posted on July 10th 2015 in Austin CFP Team Posts & Your Financial Advisor with 0 Comments /

Kevin Kelley is an Arkansas high school football coach who almost never punts the ball.  When he first arrived at Pulaski Academy, local fans were furious and confused by his coaching strategy.


Kelley says he stumbled upon research done by a Harvard college professor. The main theme of the professor’s paper was that conventional wisdom was wrong.


After analyzing statistics from two thousand college football games over 3 years, the professor concluded that teams should never punt and should take advantage of all four downs on offense.


Kelley adopted the philosophy that his offense almost always goes for it on fourth down, no matter what the position on the field is. Conventional wisdom in the football coaching ranks is that by punting the ball you reduce your opponent’s chance of scoring.  While true, Coach Kelley found that the statistics reveal that the reduction is not that great.  In addition, punting reduced his chances of scoring to zero.


And when his teams do kick the ball, they usually do an onside kick, since he values the opportunity to recover the football in the ensuing scramble for the football.  He calculated that on average he loses 14 yards in field position compared to a traditional kick and 20 percent of the time his team actually recovers the ball.


Since he took over the program in 2003, Kelley teams have amassed a record of 124 wins and only 22 losses while winning 3 state championships.


Although his success is well documented, not a single major collegiate or professional coach has adopted Kelley’s philosophy. This is a great example of  herd mentality i.e. do what everyone else does despite evidence to the contrary.


Fearing irate fans and the possible loss of employment, coaches let emotional factors enter into their decisions, ignoring the facts and documented statistics.


There is also the belief that if by “doing” what everyone is doing that even if you have a loss that you were proactive and not sitting by idly while things happen to you.


As a fee only Certified Financial Planner® professional in Austin, I see similar reactions when speaking to investors.  Ignoring decades of published, scientific data, many investors follow the crowd, popular financial tv guru, or internet blogs and make bad investment and financial planning decisions. These reactions are classic cases of what is called “herd mentality” by behavioral economists. Smart investors avoid herd mentality by sticking with their financial plan even if the crowd is going another direction.


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