Greed doesn’t take a holiday

Posted by on June 28, 2011 @ 7:38 am in Personal finance

I was having lunch the other day with a retired colleague and friend. We catch up periodically, filling each other in on our children’s activities and our lives. This time, he really wanted to spend some talking about the retirement experience.

He’s not your ordinary retiree. In his last several years with Vanguard, he studied for and passed all the Certified Financial Planner™ exams, because he thought it would be helpful personally and as an alternate career option.

What did he say? Even though he thought he’d planned well, he had to fight the urge to make some snap judgments early in retirement. To a great extent, he resisted—but not on everything. Also, we have a pretty busy environment here at Vanguard, and it took him a good two years to replace the level of activity he was used to with challenging and worthwhile pursuits.

One other thing he talked about at length is that—no surprise—greed doesn’t take a holiday in retirement.

On more than one occasion, my friend had been approached to participate in investment “deals” by people who had held prominent positions in business prior to retirement. Not a trusting soul when it comes to parting with his money, he asked several well-chosen questions, learning enough that he distrusted the financial basis for the schemes.

He has a well-diversified portfolio, and sees no reason to change. But what about those who have not prepared themselves like he has—those who have lived through the downturn and are trying to figure out how to manage their assets in a volatile environment? I can just shake my head when I hear stories about promises of 18% and 20% returns.

Are people still giving serious credence to these sorts of schemes after everything that’s been in the press? It’s unfortunate to think that the maxim often attributed to P.T. Barnum about “a sucker born every minute” continues to ring true.

Have you been the intended target of a too-good-to-be true financial scheme?

Note: Diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss in a declining market.

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