The Trouble With Biometric Investment Monitors

I mean this in the best possible way: You do not keep yourself alive.  

The breathing, the movement of blood, the functioning of the kidneys and liver and all the rest–you and I have no role whatsoever in making it all work. The most we can do is keep ourselves from getting in the way of the amazing ways our bodies stay alive, and perhaps even slightly improve the current performance of some of our organs and systems through exercise and healthy eating.  

Don’t get me wrong! Please do not get in the way of your body by what you put into it or what you subject it to, and I would recommend some amount of exercise. But I think it’s healthy for us 21st century humans to remind ourselves of just how little control we have over the staying-alive-ness of our wonderful bodies. 

At any rate, there was an article in this Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal entitled, “The Trouble With Biometric Baby Monitors,” which is basically an account of how we attempt to meet our neurotic need to retain a control we will never have, by directing it toward our newborn children. If you have not had a baby in the last few years, the long story short is that tech companies have realized they can capitalize on the general anxiety of young parents by further invading their lives with various internet-connected baby monitoring systems that have no evidence of preventing what all parents worry about: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (aka SIDS). 

Going far beyond the audio/video monitors that have been around for a long time, these non-FDA approved gadgets (like “smart socks” that claim to measure heart rate and oxygen levels) are constantly monitoring, constantly causing anxiety, and constantly overestimating the amount of control parents have even if these faulty devices actually found a real problem. 

It’s much the same in the world of investing. Though we can’t possibly design a portfolio that works as well as the human body was designed to work, we can still do a pretty thorough job of matching a portfolio with the goals and values and complexities of an individual or family. A good portfolio is efficient, doesn’t take more risks than it should, and will largely function as designed if taken care of over time. 

The problem is, we have a human tendency to believe we exert a control over our investments that we will never have. In fact, we have significantly less control over what our investments do than what our bodies do! And yet, how many biometric baby monitors do we install and constantly fret over when it comes to our portfolio? Even assuming the data we get is good data, there is almost nothing within our power to do anything constructive with it. 

And so, I think we’d all–young parents and investors of all ages alike–sleep much better and ultimately fulfill our respective roles more fully if we would step away from the world of 24/7 monitoring and information overload. Neither our kids nor our investments benefit from the constant attention. Instead, let’s focus on the one thing we can control: our own behavior.  

Jared Korver
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A product of small-town North Carolina (Carthage, to be exact), I’m proudly married to my best friend and co-adventurer, Amy. Together, we have two sons–Miles and Charlie–and could more or less start a library from our home. I love being outside, can’t read enough, am in the habit of writing haikus, and find food and coffee to be among life’s greatest treasures.