Following the Money

Well, according to The New York Times’  What’s Offline column, Smart Money magazine zeroes in on how Baby Boomers are uneasy about entrusting their money to financial experts younger — far younger — than they are.  “Both emotionally and psychologically,” Janet Paskin writes in the magazine, “it’s hard for older people to concede authority to some young buck.”

Now, wait a minute.  Not me.  I’d be more than happy to concede financial authority to some youthful Warren Buffet type.  (Please — give him my address.  We can talk.)

Instead, at our local bank, I got stuck with some nitwit who managed to be young, inexperienced and arrogant.  I wanted ideas about a fund to put our father’s money into so we’d have a reliable stream of income to take care of him.  The Nitwit, whose walls sported degrees from a college I’d never heard of, confidently told me he was on the case.

A week later, I got his recommendation.  I guess he thought I’d collapse in gratitude and immediately sign over the money — since, after all, I was a female of a certain age.  Instead, being a little more cautious and a lot less stupid, I looked up the fund on Morningstar.  It wasn’t that good.  It had mediocre returns and high fees.

I emailed the Nitwit back, suggesting a couple of better funds that were highly rated by Morningstar.  Big mistake, evidently.  The Nitwit was deeply insulted by my lack of faith.  He wrote me back an email spilling over with misspellings and grammatical errors and righteous indignation.  I printed out a hard copy of his reply and spent the next half hour marking up the grade-school mistakes he’d made.  He’d even managed to confuse a fund’s principal with principle.

But my very favorite mistake was his howl of betrayal that I’d ignored his and his colleague Frank’s suggestions about a fund to put my money in.  “If you don’t want to follow Frank and I’s recommendations,” he wrote, “we can’t help you.”

Frank and I’s recommendations?  My God.

Look, I didn’t care how old this guy was.  I didn’t even care where he got his BA and MBA from.  Big deal.  But no way on earth would I ever entrust the money my father earned over his lifetime to a peabrain with such a mangled knowledge of the English language.

So I took the money and put it into a CD.  Even the Nitwit could have probably spelled that one, but I didn’t give him another chance to labor over it.  When it comes to money and numbers, age doesn’t concern me; IQ does.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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