Learning from Repetitive Mistakes: A Guide to Overcoming the Sunk Cost Fallacy

Published 4. 9. 2023

We all know the value of gleaning wisdom from the experiences of those who've walked the path before us. Yet, reality often presents its twists and turns, guiding us down unexpected avenues.

More often than not, we tend to dismiss advice from the more experienced until we've learned our own lessons the hard way.


The Journey of Self-Improvement Through Missteps

Picture this: during your investment journey, you'll likely encounter a particular misstep at least once. However, the silver lining is that by reflecting on this blunder, drawing insights from it, and making sure to sidestep it going forward, any financial loss could transform into an invaluable investment in your knowledge.


The Pitfall of Sunk Costs

Imagine a situation where an investor needs funds and decides to sell a portion of their stock portfolio. They have two options:

a) Selling shares of Company A, leading to a handsome 10 percent profit.

b) Selling shares of Company B, incurring a 5 percent loss.

Which choice seems more appealing to you?

Most investors lean towards selling shares of Company A.

Investors often seek the satisfaction of having made gains in the stock market. Their decision-making is heavily influenced by the concept of sunk costs, which leads them to weigh their investment prospects against the purchase prices they've already paid.

However, reality tells us a different story – past expenses hold no sway over future investment performance. Those costs are history and shouldn't dictate our choices moving forward.


Decisive Factor: Identifying Stocks with Promise for Future Returns

For instance, if one could assume that both Company A and Company B's stocks will continue their current trends, it's undoubtedly wiser to incur a small loss and sell Company B's shares. This positions us to anticipate significant profits from Company A's shares in the future.

Nonetheless, many investors still fall prey to the fallacy of sunk costs. They cling to a marginal profit and continue holding onto Company B's shares, inadvertently compounding their losses.


A Silver Lining in Closing

Even after acknowledging the pitfall of sunk costs, you might find yourself revisiting it in the future. Human nature has a curious way of yielding to this particular error. It appears woven into our very DNA. But take heart – there's a bright side.

We can flip the script and harness the sunk cost fallacy to our advantage.

Imagine investing in a gym membership. Ideally, this choice shouldn't influence your workout routine. Yet, thanks to the sunk cost fallacy, odds are you'll hit the gym more often, finding motivation in the commitment you've made.