Big question of the day: Who dictates your money decisions? You? Or the headlines?
Another busy morning. The kids are getting ready for school (not quite as quickly as they should be). Toasted blueberry bagels have been devoured, fresh orange juice has quenched thirst, and the lunches are ready and waiting for the day ahead. The Today Show is on in the background - it’s the cooking segment. You give it one ear while you flick open the Cosmopolitan app on your iPad for 3 precious minutes to yourself before the children come back down. There’s a Kardashian (again) staring back at you, airbrushed beyond reality. (Sigh.) You return the iPad back on the kitchen counter, grabbing the TV remote to switch over to CNN to check in on the day's headlines.
Uh oh. That’s not good. The headline sounds apocalyptic.
Before you get a chance to absorb any information, the Today Show moves away from how to make irresistible spaghetti carbonara to a news segment. One that flashes a similarly catastrophic sounding headline across the screen. A man in a black suit and navy tie is talking in tones as dark as his clothing. Your kitchen, which was filled only by the chaos of children a few minutes ago, now has an altogether more serious atmosphere. Your brain starts concocting questions like:
“Does this mean I’m going to lose money?”
“Should I make some changes to my portfolio, like, right now?”
“What’s going to happen to my kids’ future? And my retirement?”
Hello unnecessarily induced panic.
Here’s the thing: The news exists to be viewed. The headlines have to be magnetizing - or people wouldn’t watch. It’s business. Compare a recent USA Today headline: ‘Shirtless man fires corncobs at neighbor’s house using potato gun’ (not so interesting) with CNN’s: ‘Yahoo Says 500 Million Accounts Stolen’ (okay, you’ve got me listening). It’s created a culture of sensationalism in the media that means the reality of a situation is often distorted. Just like the Kardashian in Cosmopolitan. Except, instead of airbrushing to make a celebrity appear more ‘perfect’, it’s doing the opposite, by making a news story appear worse than it really is. That means more attention, more discussion, and more viewers.
Of course, this isn’t always the case, but in my experience, there’s a danger of consumption becoming confusion, and confusion becoming controlling. That’s not part of planning. You don’t hire a news network to plan your financial future. You hire a financial planner (clue’s in the name). Like me. Long-term financial plans are built to work in the face of an unexpected market change - or a heart palpitation worthy media story - and continue to work afterwards.
Sure, be aware of the news headlines, but don’t let them dictate your money decisions. Let the TV talking heads chase the fads without you.