Financial Planning

The investing media sells fear. Stop buying.

Great ideas don’t need to be new or innovative. Sometimes they just need a new perspective from a really credible source.

The opening keynote at the 2014 Sage Summit came from Bloomberg radio and TV anchor Pimm Fox, who had a message for all of you TV news junkies out there:

“The media sells fear,” he said. “That’s our job.”

Fox was talking specifically about money-based fear — about how the markets are going to hell and how we, the investing public, should be panicking about the state of our money. Often, Fox said, the goal of the money media is to use fear to separate you from as much of your money as possible.

All of that fear is going to convince a sizable chunk of the investing public to move one way. You should seriously consider moving in the opposite direction. “When everyone else zigs,” Fox said, “we need to learn to zag.” Or as Berkshire Hathaway genius Warren Buffett says, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful."

Actually, that’s probably a little simplistic. I think what Fox and Buffett really mean is that we shouldn’t panic. Maybe a better strategy is to not move at all. Stop shifting your money around at the slightest hint of unrest. Be patient and invest for the long term. When you read deeper into Buffett’s strategy, you’ll find he agrees.

“Our favorite holding period,” he said, “is forever.”

“Someone is sitting in the shade today,” he also said, “because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

“If you don’t feel comfortable owning something for 10 years,” added you-know-who, “then don’t own it for 10 minutes.”

In other words, this money thing is a marathon, not a sprint.

Unfortunately, too many people aren’t running at all. A recent report from the Federal Reserve Board found that 31 percent of Americans — and 19 percent of those between the ages of 55 and 64 — have no retirement savings at all.

Changing those troubling numbers is a complicated task, but it’s one we need to figure out. Again, from Warren Buffett:

“Investing is forgoing consumption now in order to have the ability to consume more at a later date.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to consume at a later date. That means saving. That means not spending.

That also means not buying what the fear-mongers are selling.


Bill Sheridan