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Another stupid idea

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There’s an ad in this month’s Smart Money that suggests you can make a fortune the first few minutes of any trading day. This plan was, the ad says, developed by a Peruvian chess genius with a proven IQ of 157, or some equally impressive number. This ad is clever, more hip than the ads we advisors see in many of our periodicals that say things like, “I made $517,452.93 the first year I used this selling method and only worked four hours a week.”

No matter how brilliant the ad copy, one must give every such ad this acid test: If the plan described in the ad is so great, why doesn’t the advertiser use it to continue to make money, instead of trying to sell the method to us? In other words, why does he or she need to step aside from making hundreds of thousands of dollars through “the system” and sell the idea to a few of us for, relatively, a few dollars? In 43 years of observing such nonsense, I have tried a few of the ideas, when I was young and foolish, and watched others try many such schemes. I’ve never ever seen one that worked. If you are fortunate enough to have a good team of people who work with you, as I am, you can produce a lot of investment business. Given the onerous paperwork requirements, I don’t see how anyone can make it by himself, except at the beginning of a career.

If you want to know how to sell tons of life insurance, read Ben Feldman’s books — you can find most or all of them at various Web sites for — as Ben used to say, “pennies on the dollar.” Ben was like a Timex watch — he sloughed off rejection like ducks shed water, never taking it personally. Want to learn about investing? Read Buffett, Graham and Templeton. Read books by the thinkers, people like Jason Zweig. Want to learn how to sell investments? Learn how to listen, to understand how people really feel (in other words, don’t talk during interviews, except to ask questions) and then study enough about Buffett, Graham, Templeton and Zweig so that you can match feelings and expertise. Did I mention Barron’s? How about Smart Money? Or Investor’s Business Daily? And let’s not forget professional education — consider ChFC, CLU, CFP, CFA, or CIMA. Or think about enrolling at California Lutheran’s graduate school, the California Institute of Finance, and earning both an M.B.A. in financial planning and a CFP. (Yes, that last part is a plug; I’m an adjunct faculty member.) I might also mention that the consultative portions of the CFP and ChFC curricula are extraordinarily helpful to advisors.

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Have a superlative week. Keep the faith, believe in the United States of America, our great country, and step outside your normal life for a day. Try something different — take a yoga class, go to a play or movie, or sit quietly and think.

Check out more blog entries from Richard Hoe.