Ask Colin

Why have you discontinued your free newsletter?

As you will know, I teach investing, by which I mean investing skills, not what investments anyone should make. This is mainly through my website. It has two strands:

  1. The free website, which anyone can access. This is fairly clearly general information and I am very careful never to express a view on individual stocks. Any view expressed on markets is very general and is safely not construed as advice. For years I have had a free newsletter on investment and analysis topics, which has been quite popular and led people to sample what I do and consider becoming members of the website where they can learn in more depth.

  2. The members website, for which  I charge a small annual fee that covers its costs plus my costs in travelling and speaking as I teach investing around the country. On the members website I teach by using as examples my own investments. They are proven powerful teaching tools. I can do this because the members website is behind a disclaimer wall and all documents dealing with stocks and my investments have disclaimers on them that any commentary I am making in using them as examples in my teaching are with reference to my investment plan only and that my investments may not be suitable for members then or at any other time. That said, disclaimers cannot remove the reality of actions covered by them.

All that was running quite well and ASIC are not unaware of what I do. However, members had started more and more often to refer to the documents on the members website as my newsletter. This includes quite a few emails, so if ASIC ever made discovery, they would be found to suggest clearly what members thought the documents were. This was a huge amber light in that to publish an investment newsletter, I would clearly need an investment adviser’s licence. However, that is expensive and I do not want to advise people, I only want to teach investing knowledge and skills. It began to get quite dangerous when members referred to my newsletter (meaning the members website) in asking questions at meetings at which I was speaking.

I first of all dealt with this a while ago by ceasing a members newsletter that I had been sending occasionally (it only had about 10 or 12 issues). I removed all reference to it on the website, moving the articles in it to appropriate pages.

However, that was not enough. To stay clear of ASIC I was advised to cease using the term “newsletter” anywhere. This meant the free newsletter, which was long established and had thousands of readers. I must say that I resisted this advice for some time, but the continual reference to the members material as a newsletter kept me anxious that I may run foul of ASIC.

As it happened, the free newsletter had morphed over the years from being mainly questions and answers and some short articles to being mainly a few longer articles. The solution to the problem then was open to me this way:

  1. Take all the past questions and answers and move them to Ask Colin (this took weeks of work).

  2. Take all the articles and revise/update those that had ongoing value and create a new page called Educational Articles. (again, several weeks of work)

  3. Dispense with all the time-sensitive announcements of speaking engagements etc. or any material with no ongoing value.

  4. Take down the Newsletter Archive page, which then had nothing left on it.

  5. Discontinue the newsletters and replace them with an email notification that a new article or articles have been uploaded to the Educational Articles or Creating Real Wealth pages. This I announced last night.

  6. This afforded the opportunity (at some cost) to simplify administration of the list of emails for the notification emails.

So, the thrust of the advice was to remove reference to any kind of newsletter and hope that use of that term dies down/away and in any case, if ever challenged by ASIC I will be able to demonstrate that I am only publishing educational materials.

Now that the change is made, I am more than ever convinced that the past articles and questions in newsletters are now easier to find and the free website is a more useful investment education resource as a result.