Noise-Cancellation Headphones, and Other Tips to Filter Out Financial “News”

By Steve Tepper, CFP®, MBA


My latest “million-dollar idea” came to me as I was packing for a big trip. I was stuffing my little earbuds in my carry-on and remembering how every time I try to use them on a flight, engine and cabin noise always seems to drown out the music on my iPod. (Yes, I still own an iPod. And I have an AOL account. A little respect, please—I’m elderly.)

About the same time as I was packing the earbuds, some financial news was blaring. It was whatever big story might have some big impact on the markets, sending them up big, or maybe it was down big. Honestly, I can’t remember the story. It was just noise. The noise I’d like to drown out. There is rarely any financial news that will still be important in the next news cycle (i.e., tomorrow), and experience tells me acting on financial news is very likely to lead to investment mistakes.

And then the idea came: financial noise-canceling headphones. Genius! Slip these babies on and you won’t be able to hear a thing they’re saying on CNBC, Bloomberg News, or Fox Business. But even better: When you’re scrolling through your favorite news site, you can click on all your favorite tabs: headlines, politics, sports, local. But the financial news tab is grayed out. You type in a search for business news, and you get a 404 “page not found” error. These are some versatile headphones!

When I return from vacation, I’ll be on the lookout for a good engineer to get started on designing a prototype. If you have any suggestions, please email me!

In the meantime, and in the unlikely event we experience a delay in getting to market of, say, forever, here are a few slightly lower-tech tips to deal with financial noise:

Watch, read, or click for entertainment only.

Resist any temptation to call your advisor after watching, reading, or clicking (except to share a laugh).

Remember some days there is more news than others, but the newspaper always has the same number of pages and the news show always runs the same length of time. How can both be true? Simple: Slow news days bring even more noise. If you aren’t a “noise-to-signal” expert, capable of finding what’s important in a sea of flotsam, don’t try,

Understand that most financial news stories and most financial services industries are not trying to inform you. They are trying to get you to act, “take action,” and those actions will rarely be compatible with your financial plan or help you achieve your lifelong financial objectives.

Focus on the non-daily news. Weekly or even monthly publications will (at least, theoretically) do a better job of filtering out the noise and including only what has stayed important across multiple news cycles.

So the earbuds are packed, along with a swimsuit, flip-flops, and lots of sunscreen. Maui, here we come!

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