Index fund advice from an unlikely source...
I saw this in a Jean Chatzky Newletter and I found the advice about index funds interesting & encouraging.

This Week in Your Wallet: Investing Advice From...Bernie Madoff

Who is the last person in the world you'd want financial advice from? For those of you who have seen a family member make a serious financial mistake, you might be thinking of that person. For those of you who have watched celebrities and athletes squander millions of dollars, you might be thinking of one of those figures. As for the rest of you... well, I wouldn't be surprised if you're thinking of the person in my headline: Bernie Madoff, the man who orchestrated the biggest Ponzi scheme in history and lost millions and millions of his clients' dollars.

However, just as a security breach can teach a bank how to bolster its vaults -- or, how watching the makeovers on "What Not To Wear" can teach you dressing strategies (v-necks elongate, dark jeans are best)  -- the man who bilked investors out of millions actually has some decent advice when it comes to how not to get bilked yourself.  Madoff recently opened up to the Wall Street Journal, and offered these nuggets of information:

  • Go with an index fund. "The best chance for the average investor is to put money in an index fund. There are lower commission rates and more professional management with these types of firms. It's the safest and least likely places to get scammed," Madoff told the Journal. If you're a longtime reader of this newsletter, you'll know that I agree with this.
  • Don't buy what you don't understand. You may have heard me say this before, too, and Bernie Madoff is one of the reasons why I firmly believe that you shouldn't buy a product (or investment) you can't explain. "If you don't understand something, then don't invest in it. People asked me all the time how did I do it, and I refused to tell them, and they still invested with me," Madoff said. "My investors were sophisticated people, smart enough to know what was going on and how money was made -- but still invested with me without any explanations. Things have to make sense to you. If you don't understand the investment, don't put your money there."
  • When in doubt, ask for your money back. Yes, doing this could create an administrative headache, but if you're really worried about your money, ask your broker to give it back to you. "Ask for all your money back about every two years to make sure [a firm is] legitimate," Madoff said. "If my clients had done this with me, I would have been caught sooner."

Check out the full Journal piece, linked above.

Interesting piece Theresa. Thank you for sharing.

It sounds like the "sophisticated" investors who still gave Madoff money were trying to get some reward without doing any work.

Anyone who thinks it is possible to beat the market without doing any work is probably deceiving themselves.

That's why index funds are recommended for people who want market exposure without doing extra work. It should be as much work to pick a "money manager" as to pick an investment. Most people don't put in that kind of work either.

I really don't feel too sorry for the Madoff investors myself.

Laurie Frederiksen
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