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It's The Person In The Bathroom Mirror

When I first started investing in the market, I used a financial advisor. I was soon to learn that my advisor was in fact a salesman, and a good one at that. For several years I followed his suggestions and invested my hard-earned money in couldn't-miss mutual funds, limited partnerships, and a few other things I'm too embarrassed to mention. When I questioned my advisor about the dismal returns I was realizing, he always had an answer. He probably had quite a list of answers because I never heard the same one twice.

Well, one day it happened. I was sitting at the kitchen table reading about mutual funds and something called an expense ratio. In the article was a short list of some of the funds sporting excessive ratios. Three of them were nestled in my portfolio. More reading followed. And then, even more reading. Knowledge is power, isn't it?

A few months after the scales had fallen from my eyes, I received a phone call from the man who was going to make me rich. He had a hot mutual fund that was guaranteed to soar. This fund would be a life changer if I invested enough in it. I asked him the name of the fund. He told me. I agreed to meet him the next day. After hanging up the phone, I consulted a book I had purchased. It listed thousands of mutual funds with in depth information about each one, including fees and expenses. The life changing fund was in the book. It had a 5.5% front end load. Now, just whose life was he talking about?

The next afternoon I met my advisor at a local restaurant. He was waiting for me in a booth. On the table in front of him lay a beautiful leather portfolio. We shook hands and I sat down. He opened the portfolio with a flourish. I didn't give him a chance to get started. I told him everything I'd learned about the fund, spending extra time on it's past performance and kneecap expense ratio. I'll never forget the look on his face. He closed the portfolio and offered to buy lunch. I declined. He left. I never saw him again.

Since then, I've done my investing through a brokerage account. I do my own homework and research. I've made mistakes and learned from them. I had more successes than failures, but at times I can't help but think that the failures can sometimes be more beneficial than the triumphs.

Before there is any misunderstanding, I want to say that there are countless numbers of good and honest financial advisors out there. Kudos to them. It must be a tough job.

My situation, however, was not unique. It occurs all the time. People can be too trusting, too ignorant, or too lazy to do some research and ask questions; lots of questions.

In the end, it's up to you. It's your money. You worked hard to earn it and that money should be respected. It's up to the person in your bathroom mirror.

I mentioned earlier that I never saw my advisor again. I did, however, hear from him one last time. It was a couple of years after our meeting in the restaurant. He called me at home. It was Saturday night and I could tell from his speech that he'd been drinking. What he had to say to me only took a few seconds. He said people in his profession should really care about the people whose money they take to invest. I agreed. He hung up. I suppose he'd been looking in the mirror.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.