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Investing: It's Your Money Take Control Of It!

Aug 17, 2007
One of the biggest mistakes I frequently see investors make is needlessly losing control of their money. Any time you pay a hefty commission or face surrender penalties in order to get YOUR money you lose control. Losing control severely limits access to YOUR money and limits your flexibility to make changes. This can trap you in an under-performing investment adding years to the time needed to reach your goals.

Whose money is it? Is it your broker's, banker's or insurance agent's? No, of course not. It's YOUR money. Don't believe the lie that says you have to pay a big commission or face years of onerous surrender charges to get an advisor's help when you invest. It's simply not true. Can you imagine your doctor or dentist asking you to pay them for 10 years worth of service up front? Then a professional advisor shouldn't ask you to, either.

Sharon is a real-life example. Sharon became a widow a few years ago after her husband died of Lou Gehrig's disease. Her advisor put almost 90% of her money into variable annuities. Now her money is locked up for 10 years! If she wants or needs more than a small portion of that money she will have to pay a penalty that starts at 9%! That's tens of thousands of dollars in surrender penalties. Whose money is it? It's her money, but now she can't get at it!

Think about all of the reasons Sharon may want or need her money over the next 10 years. Her health could deteriorate and she might need nursing home or home health care. Maybe she decides to move to a different part of the country to be closer to her grandchildren. Or she could decide that she wants to buy a second home at her favorite vacation spot.

Her investment objective could change. Maybe she doesn't feel comfortable with her money fluctuating and wants to put her money in a CD at the bank. Her income or her tax situation could change so that she no longer needs that kind of investment. But it really doesn't matter, because now she can't get more than a small portion of her money for the next 10 years unless she pays thousands and thousands of dollars in penalties!

Notice in all of these situations that Sharon is the one who gets stuck paying the penalty. Not the broker or agent that sold it to her and definitely not the insurance company. It makes you wonder who benefits most from these transactions. It obviously isn't Sharon!

None of us knows what tomorrow holds. So it's important to maintain the flexibility to access YOUR money! Thousands upon thousands of investors have seen the value of their investments drop substantially and because they are in a similar situation to Sharon, they have only limited flexibility to make adjustments to their portfolio.

Brokers would have you believe that the whole market is down and there isn't anything you can do. That's not true. For instance, certain Real Estate Investment Trusts have provided an attractive level of income without facing the wild fluctuations of the stock market. Portions of the bond market have enjoyed double digit gains in 2002.

Besides, there's no need to pay a big commission or have long surrender penalties. My clients don't. They pay me a small ongoing fee instead. They get professional advice and access to investments they can't otherwise get but they keep control. They can access their money whenever they want without surrender penalties. We can quickly adapt and adjust their portfolio based on market conditions and changes in their situation.

Learn from Sharon's mistake. Don't let yourself be talked into an investment with a hefty commission or a long period of surrender penalties. Don't put all of your eggs in just one kind of investment basket regardless of how safe it is or how many features it has. And seek the advice of an experienced, professional advisor who gets paid by fees instead of commissions.

It's YOUR money. Don't let anyone talk you into losing control of it.
About the Author
Nationally-syndicated financial columnist and Certified Financial Planner Jeffrey Voudrie provides personal, in-depth money management services and advice to select private clients throughout the USA. He will answer your financial question FREE at http://www.guardingyourwealth.net/
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