The Deipnosophist

Where the science of investing becomes an art of living

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Location: Summerlin, Nevada, United States

A private investor for 20+ years, I manage private portfolios and write about investing. You can read my market musings on three different sites: 1) The Deipnosophist, dedicated to teaching the market's processes and mechanics; 2) Investment Poetry, a subscription site dedicated to real time investment recommendations; and 3) Seeking Alpha, a combination of the other two sites with a mix of reprints from this site and all-original content. See you here, there, or the other site!

11 April 2010

Who Can You Trust With Your Money? -- A Review

Talk about betrayal. Not to diminish the impact of a man philandering on his wife, but to lie and steal from your mother, from your family, from your friends, from your colleagues, from your clients -- and, yes, from your wife -- is betrayal of the highest order of magnitude. Really, who can you trust?

Bonnie Kirchner tells us who when it regards our money in Who Can You Trust With Your Money?; an important, necessary, and timely book. Just as only Nixon could open relations with China, only Bonnie Kirchner could write this book. Kirchner is a Certified Financial Planner practitioner, was one of New England's leading TV personal finance reporters... and was a casualty of her ex-husband's (Brad Bleidt) notorious Ponzi scheme.
On November 10, 2004, I was on top of the world. My husband and I were commemorating a major milestone for the radio station we worked so hard to build. Finally we were taking programming twenty four hours, seven days a week. I couldn't have been more satisfied with my career, despite the grueling hours and the toll it was taking on my personal life. The morning after the celebration, our company's receptionist came to my office door with a package. It had my husband's writing on it, and I think we both drew the conclusion that it was an attempt by Brad to be romantic. "Too little, too late" was what I was thinking. Our marriage had been deteriorating since its inception five years prior... I opened the package and found a small recording device with a sticker pointing to the play button, which said "Press here" on it, once again in Brad's handwriting. I hit play. "Hello, Bonnie, it's me. Straight to the chase here. Tragic, tragic news..."
(From the book's Introduction.)
So this guy Bleidt is the largest Ponzi schemer in history (that is, until Bernie Madoff strides into the picture), and he lacks the courage to tell the truth in person, resorting to taped messages so he can continue to hide under his rock. Or fester in jail. The 6 minute interview below offers a taste of what Kirchner endured. And the quality of her insights displayed to great advantage in Who Can You Trust With Your Money?

Bonnie Kirchner obviously is a quick study. She offers many tips on how to spot the red flags that could alert you to dishonest financial advisors:
• Do a “broker check”
• Check references
• Ask the right questions about any disturbing regulatory or disciplinary history on the part of the advisor or his/her firm
• Be wary of any discrepancies you discover or a lack of a desire on the potential advisor’s part to provide you with requested information
• Don’t accept vague explanations when it comes to investment strategies to be employed for your money
• Verify where your investments will be held and what insurance coverage exists
• Uncover potential compensation arrangements and determine whether or not they are in line with your expectations
• Assess whether the advisor is overly eager to accept your assets and if so, why?

Successful investing often confounds investors; Kirchner offers to her readers, in plain English, the answers she found to the questions posed above, and many others; her guidance helps investors of all types, shapes, and sizes.

The true beauty of Who Can You Trust With Your Money?, though, is that Kirchner does not stop with discerning fraud perpetrated by financial advisors, but delves deeply into the topics of wealth management and estate planning. Her book offers no Holy Grail of successful investing, nor how to uncover the next Google/GOOG; it ventures neither topic. Kirchner's subtle message is that successful money management requires effort, just as with successful relationships; no paved road to easy wealth exists.

Not what you want to hear, I am sure. Diligence and effort present their own rewards, though. As with all good things in life, the journey can trump the destination; Bonnie Kirchner shines a guiding light to help you on your way. In doing so, Who Can You Trust With Your Money? earns my highest recommendation; a book that belongs in every investor's library as handy resource, if not read frequently for the many insights it contains.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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