There is an extremely powerful myth embedded in nearly every individual investor at birth. The myth says you can “trade” your way to millions if you just have the right idea at the right time, if you have just the right technology, or if you could just translate how awesome you are at your day job into “investing.” Sadly, this infection is either outgrown or it lives within its host forever. A good tool to diagnose it is judging your reaction to the commercials below. If they inspire you, you’re in trouble. If you laugh, then you’ve outgrown the myth and probably make sound investing decisions.
Here are 2016’s worst financial commercials:
Note: Interactive Brokers is missing from the list this year as gesture of mercy.
#5 – Schwab – “That Need”
This one is standard retail brokerage material. The aging white guy with a family. The house on the lake. The double monitors. The extra time and money to burn on trading. Most importantly: a major emphasis that it’s all about possessing a smart “idea” as the key to investing success.
#4 – TD Ameritrade – “Moments That Matter”
Yes, the dogs are cute. Yes, it’s a cute idea in general. No, it’s not right to tell “traders” that if they just keep it up (read: pay commissions) then they’ll make it big someday.
#3 – Swiss America – “2016 Gold IRA”
There’s not much I can say about #3. Just put on your tin foil hat and enjoy. Oh, and make sure you don’t try to fry up your golden egg. Don’t forget: “It just takes ONE call” (to ruin your financial life).
#2 – Fidelity – “Smart Investing”
I thought the brokerage industry was done with these crappy gimmicks but Fidelity wants to let you know you can snap a photo of a product and BUY BUY BUY the stock of the company immediately. But they didn’t let up there: you can also see an “equity summary score” of “top analysts” (so worthless). They finish by reminding you that should you decide to act on your ill-advised idea, you can do it cheaper at Fidelity than with Schwab, TD and ETrade. So, there’s that.
#1 – Schwab – “Never Too Proud”
OH BOY. This one. Schwab gave us a full minute and they needed every second for all of the juicy peccadilloes. Again, we have the middle aged white guy. This version seems to be constantly over-caffeinated. Again, he has multiple monitors. He works on his own motorcycle. He scolds the kids. He’s a doctor who asks “really good questions.” These examples are all table stakes in 2016, so what REALLY separates this one from the rest is our Bradley Cooper lookalike “trading coach.”
Doctor White Guy calls in to Bradley, wanting to know about buying a stock “on its next pullback.” Bradley has at least five monitors so this dude is definitely LTCM-smart and he probably CRUSHES IT at trading so that’s why he’s working 9-5 for Schwab. He fires up the stock ticker Doc White Guy is flirting with. Little does Doc White Guy know, Bradley is about to upsell him on a risky options trade! Doc White Guy LOVES IT because it “sounds interesting.” Thank goodness Schwab implies its “Options Specialists” are fiduciaries (ha! right!). Doc White Guy likely hangs up the phone feeling so smart about the potential of his trade, and it’s just too bad he couldn’t self-diagnose his trading delusions.