Investors have had to deal with the drumbeat of an increasingly negative media for years. Most of this should be filtered out as noise, but the recent attack on Israel was impossible to ignore. Words feel small, but our hearts go out to those dealing with fear, anger, and loss in the wake of the horrors the world witnessed.
It’s an unfortunate fact that tragic headlines bring out the doom-peddlers and their newsletters. Themes are usually fear of spreading geopolitical instability, central bank money printing or inflation, and secrets of investment gurus (or Bill Gates for some reason?) “that Wall Street doesn’t want you to know”. If you listen to the radio or watch cable news, you’ve likely seen these pitches, but what are they selling? The product is often gold (at exorbitant mark-ups), paid subscriptions for their newsletter, or both. Oddly, there’s never an option to pay your subscription with gold bullion.
The charlatans give away fear for free, though. They use cherry-picked statistics to lend an air of legitimacy to their game as the best lies have a grain of truth to them. Is there bad news all around us? Yes, and it feels bad to hear about those things. Failing schools, crime, war, disease, and viral videos of people behaving badly are pushed into our newsfeeds.
What if these things make us feel so bad because they’re so out of the ordinary? We are not desensitized to them. The fact that society recoils at terrorism and war is a sign that peace is today’s baseline, not conflict. We are outraged at seeing the world take a step back from the progress we’ve made. We’ve seen what can be, what should be, so vulgar acts become magnified.
The human condition continues to improve, despite our self-destructive tendencies. Morgan Housel has a great post called “2020: What a Time To Be Alive” on his website at Collab Fund. Here are a couple of snippets, but it’s well worth reading the whole thing:
- Heart-disease deaths have declined from over 400 per 100,000 Americans in 1981 to 168 per 100,000 by 2015. That decline means 754,000 fewer Americans die each year than would have had there been no improvement since 1981. That’s equal to the number of Americans killed in World War II, saved every seven months.
- Age- and sex-adjusted dementia rates have declined 44% since the early 1980s. The decline means 5.2 million fewer Americans have dementia today relative to the rates seen 38 years ago – about the size of Los Angeles and Dallas combined. No one knows quite why this is, but better blood pressure control is a leading theory.
Regarding recent headlines, a client asked ‘will we survive’ if there is a world war. Substitute the disaster of your choice. The answer is yes. Our clients will make it. The quality of life across the globe will continue to improve at an accelerated rate, despite the continual flow of information that makes us feel like everything is falling apart. The negative headlines will sometimes impact the financial markets and anyone investing for 10+ years should expect a drawdown or even a bear market with some regularity. But between those downturns and amidst the ever-present doom of the chattering class, progress will be made. Incremental advances will continue to live on page B27 of the newspaper, the 2nd page of web search results, and diminished by your newsfeed’s algorithm in favor of something infuriating that’s more likely to drive engagement.
One of the best parts of our work is getting to celebrate births, marriages, graduations, and retirements along with our clients, but we’re also present in the hard times, even just to talk. Discussing current worries won’t achieve peace in the Middle-East, but might bring some peace of mind.