The investor's first commandment to "buy low and sell high" is simple and sound. Problem is, no matter how often they hear that advice...

Analysis |

The investor’s first commandment to “buy low and sell high” is simple and sound. Problem is, no matter how often they hear that advice, most investors do just the opposite. Fear overwhelms wisdom and prompts them to dump stocks when the market falls. When prices start rising, greed trumps prudence and investors race to catch up to stocks that have already made most of their gains.

The pattern is continuing. In the terrible last quarter of 2008, investors pulled $69.4 billion out of stock mutual funds. During the current rally they’ve dumped $8.3 billion back in.

Boston-based consulting firm Dalbar’s 20-year study of investor behavior shows what happens to a buy-and-hold investor, compared with one who jumps in and out of the market.

Which one are you?