After writing about finance for the better part of a decade, the biggest change in my thinking has been becoming more skeptical of almost everything I see. Even the smartest people only know a fraction of what's out there. But I've become pretty sure of a few things.
My biggest takeaway from economics is that the past wasn't as good as you remember, the present isn't as bad as you think, and the future will be better than you anticipate.
Investing is an epic battle between your goals, your temperament, and the self-interest of middlemen. Problems are easier solved when you break them down into those three groups.
The people who have added the most to financial journalism are those who aren't trying to impress anyone. They're having fun, and would be doing the same thing if no one were watching. No commercial incentive can replace the power of real passion.
The first generation who grew up with the Internet is just now entering the workforce. They're capable of things the older generation can't fathom.
"Save more money" is some of the best financial advice you can give, but it's not intellectually stimulating enough for smart people to take seriously.
The most powerful trick is learning how to change your mind. But it's so hard. The resistance to admitting past efforts were wrong keeps people making poor decisions for longer than they need to.
People who think the odds of getting sick are low enough to forgo health insurance think they have a shot at winning the Powerball, which says something about financial education.
"The more the Internet exposes people to new points of view, the angrier people get that different views exist." (Ben Evans)
Everything is so obvious in hindsight. It's impossible to un-remember what you know today when trying to recall how you felt in the past.
No one knows what they want. When things are going well, people say they want a bear market because it would be an opportunity. When it comes, they get nostalgic for the days when everything was going well. It's helpful to acknowledge that our emotions are driven by factors we don't anticipate when envisioning the future.
Relative values are hard to deal with. We were just as shocked at how expensive $30 oil was in 2004 as we are shocked at how cheap it is today.
No matter how hard they try, most people will extrapolate the past 12 months into the indefinite future when forecasting.
There are now almost twice as many hedge funds as there are Taco Bells, which explains why the quality of each product has reached parity.
To paraphrase Jon Stewart, the only reason you think the country was better during your childhood is because you were a kid.
It always looks like we haven't innovated in 10 or 20 years because it can take10 or 20 years before the masses notice an innovation.
Everyone is half as rational and twice as gullible as they think they are.
I don't know many people who are good at multitasking, but I know lots of people who think they are. Most of us would get more done focusing on one thing at a time, doing it right the first time.
The quality of free financial advice and commentary online is staggeringly good these days. It's a public service we often take for granted.
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Check back every Wednesday for Morgan Housel's columns on finance and economics.
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