Paying a High Price for Bad Advice
At this time of financial crisis, people are seeking good, relevant advice. But this can be hard to find.
The following is typical of a question you would see in a financial publication -- and its less-than helpful answer:Q: What can someone whose 401(k) is down do to rebuild their retirement savings?
A: For anyone who is at least five years from retirement, there is probably time for their investments to right themselves.
Resist the urge to take money out of a 401(k) or to stop making contributions to it. Research has shown that dollar-cost averaging -- investing at given intervals -- pays off well in times of crisis.
Check whether the wild market swings have thrown off your asset allocation -- the specific mix of stocks and bonds that makes sense for an individual's financial goals and risk tolerance. If so, then rebalance it by selling shares that are overvalued and buying those that are below optimal levels. Focus on low cost....
Blah, blah, blah.
How naive do the so-called financial experts think people are? Well, obviously, many people are that naive because millions keep listening to the same old advice again and again.
The Same Old Story
So what is wrong with those giving the advice and those following it? Now that the markets have crashed and trillions have been lost, these so-called experts continue on like mindless parrots, saying over and over again, "Polly wants you to invest in a well-diversified portfolio of mutual funds."
Don't they know the market has changed? Don't they know the global economy is contracting, not expanding? Don't they know their advice is bad regardless of whether the market is expanding or contracting? Doesn't the general public realize that most financial "experts" are not professional investors? They're either sales people or journalists -- people who earn money via commissions or a paycheck. And even the people running our biggest investment banks -- or what use to be investment banks -- are compensated via commissions or a paycheck. They are not investors. They are employees working for banks.
So my advice is, be very careful whom you take financial advice from -- and that includes me. My guidance, after all, does not work for 80 percent of the people. My suggestions are not right for those who work for a paycheck or for commissions, nor do they work for those who save money in the bank or a retirement account.
The Right Advice for the Right Audience
My advice is for people who are entrepreneurs or professional investors. I have had a "real" job for only four years of my life, which means I only collected a traditional paycheck for that very short period of time. I do not have a retirement account. If my businesses or my investments are not profitable, then I don't eat. And I like to eat.
I chose to live my life this way because this financial lifestyle keeps me honest. It also keeps me wary and very suspicious of financial experts who offer inane advice. I personally cannot live on such advice. My businesses and investments need to be profitable monthly and pay me monthly, regardless of whether the economy is expanding or contracting.
I don't live in some fairytale world with the hope that the markets will right themselves in five years. I don't keep putting money into a losing venture such as a retirement plan filled with stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. I do not live on false promises. I cannot afford to live on bad advice.
Some Serious Questions
My questions to financial journalists and others who are doling out poor counsel: "What if your advice is wrong in five years? What happens if the markets don't come back? What happens if the markets just stay flat or crash even further? What happens if the markets recover and then crash when the person following your advice is in their late eighties?"
My advice for those seeking financial advice: Look for investments that pay you monthly or quarterly, regardless of whether the markets are up or down or whether the economy is expanding or contracting. Stop listening to those pseudo financial experts with crystal balls and journalism degrees.
The following are tidbits of information to keep in mind as you consider your financial options:
1. I learned my investment philosophy at the age of nine by playing Monopoly. In the game, if I had one green house, I was paid $8. If I had two green houses, then I was paid $16.
I began playing Monopoly for real when I was 26 years old. Today my wife and I have approximately 1,400 little green houses -- each paying us monthly. You do not have to be a rocket scientist or have a Harvard degree to play Monopoly for real. Today's depressed real estate market is the best time to start buying little green houses, even if credit is tight.
In 1987 the stock market crashed. That crash was followed by the crash of the Savings and Loan industry. Those two crashes led to the crash of the real estate market. The economy stayed down from 1987 to 1995. Even though my wife and I were strapped for cash and bankers did not want to lend to small investors, we found ways of putting deals together by using seller financing and creative financing, or simply taking over properties that the bank did not want on its books.
Most financial experts discourage people from doing what I do. They often say that it is risky -- and it certainly can be. But, in my opinion, following their advice of putting money into a savings account and investing in a 401(K) is even riskier in this volatile economy.
2. Today, as the economy is contracting, cash is king. Yet because the Federal Reserve is printing trillions of Monopoly dollars in order to stop deflation, in a few years we could see a hyperinflationary period. Hyperinflation will wipe out the value of a saver's holdings and eventually destroy most mutual funds as the government begins to raise interest rates in an attempt to stem inflation. In a hyperinflationary period, gold and silver will be king.
3. I am not actually recommending gold, silver, or real estate. Assets do not make you rich. Assets can make you poor if you are not careful. In 1980 gold and silver hit all-time highs, gold hitting $800 an ounce and silver $50 an ounce. So the suckers jumped in and were slaughtered. The same thing happened with real estate in 2004.
If you do not know what you are doing, no asset can make you rich. Ultimately, what makes you rich is your financial intelligence. Your greatest asset is your brain -- so take care of it and protect it from bad advice.