“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention” — Herbert A. Simon
Every day, millions of Americans face a deluge of data, whether it is news, financial reports, celebrity gossip, the latest from Washington, D.C. politico-sphere or sports results. We thumb through these information bits on our desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, phablets…you name it.
We get bombarded with so much information that the New York Times recently warned that such incessant torrent of news might usher in an “age of overwhelm,” a direct byproduct of, but far darker version of, the “age of information” we all have come to know.
What’s my point here?
Don’t let the constant distractions in everyday life take your attention off the important things. You have to take care of the basics, especially your future, to include retirement planning. After all, success in your golden years won’t simply happen on its own.
I wish it did, but things just don’t work that way.
In the age of information — or overwhelm, call it what you like — you can survive and prosper by keeping your eyes on the prize, the main thing.
So, my friend, will your retirement planning be an enjoyable process, a success, no matter the amount of data or the degree of distraction you’re subjected to every single day?
Will yours be a success?
It has to be — and you can make it so.
Data Overload: Noise or Real News?
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Here’s one of my favorite quotes, lifted directly from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” a 1986 film chronicling the antics of a teenage boy adept at cutting classes and getting away with it.
Life does move fast, so sometimes taking a carefully researched shortcut is necessary. Especially when it comes to filtering the 90% of irrelevant information out of your daily news consumption and focusing instead on the 10% or so that really counts.
According to research by The Economist, data overload is becoming a serious problem — and a significant public health concern at that. (Don’t even get me started on the 58 million Americans who reportedly get bombarded by loud noises…but that’s another problem. At what point does regular news become “noise?” Food for thought.)
Today, the average American has access to more information in any given day (24 hours) than someone living a century ago did over a period of several years. You’ve probably felt that way yourself, experienced the explosion of Wi-Fi, the growth of the internet, cell phones — and around-the-clock TV has given you the ability to access almost any subject, anytime.
Information has become, in just the last couple of decades, the fastest growing, most dynamic commodity in the world. It is hard to think of any part of society or commerce that hasn’t benefitted in some way from the impact of the information age. But there’s a darker side to all of this as well.
Too Much Information – TMI
All over the country, sociologists are paying close attention to information accessibility and availability because of the new reality facing U.S. citizens: America’s proliferation of data has not necessarily made decision making easier in some fields, including, perhaps especially, investment and retirement planning.
Americans’ fates seem today inextricably tied to the broader economy and the technological trends it drives. However, we seem to have lost control of those information-age trends and cannot harness them effectively.
Why is that?
To a thirsty man, a bucket of cool water can be a lifesaver. However, drinking that entire bucket followed by another, then another, can put that same man’s life at risk by something known as water intoxication, or hyper-hydration.
Water, like so many other things, can act like a poison when it is overconsumed in a specific period.
The same is true for information, which I believe makes information itself not the hottest commodity in the world, but rather your ability to focus. You see, in today’s world, unless you can somehow find a way to filter out and regulate all that’s trying to come in, you’re stuck right where you are. It is hard to do anything well when you cannot even hear yourself think.
Focus is your greatest asset — the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. After all, everyone gets the same number of hours in a day, but those most disciplined with their attention and focus are invariably the ones able to get the most accomplished.
Evolution Is Here. Grab It!
This is where we are today, but tomorrow will be different. There will be more information — more ways to access it, more platforms where to digest it, more, more, and even more.
Today, it is about an overwhelming number of messages; tomorrow, it will be about getting better at the winnowing down of all that information.
Less prepared or ill-advised Americans likely will bear the brunt of the continued excess of information, as job losses, a lethargic economy, and government spending and general mismanagement dim the retirement prospects for millions of people.
Anxiety over data overload in the U.S. has grown in recent months amid moves by Congress and President Trump to find ways to tackle the pressing issues of the day in a focused way — as “sources of information proliferate and so-called ‘news’ not grounded in fact grows common on social media,” according to Columbus Business First.
The information age is still a bright, shiny object for many of us — it is hard to look away. It is exciting to have so many choices and to have the ability to access such remarkable amounts of data and be exposed to the countless options that such unfettered access to data provides.
But people will adapt to the challenges of the information age, and they will continue to improve the ability to screen out the endless distractions and develop the discipline necessary to keep the information monster at bay.
In one sentence: Americans must sort reality from fiction and insight from disinformation.
The point is not to let the constant distractions in everyday life take your mind off the important things. You must focus on the most important things in life, including retirement planning.
Just because the masses aren’t panicking doesn’t mean stocks are a good place for your savings — same for the banks and Social Security. Their job is to keep you overwhelmed and confused.
Accordingly, it’s my job to keep people smart and help them to better understanding what planning, and the sensible allocation of their retirement holdings will do for them over the long run.
You’re in it for the long run, aren’t you?