Peggy Noonan wrote an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal recently framing the coming November elections as a battle between, as she puts it, the enraged and the exhausted.
Part of her argument is that much of the growing distaste for our elected officials on both sides of the aisle stems from the almost constant access to information about the goings on in the government. As Tennessee congresswoman Marsha Blackburn is quoted, “The more they (the public) know, the less they like Washington.”
I won’t begin to suggest that I can sort out our government’s issues, but the availability of information about the recent turmoil in the markets and economy have shed the same light on Wall Street. Investors are learning more and more about how the Wall Street game has been played, and it has not been pretty.
Salespeople posing as advisors pushing products of ever-expanding sophistication that make fantastic promises, but rarely benefit anyone but those very salespeople and the firms they represent. The allure of can’t miss products without an increase in risk has been a powerful tools for these “financial wizards” for decades. But, be it uncovering Madoff-like scams, watching supposedly safe bond funds plummet in value, or finding out that structured products aren’t structured quite as advertised, these too good to be true miracle cures have proven to be just that.
Peeking behind the curtain in Washington and on Wall Street has allowed us to see holes and problems that we may have never seen in the past. It’s always admitting the problem that’s the first step in any recovery. It’s a painful process. These problems have no easy answers and will take tough choices and sacrifice to resolve.
When it comes to Wall Street, we must be more vigilant in seeking out those advisors that truly have our best interests at heart. Who they serve, how they’re compensated and what drives the investment decisions they make should be as transparent to the average investor as possible. The curtain should not just be pulled back, it should be removed altogether.
In seeking the right tools to put a plan in place for our financial future, we must understand that there are no magic answers. The wizard behind the curtain isn’t interested in anything other than counting their own money. Controlling that which we can and adhering strictly to a disciplined plan may not be as exciting as what the wizard is selling, but it won’t leave you exhausted and enraged, either.
Have a great week!
Chip Workman, CFP®