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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

BAD NEWS: EVERYONE IS RIGHT!

By Morgan Housel






JewishWorldReview.com | Investor John Hussman has bad news. Corporate profit margins are at an all-time high and bound to fall, he says. That's going to crush profits and cause the market to drop. He's makes a convincing case with charts and lots of historical data. He has a Ph.D.

Wharton professor Jeremy Siegel calculates profit margins a different way, totaling up the income of all businesses and partnerships, not just corporations, and comes to a different conclusion. Margins aren't that out of line at all. He thinks the Dow Jones could be on its way to 18,000. He makes a convincing case with charts and lots of historical data. He also has a Ph.D.

Who is right?

It depends how you feel about the market. If you're bearish, you'll side with Hussman, and use his analysis and credentials to confirm your views. If you're bullish, you'll follow Siegel, and use his insight to rationalize your feelings.

Everyone can back up their own views with their own data using their own preferred metrics. The problem is that equally smart people can argue the exact opposite point and sound just as convincing. "Truth" and "fact" just become whatever you prefer to believe.


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Depending on what data you use, 2009 brought either deflation or hyperinflation. Depending on what baseline you use, the federal deficit is either declining or rising. Depending on what scientist you cite, global warming either is or isn't occurring. Depending on what surveys you use, the majority of Americans either strongly agree or fiercely disagree with whatever legislation you're lobbying for.

Everyone thinks they're right. And that's really dangerous.

Most of this can be explained by John Kenneth Galbraith's wisdom: "Pundits forecast not because they know, but because they are asked." No one with a Ph.D. or an MBA or "Goldman Sachs" on their business card will ever dare utter the words, "I don't know." Curiously convinced of their intelligence, they make predictions. But since most of these predictions are really just emotional fuzzy feelings, those touting them go on a data-mining spree until they find the evidence they need to back up their preconceived notions.

This is actually getting worse with the new world of Big Data, as Nassim Taleb recently wrote:

"We're more fooled by noise than ever before, and it's because of a nasty phenomenon called 'big data.' With big data, researchers have brought cherry-picking to an industrial level. Modernity provides too many variables, but too little data per variable. So the spurious relationships grow much, much faster than real information. In other words: Big data may mean more information, but it also means more false information."

And part of it is explained by our pundit culture. To make it as a pundit, all you have to do is be right on one big, bombastic prediction. If you say the market will fall 5 percent and you're right, no one cares. If you say the market will fall 50 percent and you're right, you're a god who can command five-figure speaking fees for life. So the media is dominated by wild, far-out predictions, most of which can only be rationalized by looking at a cherry-picked sliver of the data. Or even just made-up numbers.

What can you do about it? I'd recommend three things.

1. Ignore most predictions, especially hyper-specific ones

I've always loved Carl Richards' line, "Risk is what's left over when you think you've thought of everything else." As a corollary, accurate predictions are what's left over after you've watched CNBC.

Coming to terms with how awful the collective track records of market predictions are is quite liberating. Ignoring predictions forces you to think about the economy with an appreciation for how random and unpredictable things are. Will there be a recession year? I don't know, but my portfolio could take it if there is. Will there be another big market rally? I don't know, but my portfolio will enjoy it if one comes.

2. Think more like Darwin

Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger loves to talk about Charles Darwin. Darwin, Munger says, wasn't abnormally smart, but he had a unique outlook on science in that he was practically allergic to confirmation bias. While most people form a theory and then seek information that proves it right, Darwin spent most of his career desperately trying to prove himself wrong. Munger once said:

"He (Darwin) tried to disconfirm his ideas as soon as he got 'em. He quickly put down in his notebook anything that disconfirmed a much-loved idea. He especially sought out such things. If you keep doing that over time, you get to be a perfectly marvelous thinker instead of one more klutz repeatedly demonstrating first-conclusion bias.

Economists and investment analysts should do the same.

3. Surround yourself with people who disagree with you Realizing that there are two sides to each story makes it imperative that you hear both stories. Whenever you get a great investment idea or have an opinion on where the economy is headed, find someone who disagrees, and hear them out. At worst, you continue to disagree. More often, you'll gain valuable insight. Surprisingly, I think many don't do this out of fear of being persuaded away from the opinions they're most comfortable with, even if they know they're wrong. Or as Andy Rooney put it, "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe." Don't let that be you.

(Morgan Housel owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway.)

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Morgan Housel, a columnist at The Motley Fool, is a two-time winner, Best in Business award, Society of American Business Editors and Writers and Best in Business 2012, Columbia Journalism Review.


Previously:


Twitter: The carnival barker of investing

Warning: Don't waste your capital being fooled by profit prophets

25 important things to remember as an investor

New paradigm for both drivers and car companies

Biases that make you a bad investor

Nine financial rules you should never forget

Gaining from financial destruction

How to read financial news

Housing: Partying like it's 1925

A rebuttal to student loan horror stories

CONGRATULATIONS: We just saved half a trillion dollars

End this crazy tax: It will boost the economy

Medicare: A dangerously good deal

Economic future looks bright

The Biggest Threat to Your Portfolio (It's Not What You Think)

Bond Market Bull Run dead at 30



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