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Home > > New Millennium Bank Secured Platinum Visa MasterCard

New Millennium Bank Secured Platinum Visa MasterCard

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Most often secured credit cards do not have any additional perks or benefits; however, this card does provide several benefits including auto rental insurance, up to $100,000 in travel accident insurance, and an extended warranty for purchases. The card also provides cardholders with a free membership to, which offers discounts on a variety of travel services. Perhaps the best benefit is the free companion air ticket, which is awarded to the cardholder after they have been approved for the card.

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In the traditional model, an individual who lacked time or knowledge relied on an investment advisor for help with investing. Now, more and more people are devoting their time to learn to do it themselves, rather than rely on the investment advisor. This new breed of empowered individual investors is hungry for knowledge about investing, and as time goes by, they will seek the “specialists”, rather than hire the professional.

Client Dissatisfaction

What has prompted this quiet revolution? For starters, the benefits achieved doing things the old way. According to Tiburon Strategic Advisors, a consulting and market research company, almost three-quarters of “high net worth” investors are dissatisfied with their financial advisors on some level. Only 30 percent of clients declared being fully satisfied with their advisors while nearly half of the respondents have given recent consideration to changing their primary financial advisors.

And what of those clients who are “less than high-net worth”? Anecdotal evidence supports the conclusion you have probably already arrived at, namely that those clients are even less enthusiastic about the service they receive. Even more so than is the case with high net worth clients, these clients have an all too intimate knowledge of the investment motto “financial products are sold, not bought”.

The Emperor Has No Clothes

Statistics on the returns “enjoyed” by clients suggest that their dissatisfaction is justified. Over a ten-year period, Dalbar’s well-known research divided mutual fund investors into two groups; Do-it-Yourself investors and Sales-Force Advised Investors (i.e. investors who used advisors). During this time period, the first group had a return of 79.5% while the latter had 96.4%.

Those return rates sound fairly impressive, until one considers that during the same period, the S&P 500 index had a return of 384.5% (see Chart 1).

Chart 1. Returns of Mutual Fund Investors (Cumulative %)

Source: Dalbar and TAM Asset Management

Although the Dalbar research was conducted between January 1984 and June 1995 and was never repeated in the same format afterwards, one could question whether the results would be different now.

What those results lead us to conclude, of course, is that investment advisors were not able to add significant value in terms of higher returns -- although they could potentially have added value by saving clients’ time, managing their anxiety and providing investment education through client service.

Conflicts of Interest

It is widely known that a number of forms of client-broker relationships are still plagued by conflicts of interest, where recommended products are not the most optimal for clients. For instance, broker advisory services may be presented as free-of-charge but the embedded costs could be quite high (e.g. a client with a portfolio of $100K could be paying as much as 2.5% in trailer fees for this “free” advice). Furthermore, the client may be made to favor financial products that are better for the company the broker represents rather than the most suitable for the client.

This has not gone completely unnoticed -- every year the industry has to pay billions of dollars in lawsuits for scandals as well as selling products that were unsuitable for clients in the first place. Unfortunately, unlike Home Depot, the investment industry is not yet prepared to offer up (without a fight) refunds for products that did not meet clients’ objectives.

In addition, many clients express a view that the investment industry is paying insufficient attention to its fiduciary duties (i.e. putting clients’ interest first), while it is pursuing asset gathering strategies (i.e. maximizing its own returns). For example, John C. Bogle concludes in his ten-year research that the returns generated by mutual fund conglomerates (i.e. asset gatherers) lag significantly behind their competitors. Mr. Bogle, of course, was not referring to return of conglomerates’ own capital, rather the returns on capital entrusted by investors. As a Chartered Financial Analyst, I feel that in order to effectively deal with these challenges, we should first acknowledge that they exist and then move decisively to rectify them.

Emerging Alternatives

The developments noted above have led many people to think that discovering what works in investing is not just for a small group of professionals, but something that everyone can do. The dot-com mania brought in the new group of people known as day traders. Unfortunately, the great majority of day traders lost money as markets headed down, but the phenomenon proved that large groups of people are indeed willing to venture into capital markets en masse.

At the same time as dissatisfaction with the traditional investing model grows, new alternatives (both in terms of technologies and financial products) are gradually emerging, which are eroding investment advisors’ influence more than ever before.

Nowadays, with a click of a mouse, an individual investor can create an efficient portfolio (with a little help) that reflects his or her personal circumstances. And, recognizing the value of strategic long-term investing, many companies have created products that focus on tax and cost efficiency such as ETFs and life-cycle funds, as well as various types of software and Internet-based solutions that offer all-encompassing investment options. These ‘so called’ investment auto pilots are not without fault but offer simplified solutions to many investors that are confused and no longer trust that the investment industry is looking out for them.

People are starting to realize that it does not require a lot of money, time or “expertise” to learn a sufficient amount of knowledge to achieve results comparable with the top 25% of all investors. What it does take is strategic investing that minimizes costs, taxes and follows simple portfolio optimization while considering investors’ personal situation. To prove the point, indexing is growing in popularity as more individual and institutional investors recognize that it is very hard to beat the market consistently.

So, as millions of baby boomers have discovered the joys of dry-walling, the new breed of independent and empowered investors will enjoy learning about investing and taking responsibility for their losses and gains.

The revolution has just begun.

Investment Advisors (IAs) come in all different intellectual, professional, and alphabetical varieties. They range in educational qualifications from High School dropout to PhD, and can be professional Accountants, Insurance Salesmen, Stock Brokers, Investment Managers, Dentists, Lawyers, TV personalities, and Gourmet Chefs. Anyone can be an Investment Advisor! It seems reasonable that your trust should gravitate toward those who have educational credentials, hands on experience with their own money, and no direct financial benefit from the advice provided. Stay safer by finding a fee only advisor who has just one profession… and the ability to say NO.

Why do people become Investment Advisors? Call me skeptical, but I don’t think it’s the ethereal glow they feel after implementing your new Financial Plan. Actually (once you appreciate that IAs are the primary delivery system for Wall Street’s huge collection of one-size-fits-all products), you’ll realize that it’s the money. No conspiracy here, just a subtle brainwashing that has convinced you that the Advisor’s primary objective is to protect your family. In reality, the primary goal of commissioned advisors is to protect their own families, and they accomplish this by selling Investment Products. The Investment Advisor label has become a euphemism for product salesperson just as Financial Planner nearly always means Insurance salesperson. Stay safer by finding a fee only advisor who has just one profession… and the ability to say NO.

Serious IAs can be identified by acronyms following their names (also by dark three piece suits and facial hair), RIA and CFP being the most common. As professional as this seems, designations do not create trustworthiness, for several reasons: IAs must become RIAs to be licensed to sell investment products. Most practitioners affiliate themselves with major Wall Street Institutions to defray their start up costs and many are subsidized in return for pushing their sponsor’s products. Finally, most advisors will remain in bed with one company at a time throughout their careers, constantly touting the present firm’s products as “best”. Hmmm. Hundreds of companies, thousands of IAs, convincing millions of shoppers (investors) that they have just purchased the one very best product to achieve their financial goals. From cradle to grave, most IAs dance to a tune that’s not being played by their clients.

Over the past several years, Wall Street has managed to invade the once respected Insurance Industry by attaching Mutual Funds to life insurance and annuity products, making them far too speculative to achieve their once guaranteed objectives. But the “variable products” scam dwarfs in potential long-term impact to the more recent high crime against investors. This is the one that ignores the (in-your-face-obvious) Conflict of Interest when Accountants sell investment products! Many professionals have multiple degrees; few have multiple practices. You deserve a specialist. If your CPA/Lawyer/Doctor (who’s next) can make a living in his primary practice, why sell investment products? Greed? Hubris? And why does Wall Street allow these non-professionals to push investment products? Don’t be naďve, the more people out there pushing Investment Products, the bigger the bonus for the Masters of the Universe. Stay safer by finding a fee only advisor who has just one profession… and the ability to say NO.

In spite of the fact that the “burn out” rate among IAs compares with that of restaurants and Mutual Fund Managers, and that the advisory business itself is a cut-throat, competitive battlefield, the Financial Institutions that employ the majority of IAs prosper, multiply, and produce more product for your “eyes wide shut” consumption… because you, your products, and the management fees remain! A caring and successful Investment Advisor makes an excellent income and should; a successful financial institution buys other financial institutions!

The hierarchy of commissions paid to IAs can exceed 10% on “private deals”, limited partnerships, and a litany of speculative products and services. On the more controlled substances (sic), Annuity commissions can run above 8% with 10-year lock up provisions common and Mutual Funds provide a generous 4% to 6% whether you see them or not. New issues, odd lot Bonds, and other securities that don’t show a commission, include marketing fees and mark ups that can be substantial. What ever happened to individual Equity portfolios? It’s a combination of in-greed-ients… products are less work and produce more money. Stay safer by finding a fee only advisor who has just one profession, the ability to say NO, and who knows something about individual securities.

Most people need Investment Advisors. Life Insurance protection is vital; fixed annuities are helpful for people of limited means; Mutual Funds are the only option (pity) in most self-directed retirement plans. The vast majority of employed Americans are Investors, actively or passively, with little time or expertise to select securities and manage portfolios. (If the Democrats would accept this, they just might win an election.) But recent experience confirms that we all have a responsibility to our own money, a responsibility that we should only delegate to a professional if we know what the professional is supposed to know. The fact that he or she is an XYZ Fund representative just isn’t enough. You need an independent advisor that has ideas rather than products and an understanding of markets, not marketing. If you are willing to ask the right questions, you can find an IA who might just be able to help you (and herself) at the same time. Try these for starters: Do you sell any products? Do you have a personal portfolio that I can review? Do you provide a “fee only” advisory service? How long have you been in the financial services business, and is it your only business? (It’s not your job to educate “newbies”!) Are you affiliated with any other financial services companies? Do you have at least five non-family clients who you have been advising for at least five years… that I can contact directly? Will you be compensated for referring me to someone? Stay safer by finding a fee only advisor who has just one profession and the ability to say NO.

The ability to say NO? An advisor will tell you not to do something that he feels is inappropriate… a salesman will do what you tell him to do.

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