Hang on to your ethics, my friends

What would you think if a widely lauded role model for young people worked by day to educate about safe sex and healthy living, but by night, was caught working as a pimp and drug pusher?

Ethical components of the moon-lighting job aside, we’d see the person as a hypocrite, at the very least.

It doesn’t take a careful study of Mark Twain’s classic novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to note the bizarre complexity of people and their self-serving motives.  Do you remember the widow who looked after Huck Finn?  She asked him not to smoke, calling it dirty.  Yet she chewed tobacco.  In her eyes, The Bible was the gospel to live by—to treat all people fairly.  Yet she owned slaves.

Mark Twain was right.  Hypocrisy is everywhere.  But as people, we need to hold on to our ethical ideals as tightly as we can.  We’re not going to be perfect because we’re all human.  But when we stand up and preach something loudly enough for the world to hear, we’d better stick to our guns or say, in the end, that we’re sorry, but we were initially mistaken.

Enter the Motley Fool investment brothers who demonstrated on Oprah, back in the late 90s, how easy it was to pick winning stocks.   Sadly, when the markets crashed with the tech boom madness, the Fool brothers didn’t put their precipitating investment results on their website—because they were abysmal.

Instead, the brothers touted their message that actively managed mutual funds were a rip-off:  that owning index funds was a way to beat those foolish (with a small letter “f”) fund managers who charged expensive fees.  To be fair, the Fools preached that message from the very beginning.

But the Fools (with a capital “F”) have ventured to the dark side, tempted by the massive sums of money to be made from the money management industry.  They’ve proved, time and time again, that they can’t pick stocks better than a chimp. 

At times, they’ve published some impressive short term results, with live tracking of their accounts online. 

But then they’ve pulled those live accounts from view….after they’ve crashed or burned. 

 They’re selective gurus in a murky world that gets murkier when the self-appointed white knights of the industry capitulate to offer… of all things…expensive actively managed mutual funds.

Larry Swedroe does a great job discussing it on one of his latest posts here

Say it isn’t so David and Tom Gardner.  Who put you up to this?  Does Huck Finn’s “Pap” have you by the short and curlies?





Andrew Hallam

I’m a financial columnist for Canada’s national paper, The Globe and Mail, as well as for AssetBuilder, a financial service firm based in Texas. I’m also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School (2nd Ed. Wiley 2017) and The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing: From Millionaire Teacher to Millionaire Expat (Wiley 2015). My mission is to educate, motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and best practices for investing, using evidence-based strategies. I’m happy to comment on your questions. However, please read the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and the Comments Policy.

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