This article, by Justin Baiocchi, was originally published in The Northern Daily Leader on 9 May 2015.
A long time ago I used to own a horse called Didgeridoo, which was a little odd, given that I knew nothing about horses. Nevertheless, he was mine and he and I would be firm friends as we embarked together on the exciting journey that was me learning to ride. At least that was the theory, but obviously nobody had told Didgeridoo about this happy arrangement. For Psycho (let’s just call him by his nickname, I think it’s more appropriate) had no intention of ever letting me on his back. In fact, even getting close enough to touch him was a minor miracle. I was advised to start with some easy goals – giving him a brush a couple of times a day for example. However every time I started to brush him he would swing his head round and try to bite me. I was sagely advised that the trick was to give him a firm whack in the ribs every time he tried it, which would soon teach him to behave. So one day I cornered him in the yards and started brushing his coat. The first time he tried to bite me I whacked him in the ribs. He gave me a filthy look and waited ten seconds before trying to bite me again. So once more I whacked him in the ribs, again earning myself a filthy look. This little sequence happened for the third time and just as I began to feel comfortable, Psycho whipped round his head, grabbed my shoulder with his teeth, shook me like a doll and threw me to the ground. I dropped the brush and ran screaming back to the house and so ended my dreams of becoming the Man from Snowy River.
Quite simply, when it came to dealing with Psycho I was way out of my depth. And unfortunately this is the same mistake some people make when it comes to dealing with their finances, particularly in investing. The principles of labour specialisation have been around forever: the brain surgeon specialises in brain surgery; the lawyer specialises in law; the builder specialises in building a house. It’s really no different when it comes to investing, yet some people are determined to do it themselves, regardless of (or oblivious to) a lack of knowledge and expertise. That’s not to say you can’t educate yourself to a standard equivalent to a professional, it’s simply that many don’t make the effort to do so. If you’re not sure about what you’re doing, get some help, because a bruised shoulder and ego is nothing compared to the pain of losing your life savings.