IN TODAY’S POLITICAL environment, discourse has become ever more fractious. The investment world, in my view, isn’t much better. Those who disagree generally talk past—rather than listen to—one another.
That is why, in my work as an investment advisor, I maintain a “team of rivals” approach, reading and listening to diverse opinions. Behavioral scientists often talk about confirmation bias—the tendency to seek out only information that confirms our preconceived notions. To counteract this bias, I believe investors are best served by casting a wide net. Below are five favorite sites that I would recommend to everybody, no matter what their investment bias:
Federal Reserve Economic Database. The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan once stated, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” For economic and market-related facts, I have found nothing better than this free resource from the St. Louis Fed. The Federal Reserve Economic Database (FRED) includes thousands of finance-related statistics, including GDP, inflation, interest rates and more. You can chart and download any of the data, and there’s an excellent mobile app.
My favorite: FRED’s historical prices for commodities, including gold and oil. Any time I am tempted to invest in commodities, all I need is one look at those charts.
Jim Cramer’s Mad Money. If there is one person that the investment world loves to hate, it is the hedge-fund-manager-turned-CNBC-personality Jim Cramer. Yes, he is raucous and off-the-wall, but he is also brilliant and his knowledge of individual stocks is encyclopedic. He is the high priest of stock-picking, often dismissing index funds with plain logic: “I don’t want to own all the stocks. I just want to own the best ones.” While his track record is debatable, his conviction is admirable.
My favorite: Cramer’s CEO interviews. In contrast to the rest of the show, which is often cartoonish, Cramer’s conversations with big-name public company CEOs are surprisingly thoughtful.
JL Collins’s blog. If Jim Cramer is the world’s loudest advocate for stock-picking, his counterpart at the opposite end of the spectrum is the blogger JL Collins. While index fund investing enjoys broad support these days, no one says it with the same purity and take-no-prisoners orthodoxy as Collins. In fact, he summarizes his investment philosophy in just nine words: “Index funds. End of story. Vanguard. End of story.” But this site is about more than that. Collins started blogging as a vehicle to convey advice to his daughter. As a result, his advice ranges broadly across personal finance, careers and life in general.
My favorite: Collins’s Manifesto, in which his tone is equals parts finance professor and Marine Corps general.
Invest Like the Best. If Cramer and Collins represent the two extremes of the “index versus active” debate, quantitative investing is safely off to the side and outside the fray. And so it makes sense that a quant investor named Patrick O’Shaughnessy would be best positioned to have thoughtful and civil conversations with investors of all stripes. While his day job is in finance, O’Shaughnessy’s background as a philosophy major comes through in all of his interviews. He reads widely and believes in learning as an ongoing process, rather than pounding the table for some fixed set of views.
My favorite: O’Shaughnessy’s interview with Danny Moses, one of the traders who made a fortune shorting the housing market in 2008. This discussion is a good reminder that, while successful active management is very difficult and very rare, it is not impossible. Moses is one of those anomalies.
So Money with Farnoosh Torabi. For those who really love it, investing is largely a game and an end in itself. That’s why Farnoosh Torabi’s podcast is so valuable. Torabi doesn’t waste time splitting hairs on investment strategies. Instead, she helps her largely millennial audience focus on the big picture—achieving success in their careers and fulfillment in their lives. And that, after all, should be the point of all of the energy we spend building our personal finance skills.
My favorite: “Ask Farnoosh” segments, in which she addresses questions that are keeping her listeners up at night.
Adam M. Grossman’s previous articles include Footing the Bill and Trust Issues. Adam is the founder of Mayport Wealth Management, a fixed-fee financial planning firm in Boston. He’s an advocate of evidence-based investing and is on a mission to lower the cost of investment advice for consumers.
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