Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Banks and Wall St: Reach for your piggy banks

THE CLOSING DAYS of the year have prompted financial advisors to call me for a "review" of our inertial investments. They, of course, wanted to lead me in a positive direction with cheery "maybe-we-can-upgrade" them . To what? I asked with a snarl, as if I hadn't heard it all before. Besides, how is one to react after all of the things that have gone into the tank for people like you and me with the experts in charge of our accounts.

I've also been getting written notices advising me of all of the changes taking place in the accounts in the new year. One of them from my bank folds out to nearly 19 inches of tiny print, which should immediately prepare you for the worst. To assist the confused reader, it should have at least been bundled with CliffsNotes. In bold face it declares:
Their odd insertion of a lower case "notice" was fair warning that it was written by the same kind of person who once sent me impenetrable Air Force orders with jargon that I never fully understood other than I had to report to such- and-such base at such-and-such time.

I did notice that the term "Credit Card" appeared more often than "savings account", which was comforting in that they weren't looking to me to help pay for Wall Street bonuses under their concept of the blessed free enterprise system. But I did take a stab at one of the paragraphs:
Finance Charges: If not already the case, your APR will be a variable rate calculated by adding 21.74% to the value of an index and will have a minimum and maximum of 24.99% . As of October 1, 2009 the APR is 24.99%. As of July 1, 2010, the maximum amount (cap) will be removed.
You could stop trying to decode the bank's 19" directive right there. What they want you to know in layman's terms is that the interest rate on your credit card is going up. And up. And up.
At the same time, the interest paid to me on my savings account and CDs is virtually invisible.

I also have been hearing from the folks who handle a portion of my securities . They sent me a flier that was reassuring. It said things like:
The team of financial advisors...strives to maintain current records of your investment experience and objectives. To this end please provide your...advisory team with any information that might assist them in determining your risk tolerance, financial circumstances and investment objectives.
Investment objectives?

When an advisor called me I told him explicitly what my investment objective was for my last remaining fail-safe mutual fund that has been mired in red ink for more than two years.

"SELL IT!" I barked.


"As we speak".


"As we speak!"
I had been telling my experts for more than two years that Wall Street couldn't care less about the little guys in the market. The big guys have proved it time and again that your money and mine was strictly a way for them to pocket the profits.

As Arianna Huffington wrote the other day:
The big banks on Wall Street, propped up by taxpayer money and government guarantees, had a record year, making record profits while returning to the highly leverage activities that brought our ecoomy to the brink of disaster. In a slap in the face of taxpayers, they have also cut back on the money they are lending....But since April, the Big Four banks - JP Morgan/Chase, Citibank, Bank of America and ells Fargo - all of which took billions in taxpayer money, have cut lending to buinesses by $100 billion."
The check for the sale of the my mutual fund arrived a couple of days ago. Against the advice of any financial advisor, I stuck it into the purgatory of a savings account. At least I know it will be safe there. How's that for a financial objective?


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