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The Extreme Risks of Trading Your Own Retirement Assets - October 17, 2019

Zacks Equity Research

You have a substantial retirement portfolio. You're an accomplished investor. You've done truly well selecting stocks. You probably already own a couple of Zacks Top Retirement stock picks like:

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY), CNB Financial (CCNE) and Medifast (MED).

If you did something similar, would it be advisable for you to trade your own retirement nest egg?

It could be a good idea - that is, if you are one of the very few investors who understands your own risk tolerance and can keep your emotions in check during chaotic market swings. However, if you're like the rest of us, there are likely more prudent ways to reach your retirement investing goals.

Active stock trading requires an altogether different investing philosophy and risk - reward understanding than building wealth for retirement.

How Diversification Differs from Stock Picking

While stock picking can potentially generate outsized returns, its excessive concentrated risk can present huge perils for retirement investors.

In fact, a study done by Hendrik Bessembinder revealed that only 4% of equities produced all of the stock market's gains over the last 90 years. All other stocks "broke even" with the increases of 38% canceled out by the losses of the bottom 58%.

Those numbers reinforce that, even if you are an experienced and talented stock picker, your chances of success over a long period are very slim.

Is it Possible to Invest "Rationally"?

Investors feel they can make sensible choices, however research demonstrates that the opposite is what often happens. A DALBAR study analyzed investors from 1986 to 2015 and found that the average investor significantly underperformed compared to the S&P 500. Over 30 years, the S&P 500 produced a return of 10.35%, while the average investor return was only 3.66%.

It is interesting to note that the period covered by this study includes the 1987 crash, the 2000 bear market, and the Great Recession of 2008, as well as the bull market of the 1990s.

This study suggests that one key reason for investor underperformance is trying to time volatile markets - and that irrational behavior biases tend to compound investor mistakes.

Curiously, even experienced traders tend to underperform since they can't resist the emotional urge to make impulsive investment choices. They might be overly self-assured and miscalculate risk, get attached to a price target, or perceive a pattern that does not exist. This behavioral fallacy, over the long-term, can be disastrous with potential underperformance of a huge number of dollars disrupting your retirement.

What It All Means for Retirement Investors

When it comes to managing your assets for retirement, you must look at performance over the course of years and decades - not weeks or months. Because most traders generally tend to focus on the short term, they may not have the right mindset to achieve successful long-term outcomes.

We're not saying you should not trade at all - far from it. If you enjoy trading, perhaps you should put 10% of your investable assets to work in short-term investments to seek alpha and outsized returns.

But the point we're making here is that the money you have set aside for your retirement should be invested using a more conservative, long-term approach designed to produce reliable returns, so you can steadily build assets and achieve your retirement goals.

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Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (BMY) : Free Stock Analysis Report
 
CNB Financial Corporation (CCNE) : Free Stock Analysis Report
 
MEDIFAST INC (MED) : Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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