Behavioral economics has been a forgotten field of study until recently, contends Richard Thaler, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences and professor at the University of Chicago Booth, in an interview in Morningstar. Many undergraduate programs still overlook it, though there’s a growing understanding of it on Wall Street and in governments.
When asked about the current market, Thaler says we are in a market course correction after the long period of record highs in the equity market, but it’s difficult to know whether we’re at the beginning or the end of that correction. And while segments of the market seem clearly overvalued, that can be hard to prove. But Thaler maintains that we don’t learn from the past as we should; when he talks about the tech bubble to his students, they often don’t know what that is, though it happened only 20 years ago. However, “we may not make exactly the same mistake,” Thaler added with a laugh.
But Thaler doesn’t believe that investing should be automated in every situation as a way to avoid mistakes. For individual investors, whose “instincts are all wrong,” they will usually do better setting up a diversified portfolio and leaving it alone. “Ignore the market,” Thaler advises, though stay in tune enough to rebalance from time to time. If you do bring on a financial advisor, it would be useful to have one who has an “understanding [of] the psychology of the client,” Thaler says in the article’s conclusion.