Understand Your Messenger’s Agenda

Understanding your messenger’s agenda and filtering the information you consume accordingly is an essential skill for your financial independence journey.

No one has the time or aptitude to learn everything they need to from all angles. We need shortcuts, and a common one is relying on experts and opinion makers. We all do it. There’s a lot of information available to filter. It’s a golden era of content, but it also seems like a golden era of misinformation and agendas.

That’s not new when it comes to financial advice – there’s always been storytellers selling you things you don’t need. It’s easy to understand that financial incentives drive advice. What’s getting harder, unless you know the players, is keeping up-to-date on their incentives.

The good news is all of us have some helpful experience as a starting point.

Everyday Messages

Celtics fans knew not to blindly believe the late great Tommy Heinsohn when he told us the refs were out to get the C’s.

Jack Edwards is so pro-Bruin he’s basically unwatchable, and I couldn’t care less what he has to say about the refs in the games he announces. 

You don’t turn on MSNBC or Fox News wondering what their angle is.

Talking Your Own Book

It happens with investments too. It’s called talking your own book

Index fund managers warning about lower returns because they want you to buy only the cheap investment products they offer.

A portfolio manager running an emerging markets fund who (surprise) thinks EM stocks are a great buy.

Bond managers warning about a weak stock market so you load up on their bonds. 

Alternative investment managers telling us the 60/40 stock and bond portfolio is dead so we move money into their products. 

People talking up their stocks on CNBC. 


Heck, CNBC’s existence giving you the impression you have to follow the markets on a per-second basis and always be ready to act.

I could go on and on, but hopefully you get the gist.

It’s hard to always understand your messenger’s agenda particularly when it’s presented so authoritatively by experts cloaked in trust. It’s not like they’re going to be fidgeting and looking like they’re about to fail a lie detector.

But if you’re tempted to follow their advice, you have to figure this out. And sometimes the agenda is to keep being interesting and provocative enough that they make a living out of it. Hello sports radio and TV personalities…

If this is all starting to sink in you’re probably wondering how you should understand this messenger’s agenda.

I’m glad you asked. 

I believe people can accomplish their long-term financial goals through disciplined investing in stocks and working with a trusted advisor to avoid investment mistakes and receive comprehensive advice along the way. I know it’s not the only way to build wealth. Real estate is great. Entrepreneurship is too. If that’s what works for you, great. I’m just saying that this is a viable pathway and those who pursue it should have better long-term outcomes paying for advice than doing it themselves.

Further Reading

CNBC – Investor Friend or Foe?

Carl Icahn Spoke, CNBC Didn’t Listen