In 1999, two of my favorite clients fired me as their financial advisor.

It was a young husband and wife. I had handled the husband’s father’s money for more than a decade.

The father passed away a few years before, and the couple inherited the estate. It was a LARGE sum of money – large enough that if we earned 10% per year on the assets, this couple could live off of the earnings and never have to work again for the rest of their lives.

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In 1999, the various conservative mutual funds I recommended they invest in earned 58%. It was far more than we had projected. It was far more than they needed to maintain their standard of living.

But, the Munder NetNet Fund their neighbor invested in – which only bought internet-related stocks – earned three times that amount.

The couple told me they wanted to sell the funds I recommended and put everything into the Munder NetNet Fund.

I reminded them of their long-term goals. I told them that 1999 was an “outlier” year. Just about everything made money. They had made far more money in their conservative funds than we had projected. It wasn’t likely to happen again anytime soon.

And even though I would have profited handsomely on the commission earned by selling their existing funds and buying the Munder NetNet Fund, I told them not to do it. In fact, I refused to do it.

So, they fired me. They took their money to another broker who did exactly what they wanted to do.

Over the next three years, the conservative funds gained an average of 9% per year. The Munder NetNet Fund lost an average of 27% per year.

The couple’s money evaporated. Their financial security disappeared.

Had they simply stuck with the plan we set up to make 10% per year over time, they would have been just fine. They never would have had to work again. They’d never have any financial concerns. They could have raised their family with all of the benefits that financial independence provides.

But that wasn’t good enough. Their neighbor had made more and that wasn’t acceptable. So, they threw away the strategy that worked best for them… and rolled the dice on a more aggressive posture.

That’s the danger of FOMO – Fear of Missing Out.

Whenever there’s a hot trade in the market, whenever an asset class captures the headlines for producing HUGE gains, the automatic response for most investors is, “Damn! I have to jump on board.”

To them, valuations don’t matter. Logic doesn’t matter. All of the time-tested market-based fundamentals don’t matter.

All that matters is… “This asset is moving higher. My friends and neighbors are making more money than me. So, I have to get on board.”

It’s a classic FOMO event.

Folks… I have to tell you… FOMO will destroy you.

If your neighbors are making money, then good for them. If Biff and Muffy at the holiday cocktail party are bragging about their HUGE profits, then good for them. That’s wonderful. You should be glad that your friends, neighbors, and in-laws are doing well. Prosperity is a good thing.

But when logic doesn’t support the trade – or when your own financial objectives require a more conservative stance – then chasing the trade is a mistake.

You should focus your investing and trading strategies on what is right for you. That means you’ll underperform your neighbors in some years.

But who cares? As long as you meet the performance necessary to achieve your long-term goals, then it’s a win.

I’m a trader. My immediate objectives are to make profits on short-term trades. But my recommendations fall within the constraints of a longer-term objective. And in the longer-term, it’s the contrarian – or less popular – trades that will generate the largest gains.

As more people saw stocks rise this past month, the forces of FOMO pressured average investors to buy more stocks at valuations that don’t make sense for the state of the economy.

That’s why I’ve encouraged my subscribers to short the market lately. Chasing trades that don’t make sense is almost always a bad idea.

Traders who rush to get into trades simply because it’s the hot idea of the moment, or because their neighbors are profiting, are making a mistake. If the trade doesn’t have a fundamental backing… if it doesn’t fit with your overall longer-term strategy… then it’s not likely to turn out well.

Current valuations and current technical conditions don’t favor chasing the stock market higher right here. So, I don’t mind telling folks that now is a good time to take short positions, even if we’re a bit early.

The FOMO is intense. I feel it every day when I read emails from my subscribers.

But it never does a trader well to stampede along with the herd. The best trades are the hardest ones to make. And, that’s especially true in bear markets like we’re in now.

Traders should stay cautious right now.

Best regards and good trading,

Jeff Clark

P.S. It can be tempting to trade along with the crowd. The market environment lately has been one where investors seem to abandon traditional principles.

But, that’s not sustainable. To make money in this bear market, you have to be a bit contrarian, and trade it – not blindly follow the crowd.

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