Philosophical Friday: Investing is Like Religion

July 31, 2009 at 4:00 am 3 comments

Candles Burning

Nothing like the subject of religion to make people feel uncomfortable, so why not dive in!

Investing Is Like Religion: Everyone believes their religion will lead them down the right path to spiritual prosperity. Adherants.com divides religions into 22 separate groupings. If you look at the loosely grouped big five (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism), these cover the vast majority of religious practitioners globally – an estimated 4 billion to 5.5 billion people.

In investing, most individuals stubbornly believe their philosophy is the right way to make money. With the hopes of creating order, the investment industry relies on tools like Morningstar’s nine style box categories, which places investors in tidy, clean groups. Unfortunately, not every strategy fits nicely into a style box, especially if you try to integrate investment vehicles like hedge funds and quantitative funds. 

Morningstar Style Box

Can’t We All Just Get Along?: I believe religions can co-exist just like different investing philosophies can co-exist. Certainly there are less worthy religions, for example you can think of cults that prey on vulnerable individuals. The same can be said for investing – as long as greed continues to exist (a certainty), there will be unscrupulous crooks and shady businesses looking to take advantage of people for a quick buck.

Regulation: I suppose our law enforcement agencies and courts serve as regulators over a small minority of churches who break the law, but given the recent collapse of parts of our financial system it makes sense we are retooling and recalibrating our oversight and regulations. There is no doubt that negative trends like the unfettered growth of toxic mortgages (including subprime), over leveraging of investment banks (ala Bear Stearns, and Lehman), and exponential growth of complex derivative products (such as CDS and CDOs) need to be controlled with more oversight. There needs to consequences to improper actions – some religions have been known to discipline their members too.

Investing Takes Faith: We have gone through an extremely trying year and a half and iconic experts like Warren Buffett have had the wherewithal to invest successfully through uncertain economic cycles because of faith in capitalism. Even at the other side of the investing spectrum, in areas like quantitative and technical trading, the practitioner still needs to have enough faith in their systems and models with the belief they have an edge that can help them outperform. Regardless of the approach, one must have faith in their investment philosophy to be successful over the long-term.

Although there countless versions of religions all over the world, I’m confident that the Church of Money Under the Mattress (CMUM) will not lead the majority of investors to the Promise Land. Even for those risk averse savers, there are ways to heighten your expected return without assuming undue risk. Irrespective of your religious beliefs, may your spiritual journey bring you hefty profits…

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®   (Sidoxia Capital Management, LLC)

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management and client accounts do not have direct positions in BRKA/B at the time the article was published. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

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