I wrote my new book, The Only Three Questions That Count, because I've long thought too many investors take the wrong path because they don't know in their bones that the required path is to know something others don't know.
We learn in finance school that if we don't -- we will sometimes be right and/or lucky, but more often we will be wrong and/or unlucky and overall do worse than if we were simply passive. But year after year most professional investors lag the market. The next year a different minority beats it. In the long term, precious few professionals beat the market because they keep making bets based on something other than knowing what others don't.
Investors act as if investing is a learnable craft. Yet I learned early on that craft doesn't lead you to know something others don't. It leads you to process the same information in similar ways to how other professionals -- who've also learned the craft -- process those same types of sought-after information. Hence, other than sheer luck, folks lag.
When I was young, I saw things in the media I thought were wrong, and I set out to prove they were, and I was right. Years later I realized that was the wrong approach. It was too egotistical and self-centered and didn't teach me anything. I learned that a better approach was to read the media for things I thought were right and see if others thought they were right, too, and then prove we were all wrong. That way I could game everyone.
Folks like to bet on Result-Y because they believe Factor-X causes Result-Y. But I could prove it doesn't, so I could bet against Y happening and be right more often than wrong knowing Y is random to X. That was my first really good question.
Question One! What do you believe that is actually false? It's self-questioning and forces you to learn.
Over the decades I've proven a lot of things that almost everyone, including me, believed to be true were actually false. More than half of our supposed causal conventional wisdom is simply false mythology. The book is full of the data, results and stats proving many of these false mythologies. For example, I've come to know that P/Es have simply nothing to do with risk or return. I proved it long, long ago.
And that material dollar moves don't impact stocks.
And that the VIX isn't predictive of anything.
And that there is no correlation or causality between oil movements, big or small, and stock movements -- time lag or no.
And that budget deficits aren't bad for stocks, but are good for them; surpluses are bad.
And that trade deficits, huge or no, really don't impact the dollar at all. And so much more!
My firm does lengthy client seminars within a two-hour drive of 95% of all Americans each year, and I do about 25 of those a year personally. We present our views for about 90 minutes and then answer questions for 90 minutes. And I've answered the same questions, like the issues above mentioned, over and over and over again.
I've realized how slow we are to learn, and that through displaying the mythology in our investment world in great detail in a book, I could not only help my clients, save myself a lot of repetitious responses, but also help a lot of people become introspective and see reality better.
Of course the real value would be in seeing something others couldn't see at all, so you can bet on it. Hence Question Two: What can you fathom others find unfathomable?
My book takes you through a learnable methodology for fathoming the unfathomable, which is a pretty unfathomable concept to most folks. So, for example, I take you through how I stumbled through with the methodology to learn and prove that America is not only not over-indebted but actually and drastically under-indebted and needs about three times the debt we currently have -- even if the borrowers are as stupid as the heroin-addicted
Ipod borrower I use as a fictional example. Or even the government. Pretty unfathomable, hey? Read the book and you'll believe.
Finally, all my life I've known I'm my own worst enemy, particularly in investing. So, I wanted to be able to share lessons I learned to help me overcome my mental self-sabotaging. Hence Question Three: What the heck is my brain doing to blindside me now?
This is largely about how our stone age, old information processors are hard wired in ways inconsistent with seeing and feeling modern financial realities. I figured if I could learn to make my brain less my enemy, I could help you to, too.
Kenneth Fisher, founder, CEO and chief investment officer of Fisher Investments, is the author of several finance books and academic studies, and a renowned innovator of investment theory. He engineered the widely used price to sales ratio, pioneered the identification of the small cap value stock universe and has contributed to the development of modern day portfolio theory. Ken has written Forbes magazine's "Portfolio Strategy" financial investment column since 1984.
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