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Curiosity

Curiosity is a greatly maligned virtue. The saying “Curiosity killed the cat” is to blame. It has imbued our senses with unhelpful negativity. Curiosity is a necessary driver in all forms of exploration and innovation. It encourages us to go the extra mile to seek out explanations and novel solutions. Detectives mistakenly accused of being nosy are masters at cunning curiosity – relentlessly seeking out awkward answers.

The best financiers are curious ones! Inquisitive for more detail and more data! Too often, consumers peruse no further than the front page of the glossy brochure. They are duped by the headline rate or a catchy strapline. It would be wise for them to be more curious.

When buying insurance, consumers invariably opt for the cheapest version without exploring the other options. Paradoxically, cheapest is always best until there’s a claim – but the potential for a claim is the only purpose of insurance in the first place – all the more reason to display curiosity about what happens in the event of a claim.

Similarly with a mortgage or a personal loan; consumers will invariably choose the ones with the cheapest monthly repayments; whereas, it would be far better to be more inquisitive about the full cost of repayments over the full length of the loan. It’s the same with credit cards. Consumers will be happiest with the card that requires the least amount in monthly top-ups.

The concept that cheapest is best is drilled into consumers by persistent messaging in the financial press and social media. This is not a new phenomenon. Society at large has always demanded that we seek out a bargain and that we are not slow in telling our neighbours about the bargain. This perpetuates the notion that cheapest is best. Some people can be unremitting in their euphoria about how cheap it is abroad – and, consequently, how they are being ripped off at home. This is not a logical thought process. Those same people would be better advised to be more curious about the discrepancies before passing judgement.

Many investors fall into the same trap. They are lured by higher potential returns that they view as guaranteed – without asking probing questions about the safety of their money. More intrusive questioning would reveal the true extent and shallowness of the apparent protections. In fact, a good rule of thumb for investors is to avoid investment proposals that contain the words “guaranteed”; “certainty”; “zero-risk”; etc. Such investments are most likely unregulated and the claims are blatant lies.

Being curious is good – although with a busy lifestyle consumers seldom find time to devote sufficient enthusiasm to the discipline. That is unfortunate because it is well worth the effort. Here are a couple of simple rules to bear in mind to encourage curiosity. Don’t accept things at face value – keep an open mind. Ask questions – then more questions – don’t stop asking questions. Develop a curious nature and have fun doing it. You’ll be amazed at how many dodgy salespeople you uncover.

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