I feel sorry for people who don’t know a lot about investing.
I don’t say that in a demeaning, holier-than-thou kind of way. Truly, I don’t. Investing has long been an interest of mine, so I spend a lot of time reading and consuming information about it. But investing doesn’t light some peoples’ fire like it does mine. And that’s okay.
But if you don’t know a lot about investing, it makes it hard to know how best to invest your money. You may know that leaving money in a bank account returns little in interest and that investing in penny stocks can be extremely dangerous, but between those two extremes is a vast array of investing options.
If you don’t know a lot about investing, you leave yourself vulnerable to people who prey on that inexperience. It leaves you susceptible to messages that appear helpful but that are little more than manipulated marketing spin.
Financial spinsters know just how to craft compelling messages, using real data, to prove their powerful points. Have no doubt, though, their end goal is to extend their tentacles into your money.
Let me give you an example.
I was recently watching a video online and an ad popped up. The ad promoted the purchase of gold. I’m generally not a huge fan of investments in precious metals – at least in large quantities – but a lot of people like them. And there are legitimate reasons to hold precious metals in a portfolio. The fact that they were promoting gold wasn’t my problem. It was how they did it.
The company’s main message was this: “Gold is up 500% and the dollar is down 31% just since 2000!”
I heard that message and had two immediate thoughts. One, the value of the dollar has always gone down – and will continue to go down over time. That’s not news, nor is it a reason to invest in gold, per se. Two, I wondered why they chose the year 2000 as their starting point. Perhaps it was just a nice, round year. But I was suspicious.
One of the biggest investment crimes committed by swindlers is to cherry-pick start and end dates for investments. You can make any investment look alluring or revolting just by the dates you choose to analyze performance.
So, I looked up the historical price of gold going back to 1970. The chart looked like three mountain peaks, with ravines between each peak. Gold prices rose dramatically in the 1970s, peaking in 1980. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, gold plummeted. It fell by a total of more than 60%. It eventually bottomed out in 2001 and then shot up in price until 2012, producing the second peak. The price then fell again until 2016. Since that time, gold has been back on the upswing, creating the third peak in the historical data.
Of all the potential years available to them, which one did the gold-hocking company choose? The year 2000. Right around the time gold prices bottomed, at levels we hadn’t seen since the 1970s.
Isn’t that interesting?
The company could have just as easily chosen the year 2012. But gold would have only been up 9% in total since then. That wouldn’t sell gold. Perhaps 2012 is too recent. They could have used the year 1980. Gold is up 179% since then. Not bad, right? Until you realize the U.S. stock market was up 9500% in that same time period.
I’m cherry-picking dates, too, to emphasize my point. But that is the point. Unless you have some context – unless you know something about investments – it’s downright difficult to frame the attractiveness of certain investments over others.
If investing isn’t your forte, there’s no shame in that. But it becomes increasingly important to ensure you seek qualified advice from someone you trust who knows something about it.
Because one thing is certain: The spinsters won’t quit. They’re relentless. And, unfortunately, they’re experts in the dark art of deception.
Justin Lueger is President of Invisor Financial LLC, a registered investor adviser firm in the State of Kansas. All opinions expressed are his own and should not be viewed as individual advice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.