Monday, February 25, 2013

Financial Intelligence and Jargon: Why they just don't mix

During a movie the other night, my friend leaned over expressed confusion as to why one of the characters was being arrested.

"Insider trading," I responded. She gave me a wild look. I assumed that since we were at the movies, she had not heard my response over the noise.

"Insider trading," I repeated with my voice raised slightly higher. Once again, she reacted with a confused look. After a brief explanation, she responds, "Oh, you mean like Martha Stewart?"

Turns out she had an idea what insider trading meant, but the events played out in the movie confused her. Understandably so, since the scene in particular had portrayed a group of investment bankers speaking jargon at such a fast pace, their words were jumbled at one point. Which is usually the case when "experts" of a particular field discuss their line of work. They become too fluent for the bystanders to understand.

It happens at work all the time. Tenured employees are known for throwing out acronyms and jargon at new employees and it's difficult to keep up with conversations or, worse, to understand a directive. You run into this situation when tuning in to the news, or reading an article as well. Which contributes to communication barriers between the experienced and the learning. And it happens in every specialized industry, in company corridors, and corporate meetings.

We don't expect laymen to know every technical concept hurled their way, but they should know enough to keep up with a conversation, especially when making financial decisions. If the business world were to simply its language, there would be less consumers in debt or making hasty investing decisions. There would also be less investors being implicated for fraud, too.

During conversations with individuals who have made shady decisions, I've discovered they did not fully comprehend the magnitude of their actions, especially when money was involved. Raising financial intelligence is important because it helps people make smarter choices.

Judging from my friend's reaction, she may have known enough about insider trading to connect it to Martha Stewart, but something tells me she didn't understand the severity of the crime. It's frightening, considering that she invests in real estate. She's a good soul and I can vouch for her high ethical standards. I'm not worried she would take advantage of anyone. My concern, though, is whether she could detect if she was being conned.

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