Advising the Behavioral Investor: Lessons from the Real World

Gregg S. Fisher, CFA

Chief Investment Officer, Gerstein Fisher


U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, during his first inaugural address in 1933, stated that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He made this statement when the country was in the throes of the Great Depression. More than 80 years later, academic research in the field of behavioral finance demonstrates that this celebrated line applies equally to investing. Investors are often their own worst enemies because they are susceptible to mental mistakes and emotional responses. These biases often lead to poor decision-making and, ultimately, inferior financial outcomes.

One of the greatest services a financial advisor can provide to clients is helping to ensure that in times of market turbulence, reason, discipline, and objectivity triumph over emotions such as fear, greed, and regret. This chapter explores some reasons for which overcoming emotional and cognitive biases in investing is both vital to individuals' long-term wealth creation and also a perennial challenge for financial advisors. It explains common emotional biases and how these impact the development of investment strategy and, ultimately, investment results. Additionally, this chapter draws on both academic theories in the area of behavioral finance and the real-life manifestations of behavioral and cognitive biases on investors' long-term wealth.

The chapter ...

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