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The never-ending game that is the stock market.

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Investing money is not about winning. This "game" has no defined end and, despite millions of participants, knows only one opponent: ourselves. It is also a journey that never ends, where patience is a virtue, where we can learn a lot about ourselves and make ourselves better.

"That was an excellent investment!" With this thought, Max, a young private investor, leans back and relaxes. A few months ago, he had bought shares in a DAX company, whose share price then rose by 15 percent. What's more, at 10,000 euros it was one of his largest individual positions. Therefore, he felt like a winner.
But a few days later he becomes pensive. A positive analyst’s comment has caused the share price to rise by another five percent. Max had scored a hit, but the game had gone on, and without him. His initially successful trade now looks like he did something wrong. This is an experience that pretty much every investor has had at one time or another.

The Show Must Go On

It is obvious that you cannot regularly buy at the low and sell at the high. Everyone knows that. But on closer inspection, there is something else behind it that perhaps not everyone is aware of: investing is a "never-ending game". In the process, decisions to buy or sell securities are constantly being actively made (in the case of short-term trading) or deliberately not made (in the case of long-term investments).

Investing money is an "endless game".

As long as a position is open, the question is whether or when it should be closed or increased or decreased. And as soon as the position is closed, the question is what to do with the proceeds: Will the money be used for a holiday trip, for example, or will it be used to open a new position in the next promising stock? Alternatively, one could invest in an actively or passively managed fund to reduce the effort of continuous monitoring. Or the money could be held temporarily as cash because of a bad stock market phase, to be used later to buy bargains.

Never-ending story

No matter how you look at it, there is always a latent need to make decisions. Every day, opportunities and risks have to be reassessed. This requires attention and can be quite exhausting over time. Especially when things don't go so well and you are "compensated" for your efforts with losses.

Opportunities and risks have to be assessed anew every day.

This experience is not only made by private investors, but also by professionals like the well-known US fund manager Cathie Wood: In 2020, she was one of the biggest winners with triple-digit percentage returns. But the game went on. And in the first half of 2022, she was suddenly among the biggest losers. An interesting alternative can therefore be attractive, quantitative strategies that implement reproducible signals independently of subjective assessments.

Cards are shuffled

Like the stock market, the entire economy can be seen as a never-ending game: Companies come and go, compete with each other, gain or lose market share and so on. This is the nature of a system that ultimately produces productivity gains and technical progress. In the process, the cards are reshuffled a little every day, because everything is constantly changing and nothing is really certain. Over time, the rules of the game themselves can also change. At the same time, existing risks and uncertainties are also opportunities and make new chances and competitive advantages possible.

In infinite games the players come and go, the rules are changeable, and there is no defined endpoint. (Simon Sinek)

In this sense, life itself is also an infinite game. Unlike time-limited games like football or chess, where the goal is to win, the main goal of the infinite variety is to just stay in it. US researcher James P. Carse described this fundamental distinction in 1986 in his book Finite and Infinite Games. His work later inspired Simon Sinek for his book "The Infinite Game".

A finite game is played for the purpose of winning; an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play. (James P. Carse)

3 levels of investment

But let's go back to the never-ending game on the stock market. According to global macro manager Diego Parrilla, there are three levels to master here:

  • Level 1: Earning money nominally, i.e. turning 100 euros into more than 100 euros over the course of a year. Most players move to this level by asking themselves, "How much did I win or lose?"
  • Level 2: Making money in real terms, i.e. increasing purchasing power by earning a return above the rate of inflation. With low interest rates and high inflation rates, this level is much more difficult.
  • Level 3: Build wealth in real terms and after taxes over the long term. The highest level is about building up assets with higher purchasing power over the long term, the value of which will be available for future generations.

The third level reveals another reason why investing money can be called a never-ending game: Investing does not even stop at the end of life. This means that the necessary investment horizon is also infinite. This illustrates that it is more important to survive financially in the long term than to make the best possible cut in the process. Because one thing is definitely not infinite: our investment capital.

If I had to sum up my practical skills, I would use one word: Survival. (George Soros)


The stock market game goes on and on. Investors can always pause or be passive and come back later. However, they must ensure survival in the market permanently. This can be achieved through antifragile behaviour: not taking too high a risk, diversifying sufficiently and only buying investment products that you really understand. At the same time, however, the whole stock market game itself continues to evolve, with new species (market participants) joining and old ones disappearing, risk perception changing and new instruments being developed - much like evolution in nature. So we can be curious to see where this never-ending game will take us one day.

[1] The Felder Report, Diego Parrilla On The Three Levels Of The Investment Game,

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