(photo credit: REUTERS)
Looking to generate more than the 1 percent yield that you can get from a long-term bank deposit? How does 20% a year sound? Sounds pretty darn good, and since I saw an advertisement boasting of such returns, it must be pretty easy to take all that money to the bank, right?
Wrong! I can’t tell you how often I meet with victims of such schemes. Remember the old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”? Maybe you received marketing information from a bank located in the former Soviet Union “guaranteeing” 8% US dollar deposits, or maybe you received a letter in the mail saying you won $5 million in a lottery that you never entered, or maybe someone promised you very high “guaranteed” investment returns.
Don’t believe it. The consumer needs to realize that building wealth is a long-term process. There are no quick fixes.
The concept of instant gratification
In today’s Western society, the concept of instant gratification is constantly being reinforced. Whether it’s our increasing dependence on fast food or the notion of getting rich quick, we have lost the virtue of patience.
The local media is filled with advertisements pitching various real-estate opportunities both in Israel and abroad.
They often make very seductive claims, such as a minimal investment with returns of over 200% within three years, or a “guarantee” of a particular return. But how do we know if such claims are legitimate? I get calls from clients saying they received an email about a stock that promises sky-high returns. Do you really think you are the only one who received that email? It was sent to millions of people with the hope that a few will buy the stock – and those promoting it will watch as it moves higher and higher and then dump their shares into the market at a huge profit, leaving Joe Investor holding the bag and losing lots of money. It is what’s called a classic “pump and dump” investment.
• The first rule is always buyer beware. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
• The second rule is to read the fine print carefully. The small print on the bottom of the advertisement often makes it very clear that the “guarantee” comes with many strings attached, and there is a reasonable chance that you can indeed lose some or all of your money.
• The third rule is to always ask detailed questions, and never let the salesman off the hook. Ask pointed and specific questions to get a better understanding of the investment.
Always inquire if there are any risks, and what they entail. If the answer is, “There are no risks,” or lip service is paid to explaining the risks, there is a good chance you are not getting the full information about the investment, and you should think twice about investing.
This highlights why investors should work with licensed investment professionals. They are very much limited in their use of the word “guarantee,” which is only used for an investment guaranteed by the US government. For a licensed investment professional, inappropriate usage of the word “guarantee” is against the law, and regulators take this issue very seriously.
Understanding your long-term goals
In reality, it is virtually unheard of for a person to accumulate wealth overnight. Rather, it’s a process that takes many years. If you are looking to build wealth for the long term, you should start investing as soon as possible. Using an expert will help you decide how to invest your savings.
But you should first have a firm handle of your short- and long-term goals and needs.
Therefore, before you meet with an investment adviser, broker or other investment professional, it’s a good idea to map out your financial goals. Do you have children or grandchildren to marry off? Are your elderly parents in need of care? Do you need some supplemental income to make it through the month? First you need to determine your own budgetary needs and your ability to tolerate risk. Then you should ask your adviser what kinds of investments would best fulfill these goals. Use your adviser as a sounding board. The adviser can tell you if your goals are realistic, and if not, you can work together to come up with objectives that can be achieved.
You have worked hard to save money, and it would be a shame to lose it on a dubious “get rich quick” scheme.The information contained in this article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc., or its firstname.lastname@example.org Aaron Katsman is a licensed financial professional in Israel and the United States who helps people with US investment accounts. He is the author of the book
Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing.