Amateur investors in China had the rare chance of asking a Nobel Laureate for personal finance tips Wednesday, when Nobel Prize-winning U.S. economist Robert Shiller participated in a livestream on Alibaba’s payment platform Alipay in which he answered questions from random pedestrians in Shanghai. However, hopeful investors might find their enthusiasm dampened on hearing Shiller’s answers.
What’s the story?
After detailing her mediocre investment performance in gold, real estate, and stocks that often resulted in her buying high and selling low, a woman boldly asked Shiller to recommend some stocks to her. “How can I avoid being ‘mown down’ by the market?” she asked.
In Chinese, the phrase “being mown down” uses the word “chives,” or “jiucai”, and refers to retail investors who keep throwing cash into the markets only for it to be “harvested” by institutions, just as chives keep sprouting after being chopped off to make dumplings. Shiller offered the woman a note of caution in his response, saying “One shouldn’t go too far into individual investing and picking stocks…. Don’t view it as a get-rich-quick endeavor.” When a young man asked for his advice on achieving financial independence, Shiller answered, “There isn’t much you can do to work miracles.”
Although Shiller’s advice sounded harsh to those eager to make a quick buck, he devoted the remainder of his livestream to discussing the positive outlook for robo-advising in China, joined by Zhu Ning, Deputy Dean at the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and Huang Hao, Vice President of Ant Financial. Huang envisioned China becoming a frontrunner in robo-advising globally with the rapid domestic expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) and mobile internet service. Shiller believes that robo-advising will adopt a more user-oriented approach so that everyday investors can receive tailored financial advice.
What are people saying online?
While many people admired the woman’s courage in seeking concrete advice from a Nobel Laureate, others jokingly pointed out that people like her falsely assume economists to be savvy investors. One user wrote, “I studied finance as an undergraduate and friends and families would ask me for stock investment tips all the time. If I knew the trick to investing, I wouldn’t be here slogging through my work every day.”
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