Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Seasonal Risk

Year after year Canadian drivers experience winter’s fury: ice, snow and wind conspire to make out driving difficult and dangerous. And every year, every storm brings a rash of driving accidents. Somehow, even though we know ice and blowing snow is going to happen, and even though we know how to drive in dangerous conditions, the vast majority of Canadians take unnecessary risk. It’s one of those quirky ironies about being a Canadian. Is it Canadian human nature to be oblivious to danger?

It’s not human nature: it’s the power of advertising. We can be lulled into oblivion or sharpened into “yellow alert” by effective advertising.

Yellow alert
Consider those horrid pictures on cigarette packages. There was a time that they discouraged people from smoking by graphically illustrating how awful the smoking diseases can be. Then there is the campaign to prevent drinking and driving; an effective ad campaign that has saved many lives. Another effective campaign is the awareness advertising that focuses on the prevention of sexually transmitted disease by the use of condoms. These advertising efforts are examples of focused intention causing the population to become more conscious of risk in their lives.

Throw caution to the wind
Then there is the serious effort of the investment industry to persuade small unsophisticated investors to maintain their risky investments. For years financial salesmen have been telling their customers that the stock market goes up about 10% on average, and that they should buy high quality equity mutual funds and hold them no matter how dangerous the investment climate gets. The investment industry is not the only industry that would sacrifice the well being of their customers for their own profit. The beverage industry tells us all to get excited and drink carbonated, flavoured sugar water knowing full well the addictive nature of sugar and the adverse effect it has on our health. Children’s breakfast cereal advertisers float in the same boat.

But, clearly there is no intentional campaign to get Canadian drivers to take to the road no matter what the risk. Is there some unintentional influence that makes us take unnecessary driving risk?

Canadians are hard working people. We have habits that serve our work ethic. Getting to work is one of these habits. Being on time is another. Sticking to the plan is another habit that we Canadians have that enable us to maintain our modern efficient economy and our personal life styles. Our national symbol is the beaver; and the Canadian population has certain habits that epitomise our hard-working nature as a people. Our work ethic is not an intentional campaign, but it is an important part of Canadian culture.

This is where the repetitive winter driving accident problem begins. Our work ethic is fine, but we need to be awake to our habits, even our good habits, when risk increases. When there’s a winter storm, maybe we should take a day off. Maybe we should reschedule that out-of-town trip.

In my investment book, Beyond the Bull, i encorage investors to not set their investing aircraft on autopilot. Risk levels in our lives change with time. We have to change too. Breaking old habits and bringing more intention to your life can be a tough process. Here’s an exercise that will help: review the paragraph above entitled “Throw caution to the wind.” These are instances where commercial endeavours hope to make profit from you by distracting you from the risk associated with their products. New Years resolution season is just ahead. I encourage you to reconsider your financial plan and your diet from the point of view of changing your habits to reduce your risk. The holiday season is a good time for pondering our lives. Use December 2010 to ponder the health and wealth risks created by big money advertising.

To order your copy of Beyond the Bull and the Five Levels of Investor Consciousness CD, or to sign up for Ken’s free monthly webinar, visit (Bullmanship Code = SS32).

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