For their personal wealth-management people have a quite different perception for money that they lost after investing into a falling fund, as compared to money they have failed to invest into a growing fund. In the first instance, they consider that it was once their “own” money (but in essence just a green bill that still belongs to the central bank), which – after investing into the “wrong” company – is now in the pocket of somebody else. In contrast, if they failed or forgot to invest into a company whos shares increased over time, this missed opportunities causes them much less regret. This is difficult to understand from a pure economic point of view, since it does not make a real difference on the long run if you either lose money that you possesed before, or if you missed the opportunity to gain the same sum of money. In mathematical terms: a double negation (avoiding a loss) is the same as positive gain.
Professional wealth manager know this intuitively, and to improve the total performance of their business it is equally efficient for them to avoid losses at single positions or to invest more into positions which are gaining profit. The failure to invest into a growing fund (like W.Buffets Berkshire-Hathaway Inc) should cause the same feeling of regrett as putting money into a loss-making fund (like Dell Computers Inc), the first of which doubled its share value over the last 5 years, wheres the latter lost half of its value during the same period.
You might say that, first of all, this is pure economic theory, and it is far away from the emotions we are suffering when we see our hardly earned money being burnt down by a badly advised investment. It might cause us a headche, but at least it wont cause us a heartache. Both arguments are somehow right, but only if one leaves the pure economic reasoning and starts arguing on the psychological level.
Now we came to point where economic reason interferes with emotions, with sorrow, feeling of pleasure and happiness and the like. And on this stage, we can go another step and compare the losses/missed opportunities on the stock market with another area of life where we also hope that investments will give us lots of rewards and happiness over a long time: I am now talking about partnership, romance and love.
Here again, you hope that a loving relationship into which you have invested your feelings, many years of your life, last but not least some precious parts of your body, that this investment does not suddenly fail. If it does, it is usually associated with unpleasant emotions, hate, and a long term decline in self-esteem. People talking of their broken relationships are not really a source of very poetic ideas. They see themself as being betrayed, and – like in the case of a wrong investment – they deeply regret to have actively made a wrong decision. They would like to turn back time thinking “I wished I would have never meet you, becaused you have taken away the best 5/10/20 years of my life”. People are usually not very enthusiastic writing blogs about their broken relationships, and if you find them they are not very touching somehow.
Another reaction you can find in people who suffer from an unresponded love. Objectively, their net ballance is the same as in case of a broken relationship. But in contrast to them, they suffer from the feeling that despite trying very hard they did not manage yet to start a relationship (investment) that would be so beneficial for them. So in contrast to someone who face the ruins of a failed relationship, the second category of people feel unlucky to start the relationship they want so heavily. (Rolling Stones: “Love in Vain”)
The great song “Love in Vain” (original Blues by Robert Johnsson) shows very clearly that the feeling of not achieving the love we want might not be much easier to live with, but in contrast to the mental state after a broken relationship, at least it can be the source of great artistic expression. Garcia Marquez’ great novel “Love in the times of Cholera” describes this, as did Charlotte Bronte in “Jane Eyre”. The different self perception after a soul-destructing end of a relationship, and in contrast during the patient, tolerable time in a waiting room of a romantic love must have to do with peculiarities of our emotional reward system. It is easier to hope (endlessly) for the opportunity to get a reward, than to see that a reward has been refused for something we invested in.