It’s enough to drive you crazy (or crazier). All that talk, talk, talk, everywhere you turn. Whether it’s buying hot stocks or fleeing plummeting prices, the tempting – and sometimes convincing – “Act NOW!” or “This time it’s different!” stock market alerts never seem to end. The problem is, it’s important to get this right. For many of us it is . it’s your life savings we’re talking about. Tune into all that hype, and all of a sudden you’ve allowed these media outlets to become the architect of your future.

Let’s take a step back, and kick off my “No Dumb Questions” series with one of the non-dumbest questions around: Why invest in stocks to begin with – isn’t it the same as gambling??

What a great question! I hear it all the time from frustrated investors who are just trying to earn a reasonable return in a market that never stands still.

To get a grip on the stock market, it helps to think about markets differently. The media hypes markets in the here and now – but that is not how you want to invest. You REALLY need to ignore the news. Listening to the media gets you focused on the short term and:

Lesson #1: If you try to trade on short-term news, the stock market is a gamble.

All that confusing talk-talk-talk you hear every day? It represents millions of global “votes” on what various people think the market might do next. In today’s high-tech world, we’re talking nanoseconds before all the votes are in, and the market sets its next prices in response.”

This means, by the time you’ve heard any breaking news, the fix is already in. If you do try to trade on it, you may “win” or you may “lose,” but either way it’s more about luck than skill. Plus, every time, win or lose, trading fees leave your wallet.

Lesson #2: In the long run, the markets act as a steadier scale, offering heavier or lighter expected returns depending on where you stand.

Here, a picture speaks a thousand words. Consider this visual of how some U.S. market components – or asset classes – have performed since 1926. The story is the same for global markets.

Notice how there has been a lot of “noise” during short runs, but pretty dependable upward growth over time. Also, you can see that different asset classes help you build more wealth than others over time … with a catch. The higher expected returns also require you to endure more lumpy, bumpy market risks along the way.

So back to our question: Why invest in stocks? Decades of history and volumes of academic evidence inform us that stocks are you’re a good place to build wealth, and protect your nest egg from inflation. It also informs us there are sturdy ways and wagering ways to go about it. That’s where I come in – to help you skip the gambling approach, and become a disciplined market participant.