It was just over a year ago that Lehman Brothers collapsed. For many of us, this is a collective memory milestone that also marks the collapse of our investments and retirement accounts. So, as Congress begins the discussion of much-needed regulatory reform, I have a simple request: full disclosure.
Every month or quarter, I receive statements from the institutions that manage my investments. The statements tell me what the current value is and how much the portfolio has gone up or down in the last quarter or in the last year. Aside from all the transaction detail, that's about it.
What I want to know is how much have I made since I started investing with these guys, not including my contributions over time. How much am I up or down over the life of the account? And how does that translate into an averaged annual percentage? They won't tell me, even if I call them. Why? Because I would have a number to compare against their wildly optimistic projections. How many of us have heard this, "The market always performs better than anything else over time." Yeah, well how much better did it do for me using you guys to manage my money? That's what I want to know. I might see that returns on the lowly CD don't look so bad after all.
I also want to know exactly how much "they" have made on me. I want to know exactly how much in fees, markups and other skims the various parties have made while holding my money over the length of the relationship. I also want to see this as an averaged annual percentage. Of course, they don't tell us this because this is where those fantastic bonuses come from. Imagine if you could see how much they made even as your accounts tanked?
So, how much did I make, and how much did they make? I want to see this at the top of each statement, just like we see mandatory full disclosure in mortgage applications. Armed with that information, I can make more intelligent choices among financial products.