Before the days of online investing, the complexity of stock trades would shock a present-day millennial. Making a stock trade in the 80s simply involved placing orders, sending funds, and waiting days for the execution. Once a trade was finalized, there would likely be a transaction fee of $50 or more, depending on the size of the order.
Information was less readily available in this era too. Knowing whether your trading fee was reasonable or outrageous depended on being privy to nebulous industry data, rather than making a quick search on Google. The advent and subsequent affordability of internet access changed investing forever.
A Sea of Information
In the past, offline investing was fueled by constituents without access to unique information. Or at least, unique information in those days was only attainable through paying a well-connected financial advisor. Public outlook generally came from the local news or the daily paper. Since most investors couldn’t afford to pay heavy advisor fees it was a vanilla playing field. Investments moved around alongside the popular opinion that was pumped into society.
Nowadays anyone willing to make the slightest effort can gain access diverse investing insights from around the world. 95% of adults in America own cell phones, and nearly 80% of those phones are capable of accessing the internet. These devices offer investors exponentially higher value than the most dedicated financial advisor would in the 80s. Rather than relying upon one finance professional’s investing research and philosophies, there are thousands of CFPs handing out free information via apps, podcasts, and web blogs.
Often when I discuss the cell phone internet era with investors I am met with the argument of “too much information” hurting investors. While the overwhelming influx of investing information has certainly played a role in excessive trades and unnecessary fees, it is undeniable that technology has lowered the barrier to entry into the stock market. Raising the number of interested investors far outweighs the detracting value of over transacting within investment accounts.
The average investor leads a fairly simple life. Much like doing taxes for basic employment, financial planning for 90% of investors is simple enough to do on our own. Without the internet and technology making our money work for us involved the unnecessary utility of financial planners.
A Better’s Paradise
Betting on commodities, stock shorts, and pure gambling are often viewed as dangerous ways to handle money. Accessible information could act to modify that belief. Just as stock trades are at an all-time high, so too are transactions placed on online betting sites, at online casinos, and on commodity trading platforms. While you’ll often hear that winners are in the minority, the truth is that the average individual using these methods to increase their wealth doesn’t know how to place their wagers wisely. The good news is, if you are an informed, savvy individual it isn’t that difficult to see positive yields on the casino floor. When viewed in that light, those games of chance as they are often referred are really tremendous opportunities for savvy investors to turn a profit at the tables.
For all the problems brought to the world by online investing there are exponentially more forms of upside. Institutions filled with financial planners may benefit the least from this era of combining the internet capabilities with investing. Much like any resource, it is only as powerful as its ultimate utility. Millennials have proven quick to grasp the advantages of processing useful information in its most convenient form. This near universal adoption of technology looks to serve investors with positives far more deserving of attention than arguments of information overload.