Stunning Admission

by Gerri Willis

Charles Schwab - yes that Charles Schwab - and the CEO of that brokerage firm Walt Bettinger, wrote a barnburner of a column today. They called on regulators to fix the problem that ails markets: their inherent unfairness to individual investors. The two wrote: "It has become nearly impossible for individual investors to compete on a level playing field when it comes to investing in individual stocks." Words you no doubt have heard before on The Willis Report - coming from me.

High frequency traders dominate trading on the New York Stock Exchange and it's little wonder. These superfast traders were getting an early look at trades - setting them up for easy profits. The folks at Thomson Reuters recently got in trouble for releasing economic data early to their customers but the big exchanges have done similar things. Regulators are looking the other way and the media is so cowed by the big wall street firms they don't do anything either.

Believe me, nobody in my business seriously criticizes the New York Stock Exchange because it is an iconic symbol of American pride. But it is one in need of reform and change. One that should be serving our needs. Not a handful of traders with superfast computers in lower Manhattan. 

Invest in hedge funds? GET REAL!

by Gerri Willis

There has been a mystique around hedge funds -- many of us consider them attractive mainly because they have been out of reach. But new rules will make them more accessible, better known. And, that is a tragedy particularly now --now that hedge fund manager returns last year failed to come close to matching the market. Fees are out of control! An average of two percent and then the manager takes another 20 percent off the top. We measure fees for ETFs and mutual funds in basis points. One of my recent guests suggested that a reasonable price for a fund is 10 to 15 basis points.


Let the super wealthy continue to lose money with their hedge fund managers or, as one Twitter follower put it today, under the hashtag hedgefund slogans: Come for the high fees, stay for the underperformance


Invest in hedge funds? Get real!

Good or Bad Charities?

by Gerri Willis

It's been six months since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Today, victims were remembered at a special ceremony. 

After the tragedy, Americans opened their hearts -and wallets - and sent over $15 million to help those victims and their families.

We've been following what happened to that money and tonight we can report most of that money - over $10 million- has still not been given out.

What’s going on in Newtown is just one example of the problems in the charitable world. There are plenty of others. In fact, we recently talked about America’s Worst Charities – and if you missed that segment, you can find it here on gerriwillis.com. I’ve already heard from friends and family who say they gave money to some of these loser charities who send pennies on a dollar to those in need.

Frankly, it’s up to you to check out charities. Here are three things you need to know to make sure your charitable dollars aren’t being thrown away:

1.) First off, don’t give money to an organization that calls you asking for donations. More than likely, they’ve hired a telemarketing firm to raise money – and THAT siphons off money that could actually help people. Instead, pick out a cause you truly believe in and find the most responsible charity operator you can.

2.) If you want to give in the wake of a tragedy like Newtown, pick an established charity and then designate those dollars for the victims of the event so that your generosity isn’t  siphoned off to the general fund or to a “future crisis” that doesn’t serve the cause you want to help.

3.) Make sure the charity you choose is spending a large proportion of dollars on the cause. The most efficient charities spend 75 percent of their budget on their programs and services and less than 25 percent goes to fundraising and administration. Charitynavigator.org provides analysis for free on their website.  

http://www.tampabay.com/americas-worst-charities/

 

Don't be the fast money, be the smart money!

by Gerri Willis

It was an ugly day in the markets yesterday. The stocks got crushed and it was the steepest sell-off all year.

Traders said it was led by the so-called "fast money" - short-term investors like hedge funds running for the exits - trying to get out before the next guy.

High-speed traders love wild rides like the ones yesterday... That's how they make their money. And they'll always be faster than you... They measure their success in milli-seconds. You don't have to.

So, if you're a stock picker, or take your investing advice from those over-caffeinated stock pushers on TV… Booyah! You got whacked.

But smart investors, like the viewers of this show, aren't chasing the market up or down. You're in it for the long haul.

The markets have seen darker times in recent years, and look how far they've come back. Yes, it was a rough ride yesterday, but all three indices are still up between 8 and 10% this year. And, historically speaking - stocks are not over-priced.

So stick to your long-term goals and you'll come out ahead. Don't be the fast money, be the smart money!

What The New Obesity Study Didn’t Tell You

by Gerri Willis

In the Park Avenue salons where the rich and thin gather here in New York City, one of their favorite targets are the obese. People who are overweight. Sometimes people carrying just a few extra pounds.


It’s an attitude I’ve heard a lot and am not fond of. Because not everyone can control their weight. And, despite the whispers and jokes, extra pounds is not a sign of laziness or ineptitude.


Sure, I’d like to see all of us achieve our ideal weight. And, for the chronic diseases sometimes associated with heaviness to go away – diabetes, high blood pressure, and the like. But what I see is a bias, a chauvinism, a prejudiced attitude toward people who are overweight – and that is masquerading as a desire to help the little people.


Give me a break!

Good or Bad Charities?

by Gerri Willis

It's been six months since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Today, victims were remembered at a special ceremony.

After the tragedy, Americans opened their hearts -and wallets - and sent over $15 million to help those victims and their families.

We've been following what happened to that money and tonight we can report most of that money - over $10 million- has still not been given out.

What’s going on in Newtown is just one example of the problems in the charitable world. There are plenty of others. In fact, we recently talked about America’s Worst Charities – and if you missed that segment, you can find it here on gerriwillis.com. I’ve already heard from friends and family who say they gave money to some of these loser charities who send pennies on a dollar to those in need.

Frankly, it’s up to you to check out charities. Here are three things you need to know to make sure your charitable dollars aren’t being thrown away:

1.) First off, don’t give money to an organization that calls you asking for donations. More than likely, they’ve hired a telemarketing firm to raise money – and THAT siphons off money that could actually help people. Instead, pick out a cause you truly believe in and find the most responsible charity operator you can.

2.) If you want to give in the wake of a tragedy like Newtown, pick an established charity and then designate those dollars for the victims of the event so that your generosity isn’t  siphoned off to the general fund or to a “future crisis” that doesn’t serve the cause you want to help.

3.) Make sure the charity you choose is spending a large proportion of dollars on the cause. The most efficient charities spend 75 percent of their budget on their programs and services and less than 25 percent goes to fundraising and administration. Charitynavigator.org provides analysis for free on their website. 

Customer Service, A Thing Of The Past?

by Gerri Willis

This weekend my husband and I were traveling home from Canada where we were visiting a relative with health issues. Maybe it was our frame of mind – preoccupied – but nothing seemed to go right. We couldn’t find the car rental return and by the time we did find it, we were running late. We tried to check-in at the kiosk for our flight, but the machine wasn’t working either. We jumped on line to check in, hoping we would find a friendly face.

“You missed the cutoff by seven minutes,” the agent chirped. She was smiling, but insistent. My husband pointed out that we had to stand on line to wait because the airline’s equipment failed us. The smile now gone, the agent began to explain the reasons for the rules, almost as if reading it from the company's manual. She wasn’t rude. In fact, was calm and insistent as she swiped my credit card for $300 in change fees to get on a later flight.  My husband groaned his disappointment at her lack of interest in our plight.

As I walked away, she protested to me, saying, “You can’t say I wasn’t polite!” But, of course, that wasn’t the point. We were in the wrong. We were late. But what we were looking for was some customer service, some help, maybe even some assistance. What we got was a robot reading cue cards.

Strangely, we went to customer service near the gate and were put on our original flight. So, we ended up paying $300 for nothing. Like most consumers, I didn’t write a letter to complain. But it’s not likely we will fly with that airline again. All of which makes me think that customer service is a thing of the past. Voting with your dollars is the only real recourse!

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