Unveiling the Hidden Biases That Can Sabotage Your Financial Journey

David Kerber, CFP®, ABFP®, MPAS®

Sr. Wealth Advisor, Sr. Director


Understanding investment bias, and how to mitigate its impact, can help position you for future financial success.

Unveiling the Hidden Biases That Can Sabotage Your Financial Journey

In the world of investing, knowledge is power. Yet, even the most informed investors can fall prey to biases that cloud judgment and hinder financial success. This is where behavioral finance comes into play, shedding light on the psychological factors that influence decision-making. Understanding investment bias is crucial to help make informed choices and achieving your financial goals.

What is investment bias?

Investment bias refers to the systematic deviations from rational decision-making that investors exhibit due to cognitive, emotional, and social factors. These biases can lead individuals to make suboptimal investment choices, deviating from their long-term financial objectives, and include:

  • Loss aversion. Individuals feel the pain of losses more acutely than the pleasure of equivalent gains. This aversion to losses can lead investors to make emotionally driven decisions, such as selling assets prematurely during market downturns or avoiding necessary portfolio adjustments out of fear of realizing losses.
  • Herd mentality. Refers to the tendency for individuals to follow the crowd, particularly in uncertain or ambiguous situations. This behavior can result in exaggerated market movements, as investors react to the actions of others rather than conducting independent analysis. Blindly following the herd can lead to buying at inflated prices during market bubbles or selling during panic-driven sell-offs.
  • Anchoring bias. This occurs when investors fixate on a specific reference point, such as the purchase price of a stock, and fail to adjust their valuation based on new information. This can lead to holding onto losing investments for too long in the hopes of breaking even or overlooking opportunities to sell winners at optimal prices.
  • Confirmation bias. This occurs when investors seek information that confirms preexisting beliefs or biases while ignoring contradicting evidence. This tendency can lead to a narrow focus on information that supports a particular investment thesis, potentially overlooking warning signs or alternative viewpoints.

How can it impact portfolio performance?

Investment bias can have significant implications for portfolio performance and financial well-being, including:

  • Suboptimal decision-making. Biases can distort perceptions of risk and reward, leading to decisions that deviate from rational investment strategies.
  • Increased volatility. Herd behavior and emotional reactions to market movements can amplify volatility and lead to abrupt price swings.
  • Missed opportunities. Confirmation bias and anchoring bias can result in missed investment opportunities and hinder portfolio diversification.
  • Long-term underperformance. Over time, the cumulative effects of investment bias can lead to underperformance relative to market benchmarks and long-term financial goals.

Overcoming investment bias

There are strategies you can employ to help mitigate the impact of investment bias, including:

  • Education and awareness. Take the time to educate yourself about common biases and their potential impact on investment decisions. Being aware of your cognitive tendencies can help you make more informed choices.
  • Diversification. Maintain a diversified portfolio across asset classes and investment styles to help reduce the impact of individual biases on overall portfolio performance.
  • Disciplined approach. Stick to a disciplined investment approach based on your long-term financial objectives and risk tolerance, rather than succumbing to emotional impulses or short-term market fluctuations.
  • Professional guidance. Work closely with your advisor to develop a customized investment plan tailored to your unique financial situation and objectives. A professional advisor can provide objective guidance and help you navigate market volatility and behavioral pitfalls.

Investment bias is a pervasive phenomenon that can undermine investor confidence and erode portfolio returns. By understanding the psychological factors that drive biased decision-making and implementing strategies to help mitigate their impact, you can position yourself for future financial success.

For more information on navigating the complexities of the market, overcoming bias, and building an investment portfolio focused on your long-term financial goals, speak with your advisor. And if you are not a Mercer Advisors client, let’s talk.

Mercer Advisors Inc. is a parent company of Mercer Global Advisors Inc. and is not involved with investment services. Mercer Global Advisors Inc. (“Mercer Advisors”) is registered as an investment advisor with the SEC. The firm only transacts business in states where it is properly registered or is excluded or exempted from registration requirements.

All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author as of the date of publication and are subject to change. The information is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed or warranted by Mercer Advisors. Content, research, tools, and stock or option symbols are for educational and illustrative purposes only and do not imply a recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell a particular security or to engage in any particular investment strategy. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected. Diversification does not ensure a profit or guarantee against a loss. For financial planning advice specific to your circumstances, talk to a qualified professional at Mercer Advisors.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) owns the CFP® certification mark, the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification mark, and the CFP® certification mark (with plaque design) logo in the United States, which it authorizes use of by individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and CRPC® are trademarks or registered service marks of the College for Financial Planning in the United States and/or other countries.

Want to learn more?

Explore More