Emoticons dot the Internet universe in the same manner that stars are sprinkled across the night sky. They're everywhere and they come in many shapes, sizes, colors and even languages.
Most emoticons smile, grin or wink from their digital perches. Others frown, smooch, laugh, cry and even make obscene gestures.
I commissioned a graphic designer to create a new emoticon for me and my soon-to-be-launched Bank on Yourself Nation personal finance and lifestyle website. It's my "BS -- Be Smart" custom emoticon, and my staff and I plan to digitally stamp it on every article, blog post, forum chat and other Internet material we encounter that is just plain drivel.
As news consumers, we need to warn one another to Be Smart when we encounter the supernova-size explosions of myths, stereotypes, negativities and illusions that bombard us daily, passing all too readily as fact.
From articles and columns in the rightfully respected Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, to the madcap commentary and analyses of CNBC's Jim Cramer, the business journalism landscape is in dire need of a Be Smart foghorn to help us all navigate the dark and dangerous investment byways.
Consider just four of these widely accepted -- but wholly mythical -- personal finance tenets:
1. Over time, the stock market has consistently proven the best and most reliable investment vehicle for the vast majority of Americans.
Be Smart. Most individual investors consistently under-perform the stock market averages. They overpay when they buy; then accept too little when they sell. The reality is that the S&P 500 is still almost 11% below where it was 12 years ago. And inflation during those 12 years has taken another 35% bite out of your nest-egg!
2. You won't require as much income when you retire as you do now, especially since you'll qualify for a lower tax bracket.
Be Smart. Old age isn't a prison sentence. After working and sacrificing for most of your adult life, retirement should be a reward not a punishment. With proper planning, the vast majority of Americans can and should live wealthy lives in their golden years -- and have plenty left over to pay a robust share of taxes.
3. No worthwhile investment is free of risk, volatility and uncertainty.
Be Smart. I can personally attest that many hundreds of thousands of Americans -- folks just like you and me -- have "beaten the system" by shunning uncertainty and volatility in exchange for guaranteed -- yes, guaranteed -- annual growth of their financial portfolio.
In fact, these savvy savers have NEVER had a losing year -- or even a single losing day.
(I wrote an entire New York Times bestselling book, Bank on Yourself, that explains how almost anyone can partake in this life-changing method.)
4. The fees you pay for your IRA, 401(k) and other retirement accounts have only a minor impact on your ultimate returns.
Be Smart. Annual fees amounting to only 1.5% could -- shockingly -- flush away nearly 39% of your entire life-long nest egg. That because the money siphoned off such long-term accounts by dimwitted administrators and rapacious fund managers negates the compounding, dividends and interest accelerators that might otherwise generate gains.
And so on. And so forth.
Lately, I'm particularly disturbed by all of the conventional pundits who gaze into their crystal balls and reflexively forecast dark economic clouds and painful financial fallout as far into the future as they can gaze.
For example, in last week's column, Really, Have We No Faith In Our Young People, I took to task leading academics and news organizations that are emphatically writing off the millions of 20-somethings and 30-somethings who are currently displaced by the economy as a "Lost Generation."
Other common twaddle surfacing in mainstream business newspapers, magazines and broadcasts would have us believe we have no choice but to accept:
- Earning less on our investments and savings for the foreseeable future
- Downgrading our current lifestyles to make up for the loss on our investment returns
- Paying higher tax rates as the U.S. Government struggles to wrestle with its widening budget gap, and cash-strapped states and cities follow suit
- Delaying our retirement -- perhaps indefinitely
- Sticking with the financial counselors who got us into this mess, because there are no better-qualified advisors
Wake up, America! What the mainstream media and pundit class ask us to accept as our financial destiny has very little in common with reality.
Now, with my new Be Smart emoticon, I can label the foolishness that others pass off as "wise" for what it really is -- poppycock.
Whenever you spot articles, blog posts, or Wall Street propaganda that you believe qualify for my Be Smart imprint, I encourage you to call "BS" right here in my comments section on The Huffington Post.
It's the -- ahem -- smart thing to do.
New York Times bestselling author Pamela Yellen is the founder of www.BankOnYourselfNation.com, a website dedicated to helping people achieve lifetime financial security and self-reliance. As president of www.BankOnYourself.com, she's helped hundreds of thousands grow their wealth safely and predictably.