Dr. Brian Portnoy is an expert in making decisions.
He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, he’s a Chartered Financial Analyst, and he’s the Director of Investment Education at Virtus Investment Partners.
Dr. Portnoy joins me on the podcast to discuss how to make smarter decisions — not only about investments, but also generally in life. How do we sharpen our decision-making skills? How do we improve our critical thinking processes?
Here are some of the takeaways from our conversation.
1. Beware of resulting.
Great results can come from poorly-planned decisions. And wise decisions can lead to good results on occasion.
Don’t judge a decision based on its results; judge a decision based on the soundness of the thinking process through which you made that choice.
2. Manage your expectations.
Your happiness with an outcome will depend on the gap between your expectations and reality. If you can’t control reality (at least, not completely), then manage your expectations. It’s the happiness variable that’s most under your authority.
3. Don’t make hasty evaluations.
When you go to a restaurant, you order a (vegan?) cheeseburger, and based on the taste of that burger, you can immediately evaluate your decision.
You can’t do that with investments.
When you make an investment decision, there’s a huge time-gap between when you make the choice and when you see the results of that choice. This time-gap may last for decades. And this means that your decisions are tough to evaluate.
Don’t judge an investment decision on one-year or two-year results, as tempting as that may be. Judge your decisions based on the soundness of the thinking, not the short-term ramifications.
It’s the best way to save you from yourself.
5. Define risk.
Some people think that “risk” is synonymous with volatility. Others think that “risk” refers to the loss of capital.
Know what “risk” means to you. Personally, I define it as probability x magnitude. Today’s guest, Brian, points out that magnitude can happen in a multitude of dimensions and verticals.
6. Diversification, risk management, and behavior.
When in doubt, pay attention to these three factors. In order to better manage your investing choices, manage these qualities. You cannot control broad market outcomes, but you can control your exposure, risk, and choices.
7. You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
Surround yourself with frugal, ambitious, reasonable, wise, intelligent, kind, adventurous people — and you will become stronger in those qualities.
You are in charge of the community with whom you surround yourself. Even if you can’t change your physical neighborhood, you can form an online or digital community of people who support your goals and reflect your philosophy.
8. Keep a decision-making journal.
What gets measured, gets improved. If you want to improve your decision-making skills, keep a journal of the way in which you make decisions, e.g. your thinking process. Then in the future, when you have the benefit of hindsight, you can look back on your decision-making process.
Remember, don’t judge your choices based on outcome; judge your choices based on the soundness of the decision-making process itself.
Dr. Portnoy dives into detail about how to make better decisions in today’s episode.
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