An in-house discussion about the Seven Deadly Sins threw up some amusing parallels between these famed lapses of virtue and behavioural finance. It was remarkably easy to associate common errors in investment decision-making with the seven classical sins. Sloth, in particular, played a recurring role: in business decision-making, as in one’s private life, it can be fatal.
It was just three months ago that I had to call the customer service hotline because my dishwasher broke down. The repairs came at a stinging cost of €320, a figure that was almost at the border of a decision to simply buy a new machine, so I had hoped I would have my peace for a while. In addition to the overpriced repair, the technician also wanted to sell me an insurance policy that would cover future repairs to this machine
It is amusing to see the US, a country that has railed for so many years against minting a one-dollar coin, petition its government to issue one worth one trillion dollars. The monster mintage is simply a ruse to avoid having to negotiate a higher debt ceiling. The idea of creating a platinum coin (the only kind the Treasury is permitted to mint) is not new; it was tossed around last year too. Back then though, it never went beyond an audience of investment professionals.
A blogger railed against Apple’s decision to change the docking connector on its latest iPhone because it rendered his beloved internet radio obsolete. This blogger does not yet own an iPhone 5, nor is he under any obligation to buy one. Yet the notion that he absolutely must have one as soon as it goes on sale is so self-evident that it simply did not occur to him that he could just as easily keep his existing iPhone 4S and keep on docking it to the internet radio.
That mothers multi-task, manage households with meagre budgets, and are concerned about providing adequate guidance to their kids, is well-known. But when a survey of 4,000 mums confirms these realities the mother in me feels appreciated. I also felt good that the survey was called Mumdex, the name that drew me to the Financial Times article in the first place. The article revealed that 75 percent of mums surveyed in the UK were worse off than a year ago, and that 93 percent had altered their lifestyle to adjust to new economic realities. A large number of them had even resorted to loans to make ends meet.
I watched a TV interview with a retail investor last Friday. She had subscribed to the Facebook IPO and was standing among the crowd in Times Square in front of the NASDAQ board waiting (quite a while, as it turned out) for the stock to start trading. The journalist asked why she was so convinced about her new investment and she explained that she and all her family and friends were Facebook users and was impressed by its stellar growth. She also expressed her regret at not buying Google when it IPO’d a few years back.
I took an unsettling call from lady at American Express the other day. Apparently because I had been a card member for such a long time, she wondered whether I would like to have a second card for my wife. It was only after I bluntly refused that she came to what I now suspect to have been the real reason for the call. She expressed how uncomfortable it was for her to broach this subject, but American Express had tasked her to propose insurance security specifically for life events that are neglected by other insurers because they are unable or unwilling to discuss sensitive issues. Her voice adopted a solemn, gravelly timbre: “No, Mr Goldberg,” she choked, “this is not a comfortable subject, but one that must be discussed.” I braced myself.
I read yesterday a financial market commentary suggesting that Japanese exporters, faced with a sharply rising US-dollar versus the yen over the last month, could have tried to unwind their currency hedges. This would mean rebuying the dollars they had already sold in anticipation of overseas sales. In all likelihood, this would also mean a loss on the hedge transaction, but given the anyway miserable performance of these firms due to the earthquake, tsunami and the eurozone debt crisis, who would know? They might as well kitchen-sink all the bad news into the current fiscal year which ends in March, argued the commentator.
I was at the Frankfurt Opera with my wife on Saturday where Mozart’s Don Giovanni was playing for the final time this season. We enjoyed the opera, but I saw Don Giovanni with completely different eyes than the last time I saw it about 30 years ago – back then I had not yet fully engaged with behavioural economics or behavioural living. You’ve heard of Don Giovanni, the rogue with all the women? In Spanish, he’s Don Juan, the great seducer whose infidelity destroys not only the life of his wife, Doña Elvira, but also those of countless other women.
At last, German legislation is finally addressing a plague that costs everyone a lot time and money: the fee-based telephone queue. I never understood why one is subjected to a fiddly question-answer menu only to again explain the reason for the call when once connected with a service representative.
I am always astounded by the number of investors who operate in the financial markets without loss limits. Of course, planning for a stop-loss in one’s strategy means admitting the prospect of a loss at the outset, and investors are understandably reluctant to do so.
In yesterday’s post Unwonted Candour appealed to European politicians not to allow a misplaced sense of morality to prevent a reopening of the nuclear power debate because the crisis in Japan holds important lessons for policymakers. I was doubtful it would actually happen. One can therefore imagine my surprise when German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a three-month ‘moratorium’ on extending the lifespan of the country’s ageing nuclear power plants.
My baby already has a lot of possessions for a two-month-old boy: apart from the usual baby-bed, changing table, wagon, rocker, toddler blanket, countless clothes and stuffed animals, he has his own savings account, equity-shares in a bank, a tax identification number and a passport
In a taxi this morning, I couldn’t help noticing how well my driver respected the speed limits and traffic signals. He drove just under 30mph in the city, carefully observed the 15mph speed limits in traffic restricted areas, applied the brakes at the hint of a yellow light, and cruised by a radar control at the prescribed speed. ‘You knew that trap,’ I complimented the law-abiding cabbie. ‘Yeah, they nailed me here when I was a greenhorn. It cost a lot of money and a penalty point on my license,’ he murmured.
Holiday at last – hello Africa! I have been musing over the possibilities for months. South Africa’s picturesque Cape Town stands out in my mind, although Namibia’s isolation and expansiveness also beckons; Zambia offers Victoria Falls, but the biodiversity of Botswana’s Okavango Delta is positively enchanting. I can’t decide.
I’ve had to shovel a lot of snow from the paths and the pavement in front of my house recently. It has been more than 20 cm deep on several days. The piles of shovelled snow at the sides of the road are already waist-high. It is back-breaking work but, as all my neighbours seem to go out shovelling at the same time each morning, we can at least support each others morale as we toil.
Whether one pays a fixed penalty or an excessive litre-price, returning a rental car with less than a full tank is an expensive exercise. For this reason, I am stubborn about stopping at a fuel station on the way to the airport, if time allows.