How to Avoid 'Stockholm Syndrome' When You Buy

You just bought a new TV.
The thrill of the purchase is gone, and the TV is sitting on your living-room floor when the doubting begins.
"Should I have gotten the 44 inch instead of the 42 inch?" you ask yourself. "Should I have waited until 5D comes out next year?"
And then the worst question of all: "Did I just waste my money?"
Whether it's buying a TV, a house, or an ocean cruise… spending a lot of money triggers a range of emotions. Controlling these emotions – often called "buyer's remorse" – can mean the difference between a good investment and one that you'll regret and lose money on.
It's the same sort of thing with buying stock in a company…
"Was my timing right?"
"Did I just buy a lemon of a stock?"
"Is the market about to collapse?"
And the underlying question is, "What if I lose money?"
On the flip side, another emotional response is to immediately justify the purchase. This is called "post-purchase rationalization." We focus on the strengths of the product we chose and overlook its faults. We might also dwell on the weaknesses of the alternatives.
This also happens when you buy a product – or a stock – and then see a few weeks later that it has gone on sale. Had you waited a few weeks, you could have bought the same TV, or stock, for less. Then your brain will try to convince you that you needed to make the purchase at the higher price. (After all, you did need the new TV to watch the big game that day.)
With practice, we can convince ourselves that any purchase was the "right" one – no matter how flawed it really was. Post-purchase rationalization – also known as "Buyer's Stockholm Syndrome" – can lead to bad buying decisions in the future.
Stockholm Syndrome is the psychological condition that occurs when hostages feel sympathy for and attachment to their kidnappers. In this case, the customer (the "hostage") is held captive by the product he buys (the "kidnapper"). And the buyer eventually convinces himself that he likes the product.
Buyer's remorse and post-purchase rationalization are both dangerous for investors.
Beating yourself up after buying something isn't going to change the fact that you made the purchase. And it may lead to an impulsive decision to return (or sell) a product (or stock) that was in fact a well-reasoned and smart idea in the first place.
Second-guessing yourself to justify a trade that isn't working out can be just as damaging. This can lead to refusing to accept that you've made a mistake and prevent you from learning a valuable lesson from the purchase.
It might also stand in the way of sticking to your stop loss. Selling a losing stock is an acknowledgement of error. But if you're too caught up in explaining to yourself why it was actually a good idea, you might violate the most important rule of investing: Don't lose money.
In fact, ownership leads to emotional attachment. We tend to place a higher value on the things that belong to us – whether it's a house, a car, a dog, or a stock. This also makes taking a loss on an investment an emotional challenge.
Below, I've listed three ways to prevent buyer's remorse and post-purchase rationalization from affecting your investment decisions. You should…
•   Recognize your mistakes. In other words, know how to take a loss and make sure that you learn from the outcome. Examine exactly why a certain position lost you money, rather than trying to convince yourself that you were right all along, and that "the market" was wrong. (The market is never wrong: The investor who loses money based on the idea that he knows more than the market is wrong.)
•   Avoid impulse buying and selling. Researching a stock before investing will help to reduce buyer's remorse, as you'll later be better able to explain to yourself why you made the decision. You'll also feel less need to rationalize the purchase. Selling based on a gut feeling that you were wrong in the first place is just as bad.
•   Follow your own discipline. Recognizing a bad trade in time might prevent a mildly negative position from turning into a monumental loss. If you hit your stop loss, sell.
As with any investment pitfall that we've discussed, taking emotion out of the investment process is a critical ingredient for making money.

Be objective. Don't let your feelings cloud your judgment.


Kim Iskyan

Editor's note: Kim and his Truewealth Asian Investment Daily team recently published a report to show how emotions have gotten in the way of even the world's most successful investors. Find out how you can gain access to this report right here. And if you'd like to sign up for their free daily e-letter, click here.


Source: DailyWealth

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