An Honest Stock Market Update

It's sad because it's true.

Aug 12, 2014 at 11:16AM

NEW YORK -- Stocks gained momentum on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing up 48 points, reversing losses from last week's decline. 

Experts hailed both moves as a "remarkable, textbook example of pure statistical chance," chalking up Monday's gains to a couple random marginal buyers being slightly more motivated than a few random marginal sellers. 

"Imagine you pick 1 million random people from around the world every day," said Toby McDade, chief investment officer of Momentum Fee Capital Management. "Some days, 51% would be in a good mood, 49% in a bad mood. The next day maybe it's the opposite. Other days, random chance could mean 8% of people are really pissed off for no real reason. This is basically what the market is on a day-to-day basis," he said.

Asked what his clients thought of this view, Mr. McDade laughed. "Oh my God, you think I could tell my clients that? How could I justify my salary?" Clients were told Monday's gain was caused by a mix of reversing geopolitical instability, shifting uncertainty patterns, a risk-on atmosphere, and a perfect storm of beta meeting sigma. None knew what those words meant. 

American corporations earned $4.62 billion of net income on Monday. Financial advisors, analysts, and brokers, collected $630 million in fees. No media outlet reported these figures, despite being the two most important numbers necessary to understanding investing.

A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the economy added 209,000 jobs last month. An economist from a right-leaning think tank called the report disappointing. Another at a left-leaning organization called it encouraging. Neither has a reputable track record. Both yelled. The jobs report has a margin of error of plus or minus 100,000, and will be revised seven times in the coming years. No one whose outlook was swayed by the report said they care about these details. 

Marc Faber appeared on TV predicting a 20% stock market crash within the next six months, repeating a call he has made bi-weekly since the Carter administration. Another pundit explained that his last failed prediction would have been right if only he hadn't been so wrong. Executives of financial TV networks met to discuss why ratings are at decade lows. 

The yield on 10-year Treasury bonds fell from 2.42% to 2.38%. Nobody knows why. 

An FDIC report showed banks increased lending last quarter. Analysts called this a new bubble created by the Fed, though it's what any rational person would expect to see happening during a recovery after a deep recession. 

In Nevada, 52-year-old Ronald Palmer put his life savings into gold after spending 10 minutes reading something on Google about inflation written by a guy who learned about inflation by spending 10 minutes on Google. 

Nineteen-year-old Travis Baker spent the afternoon day-trading penny stocks because his prefrontal cortex isn't yet fully developed and he couldn't recognize risk-reward trade-offs if they hit him in the face. 

An army of bloggers reported from their parents' basements that Apple CEO Tim Cook doesn't understand technology. Reached out to for comment, Cook giggled, shook his head, and said one of his main regrets in life is not taking the advice of unemployed anonymous bloggers. 

Long-term investors finished Monday one day closer to their goals. 

Analysts expect the news to be no different tomorrow.  

Check back every Tuesday and Friday for Morgan Housel's columns on finance and economics. 

*This article is fake, but just barely. 


Contact Morgan Housel at The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

A Financial Plan on an Index Card

Keeping it simple.

Aug 7, 2015 at 11:26AM

Two years ago, University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack wrote his entire financial plan on an index card.

It blew up. People loved the idea. Financial advice is often intentionally complicated. Obscurity lets advisors charge higher fees. But the most important parts are painfully simple. Here's how Pollack put it:

The card came out of chat I had regarding what I view as the financial industry's basic dilemma: The best investment advice fits on an index card. A commenter asked for the actual index card. Although I was originally speaking in metaphor, I grabbed a pen and one of my daughter's note cards, scribbled this out in maybe three minutes, snapped a picture with my iPhone, and the rest was history.

More advisors and investors caught onto the idea and started writing their own financial plans on a single index card.

I love the exercise, because it makes you think about what's important and forces you to be succinct.

So, here's my index-card financial plan:


Everything else is details. 

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