Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

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Random Walker
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Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by Random Walker » Fri May 11, 2018 9:07 am

http://www.etf.com/sections/index-inves ... nopaging=1

Larry reviews a book called Thinking In Bets by Annie Duke, a former professional poker player. Larry covers a lot of ground in this discussion: confusing strategy and outcome, alternative histories, hindsight bias. It’s not an Investing book, but investors can learn a lot about making investing decisions from this read I’m sure. Investing is about putting the odds in our favor and understanding the consequences of being wrong. Although all that matters to each of us is our own personal data series, the sample size is way too small and the time period way too short to use for making quality decisions. That’s why reading about investing is so important. I’m a big fan of Monte Carlo Simulation because it creates thousands of potential alternative histories to help one make decisions: evaluate odds of success and consequences of being wrong.
I’ve read a couple excellent reviews of Annie Duke’s book, I’m looking forward to reading the book myself.

Dave

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by DaufuskieNate » Fri May 11, 2018 9:24 am

Good article and a great reminder about why it makes no sense to judge a strategy by it's recent results. I am also a fan of MC analysis. However, I do find it difficult to decide on an acceptable probability of success. For longer retirement projections, I believe 100% is too conservative but I'm a lot less certain how to decide on an acceptable number.

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by Random Walker » Fri May 11, 2018 9:32 am

Daufuskienate,
My advisor generally uses 85% as the recommended success rate for MCS. That being said, one can ratchet that number up or down based on one’s personal risk tolerance and what one has in reserve as Plan B for the potential unsuccessful ourptcomes.

Dave

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by staythecourse » Fri May 11, 2018 9:35 am

Random Walker wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 9:07 am
http://www.etf.com/sections/index-inves ... nopaging=1

Larry reviews a book called Thinking In Bets by Annie Duke, a former professional poker player. Larry covers a lot of ground in this discussion: confusing strategy and outcome, alternative histories, hindsight bias. It’s not an Investing book, but investors can learn a lot about making investing decisions from this read I’m sure. Investing is about putting the odds in our favor and understanding the consequences of being wrong. Although all that matters to each of us is our own personal data series, the sample size is way too small and the time period way too short to use for making quality decisions. That’s why reading about investing is so important. I’m a big fan of Monte Carlo Simulation because it creates thousands of potential alternative histories to help one make decisions: evaluate odds of success and consequences of being wrong.
I’ve read a couple excellent reviews of Annie Duke’s book, I’m looking forward to reading the book myself.

Dave
Haven't read the book, but must say the issue really comes down to risk of being wrong and the affect on one's life when you are wrong. I'm a doc and quote risk for procedures all the time. In the end the numbers don't really matter as much it does what happens if that risk happens to you. If the risk is 1 in 5 and if it happens is just an extra 30 minute stay in the recovery room is very different then 1 in 100, but the risk that occurs is paralysis. So which risk is worse I am pretty sure the folks will take the 20% risk in scenario 1 over the 1% in scenario 2. In the end the risk is 100% for the individual who it happens to and its consequences. I think investing is sort of the same. There are so many outcomes that the real risk if it shows up that needs a good financial plan is to answer, "What do I do if that that risk shows up". If you get a bottom 1% result from the all the MC simulations does that mean you eat dog food or just don't take a vacation that year. That is really the question and NOT 2/3 (SD1) of outcomes.

As I get older the idea of risk and balancing risk/ reward becomes more and more interesting.

Good luck.
"The stock market [fluctuation], therefore, is noise. A giant distraction from the business of investing.” | -Jack Bogle

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by willthrill81 » Fri May 11, 2018 9:40 am

Random Walker wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 9:07 am
Investing is about putting the odds in our favor and understanding the consequences of being wrong. Although all that matters to each of us is our own personal data series, the sample size is way too small and the time period way too short to use for making quality decisions. That’s why reading about investing is so important.
I entirely agree. As humans, we tend to place far too much weight on our own experiences and greatly discount those of others. For instance, someone can make a stock trade based on 'gut instinct' and, if it turns out to be a good move, think that it's due to their skills; locus of control is also at play here, and we tend to think that good events are due to our skills and choices while bad events are due to outside forces.

I brought up this issue of investing being more like a poker, a game where you're dealing with incomplete information and playing the odds, than chess, where there is complete information and it's impossible to lose unless you make a bad move, in a recent thread. I was surprised to see how many were disdainful of this idea. Some are clearly under the mistaken belief that buying and holding stocks and bonds isn't making a 'bet' of sorts. Without perfect foreknowledge, we simply don't know how these investments will perform in the future. We are making bets based on historical performance and logic, and we should never forget that there are no guarantees of anything except death and taxes.
Random Walker wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 9:07 am
I’m a big fan of Monte Carlo Simulation because it creates thousands of potential alternative histories to help one make decisions: evaluate odds of success and consequences of being wrong.
I'm not as positive toward MC simulations. They have been demonstrated to overstate both negative and positive tail risk compared to the historic record, well beyond what would be expected due to random chance. This is likely due to them not typically incorporating mean reversion into the analysis.

However, they may be useful in reminding us that the future may not look as good as the past, and the most extreme events for investors may be in the future and not in the past.
Random Walker wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 9:32 am
My advisor generally uses 85% as the recommended success rate for MCS. That being said, one can ratchet that number up or down based on one’s personal risk tolerance and what one has in reserve as Plan B for the potential unsuccessful ourptcomes.
I'd say that makes sense. Also, as staythecourse has pointed out, we need to realize what that 15% risk of 'failure' actually means. Kitces has said that the risk of failure may simply be the risk of needing to change one's strategy.
Last edited by willthrill81 on Fri May 11, 2018 9:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by DaufuskieNate » Fri May 11, 2018 9:41 am

Those "rules of thumb" are nice, but kind of squishy. Why 85%? Is 90% conservative enough? You see the point. The reality is that the analysis will be run a number of times during a retirement and the answer to the question "How much can I safely spend?" will evolve. I do not think it's wise to run the numbers one time and use that withdrawal plan for the rest of time. So, in a way, the MC analysis is really the foundation for a self-correcting variable withdrawal plan. Viewed as such, it seems to be a useful tool.

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by willthrill81 » Fri May 11, 2018 9:48 am

DaufuskieNate wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 9:41 am
Those "rules of thumb" are nice, but kind of squishy. Why 85%? Is 90% conservative enough? You see the point. The reality is that the analysis will be run a number of times during a retirement and the answer to the question "How much can I safely spend?" will evolve. I do not think it's wise to run the numbers one time and use that withdrawal plan for the rest of time. So, in a way, the MC analysis is really the foundation for a self-correcting variable withdrawal plan. Viewed as such, it seems to be a useful tool.
I agree that flexible withdrawal strategies make far more sense than fixed ones. That being said, I've never even heard a rumor of a single investor who actually held to a fixed withdrawal strategy over an extended period of time. We innately understand that we need to cut back during the bad times.

Determining what MC success rate is acceptable is indeed 'squishy' because the assumptions underlying the MC analysis are probably flawed to some extent, and I referred to above. And remember that a failure rate does not equate to 'this is the likelihood that you'll go broke' in any way.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by marcopolo » Fri May 11, 2018 9:53 am

willthrill81 wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 9:40 am
Random Walker wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 9:07 am
Investing is about putting the odds in our favor and understanding the consequences of being wrong. Although all that matters to each of us is our own personal data series, the sample size is way too small and the time period way too short to use for making quality decisions. That’s why reading about investing is so important.
I entirely agree. As humans, we tend to place far too much weight on our own experiences and greatly discount those of others. For instance, someone can make a stock trade based on 'gut instinct' and, if it turns out to be a good move, think that it's due to their skills; locus of control is also at play here, and we tend to think that good events are due to our skills and choices while bad events are due to outside forces.

I brought up this issue of investing being more like a poker, a game where you're dealing with incomplete information and playing the odds, than chess, where there is complete information and it's impossible to lose unless you make a bad move, in a recent thread. I was surprised to see how many were disdainful of this idea. Some are clearly under the mistaken belief that buying and holding stocks and bonds isn't making a 'bet' of sorts. Without perfect foreknowledge, we simply don't know how these investments will perform in the future. We are making bets based on historical performance and logic, and we should never forget that there are no guarantees of anything except death and taxes.
Random Walker wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 9:07 am
I’m a big fan of Monte Carlo Simulation because it creates thousands of potential alternative histories to help one make decisions: evaluate odds of success and consequences of being wrong.
I'm not as positive toward MC simulations. They have been demonstrated to overstate both negative and positive tail risk compared to the historic record, well beyond what would be expected due to random chance. This is likely due to them not typically incorporating mean reversion into the analysis.

However, they may be useful in reminding us that the future may not look as good as the past, and the most extreme events for investors may be in the future and not in the past.
I read that other thread as well on Poker vs. Chess as an analogy to investing. I still don't get that or this current take on the relationship between poker and investing. It is quite likely that i am missing something.

Unless you are a (very) active investor, like a day trader, i don't see the parallels. Poker and chess are both zero-sum games. When you win, someone else is losing. You have to pay close attention to every move, and react accordingly in real time, with limited information. Sounds like day-trading, not long-term investing.

Who is the opponent when investing for the long run? What are the opponent's moves that i need to study carefully, and react to in order to "beat" them?

I invest by developing what i hope is a sound strategy, and largely follow it regardless of what my "opponent" is doing (i.e., what is happening in the market - "stay the course"). This seems like the polar opposite of what one would do in Poker or chess. Sure you make "bets" on relative stock/bond/international/alt/tilt, etc. But, in most cases you do that ahead of time as part of a pre-planned strategy, not as a real-time reaction to your "opponents" moves.

Like i said, maybe i am missing something about how poker/chess is played, or investing strategies, or both....
Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by willthrill81 » Fri May 11, 2018 9:59 am

marcopolo wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 9:53 am
I read that other thread as well on Poker vs. Chess as an analogy to investing. I still don't get that or this current take on the relationship between poker and investing. It is quite likely that i am missing something.

Unless you are a (very) active investor, like a day trader, i don't see the parallels. Poker and chess are both zero-sum games. When you win, someone else is losing. You have to pay close attention to every move, and react accordingly in real time, with limited information. Sounds like day-trading, not long-term investing.

Who is the opponent when investing for the long run? What are the opponent's moves that i need to study carefully, and react to in order to "beat" them?

I invest by developing what i hope is a sound strategy, and largely follow it regardless of what my "opponent" is doing (i.e., what is happening in the market - "stay the course"). This seems like the polar opposite of what one would do in Poker or chess. Sure you make "bets" on relative stock/bond/international/alt/tilt, etc. But, in most cases you do that ahead of time as part of a pre-planned strategy, not as a real-time reaction to your "opponents" moves.

Like i said, maybe i am missing something about how poker/chess is played, or investing strategies, or both....
The analogy is not a perfect one as no analogy ever is. In investing, there is usually no real opponent. But as investors, we are making bets on the future with incomplete information about the present and, hence, the future. Like in poker and unlike in chess, you can make the best move and still lose.

Whether your strategy is pre-planned or changing in real time doesn't change the fact that you're still making a bet. You might view it as something close to a certainty or at least 'sound', but in reality it is always a bet.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by hilink73 » Fri May 11, 2018 10:04 am

Random Walker wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 9:07 am
http://www.etf.com/sections/index-inves ... nopaging=1

Larry reviews a book called Thinking In Bets by Annie Duke, a former professional poker player. Larry covers a lot of ground in this discussion: confusing strategy and outcome, alternative histories, hindsight bias. It’s not an Investing book, but investors can learn a lot about making investing decisions from this read I’m sure. Investing is about putting the odds in our favor and understanding the consequences of being wrong. Although all that matters to each of us is our own personal data series, the sample size is way too small and the time period way too short to use for making quality decisions. That’s why reading about investing is so important. I’m a big fan of Monte Carlo Simulation because it creates thousands of potential alternative histories to help one make decisions: evaluate odds of success and consequences of being wrong.
I’ve read a couple excellent reviews of Annie Duke’s book, I’m looking forward to reading the book myself.

Dave
Nice article, thanks for posting.
Investing is always a bet. You never know, how the market will perform.
But, one can bend the odds, for example by diversifying. It's interesting how many people are opposed to international investing, only looking at the performance data but forgetting the risk part.

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by Random Walker » Fri May 11, 2018 10:24 am

DaufuskieNate wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 9:41 am
Those "rules of thumb" are nice, but kind of squishy. Why 85%? Is 90% conservative enough? You see the point. The reality is that the analysis will be run a number of times during a retirement and the answer to the question "How much can I safely spend?" will evolve. I do not think it's wise to run the numbers one time and use that withdrawal plan for the rest of time. So, in a way, the MC analysis is really the foundation for a self-correcting variable withdrawal plan. Viewed as such, it seems to be a useful tool.
Totally agree

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by willthrill81 » Fri May 11, 2018 10:26 am

hilink73 wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 10:04 am
But, one can bend the odds, for example by diversifying. It's interesting how many people are opposed to international investing, only looking at the performance data but forgetting the risk part.
You're not really 'bending' the odds when you diversify. You're just limiting your risk in any one company/sector/country. It's analogous to the poker player who doesn't risk more than a tiny portion of their bankroll on any one hand because they know that anything can happen with that one hand. They (should) know that a string of bad hands is inevitable, just as we should expect to have strings of consecutive years with poor returns, almost regardless of the investment vehicle.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by larryswedroe » Fri May 11, 2018 11:48 am

Acceptable level of risk of "failure"

No right answer. But one for each person. As pointed out by one poster, part of the answer is it depends on the implications of being wrong and if you have options that you can exercise if the left tail risk shows up. If you have acceptable options, like cutting spending and still be comfortable, 85% might be good enough. On other hand, if have no options than 99% might be the answer that's right.

And remember always that the consequences of decisions should always outweigh whatever you think the probability of success is. I always point out that while MCS is IMO extremely valuable tool, and don't know how you can make informed decisions in most cases without using it, the output is only our best estimate of the odds, not the actual odds as we don't know the odds.

As to tail risks, MCS can be programmed to deal with non normal distributions, but even 2008 was well within what the outputs we see, in the bottom 5%.

Hope above is helpful
Larry

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by Fallible » Fri May 11, 2018 2:34 pm

I haven't read Duke's book, but the many behavioral pitfalls mentioned here are why this all has to do with investing (see the wiki's "Behavioral Pitfalls" page, the "Bogleheads' Philosophy" emphasizing self-control, and the reading lists, including Larry's good book that he mentioned here). The only pitfall I didn't see mentioned here that I think plays a big role in Duke's examples is overconfidence, such as when one tends to assume a favorable outcome is due to one's skill, and doesn't understand how luck or other factors might have come into play.

Thanks for the review, Larry.
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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by staythecourse » Fri May 11, 2018 4:25 pm

larryswedroe wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 11:48 am
Acceptable level of risk of "failure"

No right answer. But one for each person. As pointed out by one poster, part of the answer is it depends on the implications of being wrong and if you have options that you can exercise if the left tail risk shows up. If you have acceptable options, like cutting spending and still be comfortable, 85% might be good enough. On other hand, if have no options than 99% might be the answer that's right.

And remember always that the consequences of decisions should always outweigh whatever you think the probability of success is. I always point out that while MCS is IMO extremely valuable tool, and don't know how you can make informed decisions in most cases without using it, the output is only our best estimate of the odds, not the actual odds as we don't know the odds.

As to tail risks, MCS can be programmed to deal with non normal distributions, but even 2008 was well within what the outputs we see, in the bottom 5%.

Hope above is helpful
Larry
Nothing useful to add, but just wanted to say it is great to see you posting on here again. I hope this is the start of your return. We all don't agree on everything, but think I can speak for many on here and say your commentary is always insightful and well appreciated.

Good luck.
"The stock market [fluctuation], therefore, is noise. A giant distraction from the business of investing.” | -Jack Bogle

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by larryswedroe » Fri May 11, 2018 4:58 pm

Sorry, no on returning, just thought would be helpful to "straighten" things out

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Fri May 11, 2018 5:14 pm

larryswedroe wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 4:58 pm
Sorry, no on returning, just thought would be helpful to "straighten" things out
Always helpful to hear your thoughts Larry.
Have a good weekend!
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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by staythecourse » Fri May 11, 2018 5:15 pm

larryswedroe wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 4:58 pm
Sorry, no on returning, just thought would be helpful to "straighten" things out
Oh well. :D

Good luck.
"The stock market [fluctuation], therefore, is noise. A giant distraction from the business of investing.” | -Jack Bogle

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by golfCaddy » Fri May 11, 2018 5:44 pm

Poker isn't like blackjack, where there's a fixed strategy with known odds that never change. At the professional levels, it's about guessing your opponent's strategy or bluffing your opponent as much as knowing the deck odds.

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by happytrades » Fri May 11, 2018 8:50 pm

[OT comment removed by admin LadyGeek] and it reminded me about Annie Duke. [OT comment removed by admin LadyGeek] Annie Duke does the same thing. She is constantly gathering information, building in defenses against confirmation bias, and no matter what happens analyzing the results so that she is prepared to make a better decision the next time.

Process determines outcome.

For me, it is a constant struggle to reenforce rationality and to avoid behavioral pitfalls.

The habits that both of these women have developed in their own disciplines apply to us as investors.

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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by Fallible » Sat May 12, 2018 12:20 pm

happytrades wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 8:50 pm
...
Annie Duke ... is constantly gathering information, building in defenses against confirmation bias, and no matter what happens analyzing the results so that she is prepared to make a better decision the next time. ...

For me, it is a constant struggle to reenforce rationality and to avoid behavioral pitfalls. ...
My bet is that even when Duke's decisions were already good, it would never be enough for her and she would go right on analyzing and working to be make even better ones, in effect competing with herself as a way to constantly improve and stay on top. Those are traits of top professionals in other fields, including investing. And with Duke's educational background in cognitive psychology, she knows well that it's a "constant struggle" to be rational and avoid behavioral pitfalls.

Fyi: as I mentioned earlier here, I haven't read Duke's book (now library-ordered but a long waiting list), but have begun reading articles on her and her family background.
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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by LadyGeek » Sat May 12, 2018 1:36 pm

I removed an off-topic post. As a reminder, see: Politics and Religion
In order to avoid the inevitable frictions that arise from these topics, political or religious posts and comments are prohibited. The only exceptions to this rule are:
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Re: Larry Swedroe: Thinking In Bets

Post by Dottie57 » Sat May 12, 2018 1:50 pm

hilink73 wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 10:04 am
Random Walker wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 9:07 am
http://www.etf.com/sections/index-inves ... nopaging=1

Larry reviews a book called Thinking In Bets by Annie Duke, a former professional poker player. Larry covers a lot of ground in this discussion: confusing strategy and outcome, alternative histories, hindsight bias. It’s not an Investing book, but investors can learn a lot about making investing decisions from this read I’m sure. Investing is about putting the odds in our favor and understanding the consequences of being wrong. Although all that matters to each of us is our own personal data series, the sample size is way too small and the time period way too short to use for making quality decisions. That’s why reading about investing is so important. I’m a big fan of Monte Carlo Simulation because it creates thousands of potential alternative histories to help one make decisions: evaluate odds of success and consequences of being wrong.
I’ve read a couple excellent reviews of Annie Duke’s book, I’m looking forward to reading the book myself.

Dave
Nice article, thanks for posting.
Investing is always a bet. You never know, how the market will perform.
But, one can bend the odds, for example by diversifying. It's interesting how many people are opposed to international investing, only looking at the performance data but forgetting the risk part.
This forum has helped me move into more international....

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