When investing, facts matter more than feelings

Ron Finke
Your money

According to Jesus’ parable found in Matthew 25 about the three servants entrusted with the Master’s talents of precious metal, we are going to be rewarded by taking at least some risk in our financial lives. Why do I say that?

Ron Finke

You will recall that the master entrusts five talents to one servant, two to another, and one talent to a third. He then says he will be back someday. Since this was the master’s money, not theirs, it is implied that he expected a return of his resources and hopefully a gain on the work and skill of the servants.

We do not know the length of time that passed, but the master did return from his trip. The first two are praised for their diligence. They traded with his money and doubled it. But the third has only the original amount, what he had received.

Why did he not have more to show for his labor or skill? He excused himself by his being afraid of the master whom he calls a hard man. The master replies in verse 26 instead that this servant is evil and lazy (Christian Standard Version of the Bible). I cannot recall the master (obviously God himself in the story) ever being much more scathing in his language toward a servant.

Even though I am in the money-management business and have 39 years of experience, at times I fear what may happen. Ultimately and periodically, it always happens: the values fall instead of rise.

The primary lesson I have learned is that there is no gain without taking risk. You might think your money in the bank has no risk, but there will come a day when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation will either not be able to guarantee the principal or perhaps not even exist. It is just that this risk is very small at present.

The Federal Reserve Bank in its wisdom or lack thereof has decided to favor inflation over the soundness of your money and is also guaranteeing that you are now losing money safely at a slow rate. You can make perhaps a half percent or one percent but are losing at least two percent per year in purchasing power.

The greatest mistake I have made in investing is thinking that my fears are well enough founded upon the current environment for me to know in advance how markets will react. Instead, I have learned that technical analysis will tell us what is happening with investments as they are happening (not before) and allow us to make gains or protect the principal.

We had a client who decided last December that cash would be better than the most conservative investment model he or she was in. Those accounts are net 9 percent higher now than in December. Some people have told me that they never reinvested after the drop in 2008 and 2009.

This is why we say The Trend Is Your Friend. Mr. Market can be irrational far longer than we can ever think. In the meantime, we lose opportunity and money that could have been earned. It is no mistake to adjust the sails or your ship with the wind, but to stay anchored or tied to the dock is always expensive. There is no end to the good we can do with extra money.

(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The advice is general in nature and not intended for specific situations.)

Ron Finke is president of Stewardship Capital in Independence. He is a registered investment adviser. Reach him at rcfinke@stewcap.com.