Investments: Is The Cancel Culture Keeping You Poor?

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Welcome to the cancel culture.

Nothing and nobody is to be trusted. Nothing the government says is true, facts don’t exist, everything is doomed, and science is a hoax.

Venture capital is evil, the stock market is a scam, real estate is a dead duck and the shilling will self-immolate in short order. This is the sense you get whenever you hop onto social media, where a perpetual sense of despondency, apprehension and angst not only exists, it is pervasive.

This new reality is impacting the way we lead every facet of our lives and rarely in a good way.

Cynicism is nothing new, it has been around for as long as humanity has existed. But I think it hits a new high every day aided by the internet in general and social media in particular.

A healthy dose of cynicism is a good thing to have, especially when it comes to investing. However, as a society, we have reached a level of cynicism that is potentially dangerous. Anything anyone says is interpreted as an invitation to an argument. An argument where any fact is met with an equal and opposite barrage of ridicule, innuendo and conspiracy theories.

This plays out at so many levels, but today let’s focus on how it affects the way we, the youth, invest our money (or not invest it for that matter).

Let us look at land for example.

Real estate in Kenya has obviously been a soggy affair for many people. From fraudulent deals, to claims of massively inflated prices, to forcible government repossessions. That market absolutely deserves some of the flack it is getting, but hardly all of it.

If you want to be objective, real estate is arguably the asset class that has minted the most millionaires over the past decade, and probably the one that will mint the most millionaires over the next one. If social media and newspapers double up as your financial advisor, it is easy to conclude that land is a house of cards and mentally delete it from the list of viable investments you should be making. The truth is good land stories hardly “trend” or make it to the front page because happy buyers see no need to incessantly tweet about all the money they are making. If you identify a reasonably priced piece of land you can afford, buy it.

Older folks will tell you that many people thought land they were buying many years back that is now worth a pretty penny was wildly overpriced. They likely thank God there was no internet back then to constantly beat warning drums next to their ears.

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The stock market is another perennial casualty of our collective hyper cynicism. I did a series on twitter last year based on the total return on a couple of stocks over a period of ten years. What was clear was that despite the long-lived bear run, a number of stocks -that control most of the market anyway- had done vastly better than popular sentiment indicates, if not extremely well given the kind of environment.

In addition to widespread cynicism, another hindrance to people’s willingness to invest in the stock market is the endless pandering to catastrophic events: don’t buy banks because the interest cap will deal a death knell to profitability, don’t buy this telecom stock because the CEO has died and so will the company, don’t buy this cement making company because building will not recover, don’t buy any stocks because coronavirus will obliterate the entire stock market.

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The truth is, five years from now, people will still be banking. People will still need airtime; people will still need to buy insurance and entire business sectors will probably not be wiped out from the face of the earth by a virus. I am not saying that you go out unthinkingly buying any and every stock. But neither should you conclude that the end of the world is nigh and that investing in the stock market is an exercise in futility. Do not give in to the fear and hopelessness that is now the new normal.

What the internet and social media are good at doing is sowing fear and inflicting doubt. It has not been as good at giving alternatives. Once all that criticism is piled onto the day’s victim, nobody really gives any actionable alternatives afterwards. It feels like going to a doctor with a stomach upset, and as a remedy, the doctor forbids you from eating every imaginable food to keep away the stomach bugs. Well, you may not die from a stomach upset, but you will surely die of starvation.

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