An account called @Nonrelatedsense showed that some of the smartest minds in investing are learning, and having fun, on Twitter
By Jason Zweig, July 19, 2019 11:00 am ET
Twitter isn’t just a megaphone for bragging about yourself and insulting your enemies, real or imagined. All investors should appreciate that some financial thinkers have turned the social-media site into a force for enlightenment and fun—if you follow the right people.
That’s never been clearer than it was a few days ago, when the person behind the @Nonrelatedsense account died, prompting an outpouring of love and grief in the financial quadrant of Twitter known as FinTwit. (Although I know who he was and where he worked, I’m honoring the wishes of his family and friends to preserve his anonymity.)
Those who followed him, even without meeting him in real life, felt as if we had lost one of our smartest friends.
NRS tweeted more than 117,000 times—an inimitable mix of investing insights, snarky quips, nature photographs and cocktail recipes. He exchanged what had to be thousands of direct messages with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people who sought his opinions. (I was among them.)
NRS was blunt, cynical, often profane, but seldom cruel—even though he saw clearly that the business model of many financial companies is to pile up mountains of fees from a blizzard of flim-flam and gibberish. A financial adviser obsessed with mutual funds and income-oriented investments, he could smell baloney in a single sniff—and as soon as he detected it, he mocked it.
At the same time, his tweets and messages were infused with skeptical wisdom and profound uncertainty about how much anyone can ever know (“your confidence in this thesis is far too high to be credible”).
“I only knew him through his Twitter identity,” Cliff Asness, co-founder of AQR Capital Management in Greenwich, Conn., which manages $194 billion in assets, told me this week. “But it was very clear he was very knowledgeable about finance, a great wit and committed to the truth.”
Jeremy Schwartz, global head of research at WisdomTree Investments , Inc., says the firm had “for years” been mulling over the idea of a fund with enhanced exposure to stocks and bonds. A Twitter exchange that NRS had with two other investors, @EconomPic and @choffstein, helped spur the launch of the WisdomTree 90/60 U.S. Balanced Fund last summer, says Mr. Schwartz.
More importantly, he understood that investing is a lonely endeavor—and it’s easier to stay the course when you feel you belong to a group whose beliefs are based on valid evidence rather than on the fear and greed of millions of strangers.
NRS was at the center of “a community of like-minded people where I feel most myself,” says a financial adviser in Atlanta who tweets as @DadInvest. “It just felt like we were in this together.”
“I think NRS was on Twitter looking for intellectual stimulation,” says Lawrence Hamtil, a partner at Fortune Financial Advisors in Overland Park, Kans. “He made me better at what I do for a living, and that’s a valuable thing he offered as a pastime.”
Mr. Hamtil adds, after a pause: “It’s weird to get choked up about somebody you never met, but time and place aren’t as important as the depth and the nature of the relationship.”
Nicole Boyson, a finance professor at Northeastern University who studies compensation and conflicts of interest among financial advisers, says she exchanged at least 1,500 messages with NRS between October 2018 and his death. He clarified dozens of details critical to her study. On at least two days, she says, NRS got so engaged in debating and explaining that they messaged each other over Twitter “practically the whole day each time.”
Although NRS is gone, he remains a model of how financial Twitter can educate investors. In his honor, I’ve assembled a list of people who tweet in the same spirit.
For advice on what to read and how to think about financial decisions: @MorganHousel, @abnormalreturns, @farnamstreet, @mjmauboussin, @EconTalker, @dollarsanddata, @pcordway, @ritholtz, @AnnieDuke, @RPSeawright, @jposhaughnessy, @patrick_oshag, @BrentBeshore, @trengriffin, @RyanKruegerROI, @daniel_egan, @brianportnoy, @laurenfosternyc, @OS_Mitchell, @mikedariano.
For discussions on how to allocate assets and which investing strategies are likely to work or fail: @EconomPic, @Jesse_Livermore, @CliffordAsness, @enterprising, @syouth1, @demonetizedblog, @modestproposal1, @awealthofcs, @alphaarchitect, @choffstein, @MebFaber, @lhamtil, @bpsandpieces, @ROIChristie, @AlbertBridgeCap, @svrnco, @millerak42, @RyanPKirlin, @RA_Insights.
For updates and insights on market news and investing trends: @ReformedBroker, @TheStalwart, @matt_levine, @researchpuzzler, @JoachimKlement, @charliebilello, @michaelbatnick, @DaveNadig, @deborahfuhr, @WallStCynic, @timelyportfolio, @toby_n, @DavidSchawel, @dashofinsight, @tracyalloway, @HayekAndKeynes, @mdc, @jsblokland, @mrzepczynski, @lynchbages.
For broader economic topics: @MargRev, @JohnHCochrane, @elerianm, @LorcanRK, @M_C_Klein, @wolfejosh, @profgalloway, @teasri, @cullenroche, @prchovanec, @DanielaGabor, @RencapMan, @calculatedrisk, @interfluidity, @kitjuckes, @Schuldensuehner, @agurevich23.
I’ve excluded people who are rude or partisan, foment short-term trading or other harmful behavior, or flog their own products or services. (I’ve also excluded the Wall Street Journal’s many Twitter accounts, which you don’t need me to recommend.)
From what I’ve observed, everyone on this list seeks to become smarter about investing and help others do the same. They are frank but fair; they admit when they were wrong; they defend ideas on the basis of evidence, not emotion. In short, they have a bit of NRS in them, as every investor should.