The Rolling Stones probably never managed anyone's money but their own. But the lyrics to one of their greatest hits and those crafted by other famous music groups offer sage investment advice. Investors can learn a great deal from popular songs about limiting risk and increasing the likelihood of profits, and in a far more stimulating way than the prospectus and speeches that investment professionals offer.
Consider the five songs below from the Rolling Stones, Beatles, the Swedish group ABBA and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles:
1. Time Is On My Side (Rolling Stones): While Mick Jagger wasn't referring to investments when singing this song, the message certainly applies. The greatest ally an investor has when trying to accrue wealth is time and the power of compound interest. None other than Albert Einstein was rumored to have said that compound interest is "the most powerful force in the universe." Whether he actually said it or not is irrelevant. There is no greater advantage to investment success than a long time horizon and there is no greater disadvantage than a short one.
2. Shop Around (Smokey Robinson and the Miracles): Whether in the market for individual mutual funds, ETFs, or in the market for a financial advisor, it usually pays not to invest in the first one." Comparison shopping is critically important for success in investing. Management fees and other costs can vary widely, so it is a good idea to shop around. Your bottom line will be glad you did.
3. With A Little Help From My Friends (The Beatles): When people get sick, they go to a doctor. When people get into a legal bind, they consult a lawyer. Yet for some reason, many investors won't seek help. Studies show that do-it-yourself investors dramatically underperform those who seek financial advice. The fact that people can be their own portfolio managers doesn't mean that they should be.
4. Take a Chance (ABBA): Research shows that Millennials are saving more for retirement than previous generations. However, that research also shows that Millennials are investing more conservatively than previous generations. Perhaps scarred by seeing their parents' wealth decimated in the financial crisis, Millennials are opting for less volatile, lower return asset classes. Those with long time horizons should invest almost entirely in stocks. From 1926 through 2014, a broadly diversified portfolio of common stocks earned an average of 10% compounded annually. Government and corporate bonds returned a little over 6%.
5. Let It Be (The Beatles): When financial markets are in flux, many investors feel the need to make significant changes in their portfolios. For instance, following the recent Brexit vote, many investors sought to de-risk their portfolios by selling equities. When you have a long-term strategy, you should follow a strategy of dollar cost averaging into a low cost equity index fund and not deviate from that strategy when markets are volatile.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. Robert R. Johnson is president and CEO of the American College of Financial Services. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.