There’s a lot of financial information out there. Some of it is helpful, and some of it is unhelpful.
I’m sure many of you take notice when the Dow Jones falls 1,000 points in two days.
And even if you don’t usually follow the stock market on a daily basis, when the stock market is dropping, the financial news media will let you know about it.
Because when the stock market is crashing, financial news becomes front-page news.
The financial media makes money when people watch the news or click on articles, so they are biased towards dramatizing moves in the stock market.
The stock market as a horse race
Cable news likes to turn the financial markets into a sporting event or a horse race. Your investments are your hometown team or your horse in a race. You are competing against your fellow investors, who are all trying to maximize their returns to earn both money and bragging rights. Even if you treat investing as a one-player game and are competing against yourself, you’re still trying to get a high score.
The news media and stock brokers want you to treat the stock market like a game you want to win. And game time happens during trading hours, which is 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. Add in pre-market and after-market hours trading, and you could be watching the U.S. stock market from 7:00 to 8:00 pm.
And by the time the U.S. after-market trading hours end, Asian markets will then open. If you choose to go to sleep, you’ll wake up the next morning, and European markets will be trading. You could literally watch the stock ticker 24 hours a day if you let the stock market consume you.
Why watch the stock market?
But what exactly do you accomplish by watching the daily gyrations of the stock market?
Certainly, you can’t change the outcome of your stock returns. If you’re an investor who believes in the value of investing in index funds, then there’s really no need to watch the stock market on a daily basis. You might need to look at your account balances once a month at the most, but you could probably look at your account balances once a quarter or even once a year.
Many investors try to trade stocks, with the goal of buying low and selling high. But as easy as it may look on paper or on TV, it is really hard to make money trading. More often, you’re unable to beat the market, and your returns are simply eroded by commissions, fees, and taxes.
Perhaps watching the stock market is a cheap form of entertainment. Just like people enjoy watching a good basketball game or the horse race of politics, many people get a thrill from watching the stock market rise and fall.
But the stress of watching the stock market fall can lead you to make bad investment decisions, such as panic selling after a big market drop. While short-term drops such as the Dow going down 1,000 points in two days is pretty easy to shake off, prolonged turbulence in the market, such as a bear market drop of 20%, can be harder to shrug off. Watching the news during a bear market will more likely feed into your fear of losing money than reassure you to stay the course.
The financial media wants to turn the stock market into a sporting event, drawing you in to watch. Investors should resist this urge and tune out the financial news. Stop watching CNBC and Bloomberg News. Delete the Stocks app on your iPhone. Don’t look at your investment account balances on a daily basis. If you tune out the financial news, you’ll have more time to enjoy more productive pursuits, and possibly a higher account balance as well.
What do you think? How often do you watch the financial news? Do you watch more when the stock market is falling?
“Wall Street Physician,” a former Wall Street derivatives trader , is a physician who blogs at his self-titled site, the Wall Street Physician.
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