Jason Zweig: Saving Investors From Themselves For Thirty Years
I don’t remember when I first came across Jason Zweig and his column. I think it was somewhere in the 2008 and 2009 financial collapse. But it’s been a mainstay for me for years since.
I remember much clearer when I read his revised version of Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor (see my reading notes) — one of my top 5 favorite books on investing. In hindsight, he was the perfect person to edit and revise Graham’s classic for today’s markets.
Jason Zweig has been at this business for thirty years and has time and again stuck out among other journalists for helping people be smarter about their investing. No matter the market cycle and euphoria du jour — buying Internet stocks in 1999 and 2000, flipping houses in 2005 and 2006, dumping stocks in 2008 and 2009, etc. — Zweig has bucked the financial media trend to chase pageviews and actually told investors what they needed to hear. He has a unique gift that allows him to put market trends into a historical context and help people stay grounded during environments that get too out of control.
This past week, Jason Zweig won his first (and long overdue) Gerald Loeb Award for his work at the Wall Street Journal. To mark the occasion, Zweig had a great missive about his 30 years in the business and there are just so many gems in there I felt compelled to point out a few that stood out to me (emphasis mine):
I was once asked, at a journalism conference, how I defined my job. I said: My job is to write the exact same thing between 50 and 100 times a year in such a way that neither my editors nor my readers will ever think I am repeating myself.
That’s because good advice rarely changes, while markets change constantly. The temptation to pander is almost irresistible. And while people need good advice, what they want is advice that sounds good.
My job, as I see it, is to learn from other people’s mistakes and from my own. Above all, it means trying to save people from themselves. As the founder of security analysis, Benjamin Graham, wrote in The Intelligent Investor in 1949: “The investor’s chief problem – and even his worst enemy – is likely to be himself.”
Instead of pandering to investors’ own worst tendencies, I try to push back. My role is also to remind them constantly that knowing what not to do is much more important than what to do. Approximately 99% of the time, the single most important thing investors should do is absolutely nothing.