The kick-off to the NFL season is just days away. And you know what that means: From tickets to tailgating to playoffs, the Super Bowl, and so much more, Americans will be captivated by our beloved sport.
And we also know fantasy football, the game outside the game, will capture our attention and our time.
But it turns out it's more than just a fun hobby that will keep us tuned into the Titans and Jaguars in week six, because fantasy football has four ways to clearly teach you how to properly manage your money.
The variety of options
To begin, it all starts with the draft, which is the most essential part of the construction of a fantasy team.
There can be two types, a "snake draft" in which players are randomly assigned a spot to draft, and they select one player with each pick per round. The second is an auction draft, in which participants are given a budget and have to "bid" on players to construct their teams.
In some ways, the two types of drafts mirror investment strategies. The snake draft is a little like automatic enrollment into a 401(k), when you know exactly how much, and when you'll be investing, likely in a defined set of index funds. While there is certainly decision associated therein, it's a much more set-in-stone process.
On the other hand, an auction draft is much more like the personal management of your own retirement savings. You have a budget, and you must decide exactly where you want to put it. Just like you could pour more than half of your budget into Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning (the highest ranked running back and quarterback), you could also decide there are a few stocks that you think will do great things and devote a large portion of savings into them.
Or with your investments, you might decide you'd rather spread out your dollars, and invest an almost equal amount in a diverse variety of companies, and not dedicate too much into a single one. Because just like the devastating impact to your team if Adrian Peterson went down after you spent 30% of your budget on him, the results would be disastrous if the stock you had 30% of your money parked in plummeted.
The importance of research
But regardless of how you draft, there is the critical importance of either doing your own research, or trusting the experts. And the same is true in investing.
For example, someone who loves fantasy football could read all the magazines and columns, listen to the podcasts, watch the TV specials, and create his or her own opinion of player rankings before drafting. They could spend hours -- or even days -- further exploring what their draft strategy will be.
And their friend could spend a total of three minutes going to one of the expert websites, and simply printing off the top-300 ranking, and trusting in their opinion.
In the same way, you can either carefully do your own research on where to put your money, or you can follow the trusted advice of proven experts -- and not just TV personalities -- to guide your investing opinion.
Remember, Jordan Wathen revealed it was Warren Buffett who said:
If you like spending 6-8 hours per week working on investments, do it. If you don't, then dollar-cost average into index funds. This accomplishes diversification across assets and time, two very important things.
The value of patience
It's also critical to remember the incredible value of patience in investing. One of my favorite personal examples stems not from fantasy football, but fantasy baseball, all the way back in 2007.
You see, in some sports, it's very easy for players to go on "streaks," and whether those streaks are hot or cold is largely up to chance. For example in 2007 I was in a baseball league and I drafted a player named Chone Figgins, a shortstop for the Los Angeles Angels.
After breaking his hand in spring training and being injured for the first month of the season, Figgins had a horrific May in which he only batted .156:
While most fantasy players would have dropped Figgins after that very unproductive month, I held on to Chone knowing he was a career .287 hitter and he should eventually revert back to his average ability and performance.
And as it turns out: he did. In fact, he was one of the most valuable fantasy players over the last 4 months of the season:
In fantasy sports, and investing, one must be careful not to view short-term results without considering the long-term reality. Does this mean you should blindly hold onto stocks without assessing foundational changes in their business or industry? Of course not. But patience in investing is critical.
Going back to Buffett, consider his advice expounded on by colleague Tyler Riggs:
Successful investing takes time, discipline and patience. No matter how great the talent or effort, some things just take time.
Understanding that numbers can tell us what we want to hear
Having said all that, it's also critical to see investing, just like fantasy sports, extends beyond the story the numbers tell us.
As ESPN fantasy expert Matthew Berry noted, consider these two players:
Berry goes on to say:
Now, everything I wrote about for each player is 100 percent true. So tell me...which QB do you want?
Before you answer, you should know that both quarterbacks are Andy Dalton.
Berry notes when it comes to fantasy football, "I can talk up or talk down anyone; I just have to choose the right stats for the job."
In the same way with investing, we must understand numbers can be selected -- both knowingly or unknowingly -- to only further reinforce our opinions about a company.
This is why billionaire Ray Dalio tells us he has been so successful because he "came up with the best independent opinions I could muster to get what I wanted," but he also "stress-tested my opinions by having the smartest people I could find challenge them so I could find out where I was wrong."
All of this is to say, numbers are critical, but they can tell us anything we want depending on how we look at them. So we must ensure we aren't missing the crucial things we never considered because we're too focused on the numbers we want to see.
The key takeaway
The reality is, fantasy sports are just that: a fantasy, and their impact may be a few months of fun over the course of a season.
But investing is real. And it has a tangible impact on our future financial security. So choose wisely.
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