Nobody likes losing money, and studies show that we actually feel losses twice as deeply as gains. But loss aversion can hurt you, says an article in Morningstar.
Loss aversion differs from risk aversion in that people are more averse to losing things than the risk of losing them. Many investors are more likely to sell off winning stocks just to earn a profit while also refusing to accept defeat on big losses. When an investor sees a stock plummet, their first reaction is to stop losing money, which can lead to panic-selling, instead of riding the wave of what might be just a small dip. However, many investors are also loathe to sell a stock that is losing big, hoping to climb back up to the value they began with. In both situations, loss aversion can hurt investors, whether they are taking small losses badly, or in denial about big losses.
It’s easy for an investor to regret a bad outcome, mistaking it for a bad initial decision, the article contends. That regret can result in making an actual bad decision, like selling off stock in a good company when it hits a low price, instead of buying more. So it’s important for investors to discern whether what they’re really regretting is a bad outcome, in order to avoid making a bad decision.
One of the most powerful things to avoid making those bad decisions is to simply stop looking at your portfolio, maintains Dan Kemp, global chief investment officer at Morningstar, who is quoted in the article. Seeing every little up and down in your portfolio can lead to a feeling of loss aversion. Instead, Kemp says, review it periodically, and of course make sure whoever is looking after your money (whether it’s you or a manager) is taking the appropriate risks. But, the article quotes Kemp in conclusion, “it’s much easier to make that assessment over a longer time period than over a short time period.”