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我们在摘果子钓鱼这些方面很是擅长,这些我们的祖先早就很熟练了。但在共同基金这类事情上我们总是不得要领。

投资者常常会犯非常愚蠢的错误,很多人都想弄清楚这是为什么。行为金融学专家们为我们部分解开了人们不断犯下同一个错误的谜团;神经经济学则从大脑工作机理的角度加以阐释;而人类幸福感的研究者也试图解释为什么生活水平的提高没有给人带来更多的快乐。

如今,一些研究人员开始试图通过进化心理学研究这个问题。我们为什么会犯这么多的投资错误?也许,从更深层面看,我们仍是未进化完全的远古洞穴人。

波士顿基金经理特里•布恩汉(Terry Burnham)说,了解人脑结构由两部分组成有助于理解这个问题。布恩汉是《不理性也能赚钱》(Mean Markets and Lizard Brains)一书的作者,同时还和他人合着有《都是基因惹的祸》(Mean Genes)一书。

大脑的一部分是“理性大脑”,这部分告诉人们每月应该存下542美元的退休金;另外一部分就是布恩汉提到的“非理性大脑”,我们的祖先就是借助于其中的本能意识生存下来的。同样的问题,“非理性大脑”会告诉人们有了钱就要用来消费,所以,那542美元也就别存了,逛街去吧。

正如布恩汉所言,现在的问题是世界发展变化太快,超过了“非理性大脑”的进化速度,因此我们的本能意识已经与现代金融生活相脱节。结果就造成了我们经常犯下投资错误,包括以下5例:

–我们总是追求更高的薪水、更大的房子和更好的汽车。然而研究表明,从长期来看,这些东西并不会让我们变得更快乐。

那么我们为什么会不停地追求更多呢?想想我们的祖先,他们不会说:“我们已经有了足够多的食物,今天就早点收工回家吧。”相反,他们之所以能够生存下来、并且繁衍后代,正是因为内心有着更强大的驱动力。

新泽西州罗格斯大学(Rutgers University)进化论生物学家罗伯特•特里弗斯(Robert Trivers)指出,我们身体里未必存在一种叫停机制,能对你说“放松一下,你得到的已经够多了。我们在进化的过程中总是在不断追求最大化。”

–美国人极低的储蓄率一直是件令人头疼的事。不过我们或许也可以归因于我们的祖先。

毕竟,对他们来说最好的储备方式就是消费。在食物充足的时候尽可能多吃,将多余的热量储备在身体中,以便应对随时可能发生的食物短缺情况。

布恩汉,“我们压根儿就没有存储的历史,所以我们对这种不同寻常的行为产生反感也毫不奇怪。”由于储蓄对于我们来说还是一种全新的概念,某些人可能存得太多--但很多人则存得太少。

–如果你让一些人在现在的小甜头和将来的大回报之间作一个选择,他们通常都会选择现在的小甜头。这在一定程度上也反映了我们将今天的消费视为某种形式储蓄的倾向。

不过这背后有一个很重要的原因:我们祖先的储蓄回报率微不足道。这无法和我们今天的正的储蓄回报率相提并论。如果那些靠集体打猎为生的祖先们将收获的猎物挂起来,它们很可能会烂掉或者被偷走,或者猎人们还没来得及享用它们自己就先死掉了。

康奈尔大学(Cornell University)经济学教授、《奢侈病》(Luxury Fever)的作者罗伯特•弗兰克(Robert Frank)说,有很多因素在促使我们消费,而不是等待。

–正如行为金融专家所发现,我们因丧失1,000美元而遭受的痛苦远远比我们获得1,000所得到的快乐程度大得多。因此我们常常会避开股票,特别是当我们一心一意关注短期回报的时候就更是如此。

弗兰克怀疑这种害怕损失的方式可能也有进化的根源。他指出,“动物经常为保护自己的领地打得头破血流,但他们却不会为扩张领土而付出同样的代价。”原因就在于:扩张领土不会给他们带来太多好处,而丧失领土却可能威胁到他们的生存。

–我们的祖先为了生存不得不习惯按已有规律行事,从前人的经验了解何时何地能够找到野生动物、鱼类或者其他食物。

但是如果在今天的市场中还用这种“跟风”的办法来为冬天作储备,那你可就悬了。问问那些在2000年初购买网络股或者在2005年末投资佛罗里达公寓的人就知道了。他们跟随着成功投资者的脚步,然而成功却没有再现。

“在其他几乎所有场合,模仿其他人都会让你受益,或者至少不好不坏,”布恩汉说。“但在金融市场,这一着却是大忌。如果有什么东西太热了,它的价格一定会被高估。”

对于这几项常犯的投资错误我们该如何应对呢?在很多情况下,关键是你在安排资金时要能确保不被我们祖先遗传下来的本能逻辑搞砸。

“在金融市场,听任本能做决定是很可怕的,”布恩汉说。“你必须不让自己的感情因素干扰投资决策。”

小结

为了成功管理你的资金,你必须克服大脑的原始本能。

–强迫自己定期储蓄,参加公司的401(k)退休储蓄计划,设立一个共同基金自动投资计划。

–不要被市场每天的起起落落干扰,买一只在你有生之年都可以一直持有的基金--不要太过频繁地查看你的帐户。

–控制支出,保持用现金或借记卡付款的习惯(远离信用卡)。

Jonathan Clements

(本文作者Jonathan Clements是《华尔街日报》个人理财专栏“Getting Going”的专栏作家)

 英文全文如下:

 Why Your ‘Lizard Brain’ Makes You A Bad Investor

WE’RE PRETTY GOOD at gathering berries and catching fish. But this mutual-fund thing is really messing us up.

Investors often make foolish financial decisions, and lots of folks are trying to figure out why. Specialists in behavioral finance have sketched out some of our more persistent mental mistakes. Neuroeconomics is looking at how the brain functions. Happiness researchers are trying to understand why our rising standard of living hasn’t made us happier. Now, some experts are turning to evolutionary psychology. Why do we make so many financial errors? Maybe, deep down, we’re just cavemen and women. – Battling the past. It’s helpful to think of our brains as having two parts, says Boston money manager Terry Burnham, author of ‘Mean Markets and Lizard Brains’ and co-author of ‘Mean Genes.’ There’s the analytical part, which is the part that calculates that we need to save $542 a month for retirement. And then there’s what Mr. Burnham calls the ‘lizard brain,’ which includes the instincts that helped our ancestors survive. And the lizard brain says it’s better to consume, so let’s take that $542 and go shopping. As Mr. Burnham sees it, the problem is that the world has changed far faster than our lizard brains, so our instincts are out of step with modern financial life. Result? We make frequent financial mistakes — including these five: – We constantly strive for bigger paychecks, larger homes and fancier cars. Yet research indicates that these things won’t make us much happier in the long run. So why do we keep striving for more? Think about our ancestors. They didn’t say, ‘We’ve got enough for dinner, let’s knock off work early today.’ Instead, they survived and were able to reproduce because they had greater drive than those around them. ‘There isn’t necessarily a stop mechanism in us that says, ‘Relax, you’ve got enough,'’ notes Robert Trivers, an evolutionary biologist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. ‘We’ve evolved to be maximizing machines.’ – There’s much handwringing over America’s pitifully low savings rate. Perhaps, however, we can blame that on our ancestors as well. After all, for them, the best way to save for the future was to consume now. By eating food when it was abundant, they could store the extra calories in their bodies, in the hope that this would carry them through any lean times that lay ahead. ‘We have very little history of saving,’ Mr. Burnham says. ‘It should not be too surprising that we are terrible, on average, at this novel behavior.’ Because saving is such a new concept for us, some folks save too much — and many save way too little. – If you give people a choice between a small reward now and a larger reward in a few months, they’ll typically opt for today’s small reward. Partly, this reflects our tendency to regard consumption today as a form of savings. But it may also reflect the lousy rates of return available to our ancestors. Forget earning a positive return on savings, like we can today. If our hunter-gatherer ancestors hung on to food, it might rot, it might get stolen, and they might not live long to enjoy it. ‘There were a lot of things coming together to encourage us to consume now rather than to wait,’ says Cornell University economics professor Robert Frank, author of ‘Luxury Fever.’ – As behavioral-finance experts have discovered, the pain we get from losing, say, $1,000 is far greater than the pleasure we get from gaining $1,000. This can cause us to shy away from stocks, especially if we focus too intently on short-term results. Prof. Frank speculates that this loss aversion may have evolutionary roots. ‘Animals will fight viciously to protect territory that they hold, but they won’t fight nearly as hard to extend their territory,’ he notes. The reason: Gaining territory won’t benefit them much, but losing territory is a threat to their existence. – For our ancestors to survive, they had to be good at spotting patterns, such as figuring out when and where they were likely to find wild animals, fish and other food. But relying on past patterns can be a disaster if you are hunting for winners in today’s markets. Just ask buyers of Internet stocks in early 2000 or purchasers of Florida condominiums in late 2005. They adopted winning strategies — but the strategies stopped winning. ‘In almost all other settings, it’s good or neutral to mimic other people,’ Mr. Burnham says. ‘But in the financial markets, it’s exactly the wrong thing to do. If something is too popular, it will be overpriced.’

Faced with mistakes like the five listed above, what should we do? In many cases, the trick is to arrange our finances so our ancient instincts don’t get a chance to foul things up. For some tips on how to do that, check out the accompanying chart.

‘In the financial markets, the lizard brain is very damaging,’ Mr. Burnham warns. ‘You’ve got to find a way to decouple emotions from money.’ — Caveman Investing

To manage money successfully, you may need to override your brain’s ancient instincts. – Force yourself to save regularly by signing up for your company’s 401(k) retirement-savings plan and by setting up a mutual-fund automatic investment plan. – To avoid getting caught up in the market’s daily turmoil, buy a lifecycle fund — and don’t check the account balance too often. – Keep your spending under control by paying for everything with cash or a debit card.

Jonathan Clements

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