Shallow, superficial, and addictive: this is the Tinder culture that we’ve devolved into, where intrinsic qualities don’t matter and nobody is as they seem. Potentially life-changing decisions are made in less than a second as a generation of suitors scan and swipe their way to romance – or, more likely, a meaningless hookup.
You can try to find a life partner outside of social media, but with everyone hunched over and staring blankly at their phones 24-7 like zombies nowadays, off-the-grid dating is nearly impossible: “there is no alternative,” as they say.
The parallels between Tinder and the post-financial-crisis stock market are uncanny, albeit not surprising considering how the Federal Reserve has forced us like cattle into a risky, toppy pool of stocks because the alternative, bonds, yield less than the rate of inflation. This is true even if you leave the country: the 10-year government-issued bonds in Japan, Germany, Belgium, France, and other nations currently have negative yields.
$16 trillion worth of negative-yielding debt instruments around the world have ensured that there is, indeed no alternative whatsoever: unless you have the time and the financial wherewithal to become a landlord or flip houses, the stock market is the only game in town.
At least, that’s what the Federal Reserve would have you believe. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is doing everything in his power to talk down gold and boost the equities market, insisting that “the consumer is in good shape” and “there will be no recession” even as the latest U.S. nonfarm payrolls report misses consensus forecast estimates.
Indeed, even though job growth slowed more than expected in August and retail hiring declined for a seventh consecutive month, Powell called the jobs report consistent with a strong labor market and gold took a short-term hit. If traders would just think long-term instead of just “swiping left” and dumping their gold on every unfavorable Fed remark, they’d be much more emotionally stable, not to mention considerably more profitable.
Yet that’s what the market resembles now: a snap-decision, impulse-buy theater of overreaction in which traders are swayed by the immediacy of tweet or the dismissive remark of a reckless Federal Reserve rather than economic fundamentals. Our parents and grandparents didn’t trade this way – but then, they didn’t find life partners based on dating apps either, and there’s no going back once the virus of technology has permeated the zeitgeist.
And much like swiping through studs and duds on Tinder has become an addiction, churning through stocks on one’s phone is an all-consuming lifestyle in a time when access to trading is easier than ever but winning over the long term is a rarity. That’s why, when Crush the Street releases an alert on a great stock, you’re supposed to hold onto it for a while: it’s not a day trade, but a position in an outstanding company.
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Perhaps the worst part of the Tinder culture is that we’re making judgments about people without getting to know them first. Before meeting someone in person, I certainly hope that you’re taking the time and effort to learn as much as you can about that individual – and that’s equally true of stock investing, as your capital is precious and thorough research must be a prerequisite to any trading decision.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against using your phone to trade stocks. The technology itself isn’t the enemy here, and I certainly wouldn’t want turn the clock back to the days when you had to call your broker on the phone (a real live person, if you can imagine that) to buy or sell shares.
My problem isn’t with the technology; rather, I’m concerned about the lack of due consideration, of authenticity, of humanity in the markets today. I long for a time when supply and demand influences the precious-metals market more than COMEX paper traders; when central banks advocate for retirees, savers, and the working class generally; and when stock prices reflect the totality of a company’s fundamentals instead of momentary sentiment.
That’s a pipe dream, I know it. Still, while we can’t necessarily change the markets themselves, we can shift our mind-set and our strategy as individual investors: you can’t swipe your way to happiness, but you can position yourself – with clarity of thought and persistent effort – to a life of prosperity.
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