The 90-year old widow, Mary, a client of my estate planning law firm, was upset. Not at me. Nor at her family. Rather, she was upset at her broker.

The week before she went to her broker. The broker suggested that she annuitize a significant portion of her investment portfolio. The client was already substantially invested in a variable annuity, sold by the same broker to that client eight years before. The existing variable annuity, if it had been annualized over life with a ten-year certain as provided under the terms of the contract, would have yielded a nice monthly check for my client.

But the broker suggested something different.

Fiduciary opponents bemoan possible rulemaking at the SEC in which brokers who provide "personalized investment advice" would be subject to broad fiduciary duties (including due care, loyalty, and utmost good faith) currently applicable to investment advisers (pursuant to the Investment Advisers Act of 1940).

College students ... 

Do you want a well-paying job? You must become well-rounded!

Do you want a successful life, in every sense of the word? You must expand your boundaries to find all that life has to offer.

College is a great place to transform yourself. Why? Because what have you got to lose? If someone judges you, just move on … you’ll likely not see them again (and they don’t need to be part of your personal universe any more).

For our Business Major Scholars …

I could walk around campus with earphones in, never smiling and never greeting any others. Or I could put a smile on my face, greet most who pass me by with a “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” or “How are you doing,” or – simply - “Hello.” I choose to excel.

I could not read the assigned material before each class, hoping that I will skate by just by listening to the professor and cramming before exams.

"Where is the evidence of harm?" Opponents of the fiduciary standard often ask this question. Permit me to find evidence, over the course of several blog posts.

While these may seem like isolated stories - they are not. I have dealt with hundreds of individual investors, and have seen these stories repeated over and over and over again. I have also discussed, with other fiduciary investment and financial advisors - the huge amount of harm which consumers of non-fiduciary advisors suffer today.

The e-mail had arrived Sunday evening, from a student in one of my classes. The Friday before I had to be in Washington, DC for some meetings, so I had our Department Secretary hand out exams in a class. The exam was not proctored; I had trusted my college students to be honest when taking the exam.

The e-mail started: “Dear Professor Rhoades. I’ve been torn all weekend. Finally, I decided to write to you.

I acknowledge that my clients know far less than I do about investments, taxes, retirement planning, and so much more.

I acknowledge that this vast knowledge asymmetry cannot be cured by financial literacy efforts, due to the inherent complexity of the capital markets, the many products which confront investors today, the opaque disclosures found with such products.

I am pleased to share with you this compilation, taken from compositions submitted by my students over the past few years. If you are currently starting college, or if you are already in college but not performing up to your own expectations, I hope you find wisdom in the advice these students share.

Dear College Student Scholars:

Please permit me to tell you a story.

Shortly after I arrived at college (nearly 40 years ago) I suffered several events that had not happened to me in high school – I failed. Over and over. I blew it on quizzes, essays, and exams. I was astounded when, just a few weeks into the semester, I had failing grades in one course and grades far below my personal expectations in several others. Hence, I felt as if I didn’t deserve to be at college.

Filled with apprehension, apposite to her uncertain personal financial future, abetted by anxiety pertaining to the global economy, my neighbor yearns for my guidance in today's complex financial world. She yearns to place faith and confidence in me, in my expertise, and in my judgment. My neighbor seeks my counsel, bound faithfully to her through the power of trust.
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