Silliest Investment Mistakes?

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Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by geerhardusvos »

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

What are some of your silliest investment mistakes? Doesn't have to be biggest, just whacky or amateur. Meant as a light hearted thread :D

I'll start us off with:

6 years back, I attempted to transfer a small amount (~$25k) of my total market index into a small cap value fund (no no, that isn't the mistake I'm talking about today :twisted:) within my Roth account.

Well, turns out I put it in VSMAX not VSIAX. It took me 3 months to notice... So then I transferred to the SCV fund... Lost $560... I always felt like it was Bogle-karma slapping my hand for going outside my three fund LOL
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by deltaneutral83 »

If your worst or silliest investing mistake cost $600 you will likely be the best investor that has ever walked the Earth.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Flyer24 »

Topic is locked (not actionable).

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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

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Upon further review, this thread is actionable as a general discussion. The thread has been moved from the Personal investments to the Investing - Theory, News & General forum (general discussion).

This thread is unlocked to continue the discussion.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by mr_brightside »

took some losses during the dot com era. had no strategy / vision back then. just threw money at the tech stuff and of course the bottom eventually fell out.

but i got very 'lucky' w a real estate transaction a few years later that helped (right place / right time)

-------------------------------------------------
remember Enron?? I do
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by stan1 »

I bought a mutual fund using an ACH transfer from my checking account for an amount larger than the balance. Fortunately I realized my mistake about an hour after I clicked submit. I called Vanguard. They were able to cancel the transaction since I called before the market closed for the day.

Did teach me to be more careful about placing these orders. Now I make sure I have my Vanguard account and checking account displayed side by side in different browser windows and I look back and forth several times (measure twice, cut once philosophy).
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by gearbanger »

Went to cash earlier this year. Ouch.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Explorer »

I used to sell positions for a couple of percentage point gains... and I eventually shook that habit off... staying the course now.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Robot Monster »

The silliest was when I began to listen to the noise when the market dropped, and posting a lot of that noise on this very forum, which I have already issued a mea culpa about.

The second silliest thing I did was listen to Jim Cramer, and I admit, still do a little, but contain this silliness within the iron borders of my funny money. Time will tell just how silly, how downright goofy, today's purchase of Barrick Gold stock was.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by JoeRetire »

geerhardusvos wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 11:50 am What are some of your silliest investment mistakes? Doesn't have to be biggest, just whacky or amateur. Meant as a light hearted thread :D
Where do I begin?
- Like many, I started seriously saving later than I should have.
- When I first started putting money in a 401k, I divided my deposits among 5 funds - including one target date fund. There was no rhyme nor reason for the choices.
- Back before I knew any better, I purchased some high-commission Putnam funds.
- And again, before I knew better, I purchased some variable annuities being sold by one of my wife's patients.
- Once, when my company was going public, I gave only half of my shares to my parents so that they could buy them, then sell them quickly. The other half I purchased myself. By the time I came out of the mandated quiet period they were pretty much worthless.

I've made a ton of mistakes over my life. Fortunately none were fatal. All were eventually corrected. I'm just waiting for the next mistake...
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by geerhardusvos »

gearbanger wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 3:14 pm Went to cash earlier this year. Ouch.
Ah sorry to hear 😔
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Stinky »

Over a decade ago, the CGM Focus Fund was featured on the cover of Forbes (or maybe Fortune). It had been on a real “hot” streak. So, lacking a real investment strategy, I put about 10% of my assets into the fund.

The Fund promptly lost 50% of its value within 4 months. :oops:

I sold the Fund and swore to never buy a “hot” fund again.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by geerhardusvos »

JoeRetire wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 3:28 pm I've made a ton of mistakes over my life. Fortunately none were fatal. All were eventually corrected. I'm just waiting for the next mistake...
Gives gives us all hope that we can make mistakes and still survive. It never seems to be a straight line!
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by 7eight9 »

I bought VGPMX in both my IRA and Roth IRA. It used to be called Vanguard Precious Metals and Mining Fund. Now it is Vanguard Global Capital Cycles Fund.

Vanguard screwed me and every other investor in the fund by changing the investment strategy. Naturally gold has been on a tear ever since Vanguard did this.

My mistake was thinking that Vanguard would stay the course with the fund. Silly me. I learned my lesson. Now I'm with Charles Schwab.

I'll never buy another fund or ETF from Vanguard again in my life. Fool me once - shame on you. Fool me twice - shame on me.

I won't get fooled again.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by howard71 »

1. Not realizing that "bubbles" are real things until it was too late. The first was the dot com bubble in which I lost a lot on Fidelity's Aggressive Growth Fund. The second was when I bought my current house right at the peak of the bubble just before everything crashed.

2. Having a financial advisor and letting them make investment decisions for me without knowing what they were doing. I eventually had to learn what the terms front-end and back-end load meant because the funds she put me in had both. Yes, there was a fee to get into the funds she chose and another one to get out of them. After that I said never again and took matters into my own hands so at least it was a good learning experience.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by LadyGeek »

I did a backdoor Roth conversion and transferred the 401(k) funds into a settlement fund intended for a Vanguard traditional IRA. The funds should have gone to a settlement fund intended for Roth IRAs. I didn't know anything was wrong until I got blocked from moving the funds into my Roth IRA.

It took 6 months and persistent pressure for Vanguard to unwind the transaction. My error, but Vanguard customer service wasn't helpful. The first rep started the process, but never completed it. Several months later, I tried again and got a different rep. This time, it worked.

Unwinding a transaction is a complicated internal process. The people who do the actual work inside Vanguard are dedicated and willing to help. I just needed to get the right rep to coordinate the effort.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Independent George »

For an embarrassingly long time, I didn't contribute to an HSA because I thought the money was restricted to cash/money market. I had no idea I could invest it.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by tim1999 »

Instead of buying TSLA stock on any of the ~ 10 occasions I've seriously considered doing it in the past few years, chickening out and buying oil stocks instead that turned out to be basically dead money over the same periods of time.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by TheoLeo »

Stinky wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 3:33 pm Over a decade ago, the CGM Focus Fund was featured on the cover of Forbes (or maybe Fortune). It had been on a real “hot” streak. So, lacking a real investment strategy, I put about 10% of my assets into the fund.

The Fund promptly lost 50% of its value within 4 months. :oops:

I sold the Fund and swore to never buy a “hot” fund again.
Hope ARK investors are paying attention here :D
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by SmileyFace »

Anyone remember CMGI?
Lost some money there. After I learned my lesson with CMGI I made sure I sold all my other individual stocks and moved to 100% mutual funds - I had some really silly companies at the turn of the century that I dumped:
- This company called NetFlix (how long could a mail-order CD business continue?)
- Another company called Amazon (how long would an online bookstore last? Just books - really?).
- There was another one called Starbuck (who is going to pay $5 for a 50 cent cup of coffee? Build a business off this? really?)
- And then there was another one I held called Apple (I bought because I loved the "Mac" but when they released the "Newton" I questioned how well they could bring new products to market).

Glad I sold them all :annoyed

On the other hand I somehow timed my exit from Lucent correctly. I suppose that is the internet story I should tell. Sold at $120 before they sunk to $7. And the only reason I did it was because my spouse wanted to put in an inground swimming pool. If she didn't want the pool I would have lost the money.
Last edited by SmileyFace on Mon Nov 23, 2020 4:10 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by khangaroo »

One silly mistake is buying silver coins for $1k when it was going up like crazy and then selling it several years after for $450 or so. Never buying precious metals again...
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by bi0hazard »

Not understanding that stocks normally fluctuate (when I started out), freaking out every time I "lost" money in stock index funds, and basically only having about 30% stock exposure for years in early 2010s. Would've been years ahead, if I found BH forum back then.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by beernutz »

In my first big boy job in the early 80s I was for some reason convinced gold was going places so I bought all I could at ~$900 per ounce and watched it increase during the next year to over $1,200 an ounce. I thought I was an investment genius and would be able to retire in my 40s.

Then began a multi-decade long slide where rock bottom was below $400/oz. I got out before then but well below my purchase price--so much for early retirement.

I also let a smooth talking insurance agent friend of a friend talk me into moving an IRA to AXA/Equitable from Schwab.

Does letting Schwab manage my account for 14 years count as a mistake?
Last edited by beernutz on Tue Nov 24, 2020 2:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by JoeRetire »

geerhardusvos wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 3:36 pm
JoeRetire wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 3:28 pm I've made a ton of mistakes over my life. Fortunately none were fatal. All were eventually corrected. I'm just waiting for the next mistake...
Gives gives us all hope that we can make mistakes and still survive. It never seems to be a straight line!
Such is life...

While some decisions are limiting, very few decisions are fatal. I always advise my adult sons to keep as many options open to them as possible.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Quirkz »

When I decided I had enough extra money one year I opened a brokerage account with some "play money." It was early 2009, so I picked some demoralized bank as a contrarian move. Let it sit for a year and logged back in to realize I'd gotten the wrong stock ticker and the wrong company. I did actually make $4. But between the transaction fees to buy and sell and the 12-month inactivity fee (how's that for a business model - we charge you if you do anything but also if you don't do anything) I came out about $30 short. Realized then and there I didn't have the research chops if I couldn't even figure out what I was buying.

About two years ago--when I started on here, actually--I did an assessment of my accounts and realized that the bulk of my money wasn't in a US stock fund like I'd thought, but was instead in a NASDAQ fund. I corrected that mistake just in time for tech stocks to go on their recent tear. *sigh*
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by neilpilot »

In 2008, about the same time we became empty nesters, moved from a 2800 SqFt home to a 3800 SqFt home cross town. Decided to take a larger than required mortgage out so we could keep an additional ~$350k in the market.

If we had sold that $350k in equities we would have softened our impact in the 2008 drop in the Dow, which had occurred between the contact to buy and the closing.

But at least we paid top dollar for the house, just before the real estate bubble burst. :annoyed
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Candor »

I got a very small pension pay out ($8700) around 2011 and although I was 100% equities in my 401k I was a little gun shy of stocks after the 2008 housing crisis so I moved it to a CD in an IRA and have kept it there since. It's now worth about $10150. :oops:

I did a fair amount of day-trading during the 2000 dot com crash and the amount of silliness I participated in during that period would take all day to describe and I generally would rather forget most of it.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by nisiprius »

Virtually harmless, but one of the silliest.

1) I intended to buy the Vanguard Total International Stock Market Index Fund.

2) I ran down the list of Vanguard funds, which was alphabetical.

3) I came to the Vanguard FTSE All-World Ex-US Index Fund.

4) I kept staring and staring at it, reading "all-world ex-US" and "index," and looking up and reading the fund summary.

5) I finally said to myself, "gee, I thought it was called 'total' something but I guess this is it," and bought it.

At that time there was an early redemption fee, possibly 0.5% or 0.25%, if you sold the fund within a year after buying it, so I had to wait a year before I could correct my mistake and exchange Vanguard FTSE All-World Ex-US for Vanguard Total International, without paying the redemption fee. Of course, it hardly mattered which fund I owned.
Last edited by nisiprius on Mon Nov 23, 2020 8:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Sandtrap »

(Investment mistake #1)
Spent 3-4 years of hard sweat equity work developing an ocean view mountainside empty lot into a "ready to build" prime high end home build site.
End result. Barely recovered spent costs. Sweat equity lost.

Lesson: first and last attempt at vacant lot development. No matter how good it looks and feels, is not a guarantee of result. Stayed away from vacant lots after that lesson.

Lesson applied years later to a million dollar home on a bank auction "flipper" SFH renovation rebuild with excellent results.

(Investment mistake #2)
Bought and sold a Schwab house fund inside of 30 days. Found out that there is not website warning that there will be a penalty for doing so. Loss thousands.$$$

Lesson: No longer use Schwab for investment funds.

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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by gravlax »

One word: Ameriprise.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Blueskies123 »

Buying a stock Cramer was recommending.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by livesoft »

I posted 6 years ago about the day "I go senile, day trade on margin, wash sale, and..."
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Nicolas »

Two silly things: 1) I got carried away with greed during the dot.com bubble and lost what was then a lot of money for me. 2) I subscribed to IBD (Investors Business Daily) and tried to follow their system. I had a few gains but more losses than gains, for a net loss.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Nicolas »

Blueskies123 wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 5:54 pm Buying a stock Cramer was recommending.
I bought a stock Cramer was recommending too, it was AAPL, eleven years ago, I made a million dollars. I didn’t buy any other of his recommendations, lucky me!
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Stinky »

Nicolas wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 6:15 pm
Blueskies123 wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 5:54 pm Buying a stock Cramer was recommending.
I bought a stock Cramer was recommending too, it was AAPL, eleven years ago, I made a million dollars. I didn’t buy any other of his recommendations, lucky me!
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by 4ransom »

Forty years ago bought a few stocks, did not go to well, tried a bunch of mutual funds, little better. Next bought a non traded RIET, was a catastrophe. Finally found this forum back in the Morningstar days. Read a couple of lBogelhead books and got rid of all advisors, fairly smooth sailing ever since. I truly believe I would not be retired today without all the help I received on this forum. THANKS EVERYONE
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Rudedog »

Bought Exxon stock at $ 65, closed at $ 39 today.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by geerhardusvos »

LadyGeek wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 3:46 pm I did a backdoor Roth conversion and transferred the 401(k) funds into a settlement fund intended for a Vanguard traditional IRA. The funds should have gone to a settlement fund intended for Roth IRAs. I didn't know anything was wrong until I got blocked from moving the funds into my Roth IRA.

It took 6 months and persistent pressure for Vanguard to unwind the transaction. My error, but Vanguard customer service wasn't helpful. The first rep started the process, but never completed it. Several months later, I tried again and got a different rep. This time, it worked.

Unwinding a transaction is a complicated internal process. The people who do the actual work inside Vanguard are dedicated and willing to help. I just needed to get the right rep to coordinate the effort.
Six months is a long time! I had something similar happened when I transferred over my Wealthfront to Vanguard. To be fair, both sides were pretty patient and Vanguard got to the bottom of it once I found the right person. Took maybe two months.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by geerhardusvos »

nisiprius wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 5:22 pm Virtually harmless, but one of the silliest.

1) I intended to buy the Vanguard Total International Stock Market Index Fund.

2) I ran down the list of Vanguard funds, which was alphabetical.

3) I came to the Vanguard FTSE All-World Ex-US Index Fund.

4) I kept staring and staring at it, reading "all-world ex-US" and "index," and looking up and reading the fund summary.

5) I finally said to myself, "gee, I thought it was called 'total' something but I guess this is it," and bought it.

I blame myself 90% because I didn't do an awful lot of due diligence... but I also blame Vanguard because, while they helpfully crosslink Investor class funds to Admiral Shares and vice versa, there is absolutely nothing in the description of the Vanguard FTSE All-World Ex-US Index Fund to make you aware of the almost-identical Vanguard Total International Stock Index Fund, or help you choose between them.

Also, at that time there was an early redemption fee, possibly 0.5% or 0.25%, if you sold the fund within a year after buying it, so I had to wait a year before I could correct my mistake without paying the redemption fee.
That’s not too dissimilar from what happened to me, and when I typed in “small cap” the SCV fund wasn’t in the drop-down, so I just thought I had found it and there were no descriptions given... I think 90/10 blame ratio is about right. I felt dumb lol...

Interesting about the redemption fee, I had never heard about that.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by geerhardusvos »

livesoft wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 5:55 pm I posted 6 years ago about the day "I go senile, day trade on margin, wash sale, and..."
Ouch! lol thanks for sharing
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by glorat »

geerhardusvos wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 3:36 pm
JoeRetire wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 3:28 pm I've made a ton of mistakes over my life. Fortunately none were fatal. All were eventually corrected. I'm just waiting for the next mistake...
Gives gives us all hope that we can make mistakes and still survive. It never seems to be a straight line!
A wise person told me that we should make lots of mistakes in life as long as none of them are fatal. Mistakes are the most effective way of learning and if the cost was low, that's a great bargain.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Samosa22 »

Pre-covid I was 70% stock 30% fixed income. Sold almost all of my stocks during covid sell off when VTI (Vanguard total market index) was at ~$119 per share (401k was SP500, sold that too on the same day). Bought back into stocks at VTI ~$140 per share. But this time I went 100% stocks (minus emergency fund). Now I hold a few very risky individual stocks, hopefully it won't turn into another silly mistake.
Last edited by Samosa22 on Mon Nov 23, 2020 8:31 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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JD2775
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by JD2775 »

I consider myself lucky...

I think the worst investment mistake I ever made was mixing a Target Date fund with 2-3 index funds. That was when I didnt know any better. This was in my 401k, in my Roth I just had a Target Date Fund. I let that ride for 5 years or so and then I found this website. Cleaned up the 401k (got rid of TDF's altogether across both accounts, although there is nothing wrong with them per se).....

Again, I am lucky I found this site when I did. I'm sure I avoided much bigger blunders going forward had I not
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by whodidntante »

I once thought Dave Ramsey knew what he was talking about.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Samosa22 »

whodidntante wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 8:32 pm I once thought Dave Ramsey knew what he was talking about.
Not sure its a silliest mistake or funniest comment in this thread. :happy
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Bayliss »

My biggest mistake was staying with Edward Jones for nearly 15 years. I do live in a small town as was new to investing so it made sense at the start. But a few years ago I finally bit the bullet and switched to Charles Schwab. Now I don't have to call my broker every time I want to buy more shares of my ETFs, and thank goodness transaction costs for most big index funds are free now. But I know I lost out between being in actively managed funds on top of the brokerage fees.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Carguy85 »

Biggest mistake was not investing sooner....instead of investing after graduating and starting my career, I
Traded in a perfectly good suv that was given to me for a new one for $670 a month (actually had not started working yet)
Bought a new Harley on a credit card ( still no real job yet)
Bought a $200k house (actually a year before graduating...had to borrow the $1000 earnest money from my parents!!)
Subsequently bought no less than a dozen NEW cars/trucks
All the above in addition to making minimum payments on $250k in school loan debts.

All until I got my crap together about 6-8 years later and got extremely lucky with work. All the insanity was from about 2010 on... with as well as the market went I could have been a few more years ahead instead of blowing every last dime on dumb stuff.
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by WoodSpinner »

Well....

I worked for Apple back in 1986-90 and decided that exercising my stock options at the equivalent of $.15/ share was way too risky!!!

Back then 1MB of Ram was about $400. Some folks off the production line raided the Mac IIs in the back office and pulled out all our RAM. Can still remember the sheer frustration of having a brick on my desktop! About 150 of us were totally down and out (we managed the back office supply chain and inventory). Became an instant hero since my roommate sold the memory chips to Apple and I was able to twist his arm to redirect several shipments. Got a $25,000 bonus for that!

Sheesh

Fortunately I did all right in the end but what a miss!

WoodSpinner
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Croissant
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by Croissant »

nisiprius wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 5:22 pm ...
5) I finally said to myself, "gee, I thought it was called 'total' something but I guess this is it," and bought it.
...
this gave me a good laugh :mrgreen: thanks nisiprius

1. i bought 2000 shares instead of the intended 2k worth of an index, held this 250k position i couldn't cover for half of an afternoon while not realizing my fat finger mistake during a high volatility period this year. when i started the 15 min call with my broker my position was only down 500$, during the call I was up 2k, but his sales pitch went a bit long and i was down $200 when i exited the position. thinking back it was funny this broker tried to ask me why i don't just keep the position if i can move all my savings into merrill to back this position :confused :oops:

2. day traded in college after taking a graduate level quantitive finance course, read news and traded almost daily for a whole year, got 200 bucks to show for it. (looking back this is impressive since I started with 1k, and had to deal with a 4.95$ fee to buy or sell each time). almost had a panic attack seeing the massive IRS bill that year, b/c i forgot to put in the cost basis for my transactions, so tax man thought i took in ~200k pure profit.

3. bought triple leverage reverse China fund (YANG) and held it for more than a year? china market went side ways and my 2k or so went down the drain due to volatility decay.

4. bought BA after the first 747 crash, thinking it was an accident not worth the market cap lost. little did i know it was a systemic issue that turned into the flight control unit debacle, then covid happened, still down about 50% despite all the vaccine news lately.

5. when Marvel the movie company had a string of popular superhero movies, i bought shares in Marvell the semiconductor company. did not discover this till years later. my early investing days.

all in all, not too bad. lots of odd lessons learned here and there.
Last edited by Croissant on Mon Nov 23, 2020 9:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
visionfund dumpster fire = grade AAA entertainment
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geerhardusvos
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Re: Silliest Investment Mistakes?

Post by geerhardusvos »

WoodSpinner wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 9:26 pm Well....

I worked for Apple back in 1986-90 and decided that exercising my stock options at the equivalent of $.15/ share was way too risky!!!

Back then 1MB of Ram was about $400. Some folks off the production line raided the Mac IIs in the back office and pulled out all our RAM. Can still remember the sheer frustration of having a brick on my desktop! About 150 of us were totally down and out (we managed the back office supply chain and inventory). Became an instant hero since my roommate sold the memory chips to Apple and I was able to twist his arm to redirect several shipments. Got a $25,000 bonus for that!

Sheesh

Fortunately I did all right in the end but what a miss!

WoodSpinner
OUCH! glad it worked out for you in the end though.

If I had stayed in my stock grants from megacorp I would have a couple hundred thousand dollars more, but I just keep selling and diversifying.
VTSAX and chill
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