but there are several lessons investors can learn in the meantime. Daisy Maxey of The Wall Street Journal offers the opinions of some investment and behavioral-finance experts:

Timing: A Loser’s Game

Translating geopolitical uncertainty into potential market movements is very difficult because, according to William Bernstein, investment manager at Efficient Frontier Advisors in Eastford, Connecticut, “it can be highly counterintuitive. Just because economic growth will be slower/faster doesn’t mean that returns will be lower/higher.”

Markets Bring Surprises

“Markets are indeed human, and actions people take there are not the result of logical deductions,” says Robert Shiller, finance professor at Yale University and Nobel laureate economist. Vanguard Group founder John Bogle asserts, “over the long run, market returns are determined by the economics of corporate earnings growth and dividend yields.”

Play the Long Game

Since the post-Brexit dip, the S&P has reached all-time highs. So knee-jerk reactions can be ill-founded and costly. “Acting on short-term emotions is counterproductive,” Bogle says. Investors who are in for the long term, he says, will face on average “about one so-called market crisis a year.”

Diversification is Key

“Diversifying is a hard job for investors”, Bernstein says. But experts say that those who hold portfolios that are diversified among uncorrelated assets classes (at risk levels they can tolerate) are better prepared to avoid panic during stressful periods.

Financial Advisers Can Help

Maxey reports the opinion among experts that good financial advisers offer the benefit of talking fiscal sense into their clients. According to Bernstein, “If you panicked during the latest move, then you have a serious problem with your basic investment psychology.”