For some time now, I’ve been writing blogs on many different financial topics. I trust you find
most of these topics interesting. However there may be occasions, like today, where the topic
might make you blink. Ready?
Don’t let the ball control you.
Pretty cryptic, right? But take a look at your calendar and things will start to become clear.
What month is it? That’s right, it’s March. And we all know what happens in March.
March Madness, to be exact. The annual NCAA basketball tournament to crown a national
champion. It’s a three-week event that allegedly leads to higher gambling1 and lower
productivity2. But the real danger, to you at least, is the impact that it has on investing.
What’s the correlation between March Madness and investing? While there’s no direct link
between basketball and the markets, one can impact the other. Specifically, I’m speaking about
the effect March Madness has on people’s emotions. We all know that following sports often
involves emotional commitment. We don’t just watch teams play, we root for them. Whether
it’s our local school, our alma mater, the schools our children go to, or just because we like their
mascot, many of us tend to favor one team over the other. We’re ecstatic when they win; we’re
depressed when they lose.
Some people might not be quite so affected by the way the ball bounces. But for those who are,
it’s crucial that you remember not to make emotional investment decisions. This is never truer
than during the month of March. You see, some people are more likely to make impulsive
decisions based solely on how they are feeling. So if you’re emotionally invested in the
tournament, try to resist making any meaningful decisions until it’s over. If your team loses, you
might be so depressed or angry that you end up doing things you regret. Especially when it
comes to your portfolio.
Seems like mere common sense, doesn’t it? But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth talking about.
One study3 done in 2005 looked at the effect of countries’ stock markets after their national
teams lose in the World Cup. They found in many cases that if a country’s team lost, their stock
market would drop 38 points. And that’s just the average—imagine what the number might be
for individuals. The only explanation for this is that the loss influenced investors’ moods to a
When it comes to our finances, we can’t afford to let our emotions get the better of us. The
wisest investing is done with our heads, not with our hearts. So if you find yourself sitting on the
couch, watching a game, remember: don’t let the ball control you!
Stay Ahead of the Curve,
Gary Scheer, RFC®, CSA
Retirement Financial Advisors, LLC
1.Tim Otteman, “NCAA March Madness Can Cause Lifetime Gambling Problems,” US News, March 17, 2009.
2.Aaron Crowe, “March Madness a march to lower work productivity”, DailyFinance.com, March 11, 2010.
3. Alex Edmans, Diego Garcia, Oyvind Norli, “Sports Sentiment and Stock Returns,” May 1, 2006.