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Improve Your Memory to Improve Your Returns

Posted on the 28 November 2013 by Mdelp


improve your memory to improve your returns
I used to watch the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons and in many of the episodes Bullwinkle asks Rocky “want to see me pull a rabbit out of my hat?”

Rocky always replies with, “That trick never works.”

Bullwinkle comes back with, “But it’s got to work this time!” Yet it never does.

What made me remember the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons was how easy it was for me to pull a rabbit out of my hat this weekend even though I had failed in every single one of my previous attempts.  Actually, it wasn’t a rabbit and it wasn’t a hat, it was the Christmas lights for the house and yard and knowing exactly what string and extension cord went where without climbing up and down ladders all day in trial and error.

The difference between this year and all the prior frustrating years is when I packed the lights away last year I labeled each string with where it went. Now almost 12 months later, I have a better memory of what worked and got better returns.

Like most good things in life, I learned this from my wife. She is an amazing cook but when it comes to dishes, she doesn’t make that often she still checks the notes in her recipe box to make sure she hasn’t forgotten anything.

This same technique holds true with investing.

How reliable is your memory from the last time you bought a corporate bond?

Do you remember all of the key financial points to check? 

What appealed to you in the the last bond you bought that worked out better than you expected?

What did you overlook in the last bond you bought that worked out worse than you expected?

Unless you are constantly buying bonds, or any other investment for that matter, it becomes difficult to remember every aspect of not only what’s important (i.e. ingredients) but also what’s important to you (i.e. leave it in the oven 5 minutes longer than the recipe calls for).

I keep short notes on my computer on each bond trade. These notes list four things: yield to call, yield to maturity, if I think it will be called prior to maturity and what was the most appealing feature of the bond.

Reviewing these notes, especially for the trades that have not worked out, has helps me become a better investor.

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