Investing, Viking-Style?

© Can Stock Photo / patrimonio

A Wendy’s Wednesday Whimsy

Sometimes when I need a brain-break between projects, I spend a few minutes on Facebook, viewing what everybody is up to, sharing a few “likes,” and moving on.

Usually, there’s no harm done. Then, a month or so ago, I stumbled across a hoax about a family who had allegedly held a fiery Viking Funeral that ran amok. According to Snopes, the piece was satire, never intended to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, by the time I saw it, that wasn’t so obvious. The author did such a great job – or maybe real news is sometimes so outrageous these days – that I fell for it, hook, line and sinker, and took it to be true. I also took it and shared it on Facebook.

Fortunately, one of my wiser friends called me on it. “Are you sure this is for real?” she asked. With a quick Google search, I found the Snopes reference and realized it was not. To minimize the damage done, I promptly deleted it from my Facebook wall.

But that’s not the end of the story. Last week, that darn Viking Funeral hoax showed up again, this time in an estate planning e-newsletter to which I’m subscribed.

Now, that’s a little more serious. The estate planner’s point was to encourage a more thoughtful planning process. That’s a good idea, but I saw no hint that the law firm realized they were citing a spoof. I think they were as duped as I had been, unintentionally lending the piece an air of legitimacy it did not deserve.

All this goes to show how important it is to make a practice of employing a careful fact-checking process before sending out one’s corporate communications. Even when having some frivolous fun on Facebook, it may be best to check twice before sharing once – as I learned first-hand. Snopes is a good place to start.

This also illustrates why the rigors of evidence-based investing come in so very handy. An interesting new factor or analysis might seem solid enough at first read. But without the extra due diligence and higher level of scrutiny demanded by an evidence-based approach, it’s too easy for “new and improved” to backfire on us. And while it’s one thing to get a little burned on Facebook, it’s quite another to accidentally torch someone’s personal wealth.