Navigating Through Data Overload (Using Personal Economy as the Example)

I remember the day that Bear Stearns was no more. I happened to be working as the Director of Technology for a niche financial firm that worked closely with Bear Stearns. On March 13, 2008, I said goodbye to a good friend of mine, another Director, at the Bear Stearns Los Angeles’ office. By Monday, March 16, 2008, she and the entire office was gone (or “defunct,” as the Wikipedia describes the demise of Bear Stearns).

Let’s fast forward a bit (I promise I’m getting to the point, here). Just this weekend, I was reading an interesting article on the New York Times web site. Granted, it is not a new article, but it helps to present the massive amount of data that we are dealing with in our lives, especially thanks to social media and our access to post personal information and data, at will. This article was written halfway between that fateful day in 2008 and today and is called, “Try to Focus on Your Personal Economy.”

Why does all that matter? It matters because it demonstrates a valid point about that data overload, in the midst of valid personal questions (in this case, financial). That data overload, as demonstrated in the New York Times article, is not going to diminish or go away any time soon. Also, while we may be improving, it is not like the economic crisis that began in 2008 is going to instantly go away in the snap of the fingers.

What the intersection of these two topics leaves us with is two things:

  • Navigating the data that surrounds us every day, to find the answers we need, and…
  • Navigating our own personal economy in a way that benefits us, regardless of what the global economy looks like.

Why these two topics? Because they do intersect. That intersection is more readily seen when going at it from the direction of answering a question (like the question of personal investment) and realizing there is so much information out there that you are suffering from “Data Overload.”

Two Ways to Navigate the Data Overload

There are various ways to navigate the data overload. One is right here, on this site, Directory Journal. If you visit the home page, you will see a visual representation of how Directory Journal can help you (also shown below, for a quick preview).

DirJournal Map
The example that is used is looking for coffee in your local area. If the coffee business has listed their site, you are able to navigate to the location and find a local coffee house where they can enjoy their brew.

This is one example of navigating data. As far as local businesses, the next challenge is to remind businesses to list themselves in directories like DirJournal so that those seeking their services can find them. After all, you are not as likely to be found if you (the business) do not take the initiative to list yourself and submit your site.

The other obvious source of navigating information is the use of Search Engines, like Google or Bing. It is fairly easy to find anything that you are looking for with a simple search in these search engines. I could go on and on about how to use search engines but I’m fairly confident you know how to use these tools (even tools beyond Google and Bing). After all, some of you are SEOs (search engine experts). But, just because you can find it doesn’t mean you have found what you need.

Filtering the Retrieved Data

That “finding what you need” brings us to the next challenge. More specifically, just because you can find an article about the topic you are searching doesn’t mean that it is accurate information and useful to you. How do you handle that?

So many people assume that because someone declares that they are an expert, that that means they are expert. The problem is, it is too easy to post the word “expert” on one’s website and declare oneself an expert even if that person does not have any real experience in that area. I have seen it time and time again, but this isn’t the time or place to expose those individuals.

Instead of trying to find a list of non-experts, it is up to you, as the consumer, to find ways of validating that the information that you read is accurate. In the study of psychology (and other sciences), we were taught (and required) to validate our sources. That is one of the reasons that the use of peer-reviewed journal articles was so helpful. Again, a topic for another time, but those articles had to go through a verification process (to put it simply) before being published. If you want to know more, check out this article about peer-reviewed articles.

Fortunately, for those of us living day-to-day normal lives, it is about balance. Similar to the piece in the New York Times (at the beginning of this article), it is about understanding what impacts us, in our lives (or in that case, personal economy).

Let me end this section (navigating data overload) by using an example. Let’s say you are a writer. If you are writing an article and looking for links to include, to provide your readers with resources, ensure that you validate that your source is credible. However, it is all in the balance. If you are providing a link that helps to define something that you are discussing, you are using it as just that, a “definition” resource. It is not like you are committing your reader to being married to that source. Now, on one hand, try not to link to something that obviously lacks credibility. So, in short, do your best to evaluate your source. On the other hand, the consumer is also responsible for what they consider valid. It is about balance of presentation and balance of responsibility.

We all live in this world of data overload and to some extent, we all must contribute to doing the best that we can in providing and consuming data/content.

Navigating the Financial Decisions

When we started this article, I promised it was two-fold, about your personal economy and about navigating the data overload that often surrounds those important decisions. In other words, we can often get lost on what it is that we need to do with our finances in the midst of information that is available (and growing) on the Internet… that data overload where potentially everyone is an “expert.”

The first piece of advice is to find a qualified financial advisor. That is definitely an area where you need to do your homework, obtain references, and ensure that you are avoiding scams, like the Madoff scam. Fortunately, there is information out there that can help you in understanding how to evaluate financial advisors. While enlisting a financial advisor should be a step before major financial decisions, you still have information at your disposal, via the Internet, to help you to know what questions to ask.

Since we are on the topic of your personal financial decisions, let’s give you some ideas that you can research as you start to prepare those questions for the financial advisor.

Putting the Research to Work: Ideas for Financial Investments

Everyone in the business world is searching for a single way to manage their money properly. Investment bankers often lean on the stock market in times of trouble, but the precious metals market is the one of the only reliable sources of investment income that people can use in times of trouble. The gold and silver markets are strong enough that they have been trending upward for over a century, and people who choose to invest in gold or silver see some decent returns on their investment.

In many cases, the simplicity of investment in precious metals is not fully realized. This is where the research is helpful. Remember? We want to be able to research our questions and come up with more questions to ask, especially when considering hiring that expert. We also need the research to vet the expert before hiring him or her.

Even with a financial advisor in the virtual Rolodex, the lone investor who once spent hours on the phone with a broker can get part of their work done online in just a few moments.

Here is an example list of articles that can get you started:

Don’t forget to think outside the box, either. Remember, you are navigating the data to find answers that work for you, in this case, as it relates to financial investments. There is no cost to thinking outside the box. You can do that all day, or several days. Then, you take that creative thinking, along with your research, and ask those questions of the financial advisor that you have selected to hire.

One area that could be considered is a silver IRA investment account. Already, silver is doing very well, and deserves its place in the list. The thinking outside the box comes into play because so many people think “gold,” when someone mentions investing in precious metals. But, gold is not the only game in town. Therein lies an opportunity for research, to see what fits in your portfolio the best.

When you find a site that provides intriguing information about the topic you are researching (in this case, precious metals), and you find that they have devoted much of their content (and time!) to covering that topic, it may be that that site deserves a bookmark and future returns. That site may become one of your key sources of information in your research of that topic (i.e. precious metals). In other words, that may be a point on the credibility and authority scale, when evaluating data and filtering the quality data for your list.

In Summary

The online economy is growing stronger every day, and the precious metals market is picking up steam. At the same time, we are inundated with more and more data. We have used the economy question as an example of a need for research and also that opportunity to be overloaded. Fortunately, you don’t have to be overloaded if you implement proper safeguards and your own system of validating your research.

I am not suggesting that you become a selfish individual, but in the case of finding what is right for you (and your finances), there needs to be that discerning intake of data. Fortunately, you have some tools to get you started on that navigation of data, on your way to make those important decisions (like financial investments).

Your first step is to find the information (i.e. directories like DirJournal.com and search engines). Then comes the discerning part, which will become easier the more that you find, evaluate, and intake quality information (data). Don’t forget to ask for help. You don’t have to go it alone and there are true experts out there (who also go through your own validation process).

Do you have some tips on how you validate your research or the people you consider “experts?” Any tips on how you navigate to avoid the data overload? Feel free to share in the comments, or drop us a line personally.

Written by
Deborah Anderson
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