Fribble

The Fribble
Friday, November 12, 1999

Au Revoir, Mon Fool

By tallships

I hadn't owned a stock since I had a bad experience in 1985 resulting from a tip from the plant's janitor's son. In 1999 the time had come to start planning for retirement (only years too late but who was to know back then). I found the Fool in February. I explored the website, went to the School, learned about the different screens, evaluated my financial position, and planned my attack. I was going to be a mechanical, long-term investor. I took some money that we wouldn't need for five years and bought the top 5 PEG stocks.

Suddenly, my life changed. I was part of a larger community. Within a few weeks VISX took off and doubled. I was making money and I was hooked. I loved the adrenaline. I checked my portfolio daily, then hourly. The Fool invented the portfolio window that would constantly update itself so I could easily check even more frequently. I wallowed in the green numbers and agonized over the red ones. I signed up for all the Fool e-mail and read it religiously. I got involved in discussions on message boards and learned about new possible opportunities. Still, I scoffed at day traders and considered myself a long-term investor. After all, I was going to be
in the market for years, even if I was watching it constantly.

I was deep into the trap and didn't realize it. How can you be unemotional when you inundate yourself with information? I started buying stocks that were not on the screen because of discussion threads on message boards. I evaluated my screens weekly instead of monthly, even if I didn't always trade when the screen changed. I became emotionally attached to some stocks and refused to sell when they dropped off the screen.

The message boards became a support group. The cheerleaders there would buck up my spirits as my favorites showed red, day after day. "Think long term," they said, "but what do you think is causing today's price drop?" No one saw how illogical that question was. I couldn't understand why my favorites went down when there was such a large support base on the message boards. Have you ever heard of groupthink? It is the phenomenon that led Kennedy to invade the Bay of Pigs. People with a common goal and outlook, talking together, reinforcing each other and not listening to dissenting, outside opinions.

I was spending time every day watching stocks, participating in message boards, and reading Fribbles and Fool mail. I would work late to make up for it, but I was losing family time. I knew the creed but was caught up in the rush. Looking back at my financial performance of the past eight months, I have done very well, BUT every emotional decision I made turned out to be a bad one in the long run. If I had followed my unemotional strategy I would have done even better and had more time for my family.

Finally, I woke from the nightmare. I've re-evaluated what I want out of my investment strategy. I've chosen a strategy that meets these objectives and realigned my portfolio to agree with it. I've cut emotional ties with stocks that didn't fit with my chosen mechanical strategy and I've stopped reading daily e-mail about portfolios I am not investing in. I've stopped checking my portfolio hourly. I'm down to once a day now. Hopefully I can wean myself down to once a week. Checking monthly is still a lofty, long-term goal.

So Fool, I want to say au revoir. Not good-bye, just "until we meet again," maybe in a week. I will definitely look in on you monthly. It's nothing personal. I just have other things in my life that are important, too. It is time to stop spending an hour or more per day talking to others about spending minutes per year on investments.

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