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Studying for the Bar

Dan Smith

HOW DO SOME INVESTORS end up in places they don’t belong? Where do they turn for information and guidance? Who do they talk to before making important financial decisions?

What follows are the results of my unscientific research, which was conducted in some of the finest and most respected centers of advanced learning anywhere.

Barroom seminars, your window on the world. Are we talking politics, investing, religion, world peace or other topics of paramount importance, such as Ohio State’s quarterback dilemma for the upcoming football season? Doesn’t matter. There’s no problem too big or too small that won’t be solved with a barroom seminar.

The guy running the seminar will be the big guy at the corner of the bar with the type-A personality. He’ll be lording it over his minions, who typically express their concurrence with air punches and choruses of “hell, yes.”

Happy hour from three to six, and don’t miss all you need to know about the Iraqi dinar. I once dropped off a tax return to a beaming client. Why so cheery, I inquired? He said the RV was coming. I was like, what, are you getting a new camper?

He said, “No, dummy, the dinar is going to be revalued this week and I’m gonna make a couple million bucks.” Seems RV is also short for revalued. I think we all know how this bet turned out.

Bucket of brews for $10 and your best Social Security claiming options. “You’re stupid if you wait till later to claim because it’ll take until you’re 80 just to break even.” That guy is now age 80 and trying to live off the benefit he claimed at age 62.

We’ve got the NFL Sunday Ticket and the get-rich-with-our-cryptocurrency primer. I actually know some folks who have done well with crypto. But most of my barroom buddies got in way too late and then sold way too low.

Sign up for our darts league and the all-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-the-Middle-East policy forum. I once heard a guy in a bar say that, if he were president, he could easily negotiate peace in the Middle East. Later that night, he couldn’t even talk the cop out of arresting him for driving under the influence.

Two-for-one drink specials and 10 barely intelligent reasons your guy sucks. This might be my favorite barroom seminar—the nearly inarticulate reasons my political candidate stinks. Left, right, blue, red. Doesn’t matter. There’s a type-A jackass for every political persuasion.

Today’s soup is muskrat turtle bean and features Bubba’s Bible interpretations. I’m laughing to myself as I type this one. Barroom Bubba seems to know more about the Bible than my daughter, who has a degree in theology from the University of Notre Dame.

And here I come to the moral of my story.

I know some people who have never met a conspiracy theory they didn’t like, and who sometimes make financial and other important decisions based on them. And many of us, including me at times, are prone to confirmation bias, only seeking out information that mirrors our own thinking. Whether it comes from the loudmouth at the end of the bar, or that pundit you follow on cable TV or social media, too often we let such people influence our thinking.

Lest you think that I’ve spent too much time studying behavior at local watering holes, please know that—prior to becoming an income-tax preparer—my far-reaching barroom research was conducted during my 30 years spent selling and delivering beer in Toledo. And, yes, I was usually the only sober one in the room.

For 30 years, Dan Smith was a driver-salesman and local union representative, before building a successful income-tax practice in Toledo, Ohio. He retired in 2022. Dan has two beautiful daughters, two loving sons-in-law and seven grandchildren. He and Chris, the love of his life, have been together for two great decades and counting. Check out Dan’s earlier articles.

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