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This may look like a dupe of When does "advanced" go beyond personal finance?, but I need just a little bit more specificity please.

I am a weak quant, so I have no business answering real quant.SE or math.SE questions. The math I use for my work is very basic, really almost exclusively using the geometric series or accounting simple identities.

These seem to me like very basic mathematics that nearly anyone could do, and I try to give that knowledge away in answers.

I also try to bound possible choices by optimality, such as suggesting that the OP here use short term credit ETFs as the reserve for lean months.

Why should I assume that this OP or any other is not capable of doing relatively simple math and is not capable of using a brokerage account, two things that even when I first started out learning about finance were and still are the easiest elements?

Should I split up those two assumptions too? Are there times where I should assume an OP is incapable of math but capable of using a brokerage account and vice versa?

  • 2
    +1 for asking for constructive feedback. – Chris W. Rea Feb 14 '14 at 16:39
  • @ChrisW.Rea You are the best founder & probably mod too btw imho. Well, the math guys are real gentlemen, too. ;)) – user11865 Feb 14 '14 at 16:40
  • Thanks but you are too generous and sweeping with that statement. – Chris W. Rea Feb 14 '14 at 16:43
  • @ChrisW.Rea If only I could downvote comments... ;)) – user11865 Feb 14 '14 at 17:15
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  1. Don't assume the OP is the only intended audience for any answer you write. These questions and answers are intended to be long-lived knowledge resources indexed by search engines. A good question page will be viewed by many thousands of visitors. Aim to be understood by this audience, and help them. Consider the OP's question a "case-in-point" opportunity to generalize and/or elaborate – though without writing a book and without straying too far. Links help, but don't liberally pepper an answer with links without somehow tying things together.

  2. If an OP's question is potentially ambiguous with one narrow interpretation, but another more likely interpretation, perhaps arising from incorrect use of terminology or else a common misconception, please don't only address that narrow interpretation to the exclusion of the more common one.

    If there's another possible interpretation, try to at least mention it in your answer, even if you aren't going to address that part. You can be terse, but don't obscure by omission. Refer back to point #1.

    Be aware: in many cases, an OP never returns to clarify the original question. It's often up to the community to improve & clarify a question in order for it to be a lasting resource. As time passes, this concern becomes paramount! If the question simply cannot be improved to make it a useful question, it should be closed (and eventually deleted).

  3. Don't fight the community on every question closure. Yes, sometimes an OP deserves a defense and a case might be made, a question perhaps modified to be on-topic once rationale is discovered, but many times a guideline has already been established. Not every guideline the community has already worked to establish should be revisited and questioned every time a new question arises that contravenes the guideline. Just because you may be knowledgeable, able, willing, and interested in answering a question doesn't make it on-topic here.

  4. The world is bigger than the United States. I'm not sure where you're located, but from many of your answers you appear to have an affinity for quoting in great detail specific U.S. rules and regulations, perhaps because that is where you trade. While a very U.S-specific answer may not be technically incorrect when a question is in an ambiguous state, a later clarification about the OP's location may render your answer incorrect.

    Where location may be a significant factor, encourage the OP to disclose the location, or look at their profile for the information (or other questions that provide the clue) and tag accordingly. Alternatively, if you prefer rep whoring with quick answers instead of first seeking clarification, then try to write your answer for the general case, e.g. as in what you understand major jurisdictions typically do, while, say, citing the U.S. as an example with the caveat that "it depends."

  5. If you're suggesting an advanced and/or risky strategy, label it as such. Provide appropriate caveats. Even if the OP seems to know what they're talking about, remember the audience for this site: people who want to be financially literate. They aren't necessarily there yet.

    Most users will be practicing personal finance using typical tools (consumer software, bank accounts, mutual fund accounts, discount brokerage accounts, etc.) and securities typically accessible to retail investors. Layering on information about tools, services, securities, or strategies likely only accessible to professional traders or accredited investors is seldom helpful unless the other bases have been covered as well.

    There may be highly-educated investors, traders, software developers, physicists, and mathematicians frequenting this site and voting on answers, but please see point #1 again. Many of us voting here aren't looking to judge how smart you are, but how helpful your answers are. The core audience tends not to vote or comment. The typical reader of a question here is an anonymous visitor landing on a question page via search results. They have zero voting/commenting privileges. We fight for these users.

  6. You've been here three months. Yet, the site and many of its frequently-posting, commenting, and voting experts have been around for one, two, three, four years. Respect and consider what other expert users are suggesting when they provide constructive criticism on an answer. You might win the same consideration for your comments when it's evident you're taking comments of the other experts seriously.

    Try not to look at every critical comment as a challenge to be answered with a lengthy debate. We're not interested in a long string of "but ..., but ..., but..." and capitulating in exasperation. We'd rather you improve your answer. We try really hard to encourage you to improve your own answer. If we give up, we'll either improve it for you, or down-vote it to oblivion and delete it.

  7. And most especially, ignore the troublemakers, the occasional sniper who might be out to get your goat. There are reformed assholes here, and I count myself among them from time to time. Some of these individuals relapse more than others. If I or anybody else should make a comment that's simply rude, insulting, or offensive, please flag it for a moderator's attention. Debates, where necessary, should remain debates, and not devolve into shit-slinging.

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I personally find most of your contributions very interesting, not only because recently I have started to become interested in quantative finance as a hobby. I think your reputation score of almost 3k (on a site where most questions and answers do not get too many votes) shows that more people value your contributions.

That being said, I have a PhD in mathematics (although nothing related to finance), so this is likely not the typical background of the average user here. To fully appreciate many of your answers one needs to have a fairly good understanding of how the markets work, and how things like discounting and compounding work. I agree that this is basic mathematics that most people likely have learnt in school, but unfortunately experience shows that for many people this causes trouble. Sometimes this is due to an unfounded fear of mathematics, thinking "mathematics is hard", and giving up even before trying. However, without this background people may not understand your answers, and therefore falsely conclude that you did not answer the question.

Now, is this a problem? I think not, the stackexchange format accomodates this, since every user can upvote the answers they find most helpful, or ask for clarifications in the comments. And the question asker can accept the answer that is most helpful for him/her. I certainly hope that you will continue with your detailed answers, since I find them very informative.

  • Thank you Pieter Naaijkens! I definitely see your points. I hope you would do us all a favor and rescue up my poor mathematics from time to time. ;)) – user11865 Feb 21 '14 at 14:35

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