In social media the #COW means “Crush of the Week.” For motocross fans, it means something completely different: Crash or Win. This acronym is usually attributed to one of the fastest racers that seems to have trouble keeping it rubber side down. James Stewart was often described as a COW type rider, and Eli Tomac has been labeled this way too.
How Being a COW Affects Your Win/Loss Percentage
I dug around the internet a while, particularly RacerX, to try and find out actual statistics on James Stewart’s win record. Back around 2005-2009 I always heard about how Stewart had won 95%+ of the races he didn’t crash in. I did find this overall win percentage from 2012 – before his career was complete. There was also this article highlighting the start of the 2006 season and Stewart’s Crash or Win cycle. For how much it was said, I can’t find any true documentation on it. Another way COW is interpreted is “Checkers or Wreckers,” and Stewart has quite the highlight reel of gnarly crashes. While it wasn’t good for his career, many motocross fans loved the intensity and passion Stewart had for winning. It truly seemed that he wanted to win so bad he would die trying.
While Stewart is the second on the All-Time win list, he didn’t win nearly as many championships as expected. His good races were really good, and he would often win by a large margin. Unfortunately you don’t get more championship points for winning by 30 seconds rather than by 1 second. His bad races would often have him carted off the track, dizzy from another concussion, or otherwise not 100% for the next race. Unfortunately to win championships, you usually have to be there for all the races, and Stewart struggled to do this.
When it comes to finances, there is a parallel to motocross. Someone who gets involved speculative investments can carry unnecessary risk. Sometimes they win big, but sometimes they crash. If you overextend yourself into something risky and lose a lot of money, it can cripple your ability to continue to invest while you try to recover.
Being a COW is Bad for Your Finances
Back in December of 2017 I decided to jump into cryptocurrency. At that point the market was shooting up large amounts each day or week. I persuaded my wife and she reluctantly agreed to put in about $1,500 and see what happened. The plan was to hopefully double the money and pull out our initial investment, leaving the rest of the money to do what it will. It only took about 2 weeks to double, and I got a little greedy. I wanted to wait and see what happened. My wife was hesitant but she let me make the final call. In the next few days our money had tripled to over $5,000.
After peaking in January of 2018, the crypto market started to drop spectacularly, over 80% over the next few months. In January I even bought some GPU’s, a hard drive and everything I needed to set up a little mining operation in my basement. A co-worker helped me put it all together, which took about 15 hours total (many setup issues to work through). I spent around $2,000 into this miner and ended up with about 3 Ethereum coins. As the Spring of 2018 continued it eventually became unprofitable but I continued, even as it cost me at least $50 a month more in electricity.
As Fall of 2018 approached, I listed the miner for sale and with depressed crypto prices, the hardware had devalued too. Mining is pretty hard on GPU’s and other parts. I was only able to get around $700 for all of it. My total loss was at least $1400 on the miner, about $300 for extra work for my CPA, and about $400 in electricity (that was tax deductible). My crypto, thanks to mining somewhat compensating for my losses, was still worth about $1,500.
While my experience with crypto wasn’t terrible, I lost more than I gained, even a year and a half later. The night I’m posting this the market is up about 8%, and I’m close to break even. Many people made bigger bets than I did, and have borrowed to get into crypto, or put in too much and suffered substantial loss. The point is that you don’t want to be a COW. Speculative investments are not usually not worth it but I think it’s okay to reserve 1-10% of portfolio for it. You have to be there. As Ricky Carmichael often quipped “Championships are won on your bad days.” Avoiding injury in motocross can lead to championships – the ultimate goal. Avoiding serious injury to your finances can similarly help you reach financial independence.
Are there any investments that you regretted? What “crashes” set you back and took a while to recover from?