Wall Street's Complexity versus Investors' Profits & Simplicity
“Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.” -- Pete Seeger
As a long-time trader, I am living breathing proof that simplicity and profits are positively correlated while complexity and profits are inversely correlated. In other words, as my 25 year investing career has jettisoned multiple methodologies and numerous indicators, my profits have became more regular and predictable while my losing ratio has diminished. This is the absolute antithesis of what Wall Street wants you to believe.
Wall Street lives and breathes on complexity. They pitch derivatives of every variety and alternative funds for specific self-serving reasons.
1. They want to convince investors that it’s far too complicated for them to manage their own money – therefore, the wisest decision is for investors to just give it to Wall Street managers instead.
2. They try to assure you that with this complexity come “insider” rates of returns and big profits. But then can you explain to me why so many university endowments and retirement funds are closing out their hedge fund positions? Because the returns have not justified the risks, losses and complexity.
3. Wall Street loves to use the cliché, “you get what you pay for” as justification for higher fees. So then, can you explain to me again why so many academic studies have concluded that no load mutual funds outperform advisor-recommended loaded mutual funds? The fact is that investors often do not get what they pay for.
The catalyst for this week’s rant is that I cleaned out a closet with my old trading binders from over 20 years ago and was stunned by two observations. The first thing I realized was that I had been so vulnerable to believing Wall Street’s siren song of complexity. The second thing was that it was obvious my trading methodology back then was unnecessarily complicated.
To most individual investors, it seems counterintuitive when I preach my doctrine of simplicity, but it is precisely this simplicity that empowers you to outperform the professional money managers. Layer on top of that my other sermon that no one will manage your money with the same passion and commitment as you yourself and you have the magic ingredients for achieving consistent success as a stock market investor.
Wall Street is based on its own version of Yin & Yang as opposites and contrary forces are actually interconnected and interdependent. In simplest terms, the market is made up of buyers and sellers, load and no load funds, passive and managed strategies. The complexity and simplicity paradigm is just another example. Much like life, one must decide to embrace the light or the dark, the hot or the cold, the high or low. So too, as an investor, you must choose between the dichotomies that Wall Street offers you.
I am simply sharing the experiences of my own journey as an investor. As I embraced the mantra of simplification in my investment methodology and my trading tools, my net worth grew. My relatively small basket of 10 technical indicators and the Tensile Trading approach that I’ve written so much about are living testimonials to this mantra.
Albert Einstein famously said, “If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and five minutes implementing the solution.” If you were in a life threatening situation and had only one hour before it proved fatal, what would you do? Einstein said he’d spend his time wisely asking probing questions to understand the problem in depth. Having done that, he’d only need 5 minutes to address the issue.
Many new investors I meet in my classes totally flip around Dr. Einstein’s approach. They have an unstoppable inclination to jump right into the market, metaphorically speaking. They’ll trade impulsively for the first 55 minutes and then allocate the last 5 minutes trying to figure out what just happened.
Humor me, please. Just go with this. Place your hands on the table, turn down the lights and let’s invite Albert Einstein to our séance to give us his advice. If it was indeed possible to “channel” him, I suspect he would suggest approaching the market’s first 55 minutes more like this:
gold trading strategy
You have accumulated certain assets. Ask yourself if they are safe. Dr. Einstein would challenge you to address asset protection, first and foremost. Issues such as insurance, estate planning, identification theft, tax planning, record keeping and the like. You have to secure what you’ve got.
Next, he would ask if you had thought through personal money management questions and committed yourself to a personal trading plan in writing. It’s shocking how few investors actually do this. Einstein’s objective here would be to make certain you grasp the full scope of the problem.