I think this is a good topic to discuss. Read this quick piece on overconfidence. It's something that I am sure we all can relate to.

Overconfidence is a particular kind of trap that springs shut when people have or think they have special information or personal experience, no matter how limited. That's why small traders get hurt trading on no more information than “hot-tips.”

Here is an example. Everyone say "hello" to Tim. Tim is a farmer. He raises hogs and purchases huge amounts of feed to provide for his hogs. Tim has a large farming operation which is quite profitable. He takes 250 hogs a week to market. Because of a steady flow of hogs from his operation to the market, Tim has no need to hedge his hog business because he is able to dollar average the prices he gets for them. But Tim does want to indirectly reduce the cost of the feed he has to buy, so he purchases soy meal futures. Tim listens to weather and farm reports all day long. He attends meetings of other farmers, and tries to gather all the information he can that might help him be more profitable. But Tim has a major problem, called tunnel vision. When he looks out at the grain fields in the area where he lives, whatever he sees there he extrapolates to the whole world.

In other words, if Tim sees that the surrounding fields are dry, he suspects that all fields everywhere must also be dry. One year Tim witnessed a local drought. He checked with all the local farmers and they said they were truly experiencing drought conditions. He looked at the news on his data feed, and sure enough it said that there was a drought in his area. In fact, the entire state where Tim raises his hogs was undergoing drought.

Tim wasn’t too concerned about his own feed bins. He had plenty of it in his silos from previous bumper crop years. Tim decided to be piggish and speculate on what he considered to be inside information. He called his broker and bought heavily into soy meal futures. Tim was confident. He was sure that soy meal prices would explode upward some time soon, and that he was going to make himself a small fortune. Tim's greed may have turned him into a hog. However, the futures he purchased started moving down and the value of his investment began to shrink markedly. What Tim failed to do was to have a broader perspective. Everywhere else that grains were grown, farmers were experiencing rain in due season. The drought was localized almost entirely within the state in which Tim did his hog raising. Tim lost because he was confident in the limited knowledge he had.

What should be done?

We all need to broaden our horizons. We need a humble attitude relative to the markets. We can never afford to wallow in overconfidence in what we perceive as special knowledge. A trader can never afford to let his guard down. Tim thought he knew something that others hadn’t yet caught onto. In so doing, Tim made another mistake as well. He heard only what he wanted to hear.

Thanks for the story Jeff. Very nice story to help put things in perspective. Haste and lack of a broad market sense can hurt.

- Corey

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About me

  • I'm Option Addict
  • From Saratoga Springs, Utah, United States
  • I am a professional trader and an instructor for Investools. I've had relations with the markets for 9 years. Born in Concord, CA, but reside in Saratoga Springs, Utah. Father of THREE, Husband of one.
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