Friday, December 18, 2009

Copenhagen Cop-out.

The Copenhagen climate change conference was a show case for human nature. The conference was rife with blow-hard politicians and self-righteous protesters. The human ego is an amazing thing. And now that they’ve all gone home, what did we learn from this spectacle?

Modern human beings have a strange focus on the grandiose. We love the billion dollar international deals where rich nations give to the poor. We love the massive national targets for emission reduction, the idea of all nations cooperating in a globally united effort. We love this focus on bigness.

But, in problems like this, the devil is in the details. Greenhouse gas problems seem easy to solve.

For starters, an automotive engineer friend tells me that diesel engines use half the fuel that gasoline engines use. It’s easy for a nation like Canada to introduce limits on the numbers of gasoline engines produced in Canada: then the manufacturers would simply build cars with diesel engines instead. The government could easily limit the number of 8 cylinder engines in passenger cars. They’d simply build cars with 6 or 4 cylinder engines. The government could easily regulate the weight of passenger cars: they’d simply manufacture lighter cars. In other words, our government could easily force Canadians to drive the same kind of cars people currently drive in Europe. And the auto manufacturers could easily produce them.

Why won’t elected politicians do these obvious things? Because they are focussed on the grandiose. They are not interested in the boring details of simply getting the job done. It’s human nature.

It’s so easy to see the futility of human nature in others; not so easy to see it in ourselves.

Consider the financial world; are we all focussed on the banking system, the world economy, the automotive bail out? Are we overlooking the obvious simple things we can do to save our own personal financial worlds?

What about your budget? Do you spend responsibly? Do you save money? Are you too far in debt? These things are easy to sort out.

And what about your investments? Are you making money? Or are you losing? Is your investment advisor worth the money you pay them? Do you remember how you felt last year when the stock market dropped 45% in 6 months? Did you wish you had sold out long before? Have you sold out now?

For advice in this matter, I turn to country singer, Kenny Rogers. In his song, The Gambler, he offers this simple advice: “You’ve got to know when to fold ‘em, know when to hold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.”

But most of us have caught the Copenhagen flu: we focus on the grandiose problems of the world and forget all about the simple things we can all do to defend ourselves from future financial loss.

In my book, Beyond the Bull, I write about how your human nature impacts your investing. I encourage readers to focus on their own investment accounts, not on the grandiose world financial markets. Media coverage of the big and the bad can distract us and prevent us from quietly living our lives in a responsible way.

Focus on yourself first.

Ken Norquay, CMT
Financial Philosopher

Links to beyond the Bull:




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