March Madness: How the Tournament Reflects your Investments

Contributed by: Nicholas Boguth Nicholas Boguth

I usually don’t think about investments when March Madness rolls around, however this year the correlation is hard to get out of my mind. The past year in the markets has mimicked the past year of NCAA men’s basketball. The markets have been volatile since mid-2015 because of China’s shaky economy and the pending rate hike here in the U.S. In August, we watched the S&P 500 drop almost 200 points and investors wondered, “What is going on?!?!” At the same time, the men’s basketball rankings have been more volatile than they ever have been historically. North Carolina owned the #1 ranking title in the preseason, and then was quickly edged out by Kentucky, who got pushed out by Michigan State, then Kansas, then Oklahoma, then Villanova, and finally back to Kansas leaving basketball fans thinking, “What is going on?!?!”

Now it’s March, which means it’s time to fill out your bracket. There are a total of 63 games that will be played to determine the champion. Correctly predicting the outcome of all 63 of those games is about as likely as getting struck by lightning 5 times this year. Warren Buffet, who in the past has offered $1 billion to anyone who filled out a perfect bracket, must have gotten bored with that challenge and instead is offering $1 million every year for life to any of his employees that correctly guess every game in the first 2 rounds correctly (still extremely unlikely). So, what will your strategy be when filling out your bracket?

There is no guaranteed way to make money when investing, just like there is no guaranteed way to pick the final four teams of the tournament correctly. Sure, you can pick the four #1 seeds and hope that they make it to the final four, just like you can look back and pick the 4 investments or securities that performed the best last year and hope that they outperform again this year, but as we all know from the infamous investing disclaimer, “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” In fact, only picking the #1 seeds in the bracket has left you with the correct final four just ONE time in the entire tournament’s history.

So, odds are that you are not going to pick every winner of the tournament. As investors, there is also a slim chance that you pick every one of your investments correctly and every one of them increases year after year. This is why diversification is key—Jaclyn Jackson recently explained this concept in more detail (which can be found here).That is where talking to a NCAA bracket specialist or an investment professional can help. The correct diversification can ultimately help you reach your end goal, no matter who the #1 seed is.

Nicholas Boguth is an Investment Research Associate at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.

Any opinions are those of Nick Boguth and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market. Keep in mind that individuals cannot invest directly in any index, and index performance does not include transaction costs or other fees, which will affect actual investment performance. Individual investor's results will vary. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.