Mark Twain once famously wrote that the difference between the almost right word and the exact right word is incredibly significant. After all, it could mean the difference between a harmless lightning bug and being struck by lightning.
When it comes to your finances, the same can be said for asking the right question versus asking the almost right question—don't ask the right questions and your financial future could go up in smoke.
This is especially true when you're dealing with the fat cats on Wall Street.
Wall Street, the eight blocks that run through the heart of the south side of Manhattan, is the nerve center of the country's economy. It's where people in thousand-dollar suits make deals that determine the financial well-being of companies large and small, nonprofit organizations and foundations, and millions of everyday, ordinary Americans.
According to Gallup, 55 percent of all American adults have money invested in the stock market. That's down from the 65 percent of 2007 but still represents well more than 100 million Americans who trust trillions of dollars as well as their financial future in the hands of Wall Street, often without questioning how the money is being managed. That's a problem, especially for anyone practicing prosperity economics.
It's a problem because if you're not asking administrators of mutual funds and 401(k) retirement accounts questions—tough questions—they're probably not going to pay much attention to what's in your best interest.
And that's just the way they want it.
That's right, the people on Wall Street don't want you to ask tough questions. They'd prefer that you focus your energy on simple questions, the wrong questions:
- "Stocks or bonds?"
- "Which mutual funds have the highest returns?"
- "What's the anticipated return?"
- "Should I invest in a target-date fund?"
These are easy questions for your money managers to answer, mostly because there isn't a right answer. So they give you canned responses that don't tell you anything about how you can actually maximize the power of your money. These are the questions your money managers hope you ask.
Here's a look at the seven questions they don't want you to ask—but that you should ask if you are practicing prosperity economics.
1) "What are the most important issues to consider when deciding how to invest?"
Most people make their investment decisions based on anticipated rates of return. And while past performance and return rates are important, they should not be the only things guiding your decision-making process.
Safety, liquidity, taxes, cash flow and the amount of control you have over your money should also inform your decision-making.
Nobody can control or predict how the market performs, so to pay an administrator or manager to do so is kind of crazy. But that's exactly what Wall Street wants (and expects) you to do, even while telling you in the fine print that "past results are no guarantee of future performance."
So don't simply settle for making decisions based on anticipated returns. Instead, consider all of the factors that are important to your financial well-being, and insist that your Wall Street money manager does the same.
2) "How can I ensure that my money grows, regardless of the market's ups and downs?"
Stocks and bonds. These two investment opportunities seem to be all anyone wants to talk about, especially on Wall Street. Unfortunately, stocks and bonds are incredibly fickle, constantly going up in value and down in value depending on outside factors. But there are other options that can ensure your money has the best chance to grow consistently and won't be held hostage by the peaks and valleys of stocks and bonds.
Of course, you probably won't hear about these alternative investment opportunities if you don't ask or practice prosperity economics. People who practice prosperity economics ask about how they can protect themselves from the market's fickleness. They're aware of risks and work to avoid them. And they push the people who manage their money to explore alternative options, such as life insurance products, real estate and bridge loans, business opportunities, mortgages and other safer, less volatile opportunities.
But your broker probably won't educate you on these opportunities unless you ask.
3) "What about taxes and fees?"
It's a simple question that is rarely asked. And your adviser isn't likely to tell you about it. Instead, advisers focus on the potential of investment opportunities. But what really matters is how taxes and fees can cut into that potential profit.
So make sure to ask, and make sure to get precise answers.
4) "Can you prove that you're operating in my best interest?"
Wall Street wants you to assume that it has your best interests at heart, but it doesn't necessarily want to have to prove it. The financial advisers who work on Wall Street prefer that you ask for their recommendations rather than their philosophies and fiduciary platforms.
In fact, most only worry about whether or not their suggestions are "suitable." They don't worry too much about whether or not they are in your best interest. So ask them. Push them. Make sure they are working from a fiduciary platform that meets your needs.
5) "Can I collateralize this investment?"
Many of the investment opportunities your Wall Street adviser will push your way can't be used as collateral—and those that can aren't very good:
- IRAs can't be used as collateral.
- Stocks and mutual funds can sometimes be used, but only if your broker allows it and even then only at about 50 percent of their value.
- 401(k) loans can sometimes be borrowed against to the tune of 50 percent of the account's balance or $50,000.
- Real estate can typically be borrowed against up to 80 percent of the home's value.
- Whole life policies can be borrowed against up to 95 percent of the policy's cash value—making them the best investment option your broker will probably never tell you about.
All of this is why people who practice prosperity economics always ask about their ability to collateralize their investments.
6) "How are you going to help me control my own money?"
Practicing prosperity economics is all about being in control of your own money. And if you never ask your Wall Street money manager how they're going to help you maintain control of your money, you will likely never truly control it.
If you don't ask, your money manager will decide into which mutual funds your money is invested, where your target-date funds are allocated and how much in fees you should pay.
You should be making these decisions. For example, if you are in control of your money, you can focus on avoiding fees altogether rather than simply seeking to pay the lowest fees possible, which is something your money manager won't go out of the way to do for you.
Think fees aren't a big deal? Consider the fact that the average American family pays more than $100,000 in small fees over the lifetime of their investments, according to "The Retirement Drain."
That's a lot of money you might be able to avoid paying if you ask the right question.
7) "What are my other options?"
This is the question that probably frightens your financial advisers the most. But it's also the most important question, especially if you are practicing prosperity economics.
Exploring your options makes your money manager's job more difficult. They may have to break out of their comfort zone. They may have to work a little harder. They may have to be a little more accountable.
But don't they owe you at least that much?
The principles of prosperity economics say you need to study your options and choose those that make the most sense for you and you alone. If your Wall Street financial adviser won't help you consider all of your options, it just might be time to start asking for referrals to one who understands and appreciates prosperity economics.
Sent from the Land of Possibilities!