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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good Overview of the Subject
Mr. Sherfin has written an entertaining, yet scholarly overview of the subject. It is pitched at the practitioner rather than the layman, so anyone wanting detailed financial planning advice or quick fire trading ideas is going to be disappointed. What you do get however is a fascinating insight into the reasons that long-term stock market anomalies continue to exist,...
Published on May 21, 2001 by NYC

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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pushing Too Far?
In Beyond Fear and Greed, Mr. Shefrin has written a fairly interesting account of the advances in behavioral finance. He draws heavily on previously published research (although often published in fairly esoteric sources), so people searching for lots of new insights will probably be disappointed. That said, Mr. Shefrin covers most of the common biases that we are prone...
Published on March 30, 2001 by J. Michael Gallipo


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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pushing Too Far?, March 30, 2001
By 
This review is from: Beyond Greed and Fear: Finance and the Psychology of Investing (Hardcover)
In Beyond Fear and Greed, Mr. Shefrin has written a fairly interesting account of the advances in behavioral finance. He draws heavily on previously published research (although often published in fairly esoteric sources), so people searching for lots of new insights will probably be disappointed. That said, Mr. Shefrin covers most of the common biases that we are prone to including mental accounting, loss aversion, trend following and the like. If a reader doesn't see him or herself in at least some of his illustrations, I suspect he is not being honest with himself.
My major problem is that in some instances I think Mr. Shefrin engages in his own form of hindsight bias. For example, in his account of wall street strategists' market predictions I think he finds his bias after he knows the results. If the market had a strong year previously and the strategist predicted another strong year and was proved wrong, then he was guilty of trend following. If however, the same strategist predicted a weak market and proved to be wrong, then he was guilty of gambler's fallacy (mean reversion). So basically either choice represents bias IF YOU ARE WRONG. And yet, just because you are right does not change the mental processes that went into your decision.
However, despite the weaknesses of this book, overall it provides much food for thought for any serious investor and is probably worth at least a quick read.
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86 of 94 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A slow waltz through the psychology of investing, April 17, 2000
By 
Bruce_in_LA "reader_in_LA" (los angeles, ca United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beyond Greed and Fear: Finance and the Psychology of Investing (Hardcover)
This book has a good heart, but I can't recommend it so highly. The author takes several classical cognitive mistakes that humans make (some will recognize the classic names of Kahnemann and Tversky; they are one of the substrates of this book). The author applies such mistakes to a wide range of investment problems - holding on to losing stocks too long, anthropomorphizing stock decisions, and so on. The sort of psychology that makes you think that a coin that has flipped tails three times now has a 95% chance of flipping heads on the next toss. Most intelligent readers (the sort that buy Harvard Press books) could get the same points in a much briefer format, like a book chapter or a 10-page article. For example, people tend not to save enough for retirement because the future seems a long time away and they think they'll catch up and it will work out. Well, yes. Next?
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good Overview of the Subject, May 21, 2001
By 
NYC (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Beyond Greed and Fear: Finance and the Psychology of Investing (Hardcover)
Mr. Sherfin has written an entertaining, yet scholarly overview of the subject. It is pitched at the practitioner rather than the layman, so anyone wanting detailed financial planning advice or quick fire trading ideas is going to be disappointed. What you do get however is a fascinating insight into the reasons that long-term stock market anomalies continue to exist, and the forms that they take. This should finally bury the idea that markets are efficient.
A couple of beefs though; firstly, as Sherfin points out several times "investors learn slowly" in yet most of the time series he quotes seem to be 3 to 10 years - statistically pretty insignificant in making generalizations about market behavior. Secondly, while he is rightly cynical about he money management industry (and does a good job at exposing some of its less creditable tricks), he at once dismisses active money management - "a combination of private interests and behavioral phenomena provide the basis for the existence of this active segment" - and then goes on to document the success of Fuller & Thaler Asset Management in producing considerable excess return. So which is it Mr.Sherfin?
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Selective Presentation of the Evidence, June 25, 2005
By 
Herbert Gintis (Northampton, MA USA) - See all my reviews
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I am a behavioral economist with a deep belief in the notion that human decision-makers deviate in important ways from the scientific principles laid down in modern rational choice theory. There is no doubt but that very many investors hold erroneous notions of the dynamics of price movements, and having a correct understanding will, on average lead to better returns on one's portfolio. Sheffrin presents the evidence for this position in an interesting and accessible manner.

Shefrin's main advice for investors is absolutely correct, and would improve the asset positions of many poor souls with idiotic notions of stock dynamics. His advice is that if you are not a gifted and dedicated stock expert, you should invest in a low-maintenance cost array of mutual funds, and above all, do not churn your stocks. It doesn't help to be smart, lucky, a stud with the girls, or blessed by God. Moreover, if you think you have one of the "gifted analysts" for a broker, you are to be counted as among the suckers who are never given an even break.

Shefrin has another thesis which he presents with great verve, but which is on very shakey grounds. This is that "gifted stock analysts" can on average, significantly out-perform the market. He believes this MUST be the case if a significant fraction of investors are behaving irrationality. However, there is another possibility, which is that stock brokers as a group gain from the excessive churning that irrational investors permit or ask them to do, but that it is impossible to "beat the market" except by pure luck or by personally studying firm fundamentals and future prospects.

Shefrin's data in favor of the "gifted analyst" is episodic and anecdotal, and there is plenty of data on the other side. For instance, in Malkiel's classic "Random Walk Down Wall Street", he relates the evidence that chimps throwing darts do as well as major brokerage houses. Sheffrin presents contrary evidence for a more recent period in which "gifted experts" outperform the random darts. New evidence, collected by Money magazine, shows that a group of experts did far worse than the darts in 2003. All of this evidence is spotty and anecdotal. The plural of anecdote is not data.

I am not convinced by this book that the efficient markets hypothesis, applied to final returns to investors (after payments to stock brokers and other transactions costs), is not correct. I think the author makes a mistake taking so strong a position when the evidence is so weak on this account. I am certainly not convinced that Malkiel's analysis is in any way overturned by new evidence.

However, if Shefrin convinces a few investors to act more sanely, he will have fulfilled an important social function.
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44 of 54 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A random walk through behavioral finance., May 25, 2000
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This review is from: Beyond Greed and Fear: Finance and the Psychology of Investing (Hardcover)
This book contains some interesting tidbits. Unfortunately, it is rife with serious errors and unwarranted assertions.
For example, in chapter 6 Prof. Shefrin attempts to discredit contrarian sentiment indicators. For all I know they may be worthy of discredit. Unfortunately for his argument, the data he chooses to display, Figures 6-1 and 6-3, appear to support the value of these indicators.
He declares the practice of investing in companies one knows to be "familiarity bias". While this is apt for employees with all funds in the company stock, he also applies it to Peter Lynch. According to Shefrin, Lynch beat the market 11 out of 13 years, and beat his nearest competitor by 6%(!) per year. Shefrin grudgingly admits there may have been some skill involved, but goes on to inform us that _investors_ "attribute too much of that success to skill rather than luck". Uh-huh.
In his chapter on public offerings, Prof. Shefrin declares that existing shareholders are being ripped off, because dramatic gains at the start of trading demonstrate the IPO could have sold at a higher price. Apparently Prof. Shefrin is unaware that underwriters enter into an obligation to support the aftermarket, and would be unlikely proceed without a good chance of an aftermarket pop, nor would subscribers purchase.
The chapter on closed end fund discounts is interesting. Unfortunately Prof. Shefrin fails to include the net present value of future management fees in his discussion.
Perhaps there will be a much revised and improved second edition.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, Entertaining Overview of Fascinating Field, December 24, 2004
Wondering what Brealy & Myers or Sharpe left out? Don't expect your broker (or fund manager, excepting Richard Thaler) to fill you in. This book is a must read for any active (or passive) participant in the markets, or any other citizen who is affected by said markets. Meaning all of us.

Shefrin provides a masterful exposition of the application of cutting-edge cognitive psychology to the behavior of retail and institutional investors, analysts, mutual fund managers, CEO's and even heavily-advised university investment committees. The result is the theoretical demolition of the efficient markets hypothesis in even its weakest form, and the related CAPM(s), catching up to their long-noted empirical failings. As it turns out the market does have a memory, and that's not just an anomaly any more. Not every trade is zero-NPV: trust the market price at your own peril. Think dividends are irrelevant? Think again.

What we're left with is a fascinating account of how market participants actually behave: holding on to losers too long, trading too much and trading on "noise," and most alarmingly, undersaving for retirement. What is significant is that these phenomena are so prevalent that they can no longer be dismissed as irrational with the hope that "more sophisticated" money will magically correct the market. To the contrary, what Shefrin describes is proved to be the psychological norm; if you believe you're different, you're either very lucky or overconfident about your lack of overconfidence.

One quibble, in an area that I have looked at before, is in Shefrin's discussion of takeovers. First, I found a bit of confusion between the question of whether the takeover premium should be tested by reference to the post-announcement combined value of both firms, or just the buyer. Since the buyer's CEO is initially fiduciary for just his shareholders, I see only the latter as relevant.

More significantly, Shefrin does not provide any means to rigorously discriminate among his hubris hypothesis and other, more rationalistic theories, such as agency costs and private benefits. And his brief treatment omits many puzzling follow-up questions: if CEO psychology has the potential to systematically destroy shareholder wealth, what should we then conclude about the investors and analysts who allow them to get away with it? Just a governance problem, or is there yet another psychological story to be told?

But the desire to delve further into the subject is just indicative of Shefrin's compelling and readable narrative. For bottom line types, I'm afraid the answer to your question is no, he doesn't explain how to get rich. But you'll surely do alot better with a single yellowing copy of Graham & Dodd than all the reams of abstruse, dogmatic journal articles ever spewed by the Chicago School.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book about Behavioral Finance, February 28, 2000
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This review is from: Beyond Greed and Fear: Finance and the Psychology of Investing (Hardcover)
This book builds on the current literature in Behavioral Finance and reviews the most relevant academic articles. It is interesting for the researcher in empirical finance and the best book to understand the behavior of individual investors.
Another fascinating and recent publication in this field is by Andrei Shleifer: "Inefficient Market"
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good book, but quite academic, April 28, 2003
I had mixed feeling about this book. Content wise, it's incredible. It's full of real life stories, data, analyses, propositions of many so called market anomalies. However, I really find some of the chapters too long, especially those after chapter 5. The author had copied his style of thesis writing and actually many of his own theses (he's a renowed professor after all) into a book which has a big audience group of investors or traders who want quick fix or certain level of entertainment and personal improvement. In these respects, the "Psychology of Finance by Lars Tvede" and the "Devil take the hindmost by Edward Chancellor" are "easier" but not definitely better alternatives.

Anway, this is one of the very few "serious" books about behavioural finance that is relatively practical. If you are abound of time, go for it. Otherwise, you may try the two books I mentioned above.

p.s. I like the following the most: In April 1997 Financial Times ran a contest suggested by economist Richard Thaler. Readers were told to choose a whole number between 0 and 100. The winning entry would be the one closest to two thirds of the average entry. The winning choice is 13. The real point of this game is that playing sensibly requires you to have a sense of the magnitude of the other players' errors. Hope you got it right.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Packed with Knowledge !, February 23, 2005
If only you could bring yourself to ditch those losers from your portfolio, and hang onto your winners. If you can, you are unusual. Unprofitable habits afflict nearly all investors, beginners and pros alike, writes Hersh Shefrin in this intriguing study of the role of emotions in investing. Shefrin balances the jargon with plenty of real-world examples and wisely cautions you not to delude yourself into thinking that his tips will make you rich. Viewing investing through the prism of behavior finance, he analyzes emotionally-laden decisions made by private investors, money managers, bankers and other professionals handling stocks and various other forms of investments including options, foreign currency and futures. Shefrin offers juicy case histories, so his tour of behavioral finance is mostly enjoyable and useful. At times, though, the book bogs down in the author's attempts to legitimize behavior finance, a relatively new school of thought. For instance, he charges failed investors with committing "heuristic bias" or falling prey to "representativeness." That quibble aside, we recommend this intriguing tome to investment decision makers on any level. Whether you are running billions or managing a retirement account (which, as Shefrin notes, most people do badly), maybe this book will buffer you against emotional investing and pocketbook pain.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You won't be overconfident when you've read this!, July 8, 2002
This review is from: Beyond Greed and Fear: Finance and the Psychology of Investing (Hardcover)
Behavioural finance is an important topic and this book provides a very enjoyable and insightful read for the layman. It will stimulate interest in the topic by being accessible, which is what it set out to do, so four stars from me. It gives you some good 'dinner party anecdotes' (!) when colleagues or friends tell you about 'how markets work'. It is not a textbook on the subject by any means, rather a book for the airport that you will read again and recommend to others. Don't expect to see any matrix algebra or stochastic differential equations in this one!
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Beyond Greed and Fear: Finance and the Psychology of Investing
Beyond Greed and Fear: Finance and the Psychology of Investing by Hersh Shefrin (Hardcover - January 15, 2000)
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