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Does optimism pay off? Exploring its impact on investment strategies

Optimism in investment drives confidence and risk-taking but must be balanced with realism and data-driven analysis for success. Bill Gates advocates for optimistic investing, emphasizing human progress's resilience and compounding power.

In the world of investment, optimism is often touted as a key ingredient for success. The belief in a brighter future can drive investors to take risks, seize opportunities, and weather market volatility with resilience. However, while optimism can be powerful, investors must balance it with a healthy dose of realism and data driven analysis.

An appropriate approach to investment strategy, a successful investment strategy requires a blend of optimism and pragmatism. It entails comprehending asset fundamentals, analysing market trends, and assessing potential risks and rewards. Instead of solely relying on intuition or unwavering optimism, investors should adopt a data-driven approach to make well-informed decisions and minimize undue risks.

For example, what happened on the day of release of exit polls, in an extreme optimism,

Nifty jumped by more than 3% in expectations of majority only to get disappointed the next day where markets almost corrected by 6%.

What is optimism?

Optimism helps create your future, whereas pessimism protects your present. Bill Gates explained why you should invest like an optimist “More people and businesses try to solve problems than fudge success or get into trouble.

But the odds tilt ever so slightly toward long-term progress amid frequent setbacks. It’s been happening for thousands of years: We solve one problem and move on to the next, bit by bit, experiment by experiment. Since progress is cumulative (we don’t forget past innovations), but setbacks are temporary (we rebuild), the long-term odds tilt towards growth. As long as more people try to get better than screw up, the long-term odds are in an economy’s favour.

And that’s almost always the case because the screw-ups — the declines, the recessions, the wars — fuel the problem-solving. If the odds are in your favour, and you can keep them in your favour for a long time, you shouldn’t just be an optimist. You should be ridiculous, full-blown, giddy and optimistic.”

Bill Gates advocates for optimistic investing, highlighting human progress's resilience and compounding power. While optimism can drive confidence and willingness to take risks, investors must balance it with realism and data-driven analysis to avoid pitfalls.

Optimism can lead to higher returns and resilience but may also cause irrational behaviour and herd mentality, amplifying market volatility. Gates urges investors to embrace optimism while remaining vigilant, recognizing the balance needed for successful investing.

What is the optimism bias?

Optimism bias is when people underestimate negative event probabilities and overestimate positive ones, leading to increased risk-taking due to a focus on potential positive outcomes. This bias is fuelled by the illusion of control, where individuals believe they have more influence over outcomes than they do. For example, people may value self-selected lottery tickets more, despite all tickets having equal chances of winning.

How does optimism bias affect investors?

Investors influenced by optimism bias tend to perceive their chosen investments as less prone to negative outcomes, prompting them to assume more risk than they can manage, potentially resulting in substantial losses. These investors tend to emphasise positive information regarding their investments while disregarding or minimising negative news or data. As a consequence, they may react slowly to negative developments, further exacerbating potential losses.

How to avoid over-optimism?

Education: Investors must educate themselves about the risks associated with different types of investments. They must then develop a well-thought-out investment strategy based on their financial goals and risk tolerance.

Be a critic: Always look at the downsides of a new investment. If smallcase - equity portfolios – wealth management you only look at the positives, you run the risk of trying to mould reality to fit into your viewpoint.

Seek outside opinions: Consult with trusted experts to get an unbiased perspective on investment decisions.

In conclusion, optimism can indeed enhance investment strategies, but it should always be balanced with realism and prudence. A data-driven approach and careful analysis are essential for long-term success in navigating the unpredictable nature of the market.

By maintaining this balance, investors can better position themselves to capitalise on opportunities while mitigating risks, ultimately increasing their chances of achieving their financial goals in the dynamic landscape of investing and especially in this period of Amrit Kaal.

Sumit Poddar

Chief Investment Officer & Smallcase Portfolio Manager

Tikona Capital

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