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How to Avoid Fraud and Other Investment Traps

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Retirement Planning and Investment

More than half of Americans (56 percent) are worried about running out of money in retirement, and only 30 percent of all Americans have investments in stocks, bonds, mutual funds or other securities outside of retirement accounts, according to a recent study by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation (www.usfinancialcapability.org/). FINRA regulates the securities industry, and the foundation promotes “universal financial literacy.”

In furtherance of that mission, the foundation “supports innovative research and educational projects aimed at segments of the investing public that could benefit from additional resources.” Its stated goal is “to reach more and more investors each year, educate them on their own terms, and teach them how to protect themselves in a world that is complex and dynamic.”

Indeed, the financial world is both complex and dynamic, and investors do need to be informed as new investments, methods of trading and innovations, such as robo advisers, have entered the marketplace.

“There’s no denying that securities markets today look different than they did decades ago — or even just 10 years ago, following the financial crisis,” said Gerri Walsh, president of the foundation.

In my personal experience as a financial columnist (and lawyer and money manager), I see FINRA, its foundation and other regulators as expert sources in an ever-evolving, always-changing investment environment. I turn to regulatory experts for my columns on Bitcoin, dark pools and high-frequency trading, as well as sales tactics, fraud, suitability and senior exploitation.

The tools and resources provided by regulators and the foundation are unbiased, current and freely available to the public. Who could ask for more?

If you want to be well informed, I highly recommend a visit to the foundation’s website (https://www.finrafoundation.org/resources/education/learning/index.html). The tools and resources are vast and serve all ages and backgrounds.

Click on “Resources,” where you will find learning materials and investment education modules appropriate for beginners and experts, featuring sound, unbiased information.

For example, you’ll find an interactive strategy game called “Con ‘Em If You Can.” The game can help you spot and avoid investment fraud.

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You’ll also find “Econ Lowdown,” with resources for teachers and parents on money and the economy.

Check out “The Gen i Revolution,” which is an online game developed by the Council for Economic Education in order to teach personal finance skills to students.

Another resource is “FINRA Investor Alerts,” which can take you more deeply into topics. For example, there are alerts on initial coin offerings, cryptocurrency, binary options, public non-traded REITS, private offerings, promissory notes, margin, inherited IRAs, crowdfunding and even warnings about fake online job interviews. You’ll find a list at http://www.finra.org/investors/alerts.

“Education is the most valuable tool we have in protecting investors and preventing them from losing their money to frauds and scams,” said Lynn McKenna-Krumins, director of securities at the Connecticut Department of Banking.

You will be better equipped to recognize fraud, assess and possibly avoid overly complex financial products and, ultimately, make wiser investment decisions. Education is, after all, the best form of investor protection. And regulators can help protect and educate investors.

“We all understand that knowledge is power,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Himes. “In no area is that more true than when dealing with investments and the financial services industry. I try to do my part, working in Washington to ensure that fair regulations are in place to protect consumers, but every individual must also protect themselves.”

Occasionally, regulators host in-person forums. If you are traveling through my home state of Connecticut on Feb. 1, 2018, take advantage of the investor forum sponsored by the foundation. For details, look online at www.finra.org/investorforum/stamford. The presentation will focus on “Smart Investing in Today’s Environment,” and you are all invited.

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Julie Jason, JD, LLM, a personal money manager (Jackson, Grant of Stamford, Conn.) and award-winning author, welcomes your questions/comments ([email protected]). To hear Julie speak, visit www.juliejason.com/events.

(c) 2018 Julie Jason.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.

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