Those who’ve been taken advantage of are often made to feel ashamed, as if they deserved it or are stupid for having allowed it. People are therefore less likely to seek help and share their experiences, which helps to create an environment that allows exploitation to continue. This is exactly what happens in the financial industry. It is time we place that shame squarely on the shoulders of those who deserve it.
Educators are stretched to the max working with kids all day, taking their work home with them, taking care of their families, and trying to maintain some semblance of a personal life. Meanwhile, the school district approves a select group of financial vendors and the principals invite them on campus. From the very beginning the process is designed to appear “official” and “above board”, conveying the false notion that these vendors can be trusted to act in your best interest. Inevitably, educators come face to face with a well dressed, important looking adviser who speaks in complicated financial lingo. This is designed to convey the false notion that investing is too complicated for you to understand, but luckily a “trusted professional” has been provided to handle everything for you. The entire system is a carefully and cleverly constructed trap that was specifically built with educators in mind.
If you’ve found yourself in this trap then please reach out to us. There is absolutely no reason to be embarrassed. The only people we’ll be passing judgement on are the predatory individuals and institutions who’ve so skillfully targeted you. You are not alone! I was taken advantage of three times in a row (by a far less clever trap) and it took me years to figure it out.
Early in my career I knew I had to save for retirement, but the thought of doing it myself never crossed my mind. It took me years to become an expert in my field so how could I possibly master investing in my spare time? One day I saw a slick commercial from Charles Schwab and I opened an account. They quickly constructed a complicated portfolio that reinforced the idea that an “expert” is required. I didn’t understand anything I was invested in.
As time passed my portfolio stagnated while the market rose so I moved everything to Merrill Lynch. They assigned me my own broker who would periodically call me and say, “now is the time to buy XYZ.” I’m embarrassed to admit that it made me feel “cool” and “powerful” because it was just like the movies. I had my own stock guy! Still, I didn’t understand anything I was invested in.
As time passed my portfolio stagnated while the market rose so I moved everything to a self-directed account. I found mutual funds that performed well over the past few years and poured all of my money into them. I had no clue that I selected a bunch of high cost mutual funds that would provide sub-par performance in the coming years.
Finally enough was enough, I took the time to read the academic research and study investing. I quickly discovered that my earlier portfolios stagnated because of high fees. I promptly constructed a simple three fund portfolio of low cost, total market, index funds that return exactly what the market so generously provides.
For a long time I felt angry, stupid, embarrassed, and ashamed. I didn’t want to tell anybody because I’d look foolish. I was burned three times in a row and lost God knows how many thousands of dollars, how embarrassing! Eventually, I realized it was the financial industry that should be embarrassed for stealing people’s retirement savings and I’ve been publicly pointing the finger at them every chance I get.