The Investment Scientist

Archive for the ‘Prudence & Fiduciary Duty’ Category

ImageI bet you didn’t know that this week, the third week of October, is … drum roll please … National Estate Planning Awareness Week!

Seriously! Congress established it in 2008 in House Resolution 1499.

I only know this after getting an email from my estate planning attorney friend. I think you should read it as well.

According to the resolution passed by Congress, “Many Americans are unaware that lack of estate planning and financial illiteracy may cause their assets to be disposed of to unintended parties by default through the complex process of probate.” The resolution goes on to state that “careful planning can greatly assist Americans in preserving assets built over a lifetime for the benefit of family, heirs, or charities.”

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ImageMany middle aged Americans are caught between a rock and a hard place financially. They are the so-called sandwich generation, having to take care of both kids and parents at the same time.

This has recently been a subject of discussion with clients of mine. They are a self made millionaire couple. their parents however, are relatively poor. They have enough to live on by themselves, but if they ever got sick, they would be financially dependent on their children for care.

To that end, my clients have set aside $1m just in case.

I suggested they fork over a few hundred a year to pay for their parents’ gym memberships. If their parents actually use the memberships, my clients may never need to spend the million.

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Image1. “The gross revenues for the financial services industry in 2010 were $1.129 trillion. That year, total US financial assets stood at $50.38 trillion, meaning that the financial services industry as a whole is skimming 2.25% a year out of everyone’s wealth.” This is an excerpt from a post on Wealthcare Capital entitled “Investment Expenses – The Other Millionaire You Make.” How about I help you cut those expenses by half?

2. Shocking! Shocking! Your elected representatives want the financial industry to continue ripping you off!

3. Ike Devji wrote a piece “Investment Fraud Red Flag for Physicians.” It is packed full of useful tips. I have one thing to add though, never work with a broker, regardless how clean his or her broker check record. These people are not legally obliged to watch out for your best interest.

4. A very succinct piece in Physicians’ Monday Digest about How Rising Interest Rates Would Affect You.

5. Taxpayers beware, AccountingToday has a piece on tax deductions expiring in 2014.

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images-11A physician client of mine called me the other day and asked my advice as to whether she should evict the tenant currently residing in her condo. This is advice I hate to give. Let me explain.

The tenant is a single mom with two young children, whose estranged husband just stopped paying child support because he is officially unemployed, but the tenant believes he is getting paid under the table.

My heart goes out to this tenant, I would never want her and her children to become homeless. But my head tells me that if my client lets her stay for free, she would most likely wind up staying for free forever and my client’s rental property would become a toxic asset.

So what should I advise my client?

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I read with disgust this news about a “financial advisor” stealing $1.3m from his client who also happened to be his father!

I want all of you to know that not all financial advisors are the same. In fact “financial advisor” is a free term. There is no educational requirement nor legal requisite. Justin Bieber and his grandmother could call themselves financial advisors and begin dispensing advice – and they would not get into trouble for it!

In reality though, there are generally four types of people who like to call themselves “financial advisors”:

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I had a fun conversation with a prospective client who I lost a few months ago. He actually got me to create an investment plan for him, then he shopped around and found an advisor who charges less.

He then had the gall to call me back and ask whether I think he is paying too much for his new advisor. Here is what he said.

My advisor puts me in low cost ETFs and meets with me every quarter. But otherwise he does nothing with my portfolio, so what exactly do I pay him $15k for?

I know this gentleman has a sizable portfolio, and $15k means a fee of well below 1%. So I told him what I thought.

  1. The fee is very competitive.

  2. The advisor did the right thing by putting his money in low cost EFTs.

  3. Doing nothing with a portfolio is the only right thing to do!

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ImageA few days ago, I interviewed Jim Ludwick using Google+ Hangout On Air (HOA.) This is the first time I’ve interviewed an expert live on air! Feel free to laugh as you watch me stutter and trip over my words left and right.

Jim is the owner of MainStreet Financial, he used to be an agent at NY Life. Now he is a licensed insurance advisor.

I did not waste his appearance and got right down to the nitty gritty. I asked about a client case during the interview. Specifically, this client of mine was talked into 1) buying a universal life insurance inside her defined benefit plan, 2) buying a whole life insurance policy for her young daughter, because “it’s a great investment” according to the agent’s illustration of 8% growth.

I asked Jim three questions:

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Author

Michael Zhuang is principal of MZ Capital, a fee-only independent advisory firm based in Washington, DC.

Twitter: @mzhuang

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