For my entire adult life, I've been encouraged to invest in my future. You know, in a financial sense. And so I took a bunch of jobs in the arts. This was not well thought out. Which means unless I strike it big with my own TV show or bestselling novel or line of celebrity perfume, I can't solely rely on employment earnings for a comfortable retirement.
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So what are the investment options for a guy like me? There are stocks of course, which can be intimidating to those unfamiliar with the ever-changing face of Wall Street. There are mutual funds, a.k.a. the well-advised "slow and steady wins the race" approach. This option produces far better results when set up in your twenties, and not your mid-forties like myself. So, yep, I kinda dropped the ball on that one.
There are the low-cost but highly improbable options. Yep, I'm talking about the scratchy lottos. But I can't bring myself to go that route. Too many times I've been in line behind "carton of cigarettes and 10 lottery tickets" guy at the newsstand, and the experience is more depressing than Burger King's breakfast menu.
Which brings us to the riskier ventures. Quick story: a few years back, a longtime friend of mine gave me a tip on an offshore investment opportunity. Perfectly legal, she explained, and with a startlingly high return. She had gone all in, dropping somewhere between $50 and $75K into it. (I don't recall the exact amount, but it was a metric buttload of money, and her entire life's savings.) Her expectation was to make back several times that amount within a comically short period of time.
Maybe next time I'll seek the advice of an actual financial investor as opposed to, you know, that girl I met in college drama class.
As investment opportunities go, I thought it was somewhere between ridiculous and clinical insanity. And yet I was hard pressed to say no. "I'll thrown down $5,000," I said to myself. "Because if she gets rich off this and I didn't get in on the ground floor, I'm gonna be seriously pissed." Classic "fear of missing out." Conversely, I also knew that losing $5K would be somewhat frustrating and inconvenient, but by no means the end of the world.
The not so-surprising outcome? Everyone who invested lost everything. All. Of. Their. Money. Which meant my $5,000 disappeared in -- uh-huh -- a somewhat frustrating and inconvenient manner. And instead of purchasing her dream house, as was the plan, my friend parted ways with all the liquidity she had in the world. For her, the frustration and inconvenience was a touch more pronounced.
I'm not sure what happened to the guy who initiated this "life-changing investment opportunity." His Ponzi antics were pre-Bernie Madoff, which allowed them to fly much easier under the radar. So maybe he lost everything, too. Or he's rotting in prison somewhere right now. (My personal fave, option-wise.) Or he's living large on his own private cruise ship. (My least-favourite option.)
So with this less-than-stellar experience now in my rear-view mirror, what's next for me, nest egg-wise? Real estate investments are more stable these days. And there are still the high-yield options that don't involve offshore snake oil salesmen.
I'm excited to explore the avenues ahead, whatever they may be. And maybe next time I'll seek the advice of an actual financial investor as opposed to, you know, that girl I met in college drama class. See how smart I'm becoming with my money? Geez, maybe I should teach a class on this stuff.
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Dreier, who pled guilty earlier this year to running a massive investment fraud, stole more than $46 million from clients, according to the New York Times. (The total value of his fraud was put at $400 million). Dreier, a New York lawyer who boasts degrees from both Harvard and Yale, issued fake promissory notes and sold them to investors and hedge funds.
Walsh (pictured) and Greenwood have one big strike against them: they allegedly frittered away money from public pension funds and universities. The two money managers lived high on the hog in New York City, reported the New York Times. Greenwood, for his part, had an $80,000 teddy bear collection.
Forte allegedly spent 13 years defrauding investors through his eponymous firm in Philadelphia. Earlier this year, Forte claimed to have a $150 million portfolio, but only had $155,000 in the bank, according to the SEC's charges.
Jack Ustick, a producer on Paris Hilton's 2006 movie "Pledge This," allegedly duped some 3,300 investors. Hilton is currently embroiled in a lawsuit surrounding the film and Ustick's involvement in its production, reports the Associated Press. Ustick is believed to be living in Brazil -- and has refused to leave. No criminal charges have been filed against him to date.
Long Islander Nicholas Cosmo, who ran the money management firm Agape World (pictured), allegedly bilked investors out of more than $100 million. He was arrested in January. Unbelievably, he was arrested for fraud in 1999!
Hernandez, who briefly disappeared after being accused of running a multimillion dollar fraud, allegedly used clients' money to bankroll the web radio company Chicago Sports Webio.
Ruskjer allegedly promised 140 investors that they would receive returns of 3 to 5 percent per month by investing with him. Federal officials also charge that Ruskjer spent $528,458 on a condominium on Kauai, $29,000 on car and $10,000 on motorcycles.
Earlier this week the New York Times reported that the SEC charged Sky Capital with selling stocks to investors - more than $61 million over a four-year period -- and then preventing them from selling of their shares.
Dallas-based Provident was charged by the SEC earlier this week. Bloomberg reported that Provident tricked more than 7,700 investors with boasts of 18 percent returns per year through oil, gas and real estate investments. Since September 2006, the SEC alleges, Provident invested less than half of its clients' money. New investors were reportedly promised that 86 percent of their money would be invested.
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