Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Useless Investing Ideas

I used to read newsletters and blog articles touted as “investing ideas”. The premise seems to be that investors wander around without any idea of where they could put their money, and they just need some ideas. I think these writers are just avoiding making any claims that they think their investing ideas will be profitable.

There are thousands of individual stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs. I could even get a listing of all of them if I was motivated to do so. A smart phone application could pop one up each morning as an investing idea. Why would I need to have someone else give me an investing idea?

Of course, readers are supposed to infer that they are reading good investing ideas, and writers get the benefit of not being held accountable for their ideas if they don’t pan out. This reminds me of weasel-wording that can come up in legal contexts. Instead of saying “the young man who died bungee jumping was suicidal,” a lawyer representing the bungee operator might distance himself from such an accusation by saying “I’d like to suggest that perhaps this wasn’t so much an accident as it was a case of the young man being despondent over a breakup with his former girlfriend.” This is an attempt to deflect blame away from the bungee operator without getting skewered for making a baseless accusation against the victim.

Reading active investing advice is usually a waste of time anyway, but it’s worse if the writer isn’t even claiming that it is good advice. Although I don’t think much of Jim Cramer’s act, at least he makes it clear where he stands on the stocks he discusses. I prefer to see people stand behind their investing ideas.


  1. I'm always wondering whether they don't have a reason to be suggesting a certain stock.

  2. @Miiockm: They usually offer some reason for recommending a stock, but the real reason may be something different.

  3. Have been reading your blog for awhile. Don't always agree. But I am curious about your thoughts on a recent post of mine that revisits the active versus passive debate.

  4. @Gary: Larry Swedroe wrote about this some time ago:

    I tend to be on the sceptical side with Swedroe. I doubt that active share will prove to be a predictor of outperformance over the long run.