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Being Uninformed or Misinformed – Which is Worse?

I’ve heard skeptics on the quality of media reporting say that people would be better off being uninformed than misinformed.  Whether this is true or not of the media, it is certainly true of the financial services industry!  I don’t advocate that people be ignorant of developments in the financial markets or economy.  But I think they need to be careful about determining what type of information is helpful to their financial well-being.

This brings me to market updates and newsletters provided by advisory firms.   We decided when we founded PlanVision that we would not put market updates on our website.  Why?  For our clients, who invest and plan for their long term future, this information is not relevant.  It’s just noise which distracts from long-term goals.  

We don’t help people time the market or make speculative plays on stocks or bonds.  This is not part of a sound investment strategy.  As such, we’re not going to provide this information.  If we put it on our site, this would imply we think it’s helpful – that our clients should use it or be interested in how it affects them.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, THIS INFORMATION DOESN’T INDICATE WHAT WILL HAPPEN.  It is not predictive in the short or the long-run.  In fact we think its misleading or, even worse, harmful. Many professional and amateur investors use it to make investment choices.  Armed with recent market knowledge, they’re under the impression that they can predict how the markets or individual stocks or bonds will perform.   Good luck with that!

Do you or your employees really need to know what happened the last 30 days and why?  How one asset class may have performed compared to other asset classes?  What happened to short term rates in Japan?  How about leading market indicators?  The price of oil? Trends in clown shoe sales? Virtually all of this information that might pass for interesting facts, statistics, or ideas are useless in predicting market performance.  Cause and effect in investing, like many things, can be very evasive. For a little fun, check out some of these correlations from Tyler Vigen. 

However many advisers present this information on their site and in newsletters as though it means something and is somehow useful.  The truth is it just gives them something to talk about – a way to add value.   They can explain what happened and why it happened and how it may impact something next.  And based upon what is happening, and what might happen, they make recommendations.  Of course they’re guessing – but this is beside the point.  They are being paid a fee so they have to figure out what to do with all of this impressive data they collect.   

As a plan sponsor, what you expose your employees to matters.  Don’t provide information that doesn’t help.  The smartest approach for people preparing for their future is to budget, save, and plan.  And when it comes to investing, keep costs low, diversify, and select an appropriate level of risk.

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