Remember how the carnival sharpies did you out of your coins when you were younger? A feat that looked so easy, like knocking pins over with a thrown ball, usually had some rigged fraud that prevented almost everyone from ever winning anything. All too often carnival sharpies are present in different guises, in many forms, in today's world. And all too often well-intended people fall victim to dishonest operators who know how to stick the ace of spades up their sleeves and get you to sign on the line before you know any better.
Among the saddest and most unfortunate experiences I have observed since I retired are those in which people believed someone who may have been a neighbor, fellow church member, a seemingly legitimate and honest person, but who, in reality was a thief in sheep's clothing, all too ready and eager to lay waste to the gullible person in their sights. I have known physicians who had their life savings wiped out by lack of due diligence on their part and who turned their funds over to shady con men masquerading as the cream of the financial world. I had a neighbor who had to sell his condo and move into a basement in his son's house when he lost everything he had by making a foolish commitment. And these stories go on and on and on.
The old adage that anything that sounds too good to be true is bound to be a blatant and dishonorable ruse to make you see daydreams of beachfront condos while you while away sunny days swinging on a hammock and sipping lemonade while driving a new Lexus or Mercedes. All too often such daydreams are shattered by the reality of financial shenanigans leaving you holding on to your last pair of pants after losing even your suspenders while those who conned you out of your money and your suspenders drive away in their Lexus or Mercedes.
Risk, of course, is present in any financial dealing and, for that matter, we take risks every day in many of the things that we do or try to do. But we can wisely minimize risks by not making stupid mistakes. I have seen far too many people who thought they were financial experts and start to manage their own funds without a shred of knowledge about risk and financial markets. I have seen far too many people bite on a dramatic infomercial or cable channel that promises you returns that no one can deliver. The world of fraud is populated with skilled telephone con operators with legitimate sounding threats and promises, with someone who knows someone who knows someone who has the inside track on the next surefire road to prosperity, with gold coins dancing in the eyes of people who have worked hard every day of their lives and see that their troubles are over if only they will sign now, right now, the deal won't last, the deal won't be good tomorrow or the next day, sign now and get rich!
Some obvious means of protection stand out. Due diligence means checking everything, and I mean everything out about what to do with your funds. Take your time. The tortoise is typically the winner, not the smart-alec hare. If possible, find a skilled financial manager. My wife and I have been fortunate in having our son manage our finances for decades. Our son spent many years with Bank of America and now is with Wells Fargo. I thought I would have time and manage my own funds when I retired, but I quickly learned that our son had more knowledge in his head about hundreds and hundreds of funds, market strategies and conditions, and risk aversion than I could ever learn unless I spent another 25 years learning what he already knows. Check references and track records. Talk to other people who have used the person you are thinking about entrusting your precious assets. Realize that no matter what you do, you will be subject to risk. But also realize that careful strategies can minimize your risk. Hanging on to most of what you have may not make you richer, but hanging on to what you have is far, far preferable than being gullible and losing everything.
Thus task Number 70 is to be smart, be careful, use caution, do hard research, and, above all, do not be gullible. Good luck, keep going, and guard your assets. The Curmudgeonly Professor.