Emotions and the Pitfalls of Concentrated Stock Positions - Rodgers & Associates
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Emotions and the Pitfalls of Concentrated Stock Positions

One of the mistakes that investors make is holding a concen­trated position in a company’s stock. (I’ll define concen­trated as repre­senting more than 10% of your liquid net worth.)  The two most common ways people end up with a concen­trated position is either they worked at the company or because they inherited their shares from a loved one. In either of these two scenarios, the reasons for continuing to hold the shares tend to be much more of an emotional decision than one based on achieving financial goals.

In the case of inherited shares, clients will often feel like they’re betraying what the person who origi­nally bought the shares would have done. They say things like “I got these from Dad and he never would have sold these for less than $20 a share”, or “I just want to keep these as a way of remem­bering this person.” There’s nothing wrong with either of those state­ments as long as it’s not such a large percentage of your portfolio that, if the company goes bankrupt, it would prevent you from accom­plishing your goals.

Many companies will offer the ability to purchase shares or will grant stock options to the employees as a way to incen­tivize them and align employee interests with share­holder interests. It might seem like a great way for you to share in the profits of your employer. It’s important to be realistic though and take into account the fact that every year, lots of companies go out of business and you have no way of really knowing whether your company is doing well or not. Worldcom had 30,000 employees. Of those 30,000, how many people truly under­stood that the company’s fraud­ulent accounting would ultimately drive that company into bankruptcy? Probably not many.

While owning a concen­trated stock position has been one of the major sources of wealth for many famous families (insert the name of your favorite billionaire), it’s not a risk that most people can afford to take. Pick a famous fortune and, while many of them have owned concen­trated stock positions, they’ve almost all been wise enough to sell enough stock so that no matter what happens to the price of their shares, they and their families will be just fine. You should never risk more than you can afford to lose.

By diver­si­fying into a broad basket of stocks, you might not make a killing, but you likely won’t get killed.