There was an article in the Wall Street Journal on February 4, 2009 about new social networking services that allow users to share investing and trading tips. It is a great way for like minded people to build a community and share ideas. In many ways the idea is not new – we have seen chat rooms, message boards, and the like before. However, these sites operate more like Twitter where messages are limited or truncated to a preset number of characters and people only build ‘followings’ only if they have something of value to say. The idea definitely is progressive and timely as many people are seeking ways to build or rebuild wealth in a deepening recession.
But buyer beware! There are a few things to keep in mind or questions you ask yourself before you throw your money into any investment based on the advice of someone – especially someone you don’t know.
No one knows where this market is headed – let alone any individual stock. The current financial crisis is evidence that not even the pros on Wall Street have a handle on the markets. This could be one of the riskiest times to put your money into the unknown.
Speaking of unknowns, who is providing the information on the stock? What is the track record of this individual? I always seek advice from someone who has been successful in whatever subject they are discussing (not just money). So, if the person dishing out the information retired from an investing career, it might be worth considering. Otherwise, be careful.
Be realistic. We have seen with the Maddoff scandal – and countless other examples – that if it seems too good to be true it probably is. Yes, we have heard this before, but the tough economic times are giving life to more scams and con artists than ever before.
Is the timing right for you? Given how hard the markets and our portfolios have been hit, is now the time to put your hard earned money into ’stock tips’? We all are eager to make up for our losses, but there is (still) no quick fix. Building wealth is a lifetime endeavor. Don’t get yourself into deeper financial straits by trying to make up for the market meltdown. We all are hurting.
Final thought. Personally, I would rather see my financial or investment adviser tracking and researching the markets. I worry that someone who is texting stock tips or using social networking services may not be focused on the right activities. Markets move rapidly. Information changes even faster. I need and want an informed adviser – not a good sales person.