Boomers, Markets & Money

A Down-to-Earth Discussion of Financial and Lifestyle Information for Baby Boomers

What is Your Legacy?

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I enjoyed an AAII presentation given by Robert Powell, a well-known writer and editor on retirement topics. Or as he calls it “The most depressing job in America.”

He gave a lot of useful information on the usual retirement themes. But one point that stood out for me was the importance of passing on your values and the lessons you learned to your family.

A Young Woman

A Young Woman

Here are links to two articles he wrote on the subject that I think you will find interesting:

For this post, I’ve included some photos of a scrapbook my mother-in-law, Augusta, put together decades ago. (Click on a photo to see a slideshow.)  I enjoyed hearing the stories associated with the treasures in the collection. It helped me understand some of her experiences and those of her peers.

Below is a transcript of the some brief remarks I made at my father-in-law’s celebration of life service. This was my attempt to pass along some of his life experiences and values to his grandchildren. There were a lot of lessons to be learned from the way he worked his way through college in the Great Depression, and medical school. And as soon as he finished his internship, he was off to serve in World War II as a battalion surgeon on Okinawa Island. I hope you find it interesting.

Joseph J. Lambiase, M.D. Celebration of Life

Like many of you today, I can tell you many stories that illustrate the kindness, empathy, love, and humor of my father-in-law, but I figured you would hear enough of those today.

What I want to share is a very short tale, of a young man who pulled himself up by the proverbial bootstraps. Joe never bragged about what he did but I found his stories of the past so interesting that I would often ask him about his experiences. His life and values, like the rest of his generation, were colored by the struggles of the Great Depression where he learned to work as a teenager and give his wages to his mother to help the family.

I remember I once asked him how he decided to become a doctor and he told me, “My mother told me to be a doctor.” I thought that was kind of funny since you don’t hear of many young men who listen to their mothers. So, the first step to becoming a doctor was to go to college. He went to Brown University. One important reason he went there was that he could walk there because affording carfare was out of the question. He worked during the summers to afford tuition. When he ran out of money, he’d take a semester off until he could scrape together tuition money. The challenges didn’t stop him from graduating with honors.

I found his stories of his medical school training in Washington, DC the most fascinating. To cover room and board during this time, he worked through the night at the hospital every other night after doing his regular duties during the day. He said, “That covered room and board, but if I needed cash for something, I’d sell my blood.” He had a pretty, young sweetheart in Rhode Island for whom he bought a string of pearls by selling his blood.

I remember his stories of being sent out as a medical student into the apartments of poverty-stricken women of Washington, DC to delivery babies while rats scurried across the floor. He told of the streetwise nuns who worked in the emergency rooms “who really knew their stuff.” The sweltering heat of Washington DC summers nights led to many sleepless nights, where he would walk to the river in a futile attempt to find respite. He never complained or bragged about these experiences but just stated them matter of fact manner when he was asked.

Later, he and his sweetheart Augusta married, and together, with old-fashioned values of hard work, frugality, sacrifice, and love contributed in countless ways to the well-being of their family. In the interest of time, I won’t go into detail. But I just want to say how utterly I was affected by kindnesses shown to me by both Joseph and Augusta and how grateful I am that they are the grandparents of my children.

As Malcolm Gladwell stated in the book Outliers, we are who we are, in large part, because of the sacrifices of those who went before us. We never accomplish anything truly on our own. It is easy to overlook a quiet, modest person like my father-in-law, who went about doing the difficult but not very glamorous work of day-to-day life. But all the good, long-lasting things in life are a result of the sacrifices of ordinary people who choose to live an ethical life. As we take time to honor the life of Joseph John Lambiase today, I would like to conclude by asking his grandchildren to follow in his footsteps and live lives dedicated to hard work, sacrifice, humor, dedication to family, and love.

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What is Stopping Me From Investing my Money??

Investing Anxiety

Investing Anxiety

My friend Ann said, “What I want to know is: What is stopping me from investing my money?”

Ann is not alone. A Nationwide Financial survey found that more people are afraid of investing in the stock market (62%), than are afraid of death (58%), or public speaking (57%.)

Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, gave advice on this topic in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow. Kahneman gave this sermon to fictional character Sam:

“I sympathize with your aversion to losing any gamble, but it is costing you a lot of money.”

Kahneman advised, “You will do yourself a large financial favor if you are able to see each of these gambles as part of a bundle of small gambles and rehearse the mantra that will get you significantly closer to economic rationality: you win a few, you lose a few. The main purpose of the mantra is to control your emotional response when you do lose.”

The author did not condone reckless gambling. He had three limits on his “win a few, lose a few mantra.”

  • Diversify. The gambles have to be independent of each other. “…it does not apply to multiple investments in the same industry, which would all go bad together.”
  • Don’t bet the farm.  The gamble should be small enough so you are not worried about a significant loss to your wealth. “If you would take the loss as significant bad news about your economic future, watch it!”
  • No long shots.  This mantra doesn’t apply to long shots which he described as “the probability of winning is very small for each bet.”

Kahneman said you have to have emotional discipline to follow the above rules. But his main point is that you should see each decision as one of many small decisions in a portfolio.  Emotional distress can also be reduced by cutting back on how often you check how your investments are doing.

Related Blog Posts

“How to Handle Emotions When Making Investment Decisions”

“When to Trust Your Intuition or Gut Instinct When Making Financial Decisions”

“How the Heck Do I Invest my Money?”

Sources

“Nationwide Financial Survey Finds Fear of the Markets Trumps Fear of Death”

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman, pages 338-339


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When to Trust Your Intuition or Gut Instinct When Making Financial Decisions

How Feelings Can Affect Investment Choices

Feelings and Investment Decisions (Click to Enlarge)

Traditionally, being rational and objective was highly prized in the investment decision process. Emotions were to be controlled and repressed for fear of making bad decisions. However, early studies that combine psychology, the biology of the brain, and investment risk are beginning to challenge that view.

I recently read an article in CFA Institute’s magazine called “Sentimental Journey” that reviewed recent research. Cynthia Harrington referred to research conducted by Columbia Business School professor Michel Pham and associates published in the Journal of Consumer Research. They researched how people’s trust in their own feelings affected decision-making. The exhibit below gives a quick summary of the research.

Why It Is Important to Know How Trust in Feelings Affects Decisions

The researches are trying to figure out if gut instincts improve the accuracy of predictions in decisions in uncertain events with high stakes. This could help decisions made by professionals in many varied areas such as the Pentagon, Wall Street, weather prediction, to name a few.

Methods

Should We Pay Attention to Our Feelings When Making Decisions?

Summary of “The Emotional Oracle Effect” (Click to Enlarge)

People were divided into two groups:

  • People who had high trust in their feelings
  • People who had low trust in their feelings

Subjects were asked to make decisions in the eight studies mentioned in the Exhibit to the right. (Click to Enlarge.)

Conclusions on Whether Feelings Help us Make Better Decisions

People who had high trust in their feelings were more accurate in their predictions in all the studies.

However, this effect only occurs when people have sufficient background knowledge in the decision area.

People who trusted their feelings didn’t make rash decisions. They still took the time to carefully consider the information.

Why Feelings Can Help Us Make Better Decisions

While a more analytical approach with just a few inputs might seem more logical, it could be leaving out key information that your feelings are hinting at. Study authors speculate that when a person trusts their feelings about a subject they have experience with, they access “a vast amount of information that people learn consciously and unconsciously about their environment.” Professor Pham believes that feelings “…tap into all we know about our environment.”

Knowing how and when to trust our feelings when we are choosing an investment can help us improve our choices.

Sources

“Sentimental Journey” by Cynthia Harrington. CFA Magazine, March/April 2013.

“Feeling the Future: The Emotional Oracle Effect” by Michel Tuan Pham, Leonard Lee, Andrew T. Stephen

Related Posts

“How To Handle Emotions When Making Investment Decisions”