(This post was originally published on Ally Financial’s Do It Right Blog on June 29, 2017. Find the original blog here. Ally Financial is a leading digital financial services company and a top 25 U.S. financial holding company. Follow Ally on Twitter here.)
As humans, we’re hardwired for instant gratification. Yet over the millennia, we’ve created a modern society which rewards deferred gratification and forward thinking – very much removed from our basic animal instincts.
Our big brains allow us to pursue higher education, maintain careers, and build wealth. But, we’re still animal at the core.
So we asked the question – what advice might other animals give us about the complex world of investing?
The Tortoise: Take Your Time
You might have heard the old investing adage “it’s about time in the market, not timing the market”. These words of advice are cliché because they’re true. The tortoise has become a symbol for taking it slow and steady – they use slow growth and a varied, low-protein diet to help achieve longevity.
Once they’re of adult size, they’re pretty hardy – they’re like living tanks! Similarly, if you focus on slow, stable growth with your investments, you can have fewer financial worries later in life after you’ve spent years building a reliable nest egg (or shell) with the help of compounding interest. So, pick a strategy and stick with it for the long haul.
The Cheetah: Be Smart About Risk
Cheetahs have a reputation for speed. They’re known as the fastest mammal on land. However, we like cheetahs because they’re also experts at managing risk, which we think is why they’re one of the most successful predators on the planet. For both building wealth and surviving in the savannah, appropriately managing risk can help you succeed.
Take a lesson from the cheetah when you’re on the trail of what seems like a sure thing. When a cheetah is chasing its prey, there’s about a 58 percent chance they’re going to make the kill. Still, they may even stop the hunt – thereby giving up a potential meal – if there’s another predator around. Despite a solid track record, they’re simply not big on taking risks.
The Black Bear: Diversify
Having a varied and opportunistic appetite serves black bears well. They have a very unbiased palette – they’ll eat almost anything they can get their paws on (much to the dismay of campers everywhere). But the moral of the story is that bears rarely go hungry.
The black bear philosophy is good to keep in mind as you set out to diversify or rebalance your portfolio. Some investors tend to gravitate towards a certain type of investment – either for sentimental reasons, or because it’s just what they know – but lack of diversity can be risky! Keep an open mind as you explore investment opportunities and seek out diversity.
The Canine: Know Yourself & Stay Determined
Members of the canine family – including wolves, coyotes, and man’s best friend – have a relatively high level of self-awareness. They recognize their own scent. Canines also strongly identify with their own pack – they know where they fit in.
Knowing your own investing self is important. Of course we each have a unique set of goals, opportunities, and challenges, but finding commonalities with respect to others in your situation can be powerful, too – if only to put things in perspective.
Be aware of your own financial needs, and doggedly stick to your personal goals. Whether it’s an Artic Wolf searching for a more habitable den, or a domestic pup determined to get a bite of your sandwich – canines are relentless about improving their well-being.
Each of these animals, and their words of advice, has their own advantages and drawbacks depending on your risk tolerance, time horizon, and investment experience. What animal instincts do you find most inspirational? Do you think we can learn from our animal counterparts?