More About Ric Edelman

November 6, 2009
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When in my last post, I criticized some of Ric Edelman’s practices and fees, I felt a bit queasy.  Was I being unfair?

I reached my conclusions by reading the handout material and by what he said in a seminar.  I also studied his web site, which disclosed his fees.  But I did not have direct access to a client’s portfolio, so I felt somewhat tentative in my judgments.  But today’s post by Allan Roth An Interview with Ric Edelman – Is High Cost Indexing an Oxymoron? confirmed my suspicions.

Roth analyzed an Edeleman client’s portfolio, and he also spoke to Edeleman. Roth reached the same conclusions I had about the high fees, and he also questioned Edelman’s recommendation of not paying off a mortgage.  Finally he confirmed my belief that Edelman was not paying attention to asset location, since he found the same allocations in the IRA accounts as in the client’s taxable accounts.

But enough criticism.  The rest of this post is about Edelman’s book The Lies About Money, which I can recommend.  In the first two chapters he persuasively lays out the case for diversification and for not trying to time the market.  This is a very important message which many investors still do not get.  Then he explains the advantages of mutual funds.

But it in his fourth chapter, The Demise of the Retail Mutual Fund Industry, that he shines.  He essentially demolishes (active) retail mutual funds.  For starters, he discusses the frequent manager changes, the costs of active management, and the dangers of style drift.  And this is just the beginning; he discusses 25 reasons why you should not use a typical (active) retail mutual fund.

Not satisfied with that, Edelman actually put together A Mutual Fund Scandal Timeline outlining the abuses that have been alleged or proven from 2003 to 2007.  It takes him a “mere” 40 pages to summarize the questionnable practices and allegations of abuse.  If that is not enough to make you question whether your mutual fund or stockbroker is actually your friend, then nothing will.  So buy the book or get it out of the library simply for Chapter 4.

Conclusion

The financial services business is fraught with conflicts of interest, high fees, misleading ads, and general confusion for the typical investor.  Sorting through this mess is not easy.  As William Bernstein says, “Both mutual fund companies and brokerage houses know more ways than you can count of fleecing you without your knowing it.”

To be continued.

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