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Favre Teaches Investment Lessons


Investors should trust their best judgments.

I'll always be a San Francisco 49er fan first, having grown up in the Bay Area in the lean 1970's and never particularly liking the Raiders (sorry, Toddo). I had a flirtation with the Tennessee Titans when they drafted Vince Young after he won the Rose Bowl almost singlehandedly for me the only time I ever bet more than $100 on a college football game.
But these days I see an investing lesson in the story of the New York Jets' quarterback situation.

I always liked Chad Pennington-a gutty, thinking-man's player who usually seemed to get the maximum, maybe a bit more, from his relatively ordinary physical abilities. His arm may not have reminded anyone of John Elway, but his poise and leadership looked something like Joe Montana.

But the Jets had the chance to get Brett Favre, he of the historic statistics, the powerful arm and the often questionable judgment. Also, someone who would draw far more publicity than the quiet, efficient Pennington ever did.

Out went a guy you couldn't really brag about to people who weren't paying much attention but who knew a marquis name when they heard one. In came a player who, unlike many aging athletes, seemed just as likely to make foolish mistakes in his late 30's as his mid 20's.

But, after all, this was Brett Favre. How could you say no?

It's not that Favre didn't have substance, not that his performances over the years were somehow synthesized -- a la Madoff. But when the team went out and got him -- in a best-case scenario for a couple of respectable years at the end of a career he'd already bailed on once -- and you got rid of your own home-grown gamer, what were you really saying?

Think about this when someone tries to pitch you on an investment that's been working for them but doesn't seem right to you. It's possible, of course, that they're right, that you should sign on with them, that it's not too late to get in on the action.

It's possible. But if you never wanted in before, be careful.

If your own approach took its lumps here and there, as Pennington did, but was also the product of your own best judgment and considered opinion, don't be too quick to change. Think of the Jets. And, if you feel like it, think of those people who were doing just fine with their investments until they were persuaded to join Bernie Madoff's club. Think of people who join anything else just because it's "working" without being given an accompanying road map.

Now, if someone can walk you through the details, answer your questions, show you why there is a better way, by all means listen. Listen particularly well if you know they have no vested interest other than seeing a friend do better.

But make sure the better way is really better. Better means, in investment circles, getting comparable upside with a lot less downside. At least that is one good definition. Better is certainly not higher highs and lower lows with higher fees all the while.

There are no guarantees in investing or in football. There were times a few months ago when Favre was looking a lot better than Pennington.

But when you substitute something big and flashy for something that's served you well, don't be too quick to congratulate yourself too soon.

Just ask the Jets.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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