Imagine that you, your spouse, or a beloved relative is terminally ill. A man approaches you and asks whether your family would be interested in a little proposition. Your relative would need to provide their name, Social Security number, and a signature or two. In return, they would receive a few thousand dollars. Sounds like an identity theft scheme, doesn’t it? Only it was all perfectly legal. No families were swindled, no fake credit cards were opened. The lawyer behind this scheme was taking advantage of a loophole in the rules of a specific type of life insurance product, variable annuities. Investors used a system intended to protect a large nest egg for future generations to profit without having to die.
When times are tougher, dreams of quick riches seem all the more appealing. These could be boom times for con artists looking to swap false dreams in exchange for your large hunk of cash, making it all the more important to be on the lookout for these pitfalls.
You’ll be excused for worrying more about your day-to-day financials than those of your future, 65-year-old self. But it’s important not to let your 401(k) or other long-term investments become afterthoughts. One reason to think big-picture is that decisions you make in retirement investments now will have ripple effects that turn into tidal waves in your golden years.
When it comes time to buy life insurance, you’re faced with a difficult choice. Do you buy low-cost term life insurance that retains no cash value or spring for the more expensive whole life option that doubles as something like a savings account?
Investing newbies may be shocked by the amount of unexpected fees that siphon away their funds. When you’re searching for a brokerage, it’s wise to investigate hidden costs involved.
German auto manufacturer Volkswagen is sick of sucking the exhaust of the world’s auto industry leaders and is throwing a $71 billion-sized brick on the gas pedal to try to take the lead.
It’s tempting to invest in markets that are taking off, but the wisest investors find opportunities that have bottomed out or are just getting started. The fastest way to lose your money is to buy when your target is at its high point.
You can’t get where you’re going if you don’t know where you are. In order to accomplish your long-term financial goals, like saving up for travel, a home, or starting your own business, you should sit down and assess your net worth.
In a country where the mantra “you can be anything you want” is practically a national prayer, it’s still kind of shocking to see someone suggest that a high school student should skip college. Some economists and professors, however, argue that college has become too expensive to throw money at if the odds are high that either you won’t finish, or you’ll go into an industry that doesn’t require a degree.
“Waterfall” provisions of asset backed securities are the rules that explain the flow of funds in the transaction, and they are are very hard to read. Blogger/professor Jayanth Varma calls them “horrendously complicated,” leading trustees to make mistakes or pull stunts that investors never expected. To remedy this, the SEC is proposing that the provisions be written in a programming language, filed on EDGAR, and made available as downloadable Python source code.
Last month, the Huffington Post launched a campaign called Move Your Money that urged people to support community banks. The idea is that by moving your money to a community bank, you can help put the “too big to fail” banks on a diet so that they get smaller, while at the same time help a local bank remain competitive. The NPR program All Things Considered took a look at the campaign over the weekend, and talked to some experts about whether it’s worth making the switch.
The person-to-person loan website Prosper.com has been talked about in mostly positive ways since it launched a few years ago. Mark Gimein at Slate’s The Big Money says it’s a lot less awesome than you’ve been led to believe. In fact, he says it’s just a microcosm of what happened in the real financial world: “Loans to unqualified borrowers; reliance on mathematical models that turn out to be a lot less useful than they seemed; failed hopes that high interest rates could make subprime loans profitable; sky high default rates [of 39%]—Prosper has it all.”
Liz Davidson at Forbes has an article about ways you and your spouse can fine-tune spending and investment patterns so that your marriage isn’t a financial drain. It’s easy enough to compare financial health before marriage (although lots of couples don’t do it, she notes), but even if your net income increases, your net worth could flatline or drop:
You might be doing well with your expenses as a married couple but making poor investment decisions, causing your financial situation to worsen even though your day-to-day money management has improved.
Think that just because you know what a credit default swap is, you can speak the secret language of money? Think again. Psychiatrist/executive coach David Krueger has studied how we relate to our cash, and has put his research into a new book, “The Secret Language of Money: How to Make Smarter Financial Decisions and Live a Richer Life.” Lesson one from Dr. Krueger: “Money speaks to us and we speak with money. It’s kind of a Rorschach; we imbue it with whatever values or meanings we want.” Uh, okay.
The smaller versions of Madoff are still out there, convincing people to hand over their savings for foolproof investments that don’t actually exist, but every once in a while the authorities nab another one. This week it’s Philip G. Barry, a Brooklyn-based guy who operated out of my own neighborhood and happened to run a pornography business.
If you planned on retiring soon you’ve probably had to readjust your expectations. But even if you’re still on target to take it easy soon, you should reconsider until you’ve paid off your mortgage.