• Robert Baharian

Consumer and Investor Contradictions

In his book, Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life, Nassim Taleb says:

Don't tell me what you think, tell me what you have in your portfolio.

I think this quote is so profound. In a world where anyone and everyone can express and share their opinions and points of view to anyone in the world, there really isn't any way of validating their statements.


Prior to the most recent events globally, inflation was coming out of everyone's mouths, day in day out. And folk are not happy about it. No one likes the price of stuff going up. In fact, US consumer sentiment is at the lowest level since 2011 due to "weakening personal financial prospects, largely due to rising inflation."

At the same time consumer sentiment is at the lowest levels since 2011, US retail sales are smashing records and breaking what was a steady trendline.

Bloomberg reported, "Eight of the 13 retail categories rose in the month. Sales at non-store retailers surged 14.5% after plummeting in December. Motor vehicle sales rose 5.7% following a decline in the prior month. Home furnishing stores also posted a solid sales advance. Receipts at restaurants and bars, the report’s only services-oriented category, fell 0.9%, likely reflecting the record surge in Covid-19 cases seen in January."


This contradiction is alive and well in a lot of places as we have seen above. Especially in the professional financial services industry, talking heads in neck ties carefully curate well though through narratives, which to the lister, sounds completely rationale and insightful. Whether this person has the conviction to execute the trade personally, is another question. But I think this is the most important question. In fact, it's probably the only question.


Next time you hear or speak with someone about anything investment related, ask them not what do you think, rather, tell me what you have in your portfolio. It will give you far more insight into their views of the world.


My colleague Matt Rigby and I talk more about this in last week's The Wide Lens podcast. I've shared the exact chapter where we discuss this below.

You can also listen to the podcast on Spotify or wherever else you listen to your podcasts.