This weekend, I had the honor of joining my father for the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction weekend as a guest of one of the enshrinees, Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. It was an amazing weekend with lots of legends of the game, family, friends and fans all celebrating the accomplishments of the new class and the sacrifices they made to achieve greatness.
All weekend, I felt very much like an ad for a must-buy mutual fund in any number of financial publications. All sizzle and no steak, if you will. On multiple occasions, my father and I, along with a thousand or two other friends and family of the inductees, were bused from venue to venue, cutting ahead of throngs of fans as we were ushered to various events. We met some great people and had a wonderful time, but these buses were full of, for lack of a better word, nobodies. That didn’t stop a lot of fans dying to be steps away from fame to surround us as we arrived at each location to study each and every one of us, guessing who we might be. People waited for hours, pushing and prodding their way to the fronts of roped off areas with the promise of something great. What they got was a sunburn and lots of disappointment. Apparently, my autograph isn’t all that in demand.
Why did this make me feel like a hot mutual fund? Much like the tinted windows of the buses held the promise of famous faces, the glossy ads touting 5-star ratings and recent outstanding performance are nothing but window dressing.
Human perception and the need for status is a curious thing. It’s intriguing how we can perceive great value or the promise of a big payoff just based on the way something is presented or packaged without doing any thinking or homework to see if it really makes sense. If any of the people who waited hours to see some famous athletes would’ve taken a few seconds to think through what they were investing their time in, they probably would have realized that the NFL isn’t likely to bring Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith or any of the other players in attendance right through crowds of people on their way to the ceremonies.
In that same vein, the next time you see an ad, talk to a friend, or see something on TV about a new can’t miss investment product or other idea, ask yourself if you truly understand the investment philosophy of the product being offered and believe it can help you meet your financial goals. More often than not, you’ll realize that it’s just another fund and that the only thing on the other side of the velvet rope it presents itself behind is another experience of chasing returns with disappointing results.