New Scam Tricks Advisors Into Giving Up Clients’ Money

Financial fraud has always been a problem, but the Internet has enabled entirely new ways of stealing money. We recently received an alert about a new scheme to defraud advisors and their clients.

The scam begins with an email to an advisor that includes a bogus invoice. The email appears to come from a client, and it includes a request to send money directly to the business listed on the invoice. The invoice might appear to be for purchases such as antiques or art, or for such things as attorney fees or legal settlements. The advisor sends the money, and the fraud is complete.

The payee is often in a foreign country or at an overseas bank. This makes it nearly impossible to catch the thieves or reclaim the money. The FBI estimates that more than 2,000 victims lost more than $214 million to this scam between October 2013 and December 2015.

My firm has a policy of not sending clients’ money to third parties based on email communication alone. But we go beyond simply confirming client requests by phone. It is our policy to get to know our clients personally. We know if they have a pattern of sending money to third parties. In all cases, we require a written letter of authorization as well as verbal confirmation from the client before any money is sent out.

The recent news that personal information about more than 20 million government employees, contractors and others was stolen highlights the importance of the security of your financial information. It also makes dealing with a financial firm where you are an individual, not a number, increasingly important.

NOTE: We recently submitted this article to NerdWallet who posted it on their Advisor Voices board.

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Lifestyle and Financial Success – Some Examples

I read an article recently about a woman with a PhD from Harvard, held a high government position in the Treasury Department and worked at the Federal Reserve. You would think that this person would be smart about finances and investments.

You would be wrong. She messed up, but was able to recover.

Academic skills and executive level jobs – in or out of government – don’t automatically translate into wise lifestyle decisions and certainly not wise investment decisions. Having a high paying job provides you with the opportunity to save for retirement. But for too many people it provides for an extravagant lifestyle.

You may never have heard of Curtis James Jackson III, but if you are familiar with the current music scene you may have heard of “50 Cent.” He is reputed to have earned about $30 million a year but he just filed for bankruptcy claiming he owes between $10 and $50 million to his creditors.

How does this sort of thing happen? Some of it could be the result of poor investment decisions. But lifestyle is the primary reason that highly paid entertainment figures, athletes and the like go broke. They spend money on expensive things – homes, cars, planes – entertainment, and on “posses” (friends and hangers-on) who they support not realizing that their money is not literally endless.

Of course “50 Cent” is not typical, but the woman who we discussed at the beginning of this essay had the same problem,  on a smaller scale. She and her husband had a huge home that absorbed a lot of their income. There was a big mismatch between their current lifestyle and the savings that were supposed to support them in retirement. In addition, they kept too much of their savings in cash or cash-equivalents because, while they were educated, they were not investment experts.

We have met too many couples who are in their 50s, are earning $150,000 to $350,000 a year, and want to retire in about a decade. But they have not really focused enough on asset gathering. Their lifestyle absorbs most of their income and their investment decisions have lacked a plan.

Does this mean that retirement for them is bleak? No. But it requires facing some facts about lifestyle, savings and investing that will require some smart decisions. This is the point at which a good financial planner and advisor can help people get their financial life in order, before it’s too late.

If this sounds like someone you know, give us a call. We may be able to help.

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Where Should I Keep My Estate Planning Documents?

The Hook Law Firm has a good article on where you should keep your estate planning documents.  Read the whole thing.

They make a number of good points.

  • Make sure that you have original copy of your will.  Copies may not be accepted for probate.
  • Make sure someone knows where your important documents are.
  • Make sure that people you trust to use the documents can get to them.
  • Destroy old or out-of-date documents to avoid confusion.

We offer a set of books: Before I Go and Before I Go Workbook to guide people through the process of preparing their estate for their heirs.  You can order a copy at Amazon.com or get an autographed set directly from us for $25.  Just send us a check made out to Korving & Company, 1510 Breezeport Way, Suite 800, Suffolk, VA 23435.

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How well do couples communicate on money? – Part 7

Most happy couples think they communicate well. However, on the subject of finances, studies and experience has shown that they don’t communicate nearly as well as they think.

Many couples don’t know what their partner earns, how much they have invested, what it takes to retire and where their retirement income will come from.

Couples often disagree on the way their money should be invested and in too many cases one partner is in charge of investing and the other is kept in the dark.

Retirement is another issue in which there is a great deal of confusion. Many do not know what it takes to retire, have nebulous goals about retirement and even disagree about when to retire.

The lack of good communication leads to worries about financial disasters. Issues include health care costs, the effect of inflation on buying power, outliving their savings and the possibility that Social Security may not be there for them prey on their minds.

In the face of so much uncertainty, only one-in-five couples have a plan. One of the benefits of having a plan is that it makes it much more certain that they will achieve their goals. And that bring peace of mind.

Of course the earlier that people start to plan, the higher the probability that they will achieve their goals and have a healthy and frank discussion about financial issues. The best time to start is when you are young and it’s an excellent way for newlyweds to begin life together.

Thanks for your interest and we hope you will share this with your friends.

Korving & Company, the 2015 Suffolk Small Business of the Year is a family owned investment management and financial planning firm. We deliver a very personal level of service to guide, empower and assure our clients that their money is carefully managed to meet their long-term life goals.

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That New York Stock Exchange “Glitch”

On Wednesday, July 8th the NYSE halted trading for just under four hours. Since it coincided with some other computer snafus, including one which caused United Airlines to cancel some flight and delay others, rumors of computer hacking by foreign forces flew.

My source on the floor of the exchange – Art Cashin – characterized it as a “malfunction” which was detected early and trading was halted so that there would be no trading errors. The NYSE is sensitive to this since the “Flash Crash” of 2010 during which the exchange computers ran amok and sent orders to the wrong places. It resulted in a very brief period when suddenly Blue Chip stocks traded for pennies causing losses to investors and traders alike.

To prevent another occurrence of 2010 the NYSE put in safeguards and Cashin commented “While I would prefer not to go through it again, the safeguards clearly worked and mispricing and losses were averted.”

When the NYSE closed down, investors were able to trade stocks on 11 other exchanges including NASDAQ, proving that redundancy in the US markets prevents markets from seizing up.

Despite the glitch, the market yesterday was reacting primarily to the melt-down of an overheated Chinese market; a situation that the Chinese government was attempting to halt. As of trading this morning, that seems to have happened and the US markets are up about 1% as of 11:00 AM today.

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How well do couples communicate on money? – Part 6

Most couples think they communicate well, but research indicates otherwise when it comes to finances. Communication on financial issues between couples is especially poor, as we have discovered in previous essays.

Couples were asked what advice they would give to newlyweds and young couples about finances. Newlyweds usually do not put frank talk about finances at the top of their “to-do” list. That may be a big mistake.

The most common suggestions for young couples starting out in life together were:

  • Save as early as possible for retirement (57%).
  • Make all financial decisions together (41%).
  • Make a budget and stick to it (39%).
  • Make sure you have an emergency fund (38%).
  • Don’t hide expenditures (28%).
  • Disclose income, debts and assets early (24%).

One of the easiest ways of accomplishing all of these objectives is for young couples to consult a financial advisor as soon as possible. By doing so they will reveal their finances to each other, develop a budget that matches their income, agree on an investment strategy, and be given a roadmap to long-term financial peace.

Our final essay on this subject will summarize what we have learned.

Korving & Company, the 2015 Suffolk Small Business of the Year is a family owned investment management and financial planning firm. We deliver a very personal level of service to guide, empower and assure our clients that their money is carefully managed to meet their long-term life goals.

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How well do couples communicate on money? – Part 5

Most couples think they communicate well, but research indicates otherwise when it comes to finances. Communication on financial issues between couples is especially poor, as we have discovered in previous essays. Despite concerns about medical costs, running out of money, inflation and Social Security, most couples have not created a plan to deal with these worries.

The 20% of couples who have created a plan get the benefit of peace of mind, less stress, and a more cohesive relationship. Uncertainty and doubt around important financial issues creates stress within relationships.

Couples who have a retirement plan in place:

  • Are twice as likely to live a very comfortable retirement.
  • Are 50% more likely to be “completely confident” in assuming responsibility for retirement.
  • Are much more confident that their partner will be OK in retirement.
  • Are twice as likely to know how much they will need in retirement.
  • Are less concerned about unexpected health care costs.
  • Are much less likely to be concerned about outliving their savings.

Having a plan to reach your goals is much like going to the grocery store with a shopping list. You know what you need and are less likely to forget important items, nor are you as likely to buy things you don’t need.

Creating a plan forces couples to be open with each other about their goals, their finances, and the issues that may keep them from achieving those goals. Working with a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP) to create a plan also brings an important measure of reality to the process. Professional guidance creates realistic assumptions about how much should be saved and the rate at which it should grow. A CFP can also help mediate differences between couples when issues arise.

Our next essay will focus on advice to young couples.

Korving & Company, the 2015 Suffolk Small Business of the Year is a family owned investment management and financial planning firm. We deliver a very personal level of service to guide, empower and assure our clients that their money is carefully managed to meet their long-term life goals.

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How well do couples communicate on money? – Part 4

Most couples think they communicate well, but research indicates that communication about finances is often not good. In our previous essays we have discussed common financial disagreements.

In this essay we will discuss some of the financial worries couples have.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of couples worry about unexpected health care costs. For more than half, it’s their top concern. With people living longer than ever before, advances in medical technology and the skyrocketing cost of health care, this concern comes as not real surprise.

After health care, the next biggest concern for couples (51%) was outliving their retirement savings.

The negative effects of inflation and concerns that Social Security may run out were the next biggest concerns.

Despite these worries, only 20% of couples actually have a plan in place to address these issues! And over one-third (36%) haven’t even thought about planning!

Our next essay will take a look at those couples who have taken the time to create a financial plan.

Korving & Company, the 2015 Suffolk Small Business of the Year is a family owned investment management and financial planning firm. We deliver a very personal level of service to guide, empower and assure our clients that their money is carefully managed to meet their long-term life goals.

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Protecting yourself against financial fraud.

Bernie Madoff isn’t the only fraudster preying on the unwary. There are a number of scam artists in the financial services business.

There’s the case of Malcolm Segal. According to the SEC:

Segal allegedly promised his clients 12% returns on CDs bought through Aegis. But he’s alleged in some cases to have either bought the CDs but redeemed them early or not bought them at all. Citing the SEC, the Philadelphia Business Journal says he raised about $15.5 million from at least 50 investors in this fashion.

It puzzles me how people can actually fall for something like this. Perhaps I have been in the investment business so long that I have seen too many of the ways people are fleeced out of their money.

How do you protect yourself against financial fraud? The first thing to do is to be suspicious of offers that are too good to be true. No actual, legitimate bank is offering 12% CDs in a 1% interest rate environment.

Another thing to do is to make sure that your assets are held in custody be a third party; a custodian like Charles Schwab, Fidelity or a major bank trust department.  The reason that Madoff was able to fool his clients for so many years is that he printed his own statements. These statements “showed” that he was trading for them and that they were making money. In reality, he was not trading and their account statements were fabrications.

At Korving & Company we use Schwab as our custodian and our clients receive trade confirmations and statements from directly from Schwab. We encourage our clients to view their accounts on-line at Schwab.

We had an experience with a client who had an account with another advisor. He suddenly dropped his custodian and began producing his own account statements. That’s a wake-up call. They asked us to look at their statements and when we noticed that their end-of-year tax reports did not include taxable income from CDs that he claimed to have bought for them, we knew he was defrauding them.

If you have any concerns about your financial advisor, feel free to contact us for a second opinion.

 

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On Greece & Recent Market Volatility

We’ve heard from a number of clients and friends recently, asking us about Greece and the recent market volatility.  Here is our succinct summation:

We feel awful for the people of Greece who have been caught up in the mess over there through no fault of their own.  (Those who should take the blame, well….)  It has to be a frustrating and frightening experience.  The drama unfolding in Greece has certainly added to recent market volatility.  However, it feels to us like – to borrow from Yogi Berra – “Deja vu all over again.”  The things going on today in Europe are similar to events that occurred there only a few years ago.  And, when you come right down to the real numbers, the real economic impact Greece has in the world, consider this: the entire size of Greece’s economy is roughly equivalent to the size of the GDP of the City of Philadelphia.  Which isn’t much larger than the City of Detroit.  The same Detroit that went bankrupt.  If Detroit’s bankruptcy didn’t bring down the U.S. economy, we doubt that whatever happens in Greece will have any meaningful long-term impact on it either.  So yes, the events in Greece are a tragedy of sorts (sorry, I couldn’t resist), but for the most part it’s a drama for U.S. households that is better suited for TV than for making changes in our long-term investment outlook.

On a lighter note, we want to wish all of our readers a very Happy 4th of July!  We hope you spend it safely and in good company, good health, and good cheer!

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