This Time It’s Different — Or Is It?

According to Sir John Templeton, “the four most expensive words in the English language are ‘this time it’s different'”.

History repeats itself over and over again. It just all seems new to the people experiencing it for the first time.

For example, it’s easy to forget that the financial world has nearly been brought to its knees multiple times in the distant (and recent) past. Things in the recent past are naturally fresher in our minds, but they aren’t unique.

There’s a long history of booms and busts and panics and bubbles.

So what’s the best thing to do when it comes to investing? Personally, I have no idea, beyond trying to remain cognizant of the costly mistakes of the past. We can’t expect different results when we do the same things repeatedly.

I’m not an experienced investor by any means. I didn’t start trying to learn anything about investing until a couple of years ago.

Since then, I’ve seen my investments drop by as much as 40%, return to where they started from, push into positive territory, and (most recently) take another hit.

I’m going to continue to try to avoid repeating both my own mistakes and the mistakes of others, and to try to use philosophies similar to those of investors who have successful, long-term track records.

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8 comments

  • Bas

    Fortunately, we’re still at an age where we can ‘ride out’ the bad times. I can’t even imagine being close to retiring and seeing your savings dwindle like that. The psychological toll must be enormous. And that’s not even counting the fact that you’ll have to stay physically healthy that much longer in order to continue working.

    • Bas, I know it was especially hard on people who are *already* retired and living off investment income. I guess at least if you hadn’t retired yet it’d just be depressing instead of panic inducing ;)

  • I’m especially going to not repeat my own mistakes! And working on not repeating someone else’s. It’s smart to learn from other’s mistakes….so i don’t have to make them myself.

  • I think it’s important to be optimistic with a healthy dose of realism. Sure, the market crashes, but why be afraid because of that? It goes back up in the end and provides a nice long-term return. If the market ever does go to 0 then we are all screwed anyways.

    When it’s raining gold (when good stocks are cheap), take out a bucket!

    • Kevin, I try to aim for a nice balance. Kind of a hope for the best but plan for the worst kind of theory. I especially agree with you about the “if the market ever does go to 0” part — we’d probably have a lot bigger things to worry about in that case anyway.

  • I find myself looking for the Kindle button that shows how many times “the four most expensive words in the English language are ‘this time it’s different’” has been highlighted! :)

    Absolutely agree. Over the short term, investing is exciting and volatile. Over the long term, it’s almost exceptionally boring. The reversion to mean over time means history does a lot more than just rhyme (Mark Twain), it repeats…