The Editorial Desk
The Internet has changed our information access in many ways. How do we assimilate the information overload? There is an APP for that but we need to create our own to insure our sanity and to identify opinions that meet our sensibilities. Newspapers, TV news and investment firms have an embedded process to fact check and synthesize the news and opinions that they believe deserve our attention. They are not perfect but we can learn from their procedures and mistakes to arrive at “All The News That’s Fit for ME”.
Feeling overwhelmed by my social media feeds and the network news I decided to revisit my favorite film of 2011 - Page One. The film chronicles the dramatic impact that the Internet is having on the newspaper industry but most importantly for me it emphasizes what makes The Times great – their editorial process. I need that and after re-watching the documentary it hit me that our president and our wealth advisory firms need it too. I’ll start with President Trump and be brief because there has been a lot of ink or bytes spilled on this subject. My observation is that the president shares many of the characteristics of a retail investor. He is looking for a simplistic answer to our problems. While his simple approach got him elected running our country is more complex. I have never worked at a newspaper, but I do have a High School friend, Kurt Eichenwald, who worked at The New York Times and has written several instigative books. I don’t agree with all of his opinions but reading them has opened my mind and broadened my scope. Two of his books that still resonate with me are Serpent on the Rock and Conspiracy of Fools. Serpent addressed conflicts on Wall Street before conflicts were on any investor’s radar. What I learned from this book and from Conspiracy of Fools is that Kurt asks the uncomfortable questions that are not in the firm's pitch book or press releases. All good journalists and editors do.
Time is our most precious resource. How we allocate our time is an important decision. Most of us get our news from a source that we already agree with on TV - CNN, Fox News, MSNBC or our social media feeds. Not sure what we learn from these echo chambers. I try is to allocate my TV, newspaper and social media time to outlets that have a different opinion. I’ve found the most thought provocative ideas from The Economist's one step removed observations.
Wealth Management creates the same challenges for investors. The stock response of investors to solicitations from wealth managers is “I’ll give you 30 minutes”. That is not enough time to make a good decision and creates pressure to deliver an ADD sound bite that is too simple for our complex capital markets. The best wealth advisors I have worked with meet with prospective clients for hours and ask difficult questions and listen!
Who will pay the bills to insure we receive accurate news and good investment advice? The newspaper costs less than the production costs and investment firms make their profits through hidden fees so we think we are getting a good deal. That leaves advertising and disclosed fees as the main sources of revenue. The commercials on TV news are a disturbing tell. Will Viagra solve all of our problems? What are the pop up adds that show up on your news feed? Cookies don’t lie.
Wealth Management is tricky. We don’t want to pay high fees and we continue to put more stock in our friends’ opinions than on print or media advertising. We need an editor to cut through the self-serving and uninformed messages. The good news is that we are our best editors if we are willing to do the work. Two places to start are the blogs we read and the continuing education we choose.
Competition and information are the lifeblood of our capitalist system. However it looks like the pendulum has swung too far and we look like two bald guys fighting over a comb. Maybe we should look for someone with hair to help us solve our problems.