Paul Meloan – Vested Interest

A conversation with a client the other day reminded me of an important lesson I learned playing poker.  I learned it the hard way, like just about every other lesson worth remembering.

Chips in the middle of the pot no longer belong to you.  The chips in your stack do.  You should be more concerned about the chips you have than the chips you don't.

This came out in a conversation where the client related to me his concerns about an investment he made years ago which was no longer productive.  It had previously provided substantial returns, but now its future prospects were negative, and he saw no way to change that.

What most people do in this situation is fixate on the amount previously invested (the chips already in the pot) and what happened before, not what is about to happen or what is going to happen in the near future.  Sometimes they continue to bet, hoping for the miracle card at the end that will make all their problems disappear, when they know that they are beat and the proper decision is to fold.

Successful people are able to make the distinction between the past and future prospects, and not focus on what has already happened and is thus irrevocable.  Economists call this "sunk costs" and gamblers call it "chasing."  In either case, it is an unhealthy and unhelpful fixation over things you no longer control to the detriment of what you still do.

Now matter how well the hand started, sometimes it can go bad.  When it does, your mission is to hold on to as many of the chips you still have, and move on to the next hand.

Paul Meloan is the co-founder and co-managing member of Aegis Wealth Management, LLC, in Bethesda, Maryland USA. Before Aegis Paul was a practicing attorney as well as working in the tax practice of Ernst & Young, LLP.

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