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3 World Cup-Inspired Investment Tips

Investors can take some cues from soccer's biggest event, because managing money and playing professional soccer use some strikingly similar skills.

In the 87th minute of the highly anticipated World Cup matchup of Spain vs. Portugal on June 15, Portugal found themselves down by a goal with time quickly running out. But with the calmness and coolness only an experienced professional can possess, it was Portugal's veteran Cristiano Ronaldo who stepped up to the penalty line and drilled the ball into the back corner of the net to tie the game. GOOAALLL! screamed the broadcaster. It was a remarkable strike.

If you are a fan of football, or soccer as we Americans call it, this is your time. The 2018 FIFA World Cup is underway, a global sporting event that happens once every four years. Yes, I am a fan. It’s a beautiful game. But I am also as an investment adviser, so in watching the action, I can’t help but notice the many similarities between the players, the game and managing money.

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In the spirit of the games, here’s my hat trick, 3 World Cup Investment Tips:

1. Know your role

Stick to what you know (and what you’re good at). Pelé, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Ronaldo — all these famous strikers have a single objective — to put the ball in the back of the net. They are soccer assassins. When it comes to managing money, take a tip from them: Go with a specialist.

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If there is one thing I can’t stand it’s “all-cap” funds or a mutual fund with no objective, sort of a go-anywhere fund. There’s no way Brazil’s leading striker Neymar can play goalie. He knows what he’s good at, and he sticks to it. I look for money managers who stick to their style, like a large-growth manager who only buys what he knows, large-growth stocks. Stick to what you know.

2. Keep your cool

Nothing can sink a team faster than a dreaded red card. When a player gets a red card (for a flagrant penalty, like intentionally taking an opponent out — just Google “the most deserving red card ever” and you’ll see what I mean) he or she is out of the game for good and their team has one less player for the rest of the match — a huge disadvantage.

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The best money managers will tell you to control your emotions. If left unchecked, emotions will get the best of you. I see it all the time. Do-it-your-selfers get scared and sell at the bottom of the market; then eventually things get better, but they are still too spooked to buy and so they sit out a bull market; then finally they get excited in the good times and buy at the top.

For the average investor, emotions play a bigger role in their decision-making than they may be aware. In their research, Dalbar cites emotions as the driving force behind the average stock investor in the United States underperforming the S&P 500. Don’t let your emotions get the best of your investment decisions, and above all else, avoid a red card!

3. Know when to make a substitution

It is one of the hardest decisions an investor can make — how long to ride the winners or how long to hold onto a loser. The same goes for a World Cup coach. In the World Cup, the coach can only make three player substitutions per match, so they’d better count. One of the most memorable substitutions was in the 2014 World Cup final, Germany vs. Argentina. Germany’s Mario Gotze was on the bench for most of the game. But in the 88th minute of a scoreless match, Germany substituted Gotze for Miroslav Klose. Klose told him on the way out, “Show the world you are better than (that Argentine) Messi and can decide the World Cup.” Within seven minutes of extra-time, or overtime, Gotze chested the ball off a cross in the middle of the field and volleyed it right past the Argentine goalie, scoring the winning goal.

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You have to know when to shake things up. Investors who refuse to sell a loser, thinking it will come back, may get too emotionally attached to a position. Researchers refer to this as “conservatism” bias. In a perfect world, the rational investor would process all information about a security and sell the security as soon as the risk/return profile becomes unfavorable; however, the investor with conservatism bias will tend to find themselves “married” to securities. They will underreact to new information and be slow to consider a contradictory view.

As Kenny Rogers put it in his hit song The Gambler: “You've got to know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em.” Know when to make a substitution.

In the end, out of the 64 games and monthlong tournament, there is only one clear World Cup winner. Like other championship teams in different sports, the winning nation will almost certainly execute the fundamentals better than their opponents.

It usually comes down to the little things that add up. And so it is for investing. Ordinary investors should take a cue from the World Cup:

  • Choose managers who excel at one style of investing.
  • Check your emotions before making a knee-jerk reaction.
  • And finally, know when to make substitution.

There is obviously much more to investing then mentioned here, but simply put, it’s about having a game plan — a process that, from my experience, is one of the best ways to help put you in a better position to succeed and score the ultimate goal in life, a happy and comfortable retirement.

About the Author

Michael Aloi, CFP®

CFP®, Summit Financial, LLC

Michael Aloi is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Practitioner and Accredited Wealth Management Advisor℠ with Summit Financial, LLC. Investment advisory and financial planning services are offered through Summit Financial, LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Adviser, 4 Campus Drive, Parsippany, NJ 07054. Tel. 973-285-3600 Fax. 973-285-3666. This material is for your information and guidance and is not intended as legal or tax advice. Legal and/or tax counsel should be consulted before any action is taken.

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