Trust the experts

There was an online pile on recently when podcast host Joe Rogan challenged the Dean for the National School of tropical Medicine, Professor Peter Hotez to debate anti vaxxer Robert Kennedy Jr. Twitter owner, Elon Musk, then threw his weight behind Rogan and Kennedy. What did Hotez do? He accused Rogan of broadcasting disinformation on his show when he interviewed Kennedy. The link to the show is here (warning, it is 3 hours long. I managed to get through an hour of it). From what I listened to, Rogan let Kennedy talk unchallenged about how vaccines cause autism and disease in children. In fact, he endorsed what he said.
Despite promises of donations to his chosen charity, Hotez refused to debate Kennedy and he was right to do so. Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it. Hotez could never win the debate. Kennedy would fling so much muck, Hotez would spend the whole time trying to debunk them. And it is easier to make false statements than debunk them, so Kennedy would leave more lies out there than were debunked.


Now, this is a personal finance blog after all, so what has all this got to do with personal finance? There is plenty of misinformation spread about investing. It was traditionally called “pub talk” but now there is TikTok Finance where salespeople make lots of spurious claims about traditional investing and offer the solution of their high commission paying products. Other claims I have heard are:
Someone throws out the comment “pensions don’t make you any money. Mine is crap”. The answer is what are your being charged for your pension? How much of the money you pay in is actually invested? What is the annual management charge? What funds are you invested in? How long have you been invested? Only when we know the answers to these questions can we find out why your pension is so crap. Not exactly the quick counter argument that you are looking for.
But when it comes to investing your money, do you want to rely on someone down the pub who had a good (or bad) experience with investing versus someone who has advised clients over decades on how to grow wealth? Someone who is reading about personal finance and investing every day so they can do a better job in advising their clients and ensuring the best outcome for their money?

Not perfect

Anti vaxxers will always point to cases where the vaccine didn’t work. Vaccines are not 100% successful and don’t report to be. There will always be cases where it didn’t work. But what about the millions of cases where it does work? Those millions of people aren’t online praising the vaccine for the disease they never got.
Not every investment strategy works. Short term bonds are a good way of reducing overall volatility without exposing yourself to too much risk yourself. But they have struggled to make any money in almost a decade. So you have to move to something else with more risk exposure. That will happen but it doesn’t mean it is wrong to invest in bonds.
Investing won’t get you perfect results every time but you have a much better chance of being successful if you listen to someone who’s job it is to advise people on investing than someone who is basing it on their own personal experience.
Steven Barrett
3 July 2023