The Big Lessons From the Financial Crisis Haven't Been Learned


The financial crisis of 2008 was the worst we've seen since the Great Depression. We've had ample time to figure out the causes of the crash, but, according to Eddy Elfenbein, who writes about investing at Crossing Wall Street, we haven't learned the right lessons.

CNNMoney named Elfenbein "the best buy-and-hold blogger" on the Web. Last month, during an hourlong interview in Washington, D.C., I asked him how his thinking was affected by the events of 2008. Watch the following video for our exchange. (Run time: 2:49; there's also a transcript after the video.)

Brian Richards: As a buy-and-hold investor -- and you were named by CNNMoney the top buy-and-hold blogger on the Web. Congratulations --

Eddy Elfenbein: Thank you.

Richards: How has your thinking about investing in stocks and the market changed since the financial crisis?

Elfenbein: That's a good question. I think the thing I really learned from the financial crisis, and I guess it's an old lesson, but you really were taught in a serious way, is the way the dominos are lined up. And one domino that you don't think is next to another, you suddenly find out is.

And one day AIG -- AIG, in my opinion, that was a well-run insurance company -- they had a hedge fund on top of it that was causing problems. That's not quite how we viewed it. There were a bunch of towns in Norway that got hooked up in some hedge funds, and they went bankrupt. So these towns in Norway [are] getting bankrupt because they had mortgage securities in the United States, so some guy who bought too much for his home in one of the "Sand States" in Florida or Nevada, and that brings a town thousands of miles away and it bankrupts the town.

And that's what we learn in a financial crisis, that all of these things you don't think are connected or you don't appreciate, they're much closer than you realize.

Richards: Do you think that that lesson was learned by the larger investing population, and do you think that lesson will be remembered?

Elfenbein: No. I don't think that message -- I think the market has taken some bad lessons from the financial crisis, and one is I see sort of a lot of cynicism masquerading as wisdom. And what you see a lot of when you follow the news, you see a lot of economic commentary which is really morality, public moralizing masquerading as economic commentary.

And then you see the incredible fear in the markets between stocks and bonds. I think it provides an opportunity, but I think the big lessons haven't been learned. And I think some of the wrong lessons are being taken in.

For more from my interview with Eddy Elfenbein, see his take on how to go about selling stocks, or check out his site, Crossing Wall Street.

At the time thisarticle was published Brian Richards has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend American International Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Originally published