Why We Invest

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- You've seen the headlines: "Is Wall Street Fair?" The obvious answer is no, of course not. Never has been. But that doesn't mean we should stash all our excess cash under a mattress.

The controversy over Facebook's ( FB) disastrous initial public offering has been exacerbated by allegations that Morgan Stanley ( MS) only shared accurate information about the company's growth prospects with certain privileged clients.

The New York Times reports that investment banks are furnishing advanced information about changes in stock ratings by sell-side analysts to large hedge funds. Meanwhile, automated, algorithmic trading by computers that exploit early access to information make up an increasingly large portion of the trades placed on major securities exchanges.

This is merely a sampling of the growing body of evidence that the average investor is being snookered. How are the rest of us supposed to compete against the financial titans?

Simple: We can't. Many people seem to be catching on to this reality these days as if it comes as some revelation: "Hey... Eureka! Wall Street is a rigged casino, and the house always wins!" The fact that this comes as a surprise to anyone is testament to the power of the financial industry's marketing prowess, which peddles the services of major financial institutions with images of jingoism and paternalism.

The industry's long-nurtured brands have taken a well-deserved nosedive since the financial system came to the brink of disaster and numerous paragons of American capitalism had to accept bailouts from the federal government to avoid ruin.

Meanwhile, the performance of the stock market has become a long-term disappointment over the last decade for most, and this has people raising questions about the industry with a level of skepticism I haven't seen before.

The truth is that the financial industry is like any other industry -- it's trying to sell you products and extract as much money out of you as possible in the process. Like a casino, the industry plays on your aspirations to be richer in order to get you to invest.

Its methods have only become more craven in recent decades as the financial industry's influence in government and the media has increased while public standards have devolved. The false promise that someone can speculate his or her way to prosperity became accepted as a valid message that should be embraced.

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