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Second Thoughts on Investing

Second Thoughts on Investing
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By    |   Wednesday, 19 July 2017 11:41 AM

This article is directed to the quintessential American investor.

Though I don’t know you personally, I can predict what your investments consist of.

Except for your home, the majority of your assets are held as shares in open-end investment companies, commonly known as mutual and/or exchange traded funds.

On the whole, most will be equity funds, many of them index-based. If you’re past the mid-century mark, you’ll possess some balanced funds, so interest-bearing securities such as corporate or U.S. Treasury bonds comprise a portion of the mix.

For the more aggressive among you, a portion will be marginally exotic, including holdings backed by such things as precious metals, Ginnie Mae mortgages, and the international sector, or perhaps some hedge funds.

But, basic to it all, and predicated purely on faith, the fortunes of most Americans are controlled by a host of nameless and faceless persons who administer the thousand of funds dominating the world of corporate securities.

How can it be, in a society as diverse and highly educated as ours, the majority of citizens have relegated their financial futures to a labyrinth over which they have little understanding or control? The reason’s obviouys. It’s because the average person knows relatively little about handling assets.

Whatever praise or criticism you may direct at the American public school system, one thing must be acknowledged: The handling of personal financial affairs is not a subject to which much attention is devoted. Whatever the average American knows about investing money didn’t come from the classroom. 

This is understandable, of course, if only because the typical classroom teacher is equally mystified by the world of money. So, with a vacuum to be filled, it’s only reasonable an industry developed to profit from the public’s lack of expertise. And make no mistake, this industry is profitable – highly so.

With such contrivances as sales charges, deferred loads, redemption fees, reinvestment loads, 12b-1 plan charges, and management fees, a substantial percentage of investors’ potential return is filtered off annually. It’s my belief the principal reason these funds exist is for collection of fees by the operators. Everything else is incidental.

For those of you who concur – perhaps grudgingly – with my analysis of fund limitations, perhaps it’s time you begin to tailor your investment program a little more selectively. If your preference is for corporate securities, you might consider choosing your own stocks and bonds.

A professional investor for nearly five decades, Al Jacobs holds a degree in civil engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a Real Estate Certificate from the University of California and a Certified Property Manager designation (CPM) from the Institute of Real Estate Management. His written works can be found in the book "Roadway to Prosperity: A Practical Guide to Wealth Accumulation" and also in several newspapers near his hometown of Monarch Beach in Orange County, Calif. Jacobs writes a weekly column for his website.

Thanks to modern technology, the concept of a separately managed account is no longer the exclusive province for the ultra-wealthy. With total assets no greater than $100,000, it’s possible to obtain an institutional money manger to handle your account at a flat annual charge of about 2 percent of total assets, and this includes all advisory fees, commissions, money management, and administrative costs.

What you’ll accomplish is to create a sort of individual mini-fund operating without the expenses and hidden fees which often bring the annual charges of a traditional mutual fund to twice that amount. 

Admittedly, if you intend to self-direct your investment portfolio, you must begin to actually analyze the securities you buy and sell, rather than leave it to the discretion of fund managers. Although initially you may not feel competent to handle the task, the likelihood is, after a little selective investigation, you’ll be up to it. As a preliminary exercise, there’s a book that deserves to be read.  It’s The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham.  Although this 640-page work dates back to 1949, a 2015 audio update is as current as if it were written today. It willl give you the information you’ll need to fathom the securities market. If you’re inclined to devote a little more time to the preliminaries, there is a second publication that can be of help. 

It’s The Simple Strategy for Successful Investing in Only 15 Minutes a Week!, by Phil Town.  Published in 2006 by Crown, and since updated, these 320 pages should fill in any mental blank spaces that Mr. Graham may have omitted.  Having thus established a firm foundation, together with a subscription to Wall Street Journal, and perhaps Barron’s, you’ll do a far finer job handling your assets than the average financial planner.

A professional investor for nearly five decades, Al Jacobs holds a degree in civil engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a Real Estate Certificate from the University of California and a Certified Property Manager designation (CPM) from the Institute of Real Estate Management. His written works can be found in the book "Roadway to Prosperity: A Practical Guide to Wealth Accumulation" and also in several newspapers near his hometown of Monarch Beach in Orange County, Calif. Jacobs writes a weekly column for his website.

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This article is directed to the quintessential American investor.Though I don't know you personally,
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2017-41-19
Wednesday, 19 July 2017 11:41 AM
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