Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Great Perspective on "the Game" by Barry Ritholtz

've often referred to Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture blog as the "godfather" of financial blogging... he was the first big time market blogger that I can recall; before then I used to read him over at TheStreet.com / Realmoney.com.  While I don't have that much time anymore to read other people's blogs, I try to make it over there every few weeks, and I found this nugget from a few days ago.  I will store it in memory because while I enjoy the ever changing 3 dimensional puzzle that are markets (or what used to be markets), the longer you do this and the more you see behind the curtain -  the more I begin to share the same viewpoints to this whole "game" that this emailer has.  The point I highlighted in purple below is also something I try to reinforce on the website often... because when I first began I thought it would just be a matter of finding discrepencies in numbers, outworking people, staring at my Excel spreadsheets, analzying financials, invest with logic and away I'd go to success.  That's typical left brain thinking, and if true successful investors would mostly be engineer types.  Rather this "game" is among the big psychology experiments ever created, where we are a bunch of rats in a labyrinth... and I'd suggest to further complicate matters we currently exist in a maze that is being partially morphed by the "powers that be".


I received a disturbing email from promising young man who works at a well known shop. He expressed his frustration with the entire absurdity of his job, with Wall Street, and with the ridiculousness he sees swirling all around him.

I’m rapidly losing faith in this whole game, Barry.”


Ritholtz's response:


I cannot restore your faith or improve your morale (Only you can do that). What I can do is share with you what I have learned over two decades, and perhaps in these words you might find some small comfort.

Yes, there is an insanity to the markets that can make you mad if you let it. Instead, learn to see the delightful absurdity of it all. Revel in the stupidity, learn to read when the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ turns into an angry mob. Find some Zen in the foolishness of others.

Step back and look for the variant perception . . . then wait for it to become a money maker.

Consider this was an issue from 1996 or 97 until the collapse in 2000, and from 2005 to the collapse in 2008-09. It is a 3 or 4 or even 5 year time lag between the earliest inklings of recognition of mass stupidity/insanity, to any eventual collapse.

Time is always on the side of the patient. Study, learn, absorb all you can. You are waiting for the next opportunity to make your bones, your fortune, your reputation. It will come along eventually — if you wait for it and are in a position to take advantage when the moment arrives. As Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

You must become a philosopher, a historian, a statistician, a trial lawyer, and a psychologist when looking at Mr. Market. Simply reading the data and trying to trade/invest off of it is a sucker’s game. The noise so totally outweighs the signal that it is easy to get caught up in distractions. For the vast majority of investors, dollar cost averaging into Indexes — then forgetting about it til retirement — is their best bet. Its not my favorite strategy, but anything else is too complex for mom and pop to work for them.

But you work in the business, and your clients want/need to outperform, so you must give them something value added. You need to be able to comment on the madhouse — and you can do so acerbically, mockingly, derisively at times — while recognizing, acknowledging, and waiting for the technical set up to bet against the crowd.

The saying goes “The trend is your friend.” The smart money adds ” ‘cept the bend at the end.” The momo crowd, the lemmings, the mad money all pile onto that trend as the trees grow to the sky. Especially at the end — that’s when the weight of the sheeples, the johnny-come-latelies ultimately pressures that tree, and is what causes that deadly “bend at the end.”

You must learn patience, young grasshopper. You must have faith that EVENTUALLY, the sorta kinda, almost efficient market will figure it out. That is when money returns to its rightful owners. There will be long periods of time when the blowhards, the jackasses, the arrogant, the ignorant will be eating better than you. During the dot com bubble, the dumber you were, the more money you made. Many of those who understood how silly things were missed out on the boom.

But this state of affairs is temporary. Eventually, the knaves starve to death under the oppressive force of their own ignorance. Be patient. The day of reckoning is often surprisingly late in its arrival, but it will not be denied. The beast must be fed.

Trust me when I tell you, its worth the wait . . .

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