From the October 2009 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

Financial Reality TV

There are reality TV shows for everyone except financial advisors.

Halfway through my second bag of Orville Redenbacher, my remote control and I come to the conclusion: There are reality TV shows for everyone except financial advisors. Entrepreneurs, master chefs, survivors, big brothers, singers, dancers, man trackers and even ghost hunters all have their own shows. Why isn't the greatest occupation in the universe represented? My guess is it has something to do with Bernie Madoff or AIG but I can't be sure.


It's only a matter of time before some savvy TV executive gets on board and steals my idea for... Financial Advisor Idol. The first thing our show will need is three judges... a nurturing female (Suzy Orman), someone with an English accent (Richard Branson) and someone outrageous (Jim Cramer).

This trio will be choppered from city to city by Virgin Airlines to hear pitches from financial advisors. Each advisor will be given a chance to tell us why they are the greatest advisor of all time. Because all advisors think they are the greatest, this part of the process could take several years to whittle it down to the lucky 12 who will advance to Hollywood.


Picture all the exciting exchanges among the judges as they listen to advisor after advisor... "I'm sorry honey, you're very passionate and I love your briefcase but index annuities are only sold by criminals. You're not ready, but keep trying," says a somber but sympathetic Orman. "That reminds me. When I started Virgin Records, then Virgin airlines, then Virgin..." Mr. Branson is suddenly cut off and we go to a commercial.


Everyone knows that those exchanges are merely the appetizer before the main course. What America really tunes in for is to hear Big Jim go off on a rant. We want to see the clown hair, the wiffle ball bat, the horns and all the sound effects... "I used to trade that stock when I ran my own hedge fund" (Horn honks twice). "It was a dog then and it is a dog now!" (More honks and what sounds like a whoopee cushion blasting off).

"If you think that bleeping idea is going to get you to Hollywood, you're as crazy as Jon Stewart!" Jim then hurls a water balloon at the contestant and soaks his new Brooks Brother tie. "Hit the road Jack and don't you come back," Cramer screams out as the humiliated advisor attempts to leave, but can't find the right door. Big Jim finishes with a "You suck, scum bag!" The crowd goes wild.


The advisors lucky enough to make the cut all move into a luxury double-wide trailer in Hollywood and all share one bathroom. Imagine the hilarity as we watch them all trying to tie their Windsor knots in the same mirror before the chopper lands on the driveway to take them to the Kodak Theatre.


Each advisor is given a fictitious $1 million and is required to put together a snappy PowerPoint presentation showing their best plan for the imaginary nest egg. At the end of the show, the TV audience votes and the advisor with the least amount of votes is ushered to a Greyhound bus headed back to Wichita.


After a grueling 12 weeks, we finally get our Financial Advisor Idol. Our lucky winner gets a lifetime subscription to Morningstar Advisor Workstation and his picture on the cover of Research magazine. The winner also receives a $200 voucher for his next flight on Virgin Airlines.


As I'm sure you're already thinking, the beauty of winning a show like this is in the notoriety. Surely the lucky winner will be able to bump up their management fees at least 50 basis points.

That's what America is all about. (Honk, honk!)

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