The status quo of the financial services industry training employees on how to select investments has been an abysmal failure, as the recent February 2015 White House report has revealed.  This clear-cut conflict of interest has cost and is costing the average American combined over $17 billion annually as this straight-forward article reported at Marketwatch on April 1, 2015, “Conflicted Advice hurts IRA investors.”

Bona fide “education” is not provided by conflicted academics or by industry in the workplace, as The Derivative Project has highlighted in several posts.  Financial services firms, selling product, moving into the workplace, such as Financial Engines and Financial Finesse, under the false pretense of “independence” seek to maintain the status quo of:

(1) Lack of transparency of true investment performance and a means to avoid audited performance at the SEC

(2) Another generation of employees who succumb to “learned helplessness” and do not take charge of their future.

(3)  Ongoing fraud, Ponzi schemes and needless losses that increase not only taxpayer regulatory costs, but take 1/3 to 1/2 of every dollar saved by America’s stagnant and shrinking middle class.

We urge employees to request of their employers, the next generation alternative, bona fide, independent financial investment selection education, right here.

We close with an excerpt of a repeat of a September 2013 Blog Post at The Derivative Project, “FINRA Survey Reveals Rampant Fraud by Advisors”.  A change in calling a salesman a “fiduciary” without any change in the oversight by FINRA of this industry is not change.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 10.02.10 AM


The FINRA Investor Education Foundation released a September 2013 study, Financial Fraud and Susceptibility in the United States on rampant fraud in the retail investment arena, where 1 in 4 retail investors have been subject to fraud.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 10.10.40 AM

The executive summary of this survey states:

1. The ubiquity of fraud solicitations, coupled with the inability of many people to recognize the red flags of fraud, place a large number of Americans at risk of losing money to scams—with older Americans at greatest risk.

2.  Financial fraud solicitations are commonplace. A new survey by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation found that more than 8 in 10 respondents were solicited to participate in a potentially fraudulent offer. And 11% of all respondents lost a significant amount of money after engaging with an offer.”

A Table from the FINRA Survey indicates, ironically, many of the most common sources of fraud are standard practices today by the bulk of “financial advisors”.  Sales techniques, masquerading as “education” in the form of free lunch sales pitches and cold calls are common place techniques endorsed by every large “financial planning firm”, including SEC registered investment advisors (RIA’s) and all major brokerage firms today.

Free educational seminars offered by “advisors” in the workplace to employees, is one of the most common ways for “advisors” to pitch their product.  Employees are invited to an “educational” seminar.  It is not an educational seminar.  It is a misleading sales tactic to lure employees into a “seminar”, then a “free-consultation” and then a sales pitch to sell a product that is in the best interests of the advisor, not the employee.

Why can’t consumers distinguish between a “good advisor” and a “bad advisor”?  Having worked in the financial services industry for decades, in addition to the personal finance sector, the answer is clear:  This industry is rotten to the core.  There is no way to distinguish between a good actor and a bad actor.  There are no industry standards and performance measurement tools to aid the retail investor to begin to distinguish between the good and the bad actors.

There is indeed a retirement crisis. Americans are rapidly losing their life savings to not only fraud, but also excessive fees and poor performance due to the lack of performance measurement tools.

Can one fairly compare the results of this survey’s “rampant fraud” to the players in the “advice” industry today?  Yes, it is the industry that has created the environment to allow this crisis level of fraud to permeate the retail investment sector today.

Retirement Crisis 101  - The Roots of the Crisis

  • FINRA has allowed an “advice” industry to thrive in the shadows by prohibiting any retail retirement investor from filing a claim in the U.S. Court system.  Every fraud, scam and securities law breach in an IRA today is subject to mandatory arbitration.  FINRA writes the rules and enforces their rules to benefit the financial services industry.  The result: rampant fraud that never sees the light of day.
  • The SEC has never enforced administrative proceedings against a registered investment adviser who has breached its fiduciary duty against an IRA investor.  The IRA investor has no right of private action. The fraud, the deceit and the breach of securities laws are allowed to continue in the shadows.

The Answer to End the Fraud

Due to the regulatory capture and the powerful financial services lobby, there is but one answer to alleviate the plight of the retail retirement saver today. The Answer combines three key elements:

1      Workplace education provided by bona-fide, independent capital markets/asset management professionals, with no ties to the financial services industry

2      The tools provided to every retirement saver to analyze any proposed investment

3      An understanding by the retirement investor of the scope of the fraud created by financial intermediaries today.  A national PR initiative, such as that to end smoking, to alert every American to the dangers of every financial intermediary and the benefits of taking charge, is long overdue.

The current debate at the Department of Labor and the SEC on advisor “fiduciary standards” is a complete waste of time and taxpayer money. Fine print contract disclosures on conflicts of interest allowed by the SEC and dual registration of brokers and RIA’s says it all.  There are no fiduciaries in the retirement advice market and modifications in the current advisor structure and industry cannot change that.

The only solution is to provide retail investors the proper tools, benchmarks and education to make a determination, on their own, on what investment is in their best interest.  It is a simple vision that is indeed possible, with the prevalence of online technologies today.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

–Benjamin Franklin

Nickel adds to Mom’s to do list:

1..  Read your social security statement for you.

2.  Tell you when you are capable of retiring.

3.  Add your social security monthly payment to your 401k monthly income.

4.  Tell you how to find an accountant.

5.  Tell you how to find an estate attorney.

6.  Subject you to senior fraud and Ponzi schemes.

7.  Have access to all your social security earnings information, directly, creating unprecedented potential senior fraud.

Investment News, reported in this article yesterday, “Financial planning platforms target Social Security benefits data for online integration” that workplace advisor, Financial Engines, is trying to strike a deal with the Social Security Administration to get a data feed of your social security benefits directly.  Betterment, a so-called “Robo-Advisor”, who Citibank has invested in, is also working on a similar strategy, as is Morningstar’s Hello Wallet.  What do these three firms have in common?  They all are designed to create a “learned helplessness” and simply offer services that they charge a fee for, that you can determine on your own through ready available information, now all available online.  However, if you are willing to give them a piece of your social security check to have them do it for you, that is your choice, but many in retirement today are faced with watching their pennies closely.

The article stated:

“That’s because Financial Engines, Betterment and HelloWallet have recently struck a partnership with the SSA to develop software to incorporate Social Security data for individuals automatically onto their platforms. It is yet one more of the government’s attempts to assist soon-to-be retirees with their financial planning.”

We caution our Nickel readers, the government, your tax dollars, have already invested significant amounts in informing every American what is available for your social security.  It is all right there at their website and you also get an annual statement telling you exactly how much you will get on a monthly basis, how much your spouse will get and what the maximum is for your every household each year.  If you have any questions call the social security administration or email us here at Nickel.  There are a few alternatives with a two person household in determining how to maximize your benefits, but read one of the great reviews on the strategies.  Remember someone is paying for these tech firms to develop the software integration and these firms are not non-profits, which means you are paying to have them tell you all about your social security benefit, all available at the Social Security Administration.

The costs to society are too great in combatting the potential senior fraud that will ensue through have a salesforce armed with access to American’s social security benefits.

Nothing is free.  Financial Engines, Betterment, Hello Wallet (Morningstar) are all set to take part of your social security check through a fee to tell you when and how to take it.  We reiterate you are capable.  Do not fall prey to their scheme to skim more from your social security check and retirement savings, that the White House Economic Advisor recently reported is costing Americans over $17 billion annually from these conflicted intermediaries, so called “advisors.”

Learned Helplessness and the Financial Advice Industry

Since 401k’s were introduced the financial industry has spent billions of advertising to convince you, that you are incapable of selecting on your own the top US money manager for a simple balanced and growth fund.  It is not complicated if you have the simple tools and benchmarks.  It is the financial advice industry, with conflicted education, that has ensured most Americans feel they are incapable of selecting the top balanced fund in the United States.  They have crafted advertising to ensure you feel dependent on them, to ensure they may receive an intermediary fee. You are very capable, without a salesman, in choosing what is in your best interest.

The latest scheme is to convince the American public that you are incapable of reading a social security statement and determine how to add the income from your retirement plans together with the annual amount from social security.    Yes, there are a few alternatives with two earner families on the timing, but the social security administration is staffed and ready to answer your questions.  Here is where you go online and you can also make an appointment!…for free.

We have warned about this scheme before. Public Radio Shills for Financial Engines.  Don’t fall prey to financial intermediaries seeking ways to take an ever greater piece of your nest egg at retirement.  You can do it!  Here is the Social Security site and email us with any questions


Social Security Adminstration

Social Security Administration:

Social Security Administration Website


Not On My Nickel Introduces New Case Study Series

Almost a year ago, June 11, 2014, Market Watch wrote  “Here are Five Finance Bloggers You Should be Reading”   No, Not On My Nickel did not make the list.  We do not sell “advice”, as the five Market Watch selected Bloggers do.  We do not sell investment products.

Not On My Nickel empowers retirement investors to take charge to go direct to the best core retirement money manager who files audited performance at the SEC.  We streamline the distribution channel, through our soon to come digital platform and inter-active tools.

Nickel provides independent, unbiased information/reporting– a critical component for capitalism and price transparency.  In an attempt to distinguish between financial news that is simply “Sponsored Ads”, we encourage readers to take a look at Not On My Nickel’s review of what is presented as financial journalism and Blogs, through our new Case Study series.

Should these Blogs and news outlets all be labeled “Sponsored Advertising” so as to provide full disclosure? Is the average reader making retirement investment decisions based on financial journalists representing these sponsored ads as real news?

“About MarketWatch

MarketWatch, published by Dow Jones & Co., tracks the pulse of markets for engaged investors with more than 16 million visitors per month.”

Here is the Market Watch summary, from their article above, of the two Advisors/Bloggers for which NOMN presents Case Study Number One.

Market Watch Top Five Bloggers

In addition to their “finance blogs” Mr. Ritholtz is a regular contributor to Bloomberg, frequently endorsing his firm’s strategy and at his Blog.  Mr. Brown is a regular contributor to CNBC’s daily TV shows.

NOMN Case Study Number I of “Financial Bloggers to Read”

Nickel presents the first in our Series:  NOMN Case Study Digital Advice Platforms and Financial Bloggers- Lift Off.  Take a peak.

Market Watch’s Blogger list includes Mr. Ritholtz and Mr. Brown, who are in business together at Ritholtz Wealth Management and Lift Off.  Lift Off is Ritholtz and Brown’s digital solution as described here at Business Insider by Linnette Lopez on October 1, 2014

“A NYC Wealth Management Firm Created A Super Cheap Way For Young People To Get Professional Investment Help”

Lift Off and Ritholtz Wealth Management


Business Insider represents to the young this is a “superior cheap way for the young to get  professional investment help.” Really?

We attach our Flow Chart for you to determine if the young just starting out, are better off with the “first robo advisor for young people” according to Ritholtz and Brown, owners of Lift Off, and Business Insider?

Based on Not On My Nickel’s criteria for selecting who is worthy to manage retirement assets for the young, we find these two top Dow Jones Market Watch recommended Bloggers’ “digital platform”  lacking transparency and misleading:

  • They provide no publicly available historical performance or defined, published long-term investment strategy that has withstood the test of time given up and down markets.
  • They have not provided five year audited performance to the SEC.
  • Their selected custodian and brokerage firm have been cited by the SEC for trading in dark pools with retail retirement investors money and cross-examined by the Senate Banking Committee for conflicts of interest.
  • Fees are not transparent, in fact they take many hours to dissect.  Their website is misleading, as to fees.
  • Given the level of intermediaries, we cannot say the firm has truly shown they are operating in the best interest of their client.
  • Their “digital platform” increases the number of intermediaries, increasing all-in costs.

Is Lift Off’s Website Misleading?  See below.  Clients pay .4% fee to Lift Off and another .10% to Upside and .50% – 1.81% to Envestnet Asset Management’s sub advisors for all in fees of potentially 2.3%.  Portfolio turnover is not disclosed and brokerage fees are unknown, if TD Ameritrade trades in dark pools.  Four intermediaries cannot be deemed the “Next generation digital solution.”  Here is a shot from Lift Off’s home page:

Lift Off WebsiteConclusion

  • Lift Off is not using technology to streamline the “supply chain” for retirement investors.  They are adding an unnecessary complexity, that not only limits transparency to the retirement investor.  Lift Off increases fees through an increase in intermediaries. It appears that financial journalists, at both Business Insider and Dow Jones’ Market Watch are simply promoting the firms that provide them advertising revenue, to the detriment of the retirement investor, as the White House Economic Report warned last February.

“Conflicted investment advisors are costing retirement investors over $17 billion annually.”  These advisors and financial Bloggers thrive through less than ethical financial journalists, that put their profits over the safety and performance of America’s retirement investors.

  • The SEC is proposing that more data on holdings be gathered from Advisors, for both financial system systemic risk and protections of retirement investors, as outlined in this May 22, 2015 Reuter‘s article, “SEC proposes rules to gather more data on Funds, Advisors”.   The SEC states:  “Some of this new data would involve information about management of so-called “separate accounts,” or accounts that companies manage for individual clients, as opposed to pooled investment vehicles.” Lift Off places the young, through their online platform (Upside) in Envestnet Asset Management’s separate accounts.

The average 401k is $89,000.  If you give that $89,000 to Lift Off to manage, before unknown brokerage fees and other ETF/mutual fund fees, you have given your intermediaries over $2000 annually.  If interest rates remain low, with the stock market at record highs, the young might be actually losing money annually, with such high intermediary fees.


Actually, for Wall Street, nothing has changed since the 1970′s.

The IRA was created in the early 1970′s with a so-called “loophole” that not even the latest White House Report on conflicted investment advice described.  The scope of the issue is significant, (one) that this so-called “loophole” has existed to the detriment of every retirement saver for 40 years and (two), because the media has yet to report it and cover its implications and (three), it doesn’t need public comments at the Department of Labor to change it:

Congress should insist the IRS Code be updated today to eliminate this loophole, with $7.1 trillion dollars at stake and subject to this “loophole”.

The “loophole” allows SEC Registered Investment Advisors, under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, to avoid that Act’s fiduciary requirements.

The significance is many Americans have been paying for investment advice for their IRA for over 40 years, to a SEC registered investment advisor, believing this advisor was paid a quarterly fee to monitor their IRA investments on a regular basis.  When the IRA investor goes to FINRA because they have suffered losses due to a fiduciary breach, under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940,  the FINRA arbitration panel agrees to this Wall Street loop hole, “You may have been paying us a fee for investment advice, but we did not agree that we were providing you investment advice on a regular basis. Check the fine print!”

Brillant loophole, simply brilliant.

Brief History of Investment Adviser Act of 1940

Following the Great Depression, Congress enacted several securities laws to protect investors, including the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, which the SEC describes here, the fiduciary duty of anyone provided advice on investments:

Study on Investment Advisers and Broker-Dealers

“Investment Advisers: An investment adviser is a fiduciary whose duty is to serve the best interests of its clients, including an obligation not to subordinate clients’ interests to its own. Included in the fiduciary standard are the duties of loyalty and care. An adviser that has a material conflict of interest must either eliminate that conflict or fully disclose to its clients all material facts relating to the conflict.”

How Is “Investment Advice” Defined by the SEC and Interpreted by the Courts?

If a regular fee is paid for investment advice, the Advisor providing the “advice” is subject to the fiduciary standard and must place the interests of their client ahead of their own.  To the contrary, a stockbroker can place his employer’s interests first and ensure the product recommended is “suitable” at the time it is sold.

Example:  A retirement investor pays a quarterly fee to an “advisor”, an intermediary, registered with the SEC, an RIA, a “fiduciary” for ongoing advice on what product to buy and hold in their IRA.  This “advisor” also is a broker, like the Charles Schwab, Fidelity or Vanguard model or many “CFP’s” advisors that charge a quarterly fee for “investment advice” for managing your IRA.

The retirement investor is led to believe this advisor is a fiduciary.  They are told that.  The retirement investor believes that since he is paying a quarterly fee, that the advisor is looking at the investments and monitoring them.  That is what the “advice” fee is for.

The “Loop Hole” that Negates the Investment Advisers Act of 1940

IRS Code in IRA’s, written in the early 1970′s, provided an avenue for Wall Street firms to negate the fiduciary standard of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.

The loophole:  The IRA retirement investor pays a quarterly fee to a SEC Registered Advisor, for selection and monitoring of all the  investments in his IRA.  He believes this SEC Registered Advisor (RIA) is monitoring what he was recommended on an ongoing basis for the quarterly fee.

No, Wall Street added to the IRS Code in 1975, the “loophole”;  “We have to mutually agree that we are providing you investment advice”.  Thus, Wall Street adds to its IRA Client Agreements:

“(Name of Wall Street firm) will make investment recommendations for your Portfolio, you are free to disregard those recommendations….”You acknowledge and understand that this is not a mutual agreement between you and (Wall Street firm) under which (Wall Street firm) provides recommendations on a regular basis, individualized for your IRA or other retirement plan, that serves as a primary basis for the plan’s investment decisions.”

The significance of this breach of securities law, The Investment Advisers Act of 1940

Nothing has changed since the 1970′s, except IRA’s have grown to over $7 trillion dollars and Americans have been schooled through Wall Street advertising, as disclosed in this Public Interest Arbitration Association Report, that they are dealing with fiduciaries that have their best interest before theirs.

The reality is much worse than the Public Interest Arbitration Association Report or President Obama’s report on $17 billion dollars in losses annually due to conflicted advice.  American investors paid Wall Street an “investment advice” fee on a quarterly basis, yet Wall Street had no legal duty to monitor the IRA investments that they recommended, despite the ongoing fee!

The reality is the SEC registered fiduciaries, at Charles Schwab for example, are breaching securities laws, through a “loophole” no American retirement investor is aware of.  The media has not told IRA investors of this loophole, nor has the SEC or FINRA.  Main Street has been duped by Wall Street, for over 40 years, by a very, very clever scheme.

What evidence does one need?  Wall Street will never be a fiduciary.  Is it not unconscionable to set up laws in IRS code to evade existing securities laws?

Wall Street’s chance has come and gone. No more intermediaries.  The retirement investor does have a choice.



Dissect the news:  The financial reporting that impacts where and how you invest your retirement nest egg, has never been more complicated and apparently self-serving.

Today, most retirement investing news is sponsored by Wall Street, designed to deliver a message to change the individual retirement investor’s behavior, to sell more financial product, principally to retirement investors, now a $14 trillion market in assets under management.  Take a look at some of the headlines over the past year:

“Everyone Needs A Financial Advisor:  Financial Planning for the Masses.”  What if you could save money and have increased performance without an advisor.  It is possible.

“Active Investing is Dead”  Really.  Active mutual fund managers, that charge high fees and mimic index funds, should be thrown out, but hold the baby and don’t toss him out with the bath water.

“High Net Worth Women Love Liquid Alternative Investments”  Really?  We have discussed that before here:  “Liquid Alts, Wall Street, and Media Frenzies that Drive Retirement Investors’ Behavior.”

“Retirement Investors Love Advisors that are Both Broker and Advisor:  The Dual Registrant Model”  The dual model is a recipe for disaster, if a retirement investor is ever harmed.  Fees are higher and roles of the broker and the advisor are very confusing to the retirement investor. Wall Street has it engineered through FINRA’s arbitration process that if an investor is harmed, FINRA will simply say they were wearing what ever “hat” that protects them, not the retirement investor.

Not On My Nickel is pleased to help our retirement investors dissect most of the articles that are simply pushing Wall Street product.

Today’s example is from The New York Times, “How Many Mutual Funds Routinely Rout the Market: Zero”, March 14, 2015 by Jeff Sommer.

Yes, it is indeed true, very few active managers outperform their relevant index. However, there are some that have, they are dedicated professionals, that operate in the best interest of their customer, with low fees and a very transparent consistent style.

There are some active managers worth investing your retirement nest egg with.  ZERO is simply a hyperbole to push a product.

What is the issue with this article?  This article appears to be written by a Wall Street firm selling Wall Street product.

Jeff Sommer writes in his article, which should be, but is not, marked “Sponsored Content”:

“I wrote about the initial findings of that study last summer. It is called “Does Past Performance Matter? The Persistence Scorecard,” and it is conducted by S.&P. Dow Jones Indices twice a year. The edition of the study that I focused on began in March 2009, the start of the bull market.”

Mr. Sommer concludes:  “The study seemed to support the considerable body of evidence suggesting that most people shouldn’t even try to beat the market: Just pick low-cost index funds, assemble a balanced and appropriate portfolio for your specific needs, and give up on active fund management.”

Who did the study?  S.&P. Dow Jones Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices, a division of McGraw Hill Financial, sells Index product.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 3.11.14 PM

Unfortunately, the article does not provide any links to the actual study to determine what funds were in this study.  The periods they were looking at, were not clear.

Why does it matter to the retirement investor? This article is simply pushing a portfolio of index funds and there are no links to the actual study.  However that raises several questions for the retirement investor:

How does one know what index funds to include in the portfolio?  Are they filing their annual audited performance, with the SEC, of their portfolio of index funds?

Who can one trust to manage your nest egg in an index portfolio that does not provide audited returns to the SEC?  What is that individual’s track record of assembling a portfolio over a minimum of five years?

How does the return of this index portfolio after all fees, from portfolio manager fees, to embedded ETF fees, to custody and administration fees, compare to the top active fund portfolio managers, after all fees?

Time to filter the news and not be sold a theory, promoted with no actual data for the reader, that is designed to sell product.  A picture is worth a million words. Sure looks like an active fund outperforming the S&P in our picture below.  We would not label this “Zero” as Mr. Sommer did at The New York Times.


Active Management V S&P 500



The media and Wall Street have a new campaign going on to save the intermediaries that the Executive Branch has clearly acknowledged are fleecing billions of dollars from American’s nest eggs.  The intermediaries, the salesmen, who have distributed product since the advent of 401k’s and IRA, who call themselves “trusted advisors” have now been outed for what they are. As a January 13 White House memo wrote: “studies generally find that investors using financial advisors pay excess fees and that their returns are lower…”  The White House memo estimates Americans could be losing in excess of $17 billion to these conflicted intermediaries.

We all know the phenomenal savings through direct models, from Expedia, to Amazon. Technology also eliminates the need for these conflicted “advisors” or salesmen that distribute investment product, but will not tell you about the more cost effective, prudent options that are now available, such as Not On My Nickel.

Bona Fide Retirement Advocacy Groups, such as The Derivative Project, Push for Real Consumer Transparency and Change with Cost-Effective Private Sector Solutions

After over six years working for retirement investor protections with the SEC, the Department of Labor and Congress, The Derivative Project realized Congress, the Department of Labor and the SEC are captured by Wall Street money.  We learned the “advocates” work for Wall Street.

The only solution is for Americans to take charge, which they can, with the proper tools, direct platforms and transparency.  The Derivative Project launched Not On My Nickel to empower every American to take charge to ensure their retirement was invested with the best money manager, who files regular performance with the SEC, at the lowest cost.  “Advisors” do not file their performance with the SEC, but they take an annual fee, without any responsibility. Why pay twice for the same service? The White House memo is an alert, these fees are worthless and harming the average American’s nest egg.

“Save Our Retirement” Promotes this Notion “This is So Complicated You Must Have an Advisor”

Here is an excerpt from their website:

“With so many complicated investment choices to make, Americans need reliable advice they can trust.”

Not On My Nickel research demonstrates the retirement investor is fully capable of selecting a SEC performance filing money manager with the proper platform, education and tools.  To counter act Not On My Nickel’s message, Wall Street began a media campaign, from the New York Times, to Huff Post, stating “everyone needs a financial advisor”, as the website proudly displays, below.

What “Advice” Does the Average American Retirement Investor Need Concerning Investment Selection? 

None:  The average American needs independent, targeted education. The average American needs, like the consumer of any product, the transparency and the ability to understand what option is in their best interest.  They need the tools, information and platform to make an informed choice.  Workplace education on investment selection, provided by Wall Street, for a fee, is like hiring a Ford or Chevy car sales person to tell you what truck is in your best interest.  10,000 poorly performing mutual funds, that Wall Street and employers have stuffed full with American’s life savings, is confusing.

There are so very few top performing fiduciary money managers.  They need to be transparent and accessible to every American.  Competition must become robust, if the best cannot take on any more assets.  New managers must evolve and be in the pipeline.  Women must be encouraged to engage in this profession, not be a “financial advisor” that delivers no value to society.  The trend, written about today in the Financial Times, “Female Fund Managers Decline”, should be the focus of retirement investor advocates, not promoting conflicted intermediaries that cost taxpayers billions to regulate and skim from American’s life savings, while adding no value.

Not On My Nickel has a message:  End the “learned helplessness” Wall Street has created over the past forty years.  If you want more money at retirement, take charge, spend a few minutes to learn how to empower yourself to go direct.  You are very capable. Your fees will be lower, your performance will be better and academic studies estimate you will have at least $155,000 more at retirement.

Not On My Nickel Believes Every American Deserves Fiduciary Advice, From an Investment Company, Registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940, that files regular Performance with the SEC

There is a crucial difference on who is providing the “advice” and if the advisor files regular performance with the SEC, so the retirement investor can determine if the advice is any good. Without accountability as to performance and proper benchmarks, there can be no “fiduciary” relationship.

Not On My Nickel believes every American needs advice from a SEC fiduciary Investment Adviser registered under the Investment Adviser Act of 1940, however, that “Adviser” does the actual investing, files regular performance with the SEC, does rebalancing, picks the stocks or bonds. The investor knows first hand who their manager is, what their investment strategy is, and what their fees and performance are. – Wall Street’s Campaign to Save their Lucrative Business Model – Obsolete Intermediaries

Consumer Advocates in Sheep's Clothing

Investment Company Act of 1940 Adviser or Intermediary Advisor, Salesperson

These conflicted advocates, operating in Wall Street’s best interest, have launched their latest campaign, a fervent attempt to save these redundant, costly intermediaries that serve to strip billions from the already stagnant wages of the middle class. states:

“The reality is that—

1)Many advisers are providing investment advice that pays them handsomely but doesn’t serve their clients’ best interest;

2)Those conflicts of interest are taking a huge toll on the retirement savings of millions of workers and retirees; and…”

However, Better Markets’ solution simply perpetuates the excessive costs of the current situation: so-called “fiduciary advisors” who are not subject to existing securities laws.  Just who is the “fiduciary advisor” that Better Markets proposes?  Brokers that took a simple SEC test to say they are now a “fiduciary”, who sell a product, a Wrap Account, with high redundant fees and questionable legal recourse for the consumer. They have no additional experience, they have no higher standards, just a new filing with the SEC.

“Consumer advocate” Better Markets tweeted a recent Huff Post Money article by Paladin Registry:


Better Markets Endorses Paladin Registry


Better Markets promotes a solution that is in the best interest of Wall Street, not middle class retirement savers.

Most Concerning Is a Consumer Advocate- Recommended Registry that Promote Advisers with Criminal Histories

However the most egregious push by Better Markets is promoting to retirement investors Paladin Registry’s listing of “fiduciary advisors.”  Better Markets’ referral implies they are fiduciaries, ethical and will operate in your best interest, as the Paladin Registry states on their website.

A random selection of Paladin Registry “fiduciary advisors” and inspection of their SEC filings, shown below, revealed advisors that provide no transparency, charge excessively high fees and many who have criminal records.

The Solution -Transparency, Empowered and Informed Consumer, Robust Investment Company Money Manager Competition 

Ask your employer to give you the opportunity to try Not On My Nickel’s tools, direct platforms and transparency.  If they say “no”, what does that tell you about their concerns for your future retirement savings?

There is a better solution.  Join us at Not On My Nickel.

 A Paladin Registry Advisor’s Firm SEC Filings – “Felonies” are deemed Criminal Offenses

Charged with A Felony - Fiduciary Advisor

  A Paladin Registry Advisor’s SEC Filings – Admits Fales Statements, Dishonest, Unethical Behavior

Omits False Statements Unethical


A Paladin Registry Advisor Firm Had Past Felonies and is Continuing to Be Subject to Ongoing Civil Proceedings

Ongoing Civil Proceedings

Millennials do not be fooled. 21st century investing requires benchmarks and tools to make an informed choice to achieve the best returns for retirement.

Ok, last week was indeed volatile.  That is what dark pools love, lots of volatility to trade ETF’s, with lots of volumes provided by millennials’ retirement assets shoved into ETF’s, conned into the concept of a “passive revolution” where cheap means better. The more the new passive robo-advisors trade, the more they get paid for their volume by dark pools, on your nickel.

Portfolio turnover and brokerage trading costs matter.  Is your robo-advisor giving you returns after all fees, including portfolio turnover statistics and all brokerage trading costs?  It is time to look at the hard data, the analytics, to determine what money manager is in your best interest, active or passive.  Accepting that passive is better, without the raw data, is like buying a Tesla without a test drive or jumping into an Uber without looking at the Uber driver’s ratings data.

How Did Your Portfolio Perform Based on Computerized Modern Portfolio Theory(MPT), last Month?

Whoops!  The concept of modern portfolio theory(MPT) is to be in various asset classes because they will not all go down at once (of course as the 2008 the financial crisis demonstrated and many economists have long found this theory, efficient market hypothesis and modern portfolio theory are clearly flawed).

Here is a chart over the last month of the computer driven algorithm selections of one of the largest online “robo-advisors”.  Compare the MPT computer generated returns to to Not On My Nickel’s core retirement benchmark funds.  72% of the robo advisor’s portfolio was in the asset classes, taken from their  recommended chart, shown below, for a 31 year old’s retirement portfolio, demonstrated in the chart below vs Not On My Nickel core retirement benchmark funds.

Modern Portfolio Theory Selections at Robo Advisor

Note that the blue and purple lines, in the chart below, represent Not On My Nickel benchmark funds that can be accessed directly, without brokerage fees, or mandatory arbitration restrictions, such as the robo-advisors charge and mandate.  This is in a down market, over the last month, but the data holds up for over fifteen years, where the low-fee active managers have outperformed the low-fee, modern-portfolio theory based passive strategies.  These are Not On My Nickel’s platform benchmarks– Why?

They outperform the relevant index, they are diversified, the managers are fiduciaries, act in your best interest, they do not trade with dark pools, have over five year track records exceeding their index and you do not have to agree to mandatory arbitration, or be subject to conflicted intermediaries–what more would you ever want or need to grow your retirement assets–low fees and top performance.

Not On My Nickel has nothing against passive strategies, if the selections of ETF’s outperform the active managers, after all costs for a minimum of five years, they will make it to our platform.  However, they just do not make the cut as these charts show.  It is clear none of the current computerized passive strategies do out-perform the top active managers.  It is Wall Street hype, as the data clearly indicates.  Yes, the average active manager underperforms, but why wouldn’t you invest with the few that do outperform?  Yes, Wall Street never says all active managers underperform, some do and Not On My Nickel can show who has outperformed the passive modern portfolio theory passive strategies.

Data does not lie, yet, words can misrepresent or deceive, as you can clearly see from the chart below.  Hard to believe that you have been duped? Take a look.  You have.  The “passive revolution” is but hype created by Wall Street to benefit Wall Street.


Asset Allocation and the Robo Algos



As this chart indicates, the greatest percentage of holdings all did go down at once, miserably under performing top-performing low-fee, actively managed balanced funds, not only for the month, but for over 10 years running.

Yes, but isn’t this robo-adivsor option cheaper than traditionally actively managed funds?

Actually, no.  Once one adds the management fee of .25% and the cost of the ETFs, rebalancing fees, and portfolio trading costs, the costs are comparable to the “online robo-advisor” option are more expensive, after all costs and the performance of the passive computerized ETF’s underperform, miserably, the low fee active managers.

How Do Modern Portfolio Theory selections compare to traditional balanced funds and a simple aggressive growth fund, with an overweight on an American technology superstar?

Take a look at this chart.  You be the judge.  You might want to reevaluate the concept that cheap doesn’t necessarily mean better. Yes, performance matters after all fees. Investment selection by trained experienced money managers make a significant difference.  The green, blue and purple lines represent active management, after all fees.  The purple active fund (PRWCX) underperformed the ETF, VTI, since it held bonds, not just stocks.  The ETF’s on the charts below are before advisor fees and trading costs!


Compare active to passive

The data speaks for itself.  Passive management based on modern portfolio theory is harming your retirement nest egg.  Media and Wall Street are all a buzz about the “passive revolution”.  Why?  It benefits them.  Time to look at the data.  Come join us at Not On My Nickel.  We believe in informed choice— our charts and tools empower you with the data to take charge based on data analytics, not based on Wall Street spin.

Contact us and we will add you to the list to receive our tools and platform first.  Do not let your portfolio be dragged down by the pink, red and yellow lines in the chart above.  It is not 21st century investing.

Informed Choice is 21st Century Retirement Investing

An informed choice, with NOMN’s inter-active cloud-based tools and platform, that empower you to take charge of your retirement assets to access the best active or passive SEC performance filling money manager, without Wall Street hype, is the 21st Century retirement investing revolution.



It is time for 21st century investing, with the necessary legal protections for America’s IRA’s. Ban mandatory arbitration, and give IRA’s a private right of action.   The photo is from the SEC’s historical files on self-regulation in the securities industry.  Not much has changed since this photo was taken as a recent report reveals.SEC Historical Society Photo on Industry Self-regualtion

Retirement investors must pay attention to this recent study:  Industry-run FINRA Arbritrator Pool Panels Lack Diversity and Fails to Detect and Communicate Biases.

This study underscores how disastrous the situation is for every IRA investor.  There are over $6 trillion dollars in America’s IRA accounts.  Securities laws are breached day in and day out costing retirement investors cumulatively billions through poor performance and high, excessive fees from conflicted intermediaries–investment product salesmen, calling themselves “advisors”, to distribute their investment products.

You can read more at our retirement investor advocate Blog,

An IRA, opened up in a brokerage account, has absolutely no legal recourse.  “You have no right of private action” in your IRA and you are also subject to mandatory arbitration  Both these two legal issues must change and adapt to the reality of today–Americans’ retirement savings are all they have–  they deserve 21st century legal protection to go with their life savings.

Almost every IRA is in a brokerage account and is subject to mandatory arbitration before FINRA, which is Wall Street.  They hear your claim and you can bet the arbitrators will not rule in your favor.

University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management Professor Akshay Rao stated in this report:  “It is my opinion the process is illusory and especially harms claimant investors.”

Do not hold your breath for Congress to do anything with Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) sponsored bill the “Investor Choice Act of 2013″.

What Should a Retirement Investor Do for Protection Against this Unfair Legal System?

You have but one choice if you want the best returns at the lowest cost.  Use Not On My Nickel’s benchmarking platform and new cloud-based interactive tools to go directly to the best performing and least expensive SEC money managers.  You eliminate the salesmen and the brokerage account, the only safe option for your retirement assets in this dangerous retirement investing marketplace.

You will save yourself a minimum of $155,000, according to this study and have piece of mind, through less risk.  (See Part II of this Blog Post.)

Learn How to Go Direct and Eliminate A Brokerage Account, FINRA, for Your IRA

You do not have to open up an IRA with a brokerage firm. You do not have to go through FINRA’s kangaroo court and conflicted intermediaries.

We show you how to protect your life savings from the flawed brokerage account system and their self-regulator, FINRA.  You do have an alternative and we will show you how to do it.

Join our 21st century way of investing.  We do not rely on costly, archaic distribution systems that the retirement industry is determined to push, to support their bottom line, which just reduces your nest egg.

We use technology to enable your retirement assets–to go direct to the best, at the least cost.  You need to decide for yourself with our transparency, tools and platform —on active or passive. Not On My Nickel does not sell any investment product or give investment advice.  We are 100% independent.  Not On My Nickel Seven Criteria

With our tools and benchmarking platform, the Consumer Reports of America’s top money managers (passive or active), you are in charge and empowered to make an informed decision, for the very first time.

Take a look at our seven criteria, to the right, for a money manager to make it to the Not On My Nickel benchmarking platform.  Every Not On My Nickel manager is required to file holdings and performance to the Securities and Exchange Commission, on a regular basis. We urge you to only access money managers that do so.  Your financial advisor does not file their performance with the SEC, on what investments they select for you and neither do new “robo advisors”.  That is too great a risk to take with your life savings to not be able to look at an audited history of a minimum of five year performance, after all fees.

Your nest egg will no longer be in one of the 8000 poorly performing mutual funds.  Low cost does not mean better. Get all the facts before you invest. Poorly performing new robo advisor passive strategies carry great risks, interest rate, currency and political risks —and these firms may be trading your retirement assets in dark pools, that reduces your returns, but gives them trading income on your nickel.

Email us to get on the list to access our platform and cloud based interactive tools first!

You may also want to ask your employer to give you access to our interactive tools and benchmarking educational platform for your 401k.


Are you giving up growth in your 401K to high fees and poor performance?

Are you giving up growth in your 401K to high fees and poor performance?

A Recent Government Report revealed 401k Participants May Have High Fees and Poor Performance in 401k Managed Accounts

Raise your hand if you know what a QDIA is or a Managed Account.  Wall Street and the Department of Labor have quietly changed the business of 401k investing, without much fanfare from the 4th estate like the New York Times to NPR or MPR Marketplace to your local newspaper. Seems like those personal finance writers/economic editors may just be working for Wall Street.

Whoops, seems like a pretty critical piece of the retirement savings world was not covered for mainstream Americans and after five years of skimming from 401k plans, another study belatedly shows Wall Street has once again duped the retirement investor in their 401k plan.

Qualified Default Investment Alternative (QDIA)

In many companies today, if you do not sign up for a your 401k or “Opt-Out” of making contributions, your Employer will automatically take money from your paycheck, up to 3%- 6%.  And just where do they put your money, without your knowledge?  Typically in a managed account in your 401k.  Why?  It is best for Wall Street, since they do not have to bother with worrying about such a silly thing as audited performance against a benchmark.  That matters to you, not Wall Street.

This new arrangement was approved by the Department of Labor back in 2006.  Wall Street executives, such as Larry Fink of Blackrock, are pushing to take up to 10% of your paycheck on a mandatory basis.  CNBC:  Blackrock’s Fink:  U.S. Needs Retirement Savings Policy.

Mandatory Savings to Fink's ETF's?

Mandatory Savings to Fink’s ETF’s?

What is a Managed Account?

A Managed Account is a fee-based investment management product. They were used for years to manage the tax implications of investment portfolios for high-net-worth investors. Today in 401k’s, managed accounts are often passive investments, like ETF’s, with an additional management fee. Unlike a mutual fund, which is a “registered investment company” under the Investment Company Act of 1940, a managed account does not have to file  their performance with the SEC.

In 2006, Wall Street convinced the Department of Labor to allow Managed Accounts as a new Qualified Default Investment Alternative (QDIA).  Other QDIA’s are Target Date Funds and Balanced Funds.  Managed accounts are the most popular of the three QDIA’s.

Financial Engines is the largest investment advisor providing “Managed Accounts” to retirement accounts, 401k’s.  They do not provide any performance information on their website, nor file it at the SEC.  They equate “their performance” or their “numbers” with how many sales they have made of their services to participants.  This is taken from Financial Engines’s website today:  “Our experience produces results”…

Financial Engines Equates their Sales with "Performance" for Investors

Financial Engines Equates their Sales with “Performance” for Investors

Ironically, they forgot to “prove” their numbers to your employer, as a recent GAO report revealed and appeared to convince your employer on their worth with a fancy pedigree and “advanced technology” over actual performance numbers.

A Recent Government Report Cites Significant Issues with Managed Accounts in 401k Plans

The GAO recently released its findings on significant issues with Managed Accounts in 401k plans.  Here is a link to that report, 401K Plans:  Improvements Can be Made to Better Protect Participants in Managed Accounts.

What are the significant issues, detailed in this report?

  • Your employer failed to ask what the performance of these new “Managed Accounts” are, after all fees!  Or one could say the Managed Accounts providers pulled a fast one on your employer, hyping their economists and fancy “technology.”
  • The Managed Account providers, such as Financial Engines, may be breaching their fiduciary duty on rollovers at retirement or when you leave your employer for a new job, since they make more money if you keep your account managed by them in your old 401k.

Not On My Nickel believes in the old-fashioned way of evaluating and picking a service when significant dollars are involved, such as for a retirement account. Our seven criteria would have eliminated Financial Engines.  Let’s review each criteria:

Financial Engines Evaluated Against Not On My Nickel Seven Criteria

Our strict criteria for selecting a money manager for your retirement nest egg

Our strict criteria for selecting a money manager for your retirement nest egg

(1)  Superior long term results – Failed – Financial Engines is automatically eliminated by NOMN criteria, as they do not publish their performance.  NOMN prefers a minimum of five years of performance that out-performs the relevant benchmark.

(2)  Low management fees – Failed- Their fees are redundant, since in the workplace you already pay a fee for each portfolio manager, so if you pay for Financial Engines’ advice on what mutual fund to select, you are paying twice for investment management selection.  NOMN’s upcoming retirement platform eliminates this redundancy, savings millions for retirement investors.

(3) Low portfolio turnover – Failed.  They do not publish their turnover to employees or publicly.

(4)  Sustainable economic value – Failed.  The Financial Engines model is not sustainable.  About their website reference “advanced portfolio management technology”–appears someone thinks they stole it.  Financial Engines is being sued for patent infringement, Lawsuit Regarding Computer Generated Advice to 401(k) Participants Revs up Against Financial Engines

(5) N/A – Without performance measurement, portfolio turnover and published investment strategy, we have no idea how dedicated their portfolio management team is, since it seems to have a singular focus of an unproven computer model and not experienced investment management team.

(6)  Approved NOMN custodian - N/A

(7)  “Operating philosophy that proves clients come first” – Failed, employees are not given sufficient information from Financial Engines to make an informed decision on whether or not their service is in their best interest.  Without a minimum of five years published performance against other available QDIA’s in their 401k account, an employee cannot make an informed decision.

We all learned in 2008, Wall Street looks out for their interests, not yours.  The recent GAO report on Managed Accounts in your 401k’s without any published performance is your wake-up call.  Where is your paycheck going?  Why are your falling behind?  Financial Engines’ executive compensation grew over 173% from 2012 to 2013, all from taking fees from your retirement nest egg, without even bothering to report their management performance to your Employer, according to the GAO.

Executive Compensation at Financial Engines grew over 173% in one year.  What was your raise in 2013?

Executive Compensation at Financial Engines grew over 173% in one year. What was your raise in 2013?

Time to Not On Your Nickel your retirement savings with our seven criteria and upcoming platform/tools to make sure your nest egg has the best performance and the lowest costs.  Tools and data now readily available help you find the portfolio managers that do act in your best interest and deliver superior performance, without fancy, questionable academic theories and undefined advanced computer modeling. With charts and tools, you can see right through any undefined advanced theories— you have the hard numbers in one chart to make an informed decision.


Is the financial industry a scam? Dilbert, Scott Adams, wrote on his Blog last Thursday, “How to Make More Money in Stocks”,

“So my suggestion for permanently lifting the value of the stock market to new sustainably high price-earnings ratios is to pass a law making it illegal to offer financial services without disclosing the truth – that they are mostly a waste of your time.”

Josh Brown and Dilbert on CNBC 8814CNBC hosted Scott Adams  yesterday to discuss his position that financial advisors and the industry are a scam.  Josh Brown, (he calls himself the “Reformed Broker”) and went from being a broker to being a “money manager”, took issue with Dilbert’s critique of financial advisors.  Josh and Scott Adams are pictured to the left.

Not On My Nickel believes there is value in professional money management, strictly with the very few money managers that meet our strict seven criteria, detailed below. Not On My Nickel Criteria for Money Manager Selection

Josh Brown is not “reformed” since he does the same thing he did when he was a broker, he sells product without any accountability at Ritholtz Wealth Management.  Dilbert’s argument is sound.  “Financial advisors” such as Josh Brown throw together a few things and call themselves “wealth managers”, with no published performance measurement standards or benchmarks.

Josh may be good at social media, but he has yet to show any value that he has added, after all fees, on his website, at Ritholtz Wealth Management.  Before one selects a manager, review the NOMN checklist to the left.  In this instance, based on our seven criteria, CNBC regular, The Reformed Broker, who sparred with Dilbert, fails to deliver (1) a minimum of five years published performance against an agreed upon benchmark on his website or with the SEC, (2) fails to detail portfolio turnover and trading costs and thus (3) an operating philosophy that clients come first.  Clients have no idea what value they are receiving for money management, after all fees.

As the retirement investor advocate, The Derivative Project, recently wrote, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has warned about fiduciary lapses in managed accounts and the failure to provide benchmarks and performance. Yes performance reporting and benchmarks matter.  The GAO has called the Department of Labor to task for not mandating performance and benchmarks for firms such as Ritholtz Wealth Management that seek to manage retirement assets in 401k plans. Without SEC-filed performance reporting, yes, the industry is a scam, that media is actively promoting to the detriment of every retirement investor.

Not On My Nickel subscriber’s know the danger of no benchmarks and performance, which we have written on many times.  The media has allowed the scam, that Dilbert describes, to perpetuate as we have detailed here:

Can You Trust Bloomberg’s Financial Reporting?

Public Radio’s Chris Farrell Shills for Wall Street – Financial Engines

Time to Uber Your Retirement Portfolio

McGraw Hill Financial/Education published the Reformed Broker’s two books, Backstage Wall Street and Clash of the Financial Pundits.  McGraw is owned by Apollo Global Management LLC, a private equity fund, that also owns S&P.  No surprise that Josh and his partner, Barry Ritholtz, who writes for Bloomberg, are now actively pushing passive investments, on CNBC and at Bloomberg, as this Tweet from McGraw yesterday, indicates:

McGraw Hill Financial and S&P

Why would one ever hire a “money manager” without five year’s performance history?  Probably because CNBC endorses and promotes them, without any financials and performance reporting, to back them up.  Passive investing, with an additional advice fee, is indeed a scam, as you are guaranteed to underperform the index. It matters which passive funds are chosen and how they are managed.  Why go with an unproven management style, unknown performance, guaranteed below the index, when there are excellent, but very few, active managers, that outperform the index, after all fees for over 15 years?

The “investing revolution” that Wall Street is promoting, such as in this McGraw Hill Financial Tweet, is a scam and not in the best interest of retirement investors. McGraw Hill’s unit, S&P is still being investigated for their conflicts in ratings during the financial crisis, as this July 23rd Press Release describes: S&P’s July 22, 2014 Wells Notice from the SEC.  The trust is gone, one must see the hard facts, in terms of published performance.

However, NOMN disagrees with Dilbert.  There are a few money managers that have withstood the test of time and deliver excellent value to retirement investors. There is a genuine societal need for professional money managers.  There are a few that add value.  There need to be more.

End the Wall Street created “learned helplessness” and dependency on conflicted “advisors”. Simply cut out the noise and allow free markets to take over, where retirement investors have the tools and transparency to access the best passive or active portfolio manager—on the first independent, non-conflicted soon- to – be released retirement platform, Not On My Nickel.

End the Wall Street-created “passive revolution” nonsense.  

(1) With passively managed accounts, there is no accountability for performance.  Wall Street does not file any returns with the SEC for their new “passive” investing revolution.  Chances are the retirement investor is losing more, than in the old model, one simply does not know.  Frauds and Ponzi schemes are proliferating at record rates in retirement accounts due to lack of performance reporting at the SEC.

(2) Wall Street is pushing trillions of dollars of retirement assets into dark pools, detracting from investor returns through poor trade execution and taking the daily trading revenue on retirement ETFs, for their own account and not passing the savings on to the retirement investor.

(3) Earning fee income on the $10 trillion dollar retirement account, where firms such as Wealthfront, Betterment, Ritholtz Wealth Management slap an assets under management fee on a few passive investments and head to the Hamptons, without a worry on investment selection, is hardly revolutionary.

Dilbert is correct-there is a scam— a fake, Wall Street created revolution….that pretends to be helping the retirement investor.