Cautionary Words in Uncertain Times

February 5, 2023 by  
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So what would you do if you had a pretty good nest egg saved up but your bank was paying you a lousy 1/2% a year and a good friend just told you about how he is getting an 18% annual return with monthly dividends through investments with a good friend? Your first reaction might be, “Wow! That’s a great return.” But then you might ask, “Tell me more about this friend and the investment, because it sounds too good to be true.”

This friend might say, “I’ve known this guy for several years and he’s a good guy that I have great confidence in. I invested some of my cash with him a year ago and he hasn’t ever missed a monthly interest payment. I just recently put all the rest of my savings into his deal and even had my mother put most of her savings with him.”

So, what you would be hearing from this friend is that he’s put virtually all his cash and savings into this “safe investment” and the return is guaranteed. But for all you know, he may even have put a second mortgage on his house at a low interest rate so he could make the difference in the spread. I don’t know what you’d do, but I know I would hold on to my wallet and run like hell.

Sadly, this kind of scenario happens almost every day. It can be particularly bad during a slow economic recovery. After the hard years of the pandemic, people are ready to find something good that can help them recover and build their savings against the next difficult time. I personally have known a number of people that have lost almost every penny to their name because they bought into situations very similar to the one described above. These were not ignorant people. They were really quite smart and educated so you wouldn’t think they would be susceptible, but such good sounding deals can be very tempting.

There is an old saying that goes back to the 16th century: “Tis the part of wise men to keep himself today for tomorrow and not venture all his eggs in one basket.” The other saying that we’ve all heard that we need to drum into our heads is, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

One of the policies that has driven my investment life is, “If I do choose to put all or most of my eggs in one basket, I must have total control over that basket and I must watch that basket very, very closely.”

I have talked about this before, but with the way things are now, I thought it was time to put out another reminder. Even if you are introduced to someone that a family member or friend says they have total confidence and trust in, just remember where the term “con man” comes from—it comes from the description of people who build up your confidence and trust in them before they strike.

This is not to say that there are not very good investments out there, but just be careful and always check them out very thoroughly. Be sure your investment is backed by solid, verifiable assets and don’t put all your financial eggs in one basket. Not unless you are the one in control of those eggs and can watch that basket very closely!


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