BARE­FOOT IN­VESTOR

The Sunday Times - - Business - SCOTT PAPE The Bare­foot In­vestor holds an Aus­tralian Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Li­cence (302081). This is gen­eral ad­vice only. It should not re­place in­di­vid­ual, in­de­pen­dent, per­sonal fi­nan­cial ad­vice

LET me tell you about a 59-year-old woman who makes bil­lions of dol­lars a year.

Her name is Bar­bie and, af­ter years of be­ing in the (toy) dog­house, she’s cool again. Last week toy con­glom­er­ate Mat­tel re­ported a 12 per cent rise in sales of the buxom blonde.

“Mat­tel is try­ing to lure cus­tomers back by re­cast­ing the toy’s im­age to play up not only the nos­tal­gia but a newer no­tion: they’re ben­e­fi­cial to child de­vel­op­ment”, says the Wash­ing­ton Post.

Crikey.

When I was a kid, all Bar­bie did was pro­mote an un­re­al­is­tic body im­age.

(Doc­tors have said that if Bar­bie were real she’d only have room for half a liver and a few inches of in­tes­tine. Yet ap­par­ently there is room for a much big­ger brain.)

OK, so Mat­tel hasn’t up­graded her liver, in­testines or brain . . . but they have added a touch of tech.

En­ter Hello Bar­bie.

Here’s how Mat­tel de­scribes the lat­est round of plas­tic surgery they’ve per­formed on the world’s favourite rake-thin, six-foot-tall, FF-breasted doll.

“The No.1 thing girls have asked for is to have a con­ver­sa­tion with Bar­bie. Well, us­ing WiFi and speech recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy . . . now they can! Girls want to learn, tell sto­ries and make friends and for the first time Bar­bie recog­nises what girls are say­ing, and can re­spond!”

Uh-huh. Here’s what’s re­ally hap­pen­ing.

“A mi­cro­phone records lit­tle girls’ pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions. It trans­mits those con­ver­sa­tions to cloud servers where they are an­a­lysed by al­go­rithms and are lis­tened to by em­ploy­ees of Mat­tel and its tech­nol­ogy part­ner, Toy Talk, and they are shared with un­named third par­ties”, says Su­san Linn, from Cam­paign for a Com­mer­cial-Free Child­hood. Creepy.

“Hello Bar­bie asks many ques­tions that would elicit in­for­ma­tion about a child, her in­ter­ests and her fam­ily, which could be of great value to ad­ver­tis­ers”, says An­gela Camp­bell, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tion at Ge­orge­town Law School. Clearly this is out­ra­geous. We need to pro­tect our vul­ner­a­ble lit­tle chil­dren from a con­glom­er­ate that is openly spy­ing on them.

They’re kids, for good­ness’ sake! I mean, they’re not old enough to un­der­stand the long-term ram­i­fi­ca­tions of giv­ing up their pri­vacy, and hav­ing their data sold and later used against them. As adults we ob­vi­ously wouldn’t fall for that, right?

Wait a sec­ond. Yes, some of the fastest-sell­ing tech gad­gets on the planet right now are Ama­zon Alexa and Google Home — voice-ac­ti­vated speak­ers that are con­stantly lis­ten­ing in on our con­ver­sa­tions. Oh, and then there’s the cute-look­ing Alexa Alarm Clock, which has an in-built cam­era and mi­cro­phone . . . in your bed­room! Bar­bie may be off her rocker, but we’re all be­ing played like toys by big tech con­glom­er­ates.

Tread Your Own Path!

cracker of a fee for their “phan­tom ad­vice”.

Much like Mia, I never saw a fi­nan­cial ad­viser.

Hor­ror read­ing: it starts in 2013, with a $242.17 fee and in­creas­ing each year, with a to­tal plan ser­vice fee paid sit­ting at $2115.85. So thank you, Mia. I’m go­ing to get back my money.

Bare­foot re­sponds: This week the Royal Com­mis­sion read out a leaked NAB doc­u­ment in which the bank ex­plained why it liked charg­ing cus­tomers com­mis­sions: “As you know, com­mis­sion-based re­mu­ner­a­tion struc­tures are opaque, lack any cor­re­spond­ing cus­tomer ser­vice obli­ga­tions and are not gen­er­ally un­der­stood by cus­tomers.” Hot dig­gity dang!

I spoke to Mia this week, who is proud to have played a part in keep­ing her su­per fund ac­count­able and help­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of other MLC mem­bers.

I also spoke to NAB, which told me that all MLC cus­tomers who were wrongly charged will be con­tacted and re­funded. Though it wouldn’t hurt to give them a call and gen­tly re­mind them you want your money back, plus in­ter­est.

The Bare­foot In­vestor for Fam­i­lies: The Only Kids' Money Guide You’ll Ever Need (HarperCollins) RRP $29.95

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