A week in the high country gives clarity to our endeavour
I RECENTLY spent time in the Victorian high country on a family ride with the wife and kids. It was a fantastic family experience with one notable feature outside of the tremendous countryside, nights out in a swag under the stars, reliable horses, great hospitality.
There was no technology of any sort, bar the odd SMS message if you could be bothered to drive to the top of the mountain, which we couldn't.
The lack of TV, internet, iPads and Facebook had the kids talking, playing cards, learning to crack whips, helping with chores and generally inventing their own amusement.
But after a week of media starvation a revelation on our return to the mainstream was the absolute stream of tosh we concern ourselves with, the inconsequential nonsense that daily invades our psyche and consumes our lives.
It spawned a new year's resolution to stop occasionally and ask, "Is what I am reading, watching, listening to or doing, necessary, worthwhile or a waste of my time?"
You can waste a lot of time in the investment game. One of my colleagues recently handed me an article asking investors to gloss over five years of financial crisis education by recklessly reinvoking the concept of "set and forget".
In the first paragraph it included the expressions "defined risk parameters", "above average total shareholder returns", "methodology", "risk profiles", "investment horizons", "long-term sustainable income" and "temporary capital losses". Yawn.
If time was money we just lost $20.
And as the market jumps by the average annual return in a month, it has spawned another tidal wave of time wasting in the space, "Predictions for 2013".
It is a game, of course, making predictions, but let me make one prediction for this year that is guaranteed to be accurate. It is this: you will waste an enormous amount of time reading about, debating and making grand declarations on macro financial issues that you cannot possibly predict.
Sorry, but if all the world's elite couldn't call the financial crisis, what chance do you have of figuring out what's going to happen this year?
I see some predictions that there will be a sharp correction in the markets mid-year; others saying the level of the index at the end of the year will be XYZ; others saying this is the bottom of a multi-decade bull market.
What an absolute load of tosh ripped out of nowhere.
It is misleading and reckless in the case of someone who is in a position of trust to make baseless, attention-grabbing predictions in the misguided belief that that is what is expected of a financial adviser.
This is not the job. The job for most financial professionals is providing services that they are trained to provide.
Guessing at financial outcomes is unlikely to be good for business. Guessing is not adding value, it is guessing - with inevitable long-term business consequences.
As an investor you can save yourself a lot of time by realising when financial professionals are overstepping their sphere of competence - that is, whenever they pretend to have some miraculous ability to be able to tell the future.
The only time fancy opinions are of value is when they are entertaining, and from years of experience I can tell you that when it comes to finance and the media, "entertainment" comes first and being right a distant second.
Entertainment value is paramount, which highlights the biggest waste of time in finance media - being boring.
Wrong we can handle, but boring? Unforgivable. And wrong and boring? Deplorable.