A word of caution

A word of caution. When you hear investment advice from a bobbing head on TV, take it with a grain of salt. The same goes for radio investment guys. And for advice from some of the advisors in newspapers and magazines. Take a grain of salt. When you get investment advice from an academic, take two.

The reason is simple. Very few of them have ever worked as advisors. Few have worked with clients. Few have seen how their advice pans out. Few have held the hands of frightened investors. Few have fielded the nasty phone calls from investors who lost money. Few have dealt with the whacky behavior of some clients.

Until someone has, he cannot make a good advisor on the air or in print. Because knowledge of investments is no where near enough. Someone who advises on health matters who never met a patient is not an expert. A medical professor who never sees patients is not an expert. When it comes to advising us on health matters, he isn’t.



Years ago two business economics profs asked me to guest-lecture their classes. They taught from textbooks. One of them told students that investors normally took certain steps when they planned their investments.

“Not on your life,” I told the students. “I have known thousands of investors. Not a single one did what your textbook suggests.”  The profs never invited me back.

It turns out that neither had ever visited a brokerage house. They had never owned a share of stock, never bought a bond.

Recently three professors were in the news. They teach at big name universities. They released a paper about aging baby boomers and the stock market. This, after tons of research.

The profs explained that people, when they are young adults, spend, spend, spend. All right. No research needed for that.

Then, between age 40 to 59 we tend to accumulate. We often invest in stocks to build wealth. No research needed for that either.

Then in retirement older people tend to sell their shares to meet retirement expenses. With so many millions of boomers slipping into retirement, our stock market will hit the skids. Whoa!  More research needed, profs.

I thought back over my dealings with probably 6000 clients. Most of them were near retirement, or retired. I can barely remember any clients who sold off their stocks for income for their retirement.

I asked another advisor who has dealt with a similar number of investment clients. She has a better memory than I do. How many retirees sell off stock to support them in retirement? “None that I know of,” she said. “Occasionally, I suppose I’ve known one or two. But none come to mind. That’s not how retirees think.”

The reason for this is simple. Imagine the discipline it takes for people to save and invest. When their friends and in-laws buy newer cars and bigger homes and vacations, they hunker down and save. And invest.

When others bust their budgets and run up credit card charges, they trim their budgets and keep out of debt.

When they reach retirement they don’t change their stripes. They look at what income they will have. And they live within it. And frequently they save a bit more. To add to their investments. Just as they have most of their working lives.

Don’t worry about boomers pulling the rug out from under the stock market when they retire. Few who have built stock or mutual fund portfolios will sell off. The only people who do that in great numbers are economics professors. And all their buys and sells are on paper. Research papers.

And in their dreams.

From Tom ... as in Morgan.                  

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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