New Year’s Wish List

If anyone needs a set of New Year’s wishes, it is the commonly abused individual investor - a list of wishes that would defend them from the charlatans, miscreants and scoundrels who try to separate them from their money. I have compiled such a list for these individual investors. Here it goes…
      1. A force field. I need to keep the following people away from me: gold bugs, those selling ‘get rich quick’ schemes, political zealots of all walks and sell-out celebrities; their money advice never seems to work out too well for me.
      2. A Rosetta Stone programme. I need this to help me understand financial, insurance and legal jargon. This would translate all the stuff in life insurance, structured financial products and mutual fund prospectuses that I throw out. I don’t think all of this complicated language is there to protect me.
      3. A finance show parental blocker for my T.V. This would block CNBC, Bloomberg and market-related programmes from MSNBC. These shows just seem to make me very nervous, upset or angry. I often follow the advice of a hysterical host and have lost lots of money this way. I don’t want to watch these people anymore, but I need something to help me resist the temptation.
      4. Some basic maths skills. I am not afraid to admit that I am innumerate. I especially have problems with denominators. When I hear I big numbers like 180 points were lost on the Dow, I often panic. I ignore the bottom number of 18,000 and have trouble grasping percentages. This has led me to make some pretty bad decisions.
      5. Separate accounts for my political ideology and personal finances. I often commingle these with disastrous results. When I listen to angry people yell about political stuff on the radio, I often become very scared and confused. Just last year, I heard a guy on CNBC saying the economy was about to collapse and the only thing that would save a person was to buy gold. I went out and bought a lot of it. I think I paid $1,400 an ounce. I have lost A LOT of money. Please send me some sort of Chinese Wall to separate these two things, but not like the ones the Investment Bankers are supposed to use. I heard those really don’t work.
      6. A stopwatch for looking at my portfolio. Some days, I look at my investment dozens of times. When the market drops, I look even more! I have found this raises my blood pressure and does not seem to stop the market from going down. I would like some sort of stopwatch that would limit my viewing to no more than an hour per year. I want it to shut off once I have exceeded my time. I have lots of other important things to do and I want to stop obsessing over things I have no control over.
      7. A “Financial Advisor” alert. I know there are many people out there who sell investments and as a reward win vacation trips and get huge bonuses for reaching their monthly sales quotas. I know this because they seem to call me a lot more towards the end of the quarter and year. It seems like they are serving two masters and I know from reading the Bible this is not a good thing. I don’t want to talk to these people anymore, but I need some kind of warning system. When one of these financial advisor people starts talking about “tax free” investing, taking advantage of my expatriate status, insurance wrappers, off the plan real estate, mirror funds, variable annuities (all the stuff I don’t understand), it will be set off.
       8. Forecast verifier. Lots of people go on TV and make all kinds of predictions about the markets. There are so many, I have a hard time keeping track of who said what! I have a strong suspicion most of these people are wrong a lot because when I do what they say, I often end up being very upset. I would like some sort of ticker that will run on the bottom of the screen when they are speaking? This will show the results of all their predictions and give me a percentage number that displays how many times they were accurate. I understand winning percentages when I follow my favourite sports teams. I can tell a winner from a loser with this number.
      9. Gift certificate for one hour of common sense advice. I have been told that there are lots of really good people out there who really are trying to help people with their money. A friend told me about chinaexpatmoney.com. He also mentioned people named Bill Longstreet and Owen Caterer, both of who seem to know a lot about this kind of stuff, and do things the correct way.
      10. Perspective. Family, friends and good health are what really matters. Please send me some sort of text to remind me of this when I get upset about crazy things that go on in the markets. When I hear these guys on TV talk about things like five-day moving averages and the price of Alibaba stock, I realise they mean nothing. I don’t want to use irreplaceable time on stuff like this anymore.
Bill Longstreet is a partner with Shanghai based Caterer Goodman Partners, a fee based financial advisory firm. For more tips on how to handle your savings, check out their blog, www.chinaexpatmoney.com.