When it comes to advice, consider the source.
Have you ever seen this device? It’s called a Galton Board, and it’s used to demonstrate some principles of statistical analysis.
The idea is that the little balls will fall from the center of the top and, just using the laws of physics as they bounce around and fall downward, they will distribute themselves in a pattern known as a normal distribution or a bell curve. The perfect bell curve distribution won’t happen on every single attempt. However, the results averaged over multiple experiments would approximate a bell curve.
At the center of this curve will be the mean, which is calculated as the sum of all of the values divided by the number of values. At the center of this curve will be the median. Roughly half of the values fall above the mean, and half of the values fall below the median.
Targeting the center or the average
If you were a business serving consumers who in some way happened to fall along a bell curve, you would probably focus on whatever characteristic put them near the center of that bell curve, right? This would allow you to focus your efforts and still reach most consumers. You would be looking for the ‘average’ consumer.
For instance, if you are marketing an item that helps people of a certain height, you would target the people whose height puts them at the center of the bell curve for height. At the center of the bell curve, there are more of those people than people of other heights.
Of course, this all depends on what data is represented by the curve. It could be height, income, shoe size, or perhaps the average dollar amount spent on books last year. It could even be the amount spent specifically on self-help books last year. Maybe it represents the highest level of education attained by the consumer or the number of electronic devices the consumer uses to view media. The options are endless.
Media companies use all this data and more to determine what types of content to produce and buy. They make money by growing their audiences. Authors want to sell more books. Podcasters and video producers want to sell more advertising – and the price they receive for advertising depends on the size of their audience. So, it stands to reason that they will produce content that will appeal to people in the center part of their curve – the part of the curve with the most people.
But, are you average?
The challenge is to determine what curve or curves they are using and where you fall on those curves. In other words, are you average? Are you average in all the factors that the author or producer is considering?
As a consumer, how do you know if the content applies to you?
When the content is intended simply to be entertaining, you consume it if it entertains you. But what if the content is educating or advising you? How do you know if the statements, advice, or opinions apply to you or are intended for your situation?
Consider the motive of the person or organization providing the advice. Does the person or organization prosper when you prosper, or do they prosper just because you tuned in?
Especially when it comes to financial advice, consider the source.
When it comes to something important in your life, like your health or your wealth, do you assume that you fall in the middle of the curve? Do you take the advice intended for an average consumer? Or do you seek advice based on your unique combination of characteristics, life experience, and circumstances? Are you truly average? And if you believe you are average, do you aspire to remain average?
I suggest that you are not average. And while you may be of average height or have the average number of pets, you probably don’t have the average family, average career, average emotions, or average life history.
Thesaurus.com provides the words ‘ordinary’ and ‘mediocre’ as synonyms for the word ‘average’. You are not average, and you are not mediocre or ordinary.
For the priorities in your life, seek advice and guidance that is specific to you and your family and your goals. Build plans for your future – not the average future.
This article is intended to be educational and thought-provoking rather than financial advice. When we work together in a financial planning engagement, we discuss your unique personal situation and your unique goals. We examine these factors and many others during our financial planning process to determine appropriate financial strategies for YOU.