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31 - Buying Stocks is NOT a Zero-Sum Game (Investing First Principle)

The DIY Investing Podcast: Value Investing | Fundamental Analysis | Mental Models | Business Management

Release Date: 06/16/2019

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  • Stocks for the Long Run by Jeremy Siegel:
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Buying Stocks is NOT a Zero-Sum Game (Investing First Principle) - Show Outline

The full show notes for this episode are available at https://www.diyinvesting.org/Episode31

Mental Model: Zero-Sum Games

  • Any gains by one participant must be offset with losses by other participants.
  • The sum total of all value for all participants is equal to zero

Why buying Stocks is NOT a Zero-Sum Game

  • Stocks as a whole don't provide a positive expected value
  • You don’t have to “take” from others in order to receive. When companies create value this is “new value.” The economy grows, everyone becomes wealthier.

Stock Picking vs Index Funds?

  • The thought is that half of the money must underperform an index, and half of the money can outperform an index. The thought, therefore, is that buying stocks is zero-sum.
  • Where is the fallacy?
    • Index’s have historically had a positive expected value. If an index returns 10%, even if half of the money receives 8%, and half receives 12%, both parties are successful in growing their wealth.
    • One party doesn’t lose 10% so that the index can grow 10%. That’s not how this works.
    • Instead, stock ownership is best described as a positive sum game.

What is a Positive-Sum Game?

  • A positive sum game is where the total value received of all participants is greater than zero.
  • This means that you can be successful without worrying about the success of others.
  • Frees you from the need for comparison, jealousy, or envy.
    • Just because someone else made money, doesn’t mean you lose money.
  • Takeaway: You can ignore index funds and focus on your own personal goals
  • Takeaway: You can ignore macroeconomic trends. As long as your fundamental analysis of a company is correct, the broader economic picture is irrelevant.

Why is this true? - Capitalism grows the economic pie

  • Companies are full of employees who go to work each and every day trying to find a way to make your profits grow.
  • While this sometimes involves taking market share from other companies, the greatest gains come from innovation, improved efficiencies, new markets, and new products.
  • This raises the standard of living for all and the overall economic pie for the economy.