Unhealthy Attachments

Have you ever made yourself suffer through a bad movie because, having paid for the ticket, you felt you had to get your money’s worth? Some people treat investment the same way.

Behavioral economists have a name for this tendency of people and organizations to stick with a losing strategy purely on the basis that they have put so much time and money into it already. It’s called the “sunk cost fallacy.”

Let’s say a couple buy a property next to a freeway, believing that planting trees and double-glazing will block out the noise. Thousands of dollars later the place is still unlivable, but they won’t sell because “that would be a waste of money”.

This is an example of a sunk cost. Despite the strong likelihood that you’ll never get your money back, regardless of outcomes, you are reluctant to cut your losses and sell because that would involve an admission of defeat.

It works like this in the equity market too. People will often speculate on a particular stock on the basis of newspaper articles about prospects for the company or industry. When those forecasts don’t come to pass, they hold on regardless.

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