RULE 51: Use Investment Professionals But Don’t Be Used By Them

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Lanre Ogunlesi, Fashion & Investment Expert with wife Folu


As you’ve probably guessed from Rule 49, most of those who pick their own stocks like to think that they can see value where others can’t. Of course, we don’t like to look too often to see if our track record backs that up, and I’m sure many a Rules Player has made dumb investment decisions. If you don’t trust yourself to make clever decisions every time, or perhaps simply want to save the occasional investment decision for yourself and let someone who knows more than you do take care of the rest, then it’s OK to use the professionals.



When it comes to investment, the professionals cluster wherever you can find tall buildings and long lunches. Wall Street, Singapore, the City of London ... they’re all positively teeming with investment experts ready to put their big brains and even bigger computers to work on your behalf; all for just a teensy- weensy fee of course.
Well gold, as they say, may be bought too dear. I’ve often wondered just whose interests our chums in the square mile are serving. I certainly know a friend who’s studied them and written about them, and who swears blind that there are crooks in the Stock Exchange, and that at least Dick Turpin ‘had the decency to wear a mask and not a pin-striped suit’. Forgive me if you are a stockbroker - my friend may be just a touch paranoid - but personally I believe that if you’re going to use the pinstripes to manage some of your stock-market investments, make sure you use them wisely. That’s a big if, and that’s what this rule’s all about-How to use them to make more money, not take your money. 

“I certainly know a friend who’s studied them and written about them, and who swears blind that there are crooks in the Stock Exchange, and that at least Dick Turpin ‘had the decency to wear a mask and not a pin-striped suit’. Forgive me if you are a stockbroker - my friend may be just a touch paranoid - but personally I believe that if you’re going to use the pinstripes to manage some of your stock-market investments, make sure you use them wisely”

Now, pay attention to this bit - it’s really, really important. First they will tell you that they can take your money, invest it actively and beat the market. That they do beat the market and that they will beat the market. They may even have some colorful charts to show you how they beat the market, every year. Apart from last year of course (and that was just a blip, a short-term correction you know, everybody took a bath on that one, but next year...). Just sign here, sit back and you’ll soon be worth more than Warren Buffett on a hot streak.
Sounds too good to be true? Yep, it’s wishful thinking and flawed logic in equal measures.
To put it simply, for somebody to be doing better than average, somebody else must be doing worse, and since the big firms invest most of the money in the market, who are they beating? Themselves? Right! and here’s the ugly little truth about the investment industry. In any given year, some will come out ahead and some will lose, but over the long term the market beats most of them, most of the time. Oh I’m sure many of them try hard, they really do, but in the end nearly all of them fail to grow money any faster than the market. So, don’t pay them for trying.
A sure-fire scheme for predicting winners? Unlikely. A hot tip for technology stocks? Hot air. Ask yourself this. If, like most people, you read the brochure, listen to the adviser (who’s on a commission) and buy into a fund aiming to beat the market, what’s the one thing that you can be sure will be higher than average? The returns? Or the fees? You know the answer to that one, don’t you? If you want help to put your money in the markets, without putting much of it in someone else’s pockets, keep it simple.
If you don’t have the time or know-how to carefully research the best active fund then follow the rule that less is more (and usually comes cheaper). Put your trust in funds that don’t charge you big fees for taking big risks with a succession of clever strategies to beat the house. Pick ones managed by people who know enough to know that, in the long run, they won’t beat the house by chasing higher returns from one stock to the next. Pick ones managed by people who’ll invest your money, with minimum fuss and minimum fees, in a good range of stocks that replicate the market and then go to lunch. Then you can sleep at night (or get back to reading this book) safe in the knowledge that your money is in the market, quietly working away on your behalf.
If you’re wondering where to find these funds, they’ll be called index funds or tracker funds. Of course, they pay less commission to middlemen and spend less money on advertising, and so their brochure may be the last one out of your financial adviser’s briefcase, but when it comes to using investment professionals, start by putting your trust in time, not clever tactics. You can take a more active approach as your experience grows, but believe me, the fees will be smaller. 

From The Book; The Rules of Wealth by Richard Templar
(Read Rule 52 of Rule of Wealth tomorrow on Asabeafrika)

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