Who Do You Need to Protect People From?

Amar Pandit , CFA , CFP

When it comes to investing, one of the key roles of regulators worldwide is to protect investors from scammers, fraudsters, and financial predators.

It is in this context that I ask you this headline question.

Who do you need to protect people from in the context of investing and money?

Can you come up with the answer?

You might think that I have already answered the question in the first line. And that is one way of thinking about it but let me assure you that you are far from the real answer. For many the answer might come as a surprise…

Let me give you another hint (a couple of photos from the billboards).




Can you guess the answer now?

Did you say the company names given in these advertisements?

Did you say the brand ambassadors of these ventures?

Or Did you say betting, gambling and the likes…

If you said any of the above, you are still wrong…Dead wrong.

Ok…One Final Hint (a set of photos) as I know you are going to nail the answer now.


Did you get it now?

I am waiting…

And while waiting I asked a few smart people what they thought was the answer. They couldn’t get it, but I know you got it…

The right answer is – from themselves.

People need to be protected from themselves.

It is not these firms or rather it is these firms too but first It’s Us.

It is not celebrities or brand ambassadors. It’s Us.

We need to be protected from ourselves.

Despite all the dangers of smoking visually depicted on every cigarette pack (in a very gory way), people still smoke to glory.

Is there anything more precious than our lives?

Despite knowing nothing is, we brush off all the deadly warnings. We do not care.

I cannot go through my day without a cigarette, says Ramesh. I cannot take a dump without a cigarette, says Suresh… I am not judging Ramesh, Suresh or anyone here. It is their life, and it is their choice. This is also not a sermon on non-smoking…The point is we are wired to behave irrationally. Even the crazy inflation (that we care so much about) in cigarette prices cannot stop people from smoking.

So how will any disclaimer, or disclosure really ever work if we are our own worst enemies?

And if we indeed are, we then need to be protected from our worst impulses…

We need to be protected from gambling, day trading (while thinking we are investing), get quick schemes…tips, and tweets…

We need to be protected from financial pornography networks…and from the bullshit spewed by many businesses …

But most importantly, we need to be protected from our biases (there are so many of them that I can write an entire book on this subject), blind spots, emotions and behaviour… in short, ourselves.

Because most times, we can’t see our own biases, blind spots, behaviors, and emotions. These cause us to do things in our worst interests. And the best part is we learn the wrong lesson. When we lose money in trading, we say – I am not made for the stock market. I will not invest in stocks from now on. Or when we sell as the market tanks, we say, “The stock market is too risky. It’s not for me.

There is a firm that advertises 818.9% as it’s model portfolio return.

818.9%. Please don’t ask me for the name.

Though this firm does not mention this as something it guarantees, the firm clearly implies this and calmly misguides (or cons) people. Now when they do this very professionally, they use the most powerful word in this industry – Research. They claim to know what no one in this world knows. And guess what. This bullshit is lapped up.

You know why such dubious stuff works…Because deep inside us (somewhere), there is a desire to make quick money, easy money and big money…And needless to say we fall into the trap.

Oscar Wilde writes in De Profundis – “Nobody great or small, can be ruined except by his own hand”.

In the Daily Stoic Newsletter, Ryan Holiday wrote – Wilde was proof of this. He traded his genius for pleasure and parties and fame. He let his ego get the best of him. He let his anger get the best of him. “I was no longer the Captain of my soul,” said Wilde of himself.

We might never be able to stop ourselves from becoming victims of others. But we first become victims of ourselves.

Meditate on this.

We first become victims of ourselves before becoming victims of others.

As Nick Murray said, Human Behavior is a Failed Investor …

The Most Powerful Antidote for this condition – The Guidance and Care of a Real Financial Professional.

The question then is – Will you find such a person?

And more importantly will you let this professional do her/his job Or Will you get in your own way?