Why do so many investors make the same mistakes repeatedly, being too bullish or too bearish at just the wrong times? Because they forget. Forgetting pain is an instinct - humans have evolved that way to better cope with the problems of survival. But in the complex and often counterintuitive world of investing, it causes serious errors.
"This time it’s different" are the four most expensive words in the English language (according to investing legend Sir John Templeton). Yet many investors routinely fall into the trap of thinking "now" (whenever "now" is) is different somehow. In Markets Never Forget (But People Do), four-time New York Times best-selling author Ken Fisher explains how investor's memories play (often costly) tricks on them - and how they can combat their faulty memories with just a bit of history.
This isn’t to say history repeats itself perfectly. It doesn’t; but a recession is a recession. Some are vastly worse than others, but investors have lived through them before. Credit crises aren’t new, nor are bear markets - or bull markets. Geopolitical tension is as old as mankind, as is war and even terrorist attacks. Understanding how investors have reacted to similar past events can help guide investors in shaping better forward-looking expectations. The past never predicts the future, but it can reduce guesswork about what’s ahead.
In this book, Fisher takes aim at some major market memory mishaps, like the idea that stocks have become inherently more volatile or that wildly above - or below - average returns are abnormal. He shows how, early in every recovery, investors don’t believe in it - often at a huge cost. And he shows how, in investing, ideology is deadly. Most important, he explains how you can use history as one powerful tool to help reduce your error rate while helping to get better investing results.
Important Things to Remember
This is a really good book that absolutely nails some key things that investors should remember (but seldom do): Events are rarely unprecedented. People often over-react to the noise on CNBC and the other business media and fail to consider historical precedent. Over time, it has paid to invest in the market and it has not paid to jump in and out. The authors also point out the flaws in some commonly reported statistics.
If there is one thing that I question in the authors' analysis (and this would not surprise them), it is their nonchalance regarding debt. The debt that has exploded in the last three years is -- in my view anyway -- truly unprecedented, and the demographic trends we are facing (an aging population more dependent on government programs) does not bode well. The only reason the debt is remotely manageable are low interest rates caused by Fed manipulation -- something that cannot last forever. When those rates increase, debt service will become more and more problematic.
The authors would probably disagree, and, frankly, I hope they are right and I am wrong. Still, the overall message of the book that things tend to work out over time and that we somehow muddle through is encouraging and has been historically valid. Let's hope we do it again.
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- Robert Hind
I'll never forget the annoying style
What disappointed you about Markets Never Forget (But People Do)?
The messages may well be very good ... but for me the combined content and narrator's delivery made this one of the most annoying books I've listened to. I'd describe the delivery style as almost "mocking".
Repetition may well be the mother of all learning but in this book it is overdone.
Listening to this book is a little like knocking your head on a brick wall ...you can't wait till it is all over.
What was most disappointing about Ken Fisher’s story?
How did the narrator detract from the book?
The narrator's style matched the annoying content.
Any additional comments?
I'll look carefully for this author and narrator in future and AVOID them both
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- John C. Becker
Another Economics classic by Mr. Ken Fisher.
Great investing book. Ranks up there with Intelligent investor. Loved this book. Well researched, well edited. Great charts. Entirely useful.