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Financial Pornography Experiment


Over the holiday break (not that I took any time off), I decided to pay attention to a portion of the Financial Pornography industry.  If you haven’t heard the term “Financial Pornography” before, let me explain.In a very general sense it is slang for sensational reports and promotions of financial news and products that can cause irrational buying by investors which may be bad for their long-term financial health.  You know, things like CNBC, financial newsletters you pay a subscription to, or even the good old “Buy Gold Now” ads.  What I decided to pay attention to is what I saw on TV and heard on the radio.  Let’s see what I came across.

  • Late Sunday mornings and early afternoons bring out the paid-informercials for the local advisors.  These run on the local TV stations.  Setups range from one-on-one interviews with a local media personality to a “casual” conversation between a couple of advisors (because that is what planners do in our down time, sit around and talk to each other about investing).  It is basically a dinner seminar you can watch in your PJ’s.
  • Early weekend mornings on the classic radio stations brings about one of the most “unique” voices I have ever heard on the radio.  The one around here can only be described as droning on while reading a script.If you have ever seen the Ben Stein teacher character in Ferris Bueller saying – “Bueller. Bueller” over and over, well, this advisor’s voice reminds me of that.
  • Lots and lots and lots of commercials during the local news for the “free” financial second opinions and checkups from local financial advisory firms.  Remember in the words of the Deacon from The Wire – “Nothing in the world’s more expensive than free.” 
  • The most appalling local commercial I saw was the local annuity slinger saying his annuities have “no fees.”  Just because you cannot see a fee does not mean there is no fee. It’s just buried in the product. 
  • National news brings about ads from the big firms in the financial services industry.These are usually images of the healthy older couple walking down the beach with their extended families.
  • During various sports broadcasts, whether it is football or soccer, you see many of the same annuity/insurance company commercials that ran during the national news.  Had I turned it into a drinking game it would have been ugly.  You know, take a shot every time you see a whale.

My point with all of this?Well, it is to remind you that financial pornography is everywhere.  Much of what I spend my time doing with my clients is protecting them from it.Whether it comes from the dinner seminar invitations they receive from other advisors to the “expert” advice from a relative who knows the best time to buy bitcoin or some marijuana stock.  Unfortunately, even if you don’t have your TV set to CNBC you still get a flash of financial pornography when trying to watch your local weather report or hear a great classic song on the radio.  In the end, when inundated by these messages, remember the less time you spend exposed to them the better the odds your investments will do well.