Decoding your investment strategy

Book Review: 'The Wall Street Journal Guide to the 50 Economic Indicators That Really Matter'

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Did you ever see the film "A Christmas Story"? I love the scene where Peter Billingsley’s character, Ralphie, anxiously anticipates and awaits the arrival in the mail of his Orphan Annie Secret Society decoder pin, which he’d earned the hard way by diligently collecting and mailing in Ovaltine box tops.

Ralphie was literally salivating as he feverishly decoded the message delivered by the announcer at the end of the first Radio Orphan Annie show that aired after he received his pin. And he was literally deflated as though someone had stuck him with the pin when he realized the secret message was actually a commercial: "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine."

Decoders always hold the promise of access and solution. The reason Ralphie was waiting with bated breath is the same reason we all love the idea of a decoder — that it will providing you access to top secret, insider knowledge with which your life will be forever different — better, ostensibly, than it was before you cracked the code.

But so often, as little Ralphie found out, the promise is empty and the hope of a decoder is false — the decoding itself is fairly meaningless unless the translated message is useful to you.