Taking advice from the (already) wealthy

05Jan06

Let us preface this with a caveat. We have nothing against wealthy, old(er) men. In fact we aspire to such heights some day. However, their advice is not without its biases.

Barry Ritholtz at the Big Picture points to a post at The Mess That Greenspan Made that notes that a slew of wealthy, old men are pessimistic about the prospects for the U.S. economy. This “Billionaire Pessimists Club” includes gentlemen like Warren Buffett, George Soros, Jim Rogers, Sir John Templeton and Richard Rainwater. They all have been quoted in some fashion as seeing serious chinks in the armor of continued economic prosperity. The conclusion:

What do all these gentlemen have in common?

They are all billionaires, they all speak freely, and they all have very serious concerns about the course that the nation’s economy has charted.

Is anyone listening to them?

The gentlemen in this club do have the luxury of independence that ample wealth provides and the media soapbox from which to preach. This club may be precisely correct that the U.S. economy is heading for a serious fall. However, they all come at the problem from a certain viewpoint.

Being (older) wealthy men they are naturally more worried about seeing their wealth diminshed in the unlikely event of some sort of economic cataclysm then they are of trying to eke out marginal returns to their portfolios. We believe this has inevitably skewed their thinking to look for the downside as opposed to the upside in the world today.

If we, or our readers, were in the same boat we would probably have exactly the same reaction to the world around us. Their wealth was largely derived under different economic conditions, while the world today has changed substantially. However well-reasoned their arguments might be, they are not infallible. The question is whether you should heed their advice?

Our supposition is that you should view this club’s advice as you would any “expert” opinion – with skepticism. Understanding their biases will help you sort through their conclusions as well. The U.S. economy does have serious problems, and may in fact suffer dearly for them. However, this club does not have a monopoly on the future or how we should approach it.




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