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Buying the Top: Reflections on the Short Squeeze Saga
Much like stock index charts, progress is never simply a linear, upward trajectory. Moreover, it speaks to the endogeneity of success that portfolio rates of return are determined by one's own inputs and past performance, irrespective of others entirely.
15 March, 2021

The dangers of investing out of ‘FOMO’—or the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’— are  well-established. The WallStreetBets short squeeze saga, which reached new heights this week, has been a harrowing reminder of this. Trading frenzies based on social media trends have witnessed the beguiling of countless young retail traders into risking their limited savings out of FOMO on skyrocketing stocks like GameStop, only to be whipsawed to devastating effect. I must admit, I have been far from immune to this kind of emotional reaction, too often catching myself musing over the easy riches that could have been had I jumped on ship and cashed out before these hot stocks took off ‘to the moon’ and inevitably crashed back down to earth. 

In light of this, it has dawned on me that FOMO is a phenomenon by no means confined to the drama of highly volatile stocks. Especially for young people like myself, society’s ever-increasing obsession with early achievement perverts our conception of success into a zero-sum game in which the achievements of our peers can only be regarded as a detriment to our own. At its worst, this FOMO accordingly manifests in a crippling sense of inadequacy, rooted in an insatiable need to meet the impossible, undefinable standard of being the “best.”

Just as I would obsessively monitor the market indexes, eagerly awaiting that toxic cocktail of adrenaline and regret as the latest meme stocks burst out of the gate at all-time-highs each morning, so too was I constantly scouring my Instagram, Twitter, and Iris feeds for the latest flashy announcements from my peers—earnings, returns, “gains porn,” so they call it. 

Enter, the critical realization: 

Amid this all-consuming crusade to measure myself against everyone else, I was sabotaging my own self-efficacy by plaguing it with self-doubt, all the while ignoring the very tangible, not at all insignificant, achievements I was accruing indeed—both in my portfolio and in my career more broadly. My concern with the success of others was getting in the way of my own. 

The lesson?

Much like stock index charts, progress is never simply a linear, upward trajectory. Moreover, it speaks to the endogeneity of success that portfolio rates of return are determined by one’s own inputs and past performance, irrespective of others entirely. 

They say, “buy the dip,” but never “buy the top.” Because, in a world where growth is theoretically unlimited, the “best” does not exist.  As the WallStBets forums’ favourite adage goes, stonks only go up. So, don’t buy into the impolitic impulses to reach the top too quickly. Look at pullbacks as temporary setbacks and opportunities to double down on your assets; don’t let them blind you to the bigger picture at the expense of your overall vision. Sheep only get slaughtered at the end of the day.

At the same time, don’t lose out on small wins bagholding out of FOMO for something more: take them, internalise them, celebrate them. Have trust in your own due diligence, confidence in your investments, and faith in the process.

Be bullish on your success, don’t short it.

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