Sunday 21 December 2008

If I'm So Smart, Why Am I Not Rich?

Today I came across an amusing little tool for bloggers called the Blog Readability Test. It supposedly tests the level of education required to read a blog. Being ever skeptical, I plugged in a few other blog addresses to see if everyone gets a high rating (as you can too if you click on the logo at the bottom right side column below) and found one Canadian blog that comes out at the junior high level.

I am a bit chuffed but at the same time disappointed to discover that this blog rates at the "genius" level. Everyone, me included, likes to be called smart but I think I may defeating my own objective to explain simply and clearly what I discover on my exploration of personal finances and investing. The best teachers and writers make the complicated seem simple by the skill of presentation. Obviously I have a long ways to go. It is notable that professional journalist blogs of Jonathan Chevreau of the Wealthy Boomer and Larry MacDonald of Canadian Business both rate at the college undergrad reading level.

The other thing it reminded me is that being smart is no assurance of getting rich, even if you try to apply all your intelligence. (A lot of very smart people in the financial industry have been rapidly becoming un-rich in the last year or so)

The converse is true as well, I believe you don't need to be smart to become rich investing. One such way to do it without smarts is luck, of course, but the small number of lottery winners probably approximates how many lucky investors there are.

Over-thinking and over-analyzing can be bad. The TV quiz show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire once featured university prof contestants who didn't do any better than the average person on the show, most of whom I daresay do not have the same level of education. One memorable literature prof talked himself right out of the correct answer which he knew by introducing low probability doubts and counter arguments. The world doesn't give perfect and complete information and opportunities don't often stay around for long. The most successful investors seem to have the right combination of decisiveness and courage combined with judgment that focuses on the variables relevant to a situation. Those qualities are not a function of education or book-learning intelligence, though they are thereby enhanced.

Another key quality that I believe helps anyone, smart or dumb, attain wealth is effort and attention. Author Malcolm Gladwell in his new book Outliers apparently says 10,000 hours is the amount of effort required to reach genius level in a field. However, with investing merely being expert is not enough as the game is never over and those who rest on their laurels may find them disappearing.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure about the accuracy of that site. I'm just in the process of setting up my finance blog and there really isn't aren't any posts except for about 10 test posts with nothing much more then the work test and it was rated as genius.

CanadianInvestor said...

I think you are probably right zztop. Wikipedia has other links to what appear to be better reading difficulty evaluation sites and my blog comes out around 11 years of education required, i.e. mid to late high school.

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