WHEN MY WIFE AND I got married, she had a credit card with an outstanding balance. Back then, you could write off the interest on your tax return. Still, I hate debt and I paid off her balance. Ever since, she’s continued to maintain a separate credit card because I wanted her to have a credit history, so she could take out a loan on her own if I died. We’ve always paid off her monthly balance in full.
WHEN I TOOK OVER responsibility for my developmentally disabled uncle’s finances, following my father’s death in 2001, I inherited the stock broker that my dad was using. The broker was associated with a well-known financial company. I’d never used a broker before. Any investments I personally owned were held in my employer’s 401(k) plan.
The first time I met the broker, whose name was Jim, I took notice of the large and finely appointed office he had.
I’VE SEEN FINANCIAL advisors do great work and I’ve seen them do poor work. Which brings me to my late father’s experience.
Dad was a heck of a small businessman. Starting in 1956, he and his partner sold and serviced radios, televisions, appliances and furniture. Forty years later, he sold the business to four of my brothers.
By the mid-1960s, Dad had accumulated what was for him a small fortune. This was the time of the stock market’s so-called go-go years.
I WAS A RABID football fan as a kid. I would sweep across our front lawn, fantasizing about the many and varied ways I would run to daylight for Hewlett High School. But when I finally got the chance, I lasted only a few practices. I hadn’t counted on all the bruises that came with the program.
So, too, was it with my brief stint as an independent investment advisor affiliated with a large discount broker.
I MADE A MAJOR change late in my career, leaving behind my job as a financial manager at a dying computer business. I knew I needed to change. If I didn’t, there was a good chance I’d soon be out of work.
My new job, however, wasn’t what I expected.
I’d been with the computer company since graduating college. I was in my mid-50s and smart enough financially to know I still needed more savings for a successful retirement.
I WAS OFFERED a “free retirement review” by Carlson Financial a year ago. The review would—among other things—”help me answer the five biggest questions I have about retirement.” I didn’t realize I had only five questions. Still, I decided a financial review might be in order.
I then forwarded an uncomfortable amount of personal information, financial statements and tax returns to a man I’d never met. Scott seemed like a nice enough guy, but hey,
ONLINE INVESTMENT advisor Personal Capital offered me a $25 Amazon gift card to open an account and then link it to one of my existing financial accounts worth more than $1,000. As a bonus, it also offered a complimentary financial checkup.
I duly signed up and linked one financial account. I then dodged the complimentary checkup and subsequently used my newfound wealth to purchase a portion of a good-enough HP computer.
I thought I was home free until I inadvertently answered a phone call from a member of my “Personal Capital team,” who again offered me the complimentary financial checkup.
EVERY SO OFTEN, I see comments on social media about Vanguard Group’s Personal Advisor Services (PAS). One person posted that he’d talked to a growing number of people who quit PAS. There was no particular reason given for why they left. But I don’t doubt it. I’m a PAS client. I’ve often thought about terminating my relationship.
I’ve been with PAS since 2018. When I first joined, the PAS advisors made a few changes to my investment portfolio.
READERS MAY RECALL Laura, my acquaintance who didn’t need life insurance but was sold a policy anyway. Alarmed by her ignorance, she vowed to manage her own money. As a first step, she parted ways with her financial advisor.
The advisor had her invested in 35 funds. She never fully understood what these funds owned or why she needed them. She had previously thought that investing had to be complicated and was best left to the professionals.
THE PREDOMINANT WAY financial planners get paid is by charging a fee based on the amount of money they’re managing. The typical industry fee I’ve seen is 1%, and it’s been that way for years. Under this model, a financial planner managing a client’s $1 million portfolio would charge $10,000 a year.
Charley Ellis’s recent article explained how this approach came into being. His article also demonstrated how a seemingly innocuous 1% fee can actually consume a large portion of a portfolio’s return.
I’M A MORNINGSTAR subscriber. I find that the site provides investing and personal finance information that’s sensible and useful for the average person, and that it promotes good investing and planning behaviors. Still, I was taken aback by a recent article, which discussed four funds that investors have been buying.
In terms of deciding what I buy, I don’t really care what others have been purchasing. Still, it’s interesting to see, so I checked it out.
WE RECENTLY UPGRADED our home with smart locks, which open with a keypad code or cellphone command. After a bunch of research, we settled on Yale Assure Locks, which I’d also seen on an episode of This Old House. I’ve installed many locksets in the past, so I didn’t expect any problems.
Once they arrived, I gathered my tools, opened the packages and read the instructions. It seemed pretty straightforward. I set to work on the deadbolt,
WHEN IT COMES to communication, I’m kind of a fanatic. (My wife would say I should drop the “kind of.”) More specifically, I’m a fan of responsive communication.
Back in my working days, when I practiced criminal law, I made it a point to return phone calls and emails from clients promptly. It was rare that I didn’t do it the same day. If that meant staying late at the office until I caught up,
HOW LUCKY I WAS to be the recipient of a dinner invitation to Ruth’s Chris. I love a sizzling ribeye, so I booked my seat at the event. Those nearing and in retirement have a good idea of what I’m referring to—the good old annuity sales presentation.
These dinners are put on by financial advisors looking to expand their business. The routine goes like this: Invite prospects, present for an hour on the benefits of owning insurance or an annuity,
I’M 69 YEARS OLD and so have spent most of my life dealing with people—and businesses—in person. That said, I’ve loved and greatly benefited from the internet revolution and appreciate its marvels in a way that only a person who lived in the “before” period can. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, and about how important it is—or isn’t—to have face-to-face relationships with the people I do business with.
For many years,