Fake Money News and other Manipulations

The headlines are full of how both Facebook and Google were bamboozled into delivering fake news during the past U.S. Election (2016), but for anyone who knows much about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), this is no big surprise. SEO is the pseudo-science (some say snake oil) that causes your searches to make certain articles to come out on the front page of your search pages. Fake Money news is also out there.

Gossip or Fake Money news
Money Gossip ?
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Manipulating Facebook, Twitter and Search Engines to bring up “less than scrupulous” news on any topic is not as hard as you might think.

Learn more about Internet Sliminess 

Most folks don’t really understand how search engines work, and how Google, Facebook and many other sites decide what you should look at (and to be clear, they decide what you look at, you have very little choice in the matter). Large companies are out there to market websites so that they get high rankings on the Internet Major Sites (as you can tell, I do not use those firms). There are estimates on how much is spent on SEO, and it is now in the Billions of Dollars worldwide (I am also including folks who pay for advertising on Google, Facebook, Twitter and other sites). Who has that kind of money to get Fake Money News in front of you? You would be surprised to see who spends money on it.

An interesting book about the SEO world

Go to your favourite search engine and type in

I need money

Look at what sites come up first. Many short-term loan and Pay Day loan companies, because they pay good money to get on that first page. They want to find you, and they want you to find them first! Are these the right sites for you to look at?

Absolutely not!

People seem to think the Internet is a great and all knowing oracle, but don’t be fooled. It is a business, and how does Google, Facebook, or Twitter make money? Selling search results to the highest bidder. Why do companies pay so much to them? Those Internet Leaders promise that they will deliver customers to the buyers doorstep.

Does this sound like Mad Men to you? That is pretty close, it is yet another spin on the world of Advertising (without the 4 Scotch lunches, and Don Draper-isms).

Yes, you can find a few of my articles around, but you have to look hard. I have tried hard to be on the first page for Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSP), but I am nowhere to be seen. Which sites are on the first page on Google? The CRA (which is good), the Banks and then a litany of firms that will help you get your RDSP set up.

If I wanted to manipulate a specific stock putting out fake news to drive the stock down or up could be simply done (and has been done to Apple and other stocks in the past). Having the next sure fire investing method is simple to push, because everyone is looking to get an edge.

What is my point?

You are being manipulated, every time you click on a search result on Google, or an ad on Facebook or Twitter. Someone paid good money (or did some dirty tricks (SEO has Black and White Hats)) for you to see that search (usually), but if you realize that, you are already better off.

A great alternate search engine is Duck Duck Go

Be skeptical about things you read on the web (yes, here too). Get different opinions, different views, use different search engines. You are being sold something every time you look at the Internet, be it news, money advice, travel advice, or so many other topics.

Ted has another angle on this subject:

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We Invest the Way We Vote

I am not sure if this is an expression said by someone, but this seems to be the case. I am not calling out my friends to the South either, Canadians (and everyone really) are just as guilty when it comes to “going to vote“, we make uninformed decisions, and thus we invest the way we vote

invest the way we vote

Some Things to Think About

What do I mean? In both cases, we make a hurried, uninformed decision after being unduly influenced by people who have their own agenda on why they want you to do it. Typically the decision may even be made at the last-minute, using your “gut” to decide.

In both instances, this is insane! If you are voting, and it is solely you going into a box, with a pencil and making a mark for someone, that someone else told you to vote for, that is not how the democratic system is supposed to work. Similarly if you go to a financial planner, who throws together a bunch of financial or investing ideas that you either don’t understand (or worse don’t want to understand) and you blindly agree to it, that is not how financial planning works!

Get educated about both topics, and make an informed choice, don’t just “do it because I need to do it”, because you will rarely make the right decision (and if you do it will have more to do with luck). Financial Literacy we are starting to talk about, Political Literacy needs to be pushed as well. Oh and the argument, there is too much information to decide, I don’t buy it.

November may be Financial Literacy month, but that does not mean you should wait until then to start educating yourself, make sure we prove wrong the statement, we invest the way we vote.

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No Good News Has Been Delivered Using Excel

This is paraphrasing something from John Oliver, on his HBO show. Excel is Microsoft’s spreadsheet/swiss army knife tool (i.e. you can do anything with it), but I agree with Mr. Oliver, I have never seen  good news delivered using excel.

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delivered using excel
A great example of Excel Bad News, a list of bad PINs!

During my career I have seen the following information sent to me in Excel format:

  • Ranking of employees,  used to figure out who gets laid off
  • How much over-budget project is.

In defense of Excel, it is a magnificent tool in terms of accounting and complex arithmetic and such, and usually any good news that might come from an Excel S/S usually ends up being encapsulated into a Powerpoint presentation. If I receive only the data in an Excel S/S it is saying,

“… this is bad news, we don’t feel like “flowering it up” by putting it into a Word Document or a Powerpoint Presentation it is easier delivered using excel…”

I have seen this when folks discuss their finances, as soon as an Excel Spreadsheet is opened the level of tension goes up. Rarely does anyone bring up an Excel Spreadsheet up, with your budget on it, to show “… how well you are doing…”, it is to show where (precisely) you are failing.

Can you send good news in an Excel Spreadsheet?

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Hippocratic Finances

Hippocratic finances would follow  the Hippocratic Oath (taken by Doctors) is Primum non nicer  or in English:

First, do no harm

Hippocratic Oath

Do No Harm

What does this have to do with your financial planning? Any changes you plan on making financially should follow Primum non nocere, just like for the Doctors.

  • Do not harm savings you have built up.
  • Do not harm your long-term plans (whatever they might be).

The one problem with this is you can end up a little too conservative if you live to this credo, but it is something to keep in mind when you feel like treating yourself, if you find some money.

Do No Harm

I think making sure you can stay sane with your finances would be important as well. If you are harming yourself worrying about your money, you are not doing any good either.

Question: How other ways do folks to harm to their finances?

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Up Selling in Banking

Written a while ago, but still holds very true, everywhere I go someone is trying to up sell me something!

My wife went in to our Bank last week (the brick and mortar version), to cash a cheque. She decided to do this at a teller, and she stood in line for this privilege. As she got to the teller, suddenly she was accosted by the teller, asking about how our family investments were being handled, and whether we had an investment advisor. Up selling in banking is constant now.

Up selling in banking
You want fries with your GIC?

Mrs. C8j has learned the answer to give, and she simply stated that we take care of our own investments and we were happy with that, however, evidently that was not good enough for this teller. My wife came home with a glossy brochure, and, a flyer about Financial Planning Week, along with the name of a “Financial Planner” who could help us out. I realize this is the bank attempting to “drum up some business” for their Financial Planning income stream, but it is another reason (for me) to stay away from my local branch.

As usual, I should thank TD for giving me more content to rant about, since without them I am not sure what I would be writing about.

Given I feel I have a smart and sophisticated readership, I’d like to give you folks some homework. I do plan on sending an e-mail to this planner and possibly going to visit with him to research how the system now works, however, what kind of questions should I be asking?

Questions to Ask Your Financial Planner

So far, I have a couple of obvious examples:

  • How do you earn your pay ? What is the difference between you and a fee-based financial planner?
  • What licenses, credentials or other certifications do you have?
  • Could I see a sample financial plan?
  • What makes your client experience unique?
  • Given I have a pension, what kind of a retirement plan do you think I should have?
  • Do you still make money if I lose money?

Am I missing other great questions to ask?

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