Trading Psychology in 60 seconds – The Disposition effect

In the book called Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, Larry Livingston our hero of the story, committed what we now know as the disposition effect, when he held onto his position in cotton which showed him a loss, but sold his position in wheat which showed him a profit. He came to the conclusion that this was the worst speculative blunder that anyone could ever make in the market.

Consider shareholders in stock code ABC – down 25% in a day. How many of them will continue to hold? It is a tough call to ask anyone to sell a position which shows such a loss. Many holders will be carrying much larger losses because this thing has been at $4.40 12 months ago.

So what can you do?

First of all, you make yourself mindful of the disposition effect and with this in mind you establish investing or trading rules that are directly related to stopping you from finding yourself in this predicament.

We do this by not buying into downtrends for example. We focus on the economic fundamentals of not just the company but the broader economy in which we find ourselves. In a COVID 19 world, this would mean many people would be holding onto travel related stocks and suffering from the same effect – holding onto the Webjet’s in their portfolio, but offloading their ZIP or Afterpay shares which are showing them a profit.

You can take smaller position sizes as a general rule and work out a worst case scenario and see if and when this scenario unfolds, what impact it can have on your overall portfolio.

Maybe you limit yourself to only one stock per sector, such as one building company or one bank and so on, because we often see how bad news affecting one bank, always leads to contagion in other banks. But we are not your financial advisor. We don’t know what is best for you. But we suggest, making the worst speculative blunder that anyone could ever make in the market, is one blunder you should surely strive to avoid.