Trusted Fools

Meredith Whitney is very smart and very rich, getting paid lots of money to give financial advice. I’m sure the people who have listened to her have done well. But she has also made some really bad calls and the thing that got me, recently, was that one of those predictions, that there would be hundreds of billions of dollars of municipal bond defaults by December 2011, has garnered her a book deal. That’s right, she will soon have a book about a topic she was completely wrong about. I’m sure she’ll justify that misstep somehow but I, for one, won’t be buying that book.

As an author of a book about success, I guess I’m just not wrong enough to get a publisher or be interviewed on 60 Minutes. Watch the video below. Her prediction comes at 2:30 in.

Meredith Whitney is just another example of people making really dumb predictions, or doing really dumb things and becoming even more successful. I call this the fail up principle and it’s alive and well in the United States.

I wrote a rather impassioned blog post about one such person back in November, 2011. Carl Richards, aka Behavior Gap, has been held up as a financial sage for his clever drawings that simplify and astutely illustrate everything that Carl Richards has done wrong. If only he followed his own advice he’d actually have done well in life. Oh wait, in spite of a series of colossally bad decisions that culminated in Mr. Richards ruining his credit and losing his home to a short sale, he has a book deal, writes for the New York Times, and has a new job as, get this, director of investor education at St. Louis-based BAM Advisor Services.

I rarely write letters to the editor of magazines but I had to when I saw a glowing review of a book written by a guy who should still be in hiding for Dow 36,000his reckless advice over a decade ago. I’m speaking of James Glassman who co-authored a book titled Dow 36,000 just before the bursting of the internet bubble and well before the even worse economic crisis of 2008. This so called expert was either trying to cash in or is completely clueless.

Glassman wrote another book in 2011 that offered nothing new. In the letter I wrote to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine I said Glassman’s latest book is “the same advice that honest financial advisors have been giving for decades.” At least this time his book didn’t push investors off a cliff.

I learned of Carl Richards’s horrible personal finance skills in an article he wrote in the NY Times, that’s right, a financial planner who was so dumb as to lose almost everything he had gained, got a job as a contributor to the NY Times – failing up. But would you believe that this is not the first time a New York Times financial writer was Busteda financial mess. I’m sure Edmund L. Andrews, economic reporter, did just fine as he too was granted a book contract to chronicle his stupidity – losing his home to foreclosure.

I’m still amazed that Jim Cramer is so popular. Who can forget Mr. Cramer saying that Bear Stearns was just fine? Actually he was right – all the executives at the former Bear Stearns are still incredibly rich, it was the stock holders who lost it all. At the height of the housing frenzy in 2006 Mr. Cramer said he was drawing a line in the sand, “planting a flag” on homebuilder stocks, saying that “this is the point where Centex, Lennar, Toll Brother, and KB home are done going down.” They went much farther down but that’s ok because he still has plenty of suckers, I mean viewers.

I’m doing just fine, maybe not as well as I could if I was a complete idiot but well enough for me. For the few who read my blog and my book, they can either accept my advice or ignore it but at least I’ve been consistently correct or maybe that’s my problem.

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