The Thrill of Boring Investing

Amar Pandit , CFA , CFP

Have you ever visited the buzzing cities of Las Vegas, Reno, or Atlantic City? These aren’t just havens for gamblers; they’re electric with energy – more vibrant even than Rio de Janeiro’s carnival with its free-flowing spirits and samba rhythms. The difference? Vegas’s exhilaration is a nightly affair.

Yet, despite the odds stacked against them, people return to these cities time and again. Few leave richer, many face the music back home, but the magnetic pull of a potential windfall draws them back. It’s the intoxicating rush, that fleeting moment of victory at the roulette wheel, that fuels this addictive cycle.

This quest for quick gains is eerily mirrored in the stock markets. Many approach investing driven by the same high stakes thrill. They’re in search of the adrenaline kick from short-term wins, overlooking the turbulence that naturally comes with financial markets. In my last Tuesday’s post “The Greatest Bank Robber in The World”, I argue that this very turbulence is crucial for our economic health. A market that only rises is neither feasible nor desirable (read his blog to understand why).

Consider this: If everyone in Las Vegas won all the time, the excitement of the game would diminish. The casinos wouldn’t be palaces of light; they’d be mundane money exchanges. The thrill comes from the risk, the chance of losing. However, unlike gambling, the thrill in investing should not be about chasing losses or risking it all for the chance of a quick win. The thrill should be about building wealth steadily over time.

The thrills of gambling and high-stakes games often lie in the risk—the possibility of losing it all or winning big (rather the focus is always on winning big quickly). It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotions. But when it comes to investing, should we really be seeking the same highs and lows? Or is there a more measured approach that can lead us to financial success without the same level of risk?

The question that we must ask ourselves: Should the thrill of the chase dictate our investment strategy, or should our goals guide us?

Investing might be made ‘boring’ by stripping away the thrill, but perhaps there’s something to be said for a steady and reliable journey towards our financial destinations. After all, isn’t the real thrill in achieving our long-term goals?

Take, for example, Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors of our time. His approach is famously unexciting, focusing on long-term value rather than short-term gains. He once said, “The stock market is designed to transfer money from the Active to the Patient.” His strategy isn’t about the thrill; it’s about the outcome. He invests in companies with strong fundamentals, a sound business model, and a good price, and then he holds onto them. There’s no gambling on quick wins, no adrenaline rush from day trading—just solid, steady growth.

Even Buffett’s partner, the late Charlie Munger advocated for a philosophy he called “sit on your ass investing, which meant building a diversified portfolio of high-quality businesses and then holding onto them for a long time, allowing the power of compounding to work its magic. 

Or consider the principle of rupee-cost averaging (popularized by Systematic Investment Plan -SIP)—a strategy used by many successful investors. This involves investing a fixed amount of money at regular intervals, regardless of the market’s ups and downs. It’s a methodical approach that can smooth out the volatility of the market. No thrills, no timing the market—just a consistent path toward building investments.

So, what if we embraced the idea of ‘boring’ investing? What if we took pride in the slow and steady, in the unsexy work of building diversified portfolios and letting compounding work for us? What if the real thrill was not in the gamble, but in the quiet confidence that comes from a well-considered investment?

The paradox is that by making investing ‘boring,’ by removing the casino-like aspects, we actually increase our chances of ending up winners. It’s the paradox of excitement: the less we chase it in the markets, the more likely we are to achieve the results that truly matter.

As we navigate our financial paths, let’s not be blinded by the lights of Vegas. Instead, let’s aim for a strategy that may be less thrilling in the short term but promises the excitement of achieving our financial dreams in the long run. After all, isn’t the ultimate thrill not just in winning, but in winning smart?

But didn’t you know this already?

I bet you did…

The question then is why many people do not follow this…

The answer lies in our very nature, the hardwiring of our brains that seeks instant gratification over delayed satisfaction. We live in a world of now, a culture steeped in the desire for immediate results. This is where the stock market, with its daily fluctuations and the constant buzz of buying and selling, can mimic the allure of a casino. It tempts even the most rational minds with the siren call of quick profits, often overshadowing the mundane, yet proven, path of long-term investing.

No one is immune from this temptation – you, me, no one…

Yet, those of us who have mastered the art of ‘boring’ investing know something crucial – true wealth is built through patience, discipline, and persistence. They understand that the stock market is not a sprint but a marathon. It’s about endurance, not speed; strategy, not luck. They focus on the fundamentals and tune out the noise that can lead to hasty decisions. They recognize the power of compound interest and the stability that comes with a diversified portfolio.

Take the story of Ronald Read, for example, a janitor who amassed an $8 million fortune by living frugally and investing consistently in blue-chip stocks. He avoided the limelight, never sought the thrill, yet he achieved financial success that many can only dream of. His story is a testament to the power of ‘boring’ investing.

In essence, it’s not about avoiding the stock market’s inherent risks—it’s about managing them. It’s about the discipline to stick to a plan even when the market tempts you to stray. It’s about having the foresight to see beyond the ephemeral highs of a ‘win’ and understanding that the most significant victories are those hard-earned over time.

So, as we ponder the strategies that will define our financial futures, let us remember that sometimes the most exciting stories are those that unfold slowly, quietly, without fanfare. They’re the stories of individuals who choose the road less traveled by the masses, the steady climb rather than the volatile leap – and that has made all the difference.

What about you? What is your story going to be?