“Rhinestone suits and new shiny cars ... It's been the same way for years ... We need a change.“ — from "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" as performed by Waylon Jennings
Ken Burns's recent documentary on the history of country music is absolutely extraordinary. I have watched most of the episodes, and I'm not even a country fan. The series reveals the history and evolution of 'country,' from the earliest recordings in 1927 by the A. P. Carter Family to the mega-success of modern performers like Garth Brooks.
Eventually, Nashville became a recording hub, but artists like Waylon Jennings experienced career management and recording problems there. Jennings's issues were common for recording artists at the time. He was stylized, packaged and promoted, but lost the essence of his art. When he finally eschewed the Nashville production method and recorded an album his own way, using his own musicians and staying true to his live performance sound, fans responded immediately. Dreaming My Dreams was Waylon's first album done the way he wanted to do it. Other musicians soon followed suit, and country music's popularity skyrocketed.
Stuffing clients into cookie-cutter mutual funds when their portfolios should be unique is like Nashville producers trying to fit Jennings's authentic sound into a mainstream box.
Let's say your advisor invests your money in mutual funds, which is very common. The securities in the mutual fund are chosen by an investment manager you'll likely never meet. They don't know you, your age, your financial goals, or risk tolerance. They also don't consider your personal tax situation. Not great so far.
Then there are the additional fees. Many brokers receive upfront commissions for placing your assets in certain funds. Even if your broker doesn't receive an upfront commission, they often profit at your expense through revenue sharing agreements their firm has with the mutual fund company and get paid on the back end for leading you into a fund.
Perhaps most importantly, there's the asset allocation dilemma. At day's end, someone must make big-picture asset allocation decisions. Many brokers say, “I'm not an investment expert, so we hire the best money managers available through mutual funds to do that job.” But who decides which funds to invest in at what times and in what amounts?
After all, a mutual fund manager runs one strategy per fund. Say a fund's strategy is to invest exclusively in high-yield bonds. If that asset class is likely to be out of favor for a few years, they aren't going to call you and say “Pull your money from my fund. I'll get back to you in a few years to reinvest when the environment is more favorable.” Their job is simply to do the best they can with those invested dollars in that particular strategy, whether it's a fortuitous time or not.
Working with a fiduciary advisor who is actually investing your assets as the “quarterback” of the portfolio has some significant advantages. Hopefully, they'll do things your way. It worked well for Waylon.
Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, author of the syndicated economic column "Arbor Outlook," is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 — www.arborwealth.net), a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin. This column should not be considered personalized investment advice and provides no assurance that any specific strategy or investment will be suitable or profitable for an investor.