Investment Mistakes to Avoid For Physicians

Investment mistakes are a part of financial life.  We all make mistakes.  The key is making mistakes on a small scale when the loss isn’t catastrophic.  We then should learn from the mistake and not make it again.  Many of us repeat mistakes many times before learning how to avoid it. 

Investment Mistakes: Learning from Other Physicians

The best approach would be to learn from the mistakes of others.  That is my favorite way of learning.  That is partly why I read so many investment books.  I see what didn’t work for others and try my best to avoid making the same investment mistake.

Spencer Jakab in his book, Heads I Win, Tails I Win, provided examples of common investment mistakes.  Here I will highlight some of his ideas from chapter ten.  Think of this list as a “7 Habits of Highly Unsuccessful Investors.

Habit 1: Get In on That Hot New Deal

There seems to be a cycle with hot new technology businesses. There is a slew of startups all growing wildly and making money. Then they crash down. Only to create a new cycle from the ashes.

Have you heard about an IPO that is destined to make a killing? Maybe yes, maybe no. IPO investing is speculating at best, gambling at worst. For most of us, it is not true investing. Stay away.

Habit 2: Combine Your Morals and Your Money

The California state employee retirement fund, CalPERS lost billions after it decided to invest based on their assessment of human rights standards. Other individuals have suboptimal portfolios based on trying to select “good” companies and avoid “bad” ones.

With multinational companies or country funds, it is nearly impossible to sort out “good” from “bad.” Trying to do so cuts you out of a growth segment. Such tampering increases costs and leads to suboptimal returns. It is better to make your fortune and then give it away selectively and responsibly to causes you believe in.

Habit 3: Buy What’s Fashionable

Fashionable companies are the ones that are currently popular. Much like the popular kids in high school. Some of those go on to be wildly successful, but many don’t live up to early expectations. Fashionable stocks tend to be linked to fads.

They are growth stocks selling at high prices compared to earnings (high P/E ratio). They have the opposite characteristics of value stocks that have served successful investors so well (e.g. Ben Graham, Warren Buffett, Joel Greenblatt).

Stocks that are out of favor are snatched up by contrarian investors and tend to outperform the market. The reversion to the mean is working in their favor instead of against them.

Habit 4: Reach for Yield

With reduced dividend payouts and low-interest rates, finding yield is difficult. What if you are an older, conservative investor. What if you want a substantial income coming in. You want your investments to look like a paycheck.

Maybe you like the analogy of the goose that lays the golden egg. Your investment is the goose. A dividend check or interest payment is the golden egg. You want the egg, but don’t want to touch the source.

This compelling logic and a strong desire for income will make you susceptible to all kinds of scams, costs, and hidden risks. It is all too easy for financial services companies to set up an income producing fund that will pay you your desired return.

In your need for yield, you may ignore the underlying volatility. You may also ignore the declining capital balances over time since you are blinded by your generous healthy cash flow.

Remember, “high-yield” bonds are also called “junk bonds” for a reason.

Remember also, unlisted REITs are unlisted for a reason. Stay away.

Habit 5: Use Exotic Products to Enhance Your Returns

Leveraged ETFs have the power to incinerate your wealth at high speeds.

As do hedge funds, options, currency trading, commodities, and derivatives. Leave it to the “professionals” who mostly make their money based on bonuses, commissions, trading fees, etc.

Habit 6: Trade Frequently

Don’t just do something, stand there. Good investing is boring investing. Your overall wealth is inversely correlated to your trading. The more you trade the more you are susceptible to emotional trades and the less you will be a rational profit maximizer.

Also, the more you trade the more fees you pay (commissions, bid-ask spreads, etc.) and the higher your taxes (if in a taxable account).

Watching the transactions in your investment account should be about as exciting as watching paint dry. Get your excitement elsewhere.

Habit 7: Use a “System”

Late night infomercials rarely produce worthy content. That is certainly the case when they push a “sure-fire” stock trading system.” Typically, they imply results are double-digit and virtually guaranteed – if only you pay them for their books, course, and DVD to teach you how.

Digging deep into previously advertised systems leads to a list of lawsuits, failures, prison sentences, fines, and bankruptcies.

If it seems too good to be true, it surely is. If someone had a foolproof way of making huge money profits with no risk, do you think they would be wasting their time on TV ads to sell to you?

Heck no, they would be enjoying their private jet on the way to their island. Anybody sharing secrets has secrets not worth sharing.

Investment mistakes increase when you make investing more complex than it needs to be.  Building wealth can be simple.  Understand the basics, create a simple plan, and avoid these common investment mistakes.



  1. hatton1 said:

    You are speaking the truth. Crowdfunded real estate? Too good to be true? I have enough age on me to stick with basic stuff. If I feel the need to gamble it will be in a slot machine with a few quarters.

    December 31, 2018
    • Thanks, Hatton1

      I always appreciate your insight. You have achieved a level of success that most physicians can only dream of!

      Assessing the risk level of a new and different type of investment is not within the skill set or knowledge base of the typical physician. Especially when done in the only free 10-min period of their week! Reading a PPM and doing due diligence takes time and expertise. Both are in short supply for physicians.

      Risk and reward are inextricably linked. Too many of us want an above-average return. As a result, we lose capital and end up with a less-than-average return. Oh, the irony!

      December 31, 2018
    • hatton1 said:

      Thanks for your kind words

      December 31, 2018
  2. Xrayvsn said:

    Great list of habits that hopefully people can break as part of their new years financial resolutions.

    Thankfully I didn’t have many of those bad habits but I did have enough to set me back some.

    Have a wonderful new year and hope 2019 is amazing for all
    Xrayvsn recently posted…Everyone Needs A Little Radiologist In Them | Mental ChecklistMy Profile

    January 1, 2019
    • Xrayvsn,
      I have made more of these mistakes than I care to admit.
      Fortunately, with a physician income, you can make a lot of mistakes and still come out fine.
      Happy New Year!

      January 1, 2019
  3. Crispy Doc said:


    Thanks for the summary of land mines to avoid stepping in.

    Always be skeptical of the investor who places TV ads after the flowbie system and before the ginsu knives, during unemployment hour. Just enjoy the Starsky and Hutch reruns and pay them no mind!


    Crispy Doc recently posted…It’s Time To Rekindle Your Love For MedicineMy Profile

    January 1, 2019
    • CD,
      I prefer Columbo or the Rockford Files, but otherwise, I agree.

      January 1, 2019
  4. I have made some of the mistakes you list in this piece. Yet I was still able to retire very comfortably at age 54. You can recover from those mistakes. It’s not the end of the world if you make them, especially since we all do. By the way, I loved Columbo and the Rockford Files. There was quite a contrast in their cars. I liked Jim’s car much better.

    Happy New Year
    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
    Prescription for Financial Success
    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett recently posted…Eight Great Reasons to Begin Eliminating Debt This YearMy Profile

    January 1, 2019
    • Cory,

      I made a couple of these too. I made a lot of other kinds of mistakes that I didn’t list here. Someday I will write a post about all the money mistakes I have made. It would be a long post!

      I just knew you are a kindred spirit. There is nothing like those old shows back in the day. They would probably be too slow-paced for me to watch now. But I was entertained then. I learned some things from them too. A couple lessons that come to mind:

      From Rockford Files: it doesn’t take much money to live a simple life; you can live in a beautiful place without spending a fortune; be clear and upfront with your fees and daily rates; you can convince people you are capable of just about anything with confidence and a good business card!

      From Columbo: it is ok to fumble and mumble – people think it is charming or they feel sorry for you – either way, they want to help you; human nature is predictable – look at relationships, motives, and incentives; look for minor inconsistencies if you think someone is lying; ask simple respectful questions and you might be surprised by the helpful answers you get. Oh, and one more thing. Don’t be afraid to go back and ask a follow-up question that you forgot to ask earlier. You might feel stupid but it is a smart move.

      January 2, 2019
  5. Gasem said:

    Isn’t Boggleheading it a system? Isn’t yearly re-balancing a system? Isn’t 4 x25 a system? Not to diss it but the whole shooting match is built on a system

    January 2, 2019
    • Gasem,

      You make a great point. Maybe it shouldn’t say don’t use a system. Actually having a system is great. Low-cost index fund investing (linked to Jack Bogle) could be considered one I suppose. His is based on decades of data and psychology and great results though. He wants investors to know that it is unlikely they will outperform the market, especially after trading costs and taxes. His advice is to buy all stocks and bonds rather than individual ones and then keep costs low. You have to admit, it does make sense and it works, right?

      It isn’t the only viable system though. I know a dozen or more very successful investors who are “value investors” or “derivative traders” etc and do well. The real danger is actually not having a good system. Or changing systems frequently (I’m guilty of this every time a new investment book comes out). The biggest dangers are the get-rich-quick easy trading schemes that don’t seem to work and cost subscriptions. Those are the ones I was trying to spotlight here.

      January 2, 2019

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