I spend my days trying to help Australians invest better. I love what I do, and I’m passionate about helping people take control of their financial future.
We get some really positive emails about the impact we’re having for our members. Those are the emails I really love getting, like this one I received last week from Les of Brisbane…
“Congratulations…I am really looking forward to the anniversary issue of Motley Fool Share Advisor…I wish I had cottoned-on to you 12 months ago. Oh how I could have saved myself some money!“
And then you read articles like the one in yesterday’s Fairfax press, about a 22-year old guy who had to declare bankruptcy because he was sold property that he subsequently couldn’t afford.
A crying shame
Now, for different reasons (some legal!), I can’t comment specifically on that situation, although I wish I could, and it wouldn’t be pretty…
What makes me mad is that a young family were — in principle — doing what I wish more people (young and old) were doing. They were making a concerted effort to build their financial futures.
They knew no-one cared more about their financial future than they did.
They knew they needed to do something about it.
They were prepared to go the extra mile to make it happen.
Now, at best, they made a mistake. At worst it looks like it might allegedly be yet another case of an innocent punter falling prey to the seductions of a presumably fast-talking and totally unregulated property spruiker…
It makes me sick — and really mad
Stories like these are a tragedy for the people involved. Much more widespread is the impact these articles have on other people out there trying to make a legitimate buck or two.
“They’re all crooks”, they say. “Everything and everybody is stacked against me. The property market. The stock market. I just don’t know who or where to turn to.”
And that’s a tragedy. Don’t get me wrong — the last thing I want to do is defend anyone in the finance industry who doesn’t deserve defending.
Of crooks and self-interest
There are undoubtedly crooks in the financial services industry. It’s probably a small number, but the odds are pretty good (and experience suggests) they’re out there.
They have — and will continue to — steal the financial futures of people whose only crime was being naïve and trusting.
Maybe their excitement carried them away. Perhaps they felt they could trust the people they were dealing with. It reminds me of something a mate (jokingly) used to say:
“The key to selling is sincerity… and once you can fake that, you’ve got it made”
Sound like a property spruiker you might have seen at one of those ‘free’ fancy seminars held in a fancy hotel? Or does it sound like your ‘very friendly’ (and very well compensated) personal financial advisor?
If it seems too good to be true…
In any event, as the cliché suggests, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
There are many others in the industry who aren’t doing anything illegal, but who are far more interested in their own wealth than yours. Perhaps that’s understandable, but we think you should treat them accordingly.
Some seduce you with promises of huge riches. Others promise failsafe schemes. Or make it seem like a walk in the park. Some even invite you to leverage up your investment with huge dollops of debt — with the offer of riches if it works out, but which can bring losses in excess of your investment if it doesn’t.
Most charge enormous fees… regardless of your investment returns.
Get what you pay for
How many of these people are genuinely interested in building your financial wealth, as opposed to building their own?
I don’t mind people making money. After all, we run an investing service, Motley Fool Share Advisor, that we charge for.
I do mind — very much — them charging you astronomical amounts just to manage your money, regardless of your returns. Or encouraging you to take out expensive loans, trade shares or CFDs where they get a cut of the action, regardless of how well you do.
Shouldn’t that be the model for all financial services businesses? We think so.
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