St. Patrick and the Myth of Snakes

Jim Woods

Jim Woods has over 20 years of experience in the markets from working as a stockbroker, financial journalist, and money manager.

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and all around the Western world, there will be celebrations commemorating Ireland’s patron saint. Yet, like so many things about reality, the facts surrounding a situation are sometimes quite different than the myths associated with that situation.

For example, did you know that St. Patrick wasn’t Irish? In fact, he was born in Britain, not Ireland, near the end of the 4th century. Interestingly, at age 16, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and sold as a slave to a Celtic priest in Northern Ireland. He later escaped captivity and returned to Britain. However, after becoming a Christian missionary, he returned to the Emerald Isle to help spread the gospel. 

One of the more interesting notions about St. Patrick is that he was the man who rid Ireland of snakes. As the legend has it, St. Patrick once stood atop an Irish hillside and banished snakes from the island. After his proclamation, legend has it that all of Ireland’s serpents simply slithered away into the sea.

Unfortunately, scientific research suggests snakes never actually occupied the Emerald Isle, as there are no signs of snakes in the country’s fossil record. Moreover, water has surrounded Ireland since the last glacial period, and before that, the region was covered in ice, which means it would have been too cold for reptiles to survive. 

So, in the case of St. Patrick and the myth of snakes, well, it’s a case of a myth busted.

Now, when it comes to investing in financial markets, there is no shortage of myths. And unfortunately, some of these myths can do a lot of harm to your financial well-being. 

One of the biggest myths I see that hurts investors’ bottom lines, and that also creates way too much unnecessary angst, is the myth that investing and politics go hand in hand.

For example, after the 2020 presidential election, many of my friends asked me if they should sell all their stocks and go to cash because they thought the Biden administration would cause markets to plunge. President Trump even warned of such an outcome if Biden were to be elected.

I told my friends, as well as readers of my advisory newsletters, that this type of irrational move would be a huge mistake. The reason why is because history tells us that politics and investing do not go hand in hand. 

Take a look at the annualized return results here (as compiled by Natixis) under the various presidential administrations.

As you can see, the results over seven administrations are decidedly mixed among Democrats and Republicans in the average annual return category. Indeed, results here confirm that there is no precise way to predict the outcome of stock market returns under a specific political party. 

The reason for this is simple, and it is that politics and investing do not go hand in hand. It’s simply a myth that they do. The better realization here is that there are countless variables that influence equity prices, from societal trends to technological innovations to human psychology.

Now, this is not to say that politics and policies such as tax rates and regulatory policy don’t have anything to do with equity returns; they do. Yet they are not the determinant factor, and to make bad decisions with your money (i.e., going to cash or 100% gold) just because one party is in control of the White House and/or Congress is just plain silly. 

So, don’t allow yourself to be a victim of myth. 

Make the best decisions with your money, and your life, that you can with the best, most rational and most objective information and advice you can find. Doing so will help you bust bad myths, and it might even turn you into your very own patron saint of higher returns.


All Around the World Wisdom 

Exclusive  The Cold Hard Truth About Bear Markets

Over the mountain
Down in the valley
Lives a former talk-show host
Everybody knows his name

He says there’s no doubt about it
It was the myth of fingerprints
I’ve seen them all and man
They’re all the same…

— Paul Simon, “All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints”

Do you know what ‘the myth of fingerprints’ is? Literally, it’s the myth that all fingerprints are different and unique. But as science tells us, that’s not actually true, it’s a myth. What also is a myth is that our differences as humans are so great that we need to embrace hatred, war, tribalism, racism, class warfare and other toxic ideas in order to survive. 

Perhaps if we focused less on the trivial and relatively insignificant aspects of ourselves (skin color, geography, gender, politics, etc.) we would actually discover that we have far more in common with each other. And that realization just might make the world a whole lot better.   

Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.

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