Pyrrhic victories in investing: Winning in short-term and losing in long-term

Shailesh Shriram Tanpure | MAY 12, 2024, 11:39 PM IST

In investing, making money quickly can feel like winning a battle. But sometimes, those victories come at a high price. Imagine you’re playing a game and you win, but you get hurt so badly that you can’t play anymore. That’s like a pyrrhic victory.  

For investors, a pyrrhic victory means getting short-term gains, like making lots of money fast. But it’s risky because it can lead to losing money in the long run. It’s like winning the battle but losing the war.  

One common way this happens is when people invest in things that are very popular at the time. For example, in the late 1990s, everyone was excited about internet companies. People invested a lot of money in these companies, hoping to make a quick profit. But when the internet bubble burst, many lost everything.  

Another way is by borrowing money to invest, thinking it will help make more money. But if the investments don’t go well, they can end up owing a lot of money they can’t pay back.  

In the end, it’s important for investors to think long-term and not just focus on making money fast. It’s better to have steady, sustainable gains than to risk everything for a quick win.  

What it means  

You technically “win” the investment, meaning you make money.  

However, the gains are overshadowed by the losses incurred in achieving that win.  


Holding onto a losing stock for too long: Imagine buying a stock that drops significantly. You cling to the hope it will rebound, but it keeps falling. Eventually, you sell at a major loss, even though it might eventually recover. The emotional toll and missed opportunities on better investments can be significant.  

Selling a winning stock too early: You buy a stock on the rise and see some good gains. But fearing a correction, you sell prematurely. The stock continues to climb much higher, leaving you with the regret of missing out on those additional profits.  

Overly aggressive trading: Constantly buying and selling to chase short-term gains can rack up transaction fees and potentially lead to bad decisions made out of haste. While you might make some winning trades, the overall cost might outweigh the benefit.  

Winning a legal battle but incurring high legal fees: Sometimes legal disputes regarding investments arise. Even if you win the case and recover some money, the legal fees might have eaten into your profits significantly.  


Dot-Com Bubble: The late 1990s saw a surge in tech stocks fueled by speculation and hype. Early investors who saw the bubble forming and sold before the crash enjoyed significant gains. However, many investors held on as the bubble burst, leading to catastrophic losses. While some tech companies did survive and thrive, the overall market crash wiped out a lot of wealth.  

Real Estate Boom and Bust of the Early 2010s: The early 2010s witnessed a surge in Indian real estate prices, particularly in major cities. Investors flocked to the market, expecting high returns. However, the rapid price increase wasn’t backed by strong economic fundamentals. Several factors, including rising interest rates and limited affordability, led to a slowdown.  

While some early investors who bought at lower prices might have seen some gains, many others who entered later faced stagnant or declining property values, especially on the outskirts of cities. This resulted in a situation where the “profit” wasn’t worth the long wait and missed opportunities in other asset classes.  

Biotech Stock Speculation: Biotechnology stocks often experience speculative frenzies driven by breakthroughs in drug development or regulatory approvals. Investors who chase these speculative gains without considering the risks can suffer significant losses when companies fail to deliver on their promises.  

Pyrrhic victories show why it’s important to think about how our investment choices will affect us in the long run. To avoid these costly wins, investors should stick to plans that aim for stability and growth over time. It’s smart to avoid taking too many risks or getting caught up in quick-money schemes. By being careful and sticking to a solid plan, investors can protect themselves from the dangers of pyrrhic victories and make their investment portfolios stronger.  

[The writer possesses a fascination with the world of business and the intricacies of stock markets]  

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