Friday, May 7, 2010

Bad Investment Advice

I try at all cost to avoid giving investment advice.  This applies doubly to my family members.  In August of 2007 I gave my family investment advice.  I told them the banking system was going to fall apart, and they should immediately take their money out of all money market funds and make sure they didn't have over FDIC limits in any bank accounts.  The uniform response: You are out of your mind and wrong.  My email dated August 15, 2007 apologized for annoying them.  I promised not to give anyone investment advice again.

Now, I'm breaking the promise.  Here comes investment advice.  The WSJ asked (presumably) highly paid financial advisers a simple question: A recent high school or college grad has to good fortune of $10,000 to invest.  What single mutual fund or ETF should they buy?  I'll summarize the results in three answers: small cap equities, non-US equities or very long term target date funds.

The answer should be "I refuse to answer this question without more information, otherwise I'm as useful as a one legged punter in the NFL."  The attitude that someone can or will even try to answer that question reflects everything wrong with investment advice. Circumstances matter.  Hugely.

Why do they answer?  I guess they think being quoted in the WSJ will enhance the value of their business.  That way they can give bad advice to more people. 

So, where's the investment advice?  Several thoughts occur to me.  Employed?  Does your employer have a 401(k) match?  Then "invest" the $10k on rent and food so you can save more efficiently.  Not employed? "Invest" in a money market fund because you can't take the risk of anything else.  Trust fund from grandma? Buy something very risky that will entertain you and matter if you win, since you won't care if you lose.

1 comment:

  1. So much for brokers using the "suitability standard," to evaluate whether their advice is appropriate to a specific client's situation. That was definitely a question on the FINRA licensure exam...

    And you're right, I'll bet they all just updated their bio and press kit to say, "Financial advisor Bob Smith, as seen in the Wall Street Journal..."