NEW YORK (AP) -- Among the massive developments of the technology age has been the explosion in the number of financial "experts," self-styled perhaps, but claiming the same status as lettered professionals.
Accompanying their growing numbers is something worse, that being their compulsion to spread the word, first about themselves and then about what they can do for you, such as making you rich beyond your dreams.
Much of the information so disseminated is of little value, and some of it is blatantly misleading, as in the newsletter that shows a list of companies whose stocks have risen spectacularly in relatively short time.
"Do you want profits like these?" the writer asks, suggesting strongly that such an experience is likely if you subscribe to the letter, which also guarantees "inside" information and "secrets" of the professionals.
Only by reading the entire text do you learn that some or all of these stocks were missing from the letter writer's earlier predictions, and that they are included, or so it is said, as an example of what might happen.
These are the extreme in useless or misleading information, but severe criticism also can be levied against many of the forecasters for large and highly regarded brokerage firms with a propensity to advise "buy."
Buy advice overwhelms sell advice, as a routine examination of the past year's advisories indicates. Most noticeable of all were the work of advisors who rode their "buy" forecasts all the way from top to bottom.
Even then, after the damage, the reluctance to use "sell" could be read into the frequent use of "hold." And almost always without apology. The advisory business seldom looks back. Opportunity always lies ahead.
The practice leads experienced investors to adopt an elementary philosophy, often expressed in various phrasing, "Don't listen to what they say, but watch carefully what they do."
As Americans become more affluent, the personal financial planning segment is among the fastest growing in the industry. Intensifying the interest is the growing concern about having sufficient retirement funds.
As a result, you can purchase elaborate analyses of what you must do to meet family obligations and still have money left over. The reports are laid out in perfectly logical order. If only they could be followed.
You can demonstrate theoretically, for example, how any young American can retire a millionaire, but the ideal seldom weds reality. People suffer tragedies, are forced to change plans, acquire unforeseen obligations.
And so, when you are told to diversify your investments among bonds, large-company stocks, international stocks, fast-growing young companies, annuities and cash, you might ask how it's done with a five-digit fortune.
The advisory industry, even when practiced well by many of its highly learned and skilled professionals, is often overloaded with advice you cannot or perhaps should not use.
Still, it provides a very useful service for those who can learn from it, those being the individuals and households that can distill what is good and apply it in a practical, disciplined way to their own finances.
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