I come from a family of pretty good athletes. Well, let me amend that. Of the four males in the household, my youngest brother was terrible -- always falling over his feet, my middle brother and I were pretty decent athletes, having played in high school and college. My father was a duffer and even though he had the most expensive golf clubs on the market, his handicap practically equaled the national debt.

On the other hand, the only female in the household, my mother, used rather inexpensive golf clubs and although my father always wanted to teach her the rudiments of the game, it was hard for him to compete with a three handicap … on the men’s tees, no less. My mother was a champion golfer, winning consecutive Pennsylvania and Florida titles and even running around on tour. She was really so good that she would play from the gold tees most of the time.

I kind of learned under her tutelage but became a golfer who was really between the two parents. My big problem was playing against older men, especially in Florida. I was considerably stronger and quicker than they were and could bang the ball, but I would also make plenty of boo boos, and with their experience and wisdom they took advantage and would win out.

As we all know by now, the population of this country is aging rather quickly. I can now attest to that from a personal standpoint. And together with the failure of Congress to address the shortfalls in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, it becomes very likely that retirees will have to depend more than ever on their investment income to provide the main portion of their income.

So, now comes the interesting question. Older golfers do play smarter (I have now learned course management) but do we also make smarter investments? My good friend Larry Swedroe, well known author of a number of books such as, “The Only Guide to a Winning Investment Strategy You will Ever Need,” and a principal of both Buckingham Asset Management and BAM Advisor Services in St. Louis, put me on to a study done by two finance professors from the University of Notre Dame, George Korniotis and Alok Kumar, who examined the portfolios of more than 75,000 self-directed individual investor accounts at a large U.S. brokerage firm, for the period 1991-96.

From the results, they learned that older investors do indeed benefit from their experiences so that they trade less, diversify more, buy less risky securities, and have a greater propensity to harvest losses. On the other hand, older investors do exhibit a deteriorating stock-selection skill and fail to effectively diversify. This latter one is different from simply diversifying more. In other words, even though such older investors owned a greater number of stocks, they exhibited poor diversification skills in their selections.

Unlike the game of golf, the result was that older investors did not perform as well as their younger peers. My youngest son, who beats me regularly, cheers.

Accordingly,if that’s the case, then why was I continually getting trounced by my mother? Oh wait, I forgot that three handicap. Hey, but for that matter, my father would be beat me too.

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