About this time every summer, I get a deep longing to be on the beach. Catching up on vitamin D, fresh ocean air and maybe pursuing some small surf are top priorities. If I can get a few days in like this over the summer, I’m a happy guy. And since I can’t get my mind away from the beach, I’m going to bring the beach to this article.
There are several similarities between becoming a decent surfer and becoming a decent investor. At first glance, this might seem like a bit of a stretch of the imagination, but I find it’s more relevant than you might think. Here are three main strategies that can work for both groups:
1. Diving in: When you get to the beach with your board in tow, the first thing you should do is survey the environment. There are several questions that you might ask yourself: Is the ocean angry today? Are there rip currents? Which way is the wind blowing? Ultimately, as a surfer, you accept certain risks, but you also want to try to minimize those risks. Sometimes, that may mean aborting your plans.
An investor should do the same kind of surveying and questioning as he or she approaches the market. Does the media depict panic or euphoria in the market? What areas of the market look more comfortable for my level of risk-taking? Trying to assess the market landscape is certainly difficult to do for most retail (and even many institutional) investors. And like surfing, sometimes, you just need to get out of your head and jump in.
2. Paddling out: Before you jump in, have a game plan. Are you waiting for something to happen, like a set of waves to pass through? Or, are you just going to bully the ocean, and paddle out directly past the crashing waves? If you don’t prepare, even a simple plan, you shouldn’t be surprised when things go awry.
With investing, a simple plan of attack (called “strategy”) will go a long way to keeping you from ugly consequences. Just like being in the ocean, being in the market means staying committed to a plan or discipline. There are too many variables at play in both, so trying to keep up with all these variables can be overwhelming — and even lead to panic. Panic is the enemy of surfers and investors alike.
3. Catching waves: Now that you’re waiting in the line-up with all the other participants, you’d better follow the rules of engagement, or you’ll find yourself run out of town. This is true for both surfers and investors. Knowing how to play fair, and not get too greedy, is key to a successful time in the ocean or markets.
Trying to identify that perfect wave is a lot like trying to discover that perfect investment. It’s elusive, might not make an appearance and others may see it before you and ruin the ride.
This summer, enjoy catching some rays. But remember that venturing into the ocean or the markets requires forethought — unless you enjoy getting yourself out of perilous situations.
The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.