Dalbar, a financial services market research firm, annually conducts a study on investor returns and the behavior that drives them. It measures investors’ buying and selling of mutual funds, and the timing of those moves.
The results (pdf) are disappointing – investor behavior is consistently causing lower returns than funds’ performance reports state.
And there’s hardly been any improvement in the last 20 years!
Investors jump too often to realize gains, selling low and buying high. It’s the inverse of conventional wisdom, like a mutual fund merry-go-round! Last year, investors under-performed the S&P 500 by an average of 8.19%. The S&P gained 13.69% in 2014, whereas the average equity mutual fund investor return was 5.5%.
In 2014 the 20-year annualized S&P return was 9.22%, but investors only averaged 5.02% over that time, a gap of 4.2%. So most people are only getting about half of the benchmark return!
The bond situation is worse, where investor under-performance stands at 4.81% for 2014.
Investor returns averaged 1.16%, compared to 5.97% for a Barclays benchmark. Over 20 years, investors averaged a 0.8% return on bonds versus 6.2% for the benchmark – a whopping 5.4%!
Given the abundance of financial education out there, it’s surprising this is two decade phenomenon. Clearly, knowing what to do and actually doing it are distinct exercises.
Markets can fluctuate, as our not-too-distant meltdowns illustrate. But even in good markets, bad decisions abound. Poor timing and emotion are making investors their own worst enemies.
While easier said than done, investors must separate their money and emotions. Try consulting a financial professional. Having a third-party advisor is a great way to bring objectivity to your portfolio.