It’s not 100% clear what is going on at Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal but the upshot is likely a cutback in their personal finance staff and coverage. The Twittersphere erupted yesterday in support taking the #wsjperfi tag on the trending list. Which prompted a couple of excellent tweets on the topic:
Gutting #WSJPerfi for WSJ cost cuts is akin to butchering Lassie for lunchmeat. Lassie, you see, offers humans far more than cheap protein.
— Full Disclosure (@FullDRadio) June 19, 2015
Prediction: A lot more consumers are going to get ripped off thanks to what happened to #wsjperfi today.
— Helaine Olen (@helaineolen) June 18, 2015
The Internet is sadly a place where consumers go to find information on gold coins, penny stocks and day trading instead of 529 plans and index funds. It therefore shouldn’t be surprising that financial literacy education has been shown to be largely ineffective. The financial services industry and the world at large is working against sane investor behavior. If that is the case, what is the goal for writers on the topic of personal finance and investment? We certainly can’t save everyone from themselves. Ben Carlson at A Wealth of Common Sense recently wrote:
You’re never going to save everyone. There are some people that are never going to get it. It’s sad, but true. There will always be investors that can’t help themselves or get out of their own way. I used to think everyone could be saved if they would only learn. But changing behavior is simply too difficult for many. In order for one group of investors to prosper, another group has to fail. It’s an unfortunate truth of the financial markets.
Jason Zweig, who Josh Brown correctly identified as the “most important financial columnist in America,” recently tweeted out a link to an earlier column of his which touched on this very topic. Zweig wrote:
We can’t assist or save the age, but the attempt to do so is the only way we have of even coming close to realizing some dignity and meaning for our lives. The longer the odds, the greater the obligation to try to beat them. That’s why I keep at it, even though I have profound doubts that most people will ever learn how to be better investors. I never expect everyone to listen; all I ever hope for is to get someone to listen.
He goes on to write about a situation where one of his readers took to heart his insights and avoided the wreckage of the Internet bubble. Maybe that is all we can really hope for when big swaths of the financial services industry are pushing to make things more complex for investors, not less. Giving financial advice isn’t easy. Nor will it get easier any time soon. The investment industry profits from complexity. However if we are able to reach a handful, or even one reader, and make their lives a little easier then we have done our job.