Search for Yield Turns Ugly for Investors
Over the past several decades there has been a noticeable trend away from the personal accountability that used to make this country great. Anymore it seems that when things go wrong it's always someone else's fault. There are plenty of fingers pointed, but hardly any solutions offered. Even crooks have someone to blame.
Sad as it is, even victims are usually deserving of some measure of culpability.
Consider, for instance, the investment world at present. With American's income from interest and dividends remaining low, as detailed in previous articles, investors have had to search long and hard for any kind of decent yield on investments. Many, in their strain to find yield, have been toying in new arenas where they previously dared not go, and they do so at their own peril.
Scores of investors have been investing in funds which they fail to understand. One such vehicle that has lately been growing in popularity is the non-traded REIT, most of which typically have long capital lock-ups and little in the way of financial transparency. These securities have come under fire by regulators for their opaqueness.
Another oft-misunderstood vehicle is the Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), particularly those that use leverage. We've been long-time outspoken critics of ETFs, particularly those that employ leverage or focus on commodities (the gold ETF GLD especially).
We've found very few investors in these types of funds that truly understand how they're structured or even how they function. Even more disturbing is the scarcity of advisors that comprehend the securities they're selling, including ETFs and non-traded REITs. Most simply don't take the time to do their due diligence; they read the highlight sheets and get to work selling.
As if the complex world of securities and their structure - usually detailed in a lengthy prospectus - wasn't enough, other investors are getting mixed up with crooks. It seems nary a month goes by that we don't learn of some new fraud collapsing and investors losing everything.
While it pains us to say so, it's getting harder and harder to pity investors who get caught up in these schemes. Whether it's a John Ulmer with Westhaven Group or R. Allen Sanford's Sanford Financial Group, investors could have easily avoided most of these disasters if only they had taken the time to do their homework. Instead, excuses abound.
Quite often investors are led to believe that they can't understand the strategies being employed by an advisor. Let's be clear: If an advisor can't explain what they do and how they do it concisely and in a way clients can easily comprehend, they don't want clients to understand. Three simple words - "Just trust me" - should be any client's cue to stand up and back slowly towards the exit with their hand on their wallet.
While the pity well runs dry, it is indeed sad how many of these sob stories could have been so easily avoided. If, for example, we had been managing money for clients of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, our returns would have beaten many of those Bernie was promising. More importantly, clients would still have their money thanks to added structural protection our system offers investors.
It's about time investors started taking some personal responsibility when things don't go as planned. Those who buy securities they don't comprehend, or hire advisors they haven't researched, or use systems that fail to provide adequate protection against fraud shouldn't expect to keep their money. So make no mistake: If you lose money in an investment you don't understand, or get caught up in a fraud, it IS YOUR FAULT.