Jun 082014
 

From shady snake oil salesmen to the proverbial Nigerian prince, there is no shortage of fraudsters in the world trying to swindle people out of their money. You might think scams only happen to other people. You know better than to fall for phishing scams or multi-layered marketing products that don’t work. But despite best efforts even the most careful, conservative investors can still get tricked.

 

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A retired couple in Ontario Canada sold their home and received $268,000 from the proceeds. They wanted to invest in something short term and gave the entire amount to an investment company, MJF Financial Consultants. The couple was very explicit that they will need this money in the near future and did not want to risk losing any of the principle. The company told them to not worry.

Well unfortunately the money-grubbing clod of a salesman forged the couple’s signature, and gambled their $268,000 in risky stocks. When the couple asked for the money back, the investment firm had lost $80,000 of their money.

We had trusted him to make the right choices for us.” – Don, the husband.

A government investigation has found the company committed forgery and acted inappropriately, and it should reimburse the $80,000 back to the couple. However, this recommendation is non-binding, meaning the company doesn’t have to if they don’t want to. Welcome to Canada, where punishment for white collar crime is often just a slap on the wrist 😛 Unfortunately the couple may never see their $80,000 ever again 🙁

I never had any health problems prior to this. I am now on two heart meds, five times a day. I am furious.” – Elaine, the wife.

Being the victim of fraud and misrepresentation is often harder to avoid. There’s no way to tell for certain which mutual fund dealer will decide to fake a client’s signature, or commit embezzlement or other financial crimes.

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Feb 182013
 

When we entrust money to a professional portfolio manager with billions of dollars under management we might assume that these people are better investors than you or I (^_^)  After all they get paid huge salaries and oversee important private equity funds, mutual funds, or even pension funds like OMERS, CPP, California Public Employees, NY State Teachers, etc. Everyone’s future to some degree depends on how well these professionals manage our money. But I was watching a talk by Warren Buffett and I found it a bit disappointing when even large fund managers can fall pray to the herd mentality.

Pretty much for every consecutive decade in the last century our lives have been improving and we’ve been getting wealthier, as measured by GDP per capita. But investors tend to look only at the past performance of a chart rather than the future outlook of the underlying economy. When stocks are doing well they get very excited and think “well I made money last year, so this time I’ll make even more.” And when times are bad they think “Stock market sucks. I’m going to do something else with my money.”  Pension fund managers apparently also follow this thought process. This is why we have huge swings in the stock market even though the economy tends to improve more gradually over time.

stock market, professional fund managers, dow historyBuffett said he wrote an article for Forbes in 1979 about investor behavior. He wrote how come that pension funds in the early 70s allocated 100% of their net new money into the stock market because they were wild about equities. Then when stocks dropped and became a lot cheaper in 1978, pension funds put in a record low of just 9% of their new money into stocks. Does that make any logical sense to you? (O_o)

Back to the talk he said “People behave very peculiarly…because they’re human beings. They get excited when others get excited….They get fearful when others get fearful. And they’ll continue to do so…This makes for huge opportunities…. The country will do very well over time, but you will see these huge waves [in the stock market.] If you can stay objective throughout that. If you can detach yourself temperamentally from he crowd, you get very rich. You don’t even have to be very bright. It doesn’t take brains. It takes temperament. ”

So if we can remain objective with our investment strategies and look at underlying fundamentals of businesses and the economy instead of how stocks have moved in the past then we can probably outperform even pension fund managers (゜∀゜)

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Random Useless Fact:  Moose have no upper front teeth.

moose taking a photo, professional investors