Investing

What Heartbreak and Hotties Can Teach You About Investing

Terri Trespicio

You’ve likely been burned by a romantic relationship before. Maybe a good thing went bad, or a bad thing made you question your sanity. You were hurt, of course, but it didn’t stop you from dating altogether—at least not forever. The promise of true love holds too much appeal to quit for good.

And that, my friend, is all you need to know to be a successful investor.

Okay, maybe not all you need to know, but there’s a worthwhile lesson here. The stock market, just like your love life, has ups and downs, can inspire a crazy rush of optimism and hope, then disappoint you just as fast. But in both cases, you have to learn to tolerate—even embrace—the highs and lows because stick-to-it-iveness is the key to long-term success.

Here are three ways romance mirrors the market, and how you can use this analogy to become a better investor (and maybe a better romantic partner, too!).

Lesson #1: Leverage the lows to emerge better than before.

If you’ve been hurt by someone, it’s natural to be hesitant about getting into something serious again. But what’s the alternative—never enter another relationship? Of course not. Instead, you dust yourself off, and take the valuable lessons learned into your next relationship.

Same goes for your portfolio. “The only way to lose money over time in the stock market is to get out of the game,” says Chris Markowski, president of Markowski Investments and host of the AM radio show “Watchdog on Wall Street.”

Again, there are benefits to experiencing low points, considering one of the basic principles of investing is to buy low and sell high.

“Downturns can be a great opportunity [to buy] as long as the underlying fundamentals [of a stock or fund] are strong,” Markowski says. “Would you break up with someone over a simple fight or argument? If the fundamentals of a relationship are strong, you’re not going to kick someone to the curb over leaving the toilet seat up.”

Lesson #2: Hotties can be overrated; don’t believe the hype.

You know what it’s like to be seduced by someone who seems to have it all: great hair, killer bod, traipses all over the world doing mysterious “consulting” work, and, OMG, he smells like an angel. (Men, you know the female equivalent.)

Not so fast—rarely, if ever, is a seemingly perfect person all he or she is cracked up to be. This is not only a dating downfall, but a good way to lose money in the stock market.

“It’s like love at first sight,” Markowski says. “You get enamored and you stop thinking clearly. You want what’s hot. But once a stock is hot, it’s too late.”

What springs to mind are people who peaked in college, but Markowski’s thinking dotcoms: “Back in the 90s, investors were buying into dotcom stocks with no earnings or even prospects of earnings,” he says. “And guess what? It didn’t happen. We all know how that turned out.” (Badly.)

Before throwing your money (or yourself) at hotties, do your homework to ensure you really understand the investment you’re about to make. “Any company that’s promising the sun, moon and stars, but isn’t meeting any benchmarks, is questionable,” Markowski says.

Lesson #3: Find what works for you in the long run—not just this weekend.

While we can all probably tell a tale about a red-hot affair that flamed out, the fact is, you want someone who can go the distance. Similarly, building a diverse portfolio with the right mix of attributes is a lot like building a relationship with someone whose qualities will stand the test of time.

“The goal of a solid portfolio, as with a relationship, is that it supports you as your life takes shape,” Markowski says.

Aside from diversification, another measure of support to personalize when it comes to your portfolio is risk tolerance. While you’ve probably heard that young people can afford a lot of risk—or significantly more stocks than bonds—everyone’s different, Markowski says. To say you have to take on a lot of risk now is like saying you should only date rock stars, when maybe they’re not your cup of tea.

What works over the long run? Commitment and consistency. “If you see just an 8 percent return on average over time, you will end up wealthy,” he says. “Just don’t do dumb things,” like courting risk to get rich quick—or avoiding it altogether.

Bottom line? Strike the right balance, in love and investing, and you’ll enjoy long-term success with both.

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