Bright Dickson (00:04):
Welcome to "Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian," a podcast to help you create better money habits and improve your mindset along the way. I'm positive psychology expert Bright Dickson, and I'm here with Brian Ford, my go-to guy for all things financial wellness. How's it going, Brian?
Brian Ford (00:20):
Doing great, Bright.
Bright Dickson (00:21):
Today's episode is the second in our investing series and we are so excited to be joined by Dr. Daniel Crosby. Daniel is a psychologist and a behavioral finance expert who helps people and organizations understand the intersection of mind, money, and meaning.
Brian Ford (00:37):
Definitely looking forward to chatting with my friend Daniel about overcoming investing anxiety, but really becoming a confident investor. But first, be sure to send us your money wins or your money questions to email@example.com. We'd love to celebrate you and chat about your questions on the air.
Bright Dickson (00:58):
Yep. All right, Brian, ready to help our listeners get into a healthier investing mindset?
Brian Ford (01:02):
Absolutely. Let's go.
Bright Dickson (01:10):
We're so excited to welcome Dr. Daniel Crosby to the show. Dr. Crosby studies how people make decisions about money and why they make them. He's the author of several best-selling books, including "The Laws of Wealth" and "The Behavioral Investor." He's also the host of the podcast "Standard Deviations." Daniel, welcome to the show.
Dr. Daniel Crosby (01:28):
Thank you, Bright. It's awesome to be here.
Brian Ford (01:30):
Yeah, Daniel, it's good to have you. You and I have known each other for some time now. I've admired your work for a very long time. In fact, I was a guest on your podcast a few years back. So it's great to have you on the Money and Mindset show.
I'll also just tell everybody I find myself reposting your stuff on LinkedIn all the time. I'm reading it, I'm like, "Oh my gosh, that's awesome. I wish I said that." But I repost it and I still sound kind of smart because I know you. But I also happen to know that you've got a lovely family and you are a raving baseball fan.
But today, specifically we want to talk to you about investing anxiety, more importantly, how to manage it. So Daniel, let's jump right in. How can listeners change their mindset from anxious to confident investor?
Dr. Daniel Crosby (02:15):
Thanks, Brian. That's a great question. So when we think about moving from being anxious investors to confident investors, I think there's a couple of things we need to understand and a couple of things we need to do.
So first we have to understand that the physiological pathways through which we experience anxiety or stress are no different than the way we would experience a real physical danger. So whether you're being chased by a bear or whether you're fearful of a bear market, your body's response is going to be just the same and it's going to be really fear inducing and really panic inducing. So what can we do from it?
Well, the first thing that I suggest that people do is to try and learn from it. Sometimes fear is legitimate. Sometimes the anxiety we may be feeling may be a clue to us that perhaps we aren't saving enough, perhaps we aren't invested in a sensible way, that we're taking too much risk.
So the first question I would ask someone who's experiencing some anxiety around their investment paradigm is, look, is there any information here? Is there any signal in all this noise?
The second thing we can do is to try and face it in a small way. So when psychologists cure people with simple phobias, like an arachnophobia or fear of spiders or a fear of snakes, the way they do it is through gradual exposure. First, you think about a spider, then you talk about a spider, then you hold a picture of a spider, and soon you're visiting a spider at the zoo sort of thing.
And so we can do the same thing with investment fears. We can bite off just a little bit at a time, dipping our toes into the markets, gradually getting comfortable with the way markets work and getting comfortable with volatility until we're ready to invest a larger amount.
The third thing we can do is just fake it till we make it. This is an old phrase that many of us use, but there actually is some psychological complexity to this. We know that just as surely as our thoughts can produce behaviors, our behaviors can produce thoughts. So we can do things like just leaving it alone, not checking our accounts, acting the part of a competent, unworried investor until that's really what we become.
And then the last thing that I would say, which is I think an area of expertise for Bright, is to take care of ourselves. And some of the research around taking care of ourselves comes from the positive psychology movement that Bright's so familiar with. And one of the frameworks that is part of positive psychology is called the PERMA model and it looks at five markers of personal wellness.
And the first one of these is positive experiences. Like, are we having enough fun? Are we getting enough fun in our lives? The second one is engagement, which is hard, meaningful work that satisfies us. This could be a hobby. This could be our job. The third is relationships. Just what it sounds like, are we keeping those relational ties strong? The fourth is meaning, which is working for something bigger than ourselves. And the final one is advancement or accomplishment. Are we moving forward? Are we making progress?
Because what I find with the investors that I work with is if they have these things in their lives, if they have strong relationships and meaning and advancement and a job they love, the investment stuff tends to fade into the background, which is actually really where it belongs.
If we are taking care of ourselves holistically and we have happy, fulfilled, meaningful lives, we're not going to be watching every tick of the markets and we're going to have the kind of managed anxiety that'll lead us to be a better investor.
Bright Dickson (06:02):
I think that's so smart, and I love that you brought the PERMA model in there. I think, too, that it's about not having this be the center of your life, but this be a supportive piece of the center of your life, which is how you're supporting your own well-being, your family, the things that you love to do, all of that.
And Daniel, as you were talking about that fight or flight response and that we react to the bear market the same as a bear, part of what was occurring for me and what one of my patterns is, is that I don't really experience anxiety around investing at all, I just experience either boredom or overwhelm.
And so I'm really curious, when someone wants to get started investing and they do what all of us good people of the 21st century do is that we go online and we give it a Google and we Google how to invest and we have all this information, for me that just shuts me down. So when I'm going to do that, what do I actually need to look for when I'm starting to invest?
Dr. Daniel Crosby (07:08):
Well, I would encourage you to follow the Brian Ford model. So …
Bright Dickson (07:13):
I usually do.
Brian Ford (07:14):
Hey, wait, I like this. What's going on here?
Dr. Daniel Crosby (07:18):
So years ago when Brian and his family moved down the street from us, we had been introduced before and I had him and his family over for dinner and we were talking about the industry and we were talking about investing, and I asked Brian basically, how do you invest? Thinking that because he was this financial big wig, he was going to give me some sort of convoluted, complicated response and that he was going to have this very, very dramatic response. And I'm paraphrasing here, Brian, so correct me if I didn't get it right, but he basically had a few pillars to his investment style.
And the first one was that it's, you keep your cost down. You try and invest in funds and products that are not enormously expensive because we know that when we look at ETFs and mutual funds, the number one predictor of performance is actually cost. So whatever we're paying for that product is cutting into our performance by that much. And so the cheaper, the better tends to be one good rule of thumb.
The second thing that he talked about was diversified. Of course, you want to be diversified across the world and across asset classes. And from a psychological perspective, this is the personification of humility. We talk a lot in the industry about overconfidence and ego and these different ways that we can make mistakes.
And diversification is effectively saying, "Look, I have no idea what the future holds. So I'm just going to hold everything and bet on the human family to make progress over time." And that is an optimistic bet that I would make every time.
And then the final piece of the Brian Ford approach is patience. He said, "Look, I just don't touch it much. I just don't look at it much. I don't mess with it much." And that is entirely consistent with the research in 19 different countries. 19 different developed countries we've looked at and it shows that the more you mess with your portfolio, the worse you tend to do.
And so Brian's response surprised me a bit because it was elegant in its simplicity, but it turns out that he nailed it. So if you're managing your costs, if you're diversifying within and across asset classes and across the world, and if you're just letting it run and being patient, you're going to get a lot right.
Brian Ford (09:45):
Daniel, it's funny you bring that up. I remember that conversation. I don't think I was as eloquent as stating it as you just did. I think that sounded a heck of a lot better, but I do remember it. I remember you even being surprised, you were just like, "Hey, how do you invest?" And I'm like, "Oh boy." I'm like, "This is going to be a short conversation. It's super boring. I'm a buy and hold. I'm not smart enough to pick individual stocks. I do index funds. I dollar cost average. I diversify."
And I stopped after 30 seconds and Daniel was like, "Oh my gosh, that was so refreshing. I can't believe you just said that. There wasn't anything in there about trying to impress me or what you do know and so forth." I'm like, "Yeah, I'm just not smart enough." So man, that's a good one, it's a good story, two finance nerds going at it in the kitchen while our wives are chatting about something much cooler.
Well, Dr. Crosby, I want to look at the flip side of being fearful of investing. We talked a little bit about being a confident investor, anxiety, but when the market's going up and we see people around us bragging about the money that they're making in the market, sometimes a little FOMO, a little fear of missing out sets in. How can we be careful with this side of the emotional spectrum?
Dr. Daniel Crosby (10:54):
Yeah, that's a great question, and one that's been very top of mind for the last couple of years where there have been certain meme stocks and certain other asset classes that have gone wild in pretty historic ways, there's been some pretty significant FOMO.
But for me, FOMO really comes down to a couple of things, and the first thing is understanding that get-rich-quick and get-poor-quick are different sides of the same coin, and risk and return are inextricably correlated with one another. So if you hear that someone is making enormous returns on a stock or an asset, that may be the case. We also know that people have a very poor memory and are very poor reporters of their actual performance.
I actually reported some research on this in my book, "The Behavioral Investor," and shows that when people recall their own performance in the market, they dramatically overstate it. So that's one caveat to be careful what your friends are talking about, they probably don't know how they actually did and are probably overstating it.
But you have to understand that if something has the potential to shoot up like a rocket, it has the potential to fall like a stone too. And so ask yourself, are you willing to take that ride? And I think most of us are not.
And then the second piece really comes down to your goals. So Stephen Covey in his incredible book talks about the importance of having this meaning and this purpose. And he says, "Look, in order to say no to all the nonsense, you have to have a yes burning inside of you that's greater than all the noes."
So in order for you to say no to all the speculative things you shouldn't be investing in, you have to have a goal and a plan and a course that is strong enough and vibrant enough and exciting enough to you that you can say no to all the nonsense that's not part of your path.
So I think FOMO is a natural response, but when you understand the relationship between risk and reward, you understand that most of these high-flying assets are really quite risky. And I think when you have a plan and a purpose that you've constructed, perhaps with a professional, you're able to say no, and just say, "Look, this isn't my pitch to swing at. This isn't my pitch to swing at. Another pitch will come along that I can hit out of the park."
Bright Dickson (13:17):
I think that's really very interesting. And I think that same principle can be applied to a lot of things. So Covey was thinking about it as a life success strategy, it can be in investing, I think the same in relationships, right? Don't respond to the high highs, don't respond to the low lows, keep it in the middle.
What are some practical tips, Daniel, that you have for keeping people in the middle? I think the purpose and the plan really help. I think also those amygdalas can fire up. And when we're in that moment of FOMO or JOMO even, what do we need to do to bring ourselves back to the middle?
Dr. Daniel Crosby (13:54):
One of the things that I wrote a lot about in "The Behavioral Investor" that I think is underutilized is stuff like diet and exercise. Our behavior is often about as good as what we've had to eat that day or how much sleep we got the night before.
And I think that when I was a practicing counseling psychologist, I would commonly have people come in to me and say, "Look, I'm experiencing X, Y, Z symptom and I don't know why I'm so anxious, and I start every day with eight cups of coffee or a three liter of Mountain Dew." And you're like, "Well, look, as long as you're doing these things, you're never going to be in this middle place that you're talking about."
So revisiting that PERMA model that we talked about earlier, is your life in balance? Is your diet in balance? Is your sleep in balance? Are your relationships in balance? Because I think that the place that all this stuff we're talking about belongs in a well-lived life is way in the back.
And so if you are thinking about this stuff and experiencing acute FOMO, you have prioritized your investing life in a way that it candidly does not deserve. And so I think when you have your other priorities straight and the other facets of your life clicking, this stuff falls back to where it belongs, which is a tool to fuel the other things in your life that are more important to you.
Brian Ford (15:20):
Daniel, I like where this conversation is going. In our next segment, we want to chat about avoiding common investment mistakes. Stay with us.
Bright Dickson (15:36):
As we've talked about before many times on the show, educating yourself is really one of the best ways to beat the investing scaries. In this section, we want to talk a little bit about some of the most common investing mistakes so that you don't make them now or later.
So Daniel, you've been at this for a while now. What are some of the most common investing mistakes you see, and how can we avoid them and learn from them if we do make them?
Dr. Daniel Crosby (16:00):
So I got some good news, bad news. The good news is we can define them. The bad news is just being educated on them does very little to help us avoid them, but there's some steps we can take that I'll get to in a second.
So starting at the beginning, what are the most common investing mistakes? So we know there's roughly 200 different cognitive and behavioral errors that we can all fall into with respect to our money, which is a pretty-
Brian Ford (16:29):
Dr. Daniel Crosby (16:30):
Yeah, exactly. It's a pretty overwhelming universe of errors we could make. But some of my work has been around cataloging these biases into what I'll call meta biases that account for a bunch of different mistakes.
The first of these is ego, which is overconfidence. And this takes many forms in humankind. It takes the form of thinking we're smarter, better, faster, stronger than our fellow investor. It takes the form of us thinking we know more about the future than we actually do. And it also takes the form of us thinking we're luckier than we actually are and that bad things won't happen to us. So what does this look like in a portfolio? It's trading too much, it's over trading, it's failure to diversify.
The second one of these is emotion, which is just letting your heart or your gut rule your head. And here we see the classic trap of buying high and selling low because of fear and greed.
The third is attention, which is confusing what's loud with what's likely. My favorite example of this is everybody's worried about sharks. We have "Jaws," we have Shark Week, we have all this fearmongering around sharks. And on average, you get one shark attack per 300 million people per year. But if you look at something like diabetes, we have one in three people are prediabetic, but no one's worried about diabetes because there's no Diabetes Week on Discovery Channel. So-
Bright Dickson (18:04):
They don't have teeth. Diabetes doesn't have teeth.
Dr. Daniel Crosby (18:08):
Not quite as vivid as "Jaws," is it? So we have all these instances where there are these dangers to our wealth that we ignore. Things like, again, paying too much, being under diversified, but we are fearful of things like recessions or corrections. We have a correction on average, once a year. We've had 84 corrections since World War II. And over that time, the market has been on an absolute tear. So we're scared of things like a 10% drawdown in the market where we should be scared about other higher probability, more proximal threats to our portfolio.
And then the final one is conservatism, which is just playing it too safe and trying to avoid uncertainty and the unknown and risk. So what do we do with this?
Well, Daniel Kahneman, who is sort of the father of many of these biases that we talked about today, or at least exposing them and exploring them, won a Nobel Prize for his work, when he was asked, "How impervious to these biases are you since you've elucidated and brought them to the public?"
He said, "Look, I do all the dumb stuff that I've written about and knowing about them doesn't make us much better at avoiding them. Instead, I think there's a couple of other things we can do that we can talk about where we can put ourselves in the right places, surround ourselves with the right people, and that really, I think, is the cure for avoiding these biases."
Brian Ford (19:41):
Yeah, I really like that conversation about what we're worried about and maybe what we are worried about isn't what we should be worried about. In fact, I talk about that with my kids all the time with their driving, 16-year-old drivers, completely freaks me out. We're talking about sharks or a commercial airliner going down and I'm like, "Guys, no, it's driving to school this morning." I'm breaking it down with stats.
Well, hey, so Daniel, if some of our listeners are fearful about losing their money by investing, how can they address that feeling? And is it even possible to invest risk-free?
Dr. Daniel Crosby (20:13):
It's really not, Brian. There's two acknowledgements I would have them start by making and then three things to check off. The first acknowledgement is that everything that you've ever done that was worth doing took the risk of loss.
When you tried to have a relationship, every relationship you've ever cultivated, a marriage, a partnership, this suffers the risk of loss and heartache. If you've tried to start a business, if you've tried to reach a goal, every time we try to do something, there is a risk of loss there. And the only way to insulate yourself from the risk of loss in totality is to just withdraw from life, and then you've brought about your worst fears in trying to avoid them.
So the second thing I would have people consider is that especially this year, especially in an environment and in an inflation regime like the one we're in right now, you absolutely are losing money if you're not investing. When you think that historically inflation has been about 3% a year, it's much higher this year, but even at 3% a year, 3% a year loss of your principal will erode your money rather quickly. It doesn't take too many years before everything you've worked for, it has no teeth, it has no purchasing power anymore.
So after you've acknowledged the inevitability and the need to take risk, there's three things that I think you can do. These are the three legs of the stool, if you will, of making good investment decisions, and they all start with E.
The first one is education. Listening to podcasts like this, reading books like mine, understanding how the markets work and having an idea of what you know and what you don't know, that's education. Brian talked earlier in the show about how he doesn't try and day trade his portfolio or anticipate market swings. That's a form of education called meta knowledge, which is just knowing what you don't know.
I take my car to get fixed because I know that I don't know how to do it myself, and I'm not going to mess it up. So educating yourself about the fundamentals of how markets work, and look, here you are on this podcast, so you're already off to the races.
The second piece is the environment, and this is just surrounding yourself with good ideas, making sure you're avoiding the overly melodramatic news sources, making sure you're avoiding the catastrophic headlines and making sure that your portfolio is situated in such a way that you can take the ride.
I think a lot of times we worry about optimizing portfolios for performance, where we really need to optimize them for sleeping well at night. So the environment piece is making sure you're putting the right ideas in your head and making sure the water your money is swimming in, so to speak, is one that's consistent with your risk profile.
And then the last piece is encouragement, which is just having someone in your corner. And for me, that's a financial advisor. There's quite a bit of research to show that people who work with a financial advisor do better than those who don't pretty dramatically over time. And it's not because financial advisors are sages who know what's going to happen in the market, it's because they have the ability to keep you from tripping over your own feet and getting in your way.
And so if you have all three of these things, if you educate yourself about how markets work, if you have the right environment, and you have the right encouragement, have that person in your corner, I think you're going to find yourself in a good place.
Bright Dickson (23:56):
So education, environment, encouragement. I love that. And I love that especially around having a financial buddy, someone just to be there when you're maybe not at your best, or you have a question, or you can't figure something out. I think in so many places in our lives, we need those people. I mean, Aristotle even wrote about it, the Aristotelian friend who's going to hold you to a better standard than you may hold yourself. I think that's really incredible.
So now that we've talked about some investing mistakes, in our next segment, we want to talk about good investing behavior, what should you really be doing?
Brian Ford (24:43):
So Dr. Crosby, you've written several books, many of which I have sitting right here on my desk, I'm looking at them. I want to go back to one called "The Laws of Wealth." In it you outline 10 rules for good investment behavior. Can you talk to our listeners just about a few of the most overlooked ones and why they might be beneficial?
Dr. Daniel Crosby (25:03):
I like the way you phrased that. I'll start with the ones that I think are perhaps most powerful, but least loved. And one of them is you control what matters most. So I travel quite a bit and chat to people in line. I'm a Southerner, so I just talk to random strangers.
And so when I'm talking to folks and they ask me what I do, I tell them I work in finance and they always have questions for me like what's the president going to do? What's the Fed going to do? What's COVID going to do? What's the market going to do?
And the common thread that runs through all these things is that they're externalities that A, I have no knowledge of and B, I have no control over. And we know from the psychological literature that when we repeatedly try and control things that are inherently uncontrollable, it leads to something called learned helplessness, and we can just give up or become exasperated with the process.
So what I tell people is look, all these externalities that are the top of mind worries for most folks, we can't predict them. And even if we could, we can't control them, or even know how the market will react. Just in the recent past, we have an example of the market thinking one presidential candidate would beat another and that if the other candidate won, that the market would crash, and neither thing happened.
So what we have to understand is that the things that matter most for our portfolios are absolutely within our own control, and it's things like maximizing the engine of our wealth, getting the education and the skills you need to maximize the engine of your wealth, which is your income. It's things like being consistent in your saving behavior. We spend so much time trying to wring an extra percentage point out of our investments, but we give much less time and less thought to just saving a little more. And staying the course, following that Brian Ford approach to investing. These are all things that are within our power, within our control, and they matter a great deal.
Bright Dickson (27:11):
And that goes back to what Brian and I talk about a lot, which is control what you can control, the definition and the behaviors that come out of optimism, control what you can control, spend less energy on the rest.
You've also said about investing, this idea of if you're excited about it, it's probably a bad idea. Can you explain what that means? And what are the other rules of thumb that good investors should follow, especially when they're tracking how I'm feeling and then thinking about what I'm going to do about that feeling?
Dr. Daniel Crosby (27:47):
Yeah, that's another great one. The principle here, the fancy psychological term for it is affect heuristic. And all that means is that the mood you are in colors your perception of the world. If you ask me about my childhood when I'm having a bad day, I'm going to tell you I was picked last at kickball and I had pimples or whatever. If you ask me about my childhood when I'm having a good day, I'm more likely to recall things like playing catch with my best friend or going to the beach with my family. And so the mood that we're in colors our perception of everything, and that's especially true of markets and risk.
And so people who are euphoric or greedy or excited about an investment opportunity, which is candidly something we have seen all over the place in the last couple of years, tend to forget about the risks that are involved. And also think back a couple of months where we were in the throes of a bear market, people who are sad or gloomy or depressed about things tend to see fear everywhere.
And it corresponds with another one of my investing principles, which is this too shall pass. So this phrase, this too shall pass, I think is the most enduring phrase in investing. And it's one of the only phrases that's always true because in March of 2020, when it seemed like the world was just going to crumble at the foundations, when COVID was hitting, you have to tell yourself this too shall pass.
And then a few months ago, a year ago when the market was absolutely screaming and just on its hottest pace in forever, you have to tell yourself this too shall pass as well. So whether things are good or whether things are bad, this phrase, this too shall pass, has the effect of humbling us or heartening us, and I think it's a valuable one to have in your back pocket.
Brian Ford (29:51):
I like that, Daniel. Man, I like this conversation as well. There's a lot of things, I've been taking notes, even though I'm like, "Wait a second, I think I've got a question coming up." I love the PERMA model. I want to go back and actually listen to that. There was a lot of meat there. I appreciate that.
I love the education, environment, encouragement. And I like the idea of a financial advisor as that encouragement side of things. And then Bright, you dropped a knowledge bomb on us, an Aristotelian friend? Holy smokes, I don't know if I've ever had a financial advisor called an Aristotelian friend, but that's what I'm going to start calling my financial advisor.
And then Dan, I'm just ending things with this too shall pass. I really like it. And then I appreciate this conversation. I think it's been a great one. What a power packed episode. Unfortunately, that's all we have time for today. And so I think it was just a great conversation.
Bright Dickson (30:50):
Thanks for listening to this episode of "Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian." Dr. Crosby, thanks so much for joining us today. This was such a fun conversation.
Dr. Daniel Crosby (30:57):
No, thank you both for having me. It was a pleasure.
Bright Dickson (31:00):
And can you remind our listeners where they can find you online? Because I will tell you, dear listeners, Daniel has a pretty funny Twitter feed. I'm just going to put it out there. Your tweeting is good. It's good tweeting.
Dr. Daniel Crosby (31:10):
I appreciate it. So I'm @danielcrosby, if you want to see the now over-hyped Twitter account and be disappointed. Daniel Crosby, Ph.D. on LinkedIn. And yeah, the book is "The Laws of Wealth" if you want to check out some of the ideas we've talked about today.
Bright Dickson (31:27):
Perfect. And thanks again so much for joining us. Remember, if you guys have a question or an episode idea, please send them our way at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you want more Money and Mindset content, please listen to our other podcast episodes and check out the tools and resources at Truist.com/MoneyAndMindset.
Brian Ford (31:47):
Yeah, and if you liked this episode, be sure to subscribe or share it with someone you care about. We'll be back next month with another episode to help you manage your money and your mindset. See you then.
This episode of "Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian" is brought to you by Truist.