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Thursday, July 22, 2004

First Command Strikes Back!  
Well, that didn't take long.

First Command doesn't take criticism lying down. In fact, I predicted a swift and ferocious counterrattack, although they stopped short of calling Diane Henriques "biased" against 50% front-end loads as I thought they may have, and as they did with Steve Goldberg, a writer at Kiplinger's, who was also critical of contractual plans, in September of 2003.

You can read the Kiplinger's article here, accompanied by a lively discussion from what looks to be a cut and paste from the Morningstar Vanguard Diehards discusion board.(scroll down a bit)


Here's the first graf of First Command's response to that article.

... an irresponsible and misleading story that unfairly attacks the many benefits of systematic investing for professional military families and could seriously impact financial opportunities for these deserving Americans. We view this as the essence of irresponsible journalism and a prime example of why the media is not trusted.


Well, the military doesn't trust the media, sure enough. But that ain't why.

First Command has learned a few tricks since then, and today's response, written by former First Command representative Patrick Swan is far more subtle.

First, a word about the author.

The National Review identifies Swan simply as a reservist mobilized in Baghdad.

But that's only half the story. Swan isn't just a reservist in Baghdad; he also works for the Chief Information Officer, and as such is an official spokesperson for the Army--an organization who's highest ranking officer, General Pete Schoomaker, is a former advisory board member.

Sure, it's not clear that he's writing this in his official capacity as an army spokesman and official media contact. But since he is sitting in that billet, Swan is wading into more ethical conflicts than I care to enumerate--and dragging the Army along with him.

It's probably not deliberate. But as a PAO, Swan should be aware of these potential conflicts.

At any rate, I'm just not sure that Army Public Relations officers should also be doing PR campaigns on behalf of corporations that do business with the US Army and its soldiers.

And now for the point-by-point:

To many Americans, today's military is the smartest, most innovative, most savvy, and most adaptive force in our nation's history. But, if you read a recent New York Times exposé, you'll discover that, despite their competence on the battlefield, our servicemen are actually financial simpletons, and hence are easy prey for unsavory firms ready to exploit military clients.


I don't think there's any doubt whatsoever that many in the military are financial simpletons, for the simple reason that many in the population at large are financial simpletons.

After all, the skills required to set the headspace and timing on an M2 .50 Cal Browning Machine Gun, and then go downrange and kill the enemy with it, are markedly different than the skills it takes to calculate the expected inflation-adjusted future value of a series of payments into an interest-earning account.

The logical fallacy here is a false appeal to authority. Just because we have a high quality army made up of high quality soldiers doesn't mean they're mini CFPs as soon as they get off the bus at Boot Camp. Great soldiers do silly things with their money. Ask Lighthorse Harry Lee. Or just drive down any strip outside a military base and count the number of payday loan shops and 'we tote-the-note' auto dealers.

You'll find that these strips look a lot like those in financially underserved inner cities with financially unsophisticated, largely unbanked, and not incidentally, largely minority communities.

Read the first part (of two) of Diana Henriques's article, and you'll walk away with the sense that military folks are duped by senior or retired military leaders into purchasing investments and life insurance that are not in their best interests.


Yes, and that's exactly the sense you should walk away with. Because the fact that it happens is not in doubt. I've spoken about the issue with some of my own NCOs today. All of them who were on active duty have stories of pitchmen disguised as quasi-official benefit counselors. It happens all the time.

Let's not try to create doubt about the central facts of the matter here, where no doubt exists.

The article is unfair

No it's not. As we shall see.

It would have been nice if, before she accepted these competitors' claims at face value, she had at least presented them with this quiz. Here are several military acronyms related to pay and travel: SBP, BAH, BAS, TDY, PCS. What do they stand for, and what do they do for military people? I'm confident these firms would be hard-pressed to figure out even half of them. [For the record, they are Survivor Benefit Program, Basic Allowance for Housing, Basic Allowance for Subsistence, Temporary Duty, and Permanent Change of Station.] If you don't understand Military Acronyms 101, you are hardly in the position to strike a superior pose on whether someone else's financial producers are suitable or not for servicemen and their families.


Of questionable relevance, as only SBP really creates mondo financial planning issues unique to military clients. Everybody who moves as part of his job, military or not, undergoes PCS issues. But military PCS's generally don't involve tax-deductible job search expenses, except at retirement.

The others--BAH, BAS, and TDY, are simply very basic cash flow statement items easily grasped by any competent financial planner. TDY money is generally treated as a windfall--albeit a small one. (Most guys blow a chunk of TDY money on steakhouses and strip clubs, anyway.)

What is clear is that First Command knows and understands them all.


So do I. Heh heh heh.

One specific subject of Henriques's extended derision is First Command's support for front-end-load contractual investment plans. They are designed for career military families with long-term goals and the discipline to pursue them over a 15- to 20-year career.


So is any dollar-cost averaging strategy. But I wouldn't brag about 15-20 year results.

First Command's most often cited flagship fund, Fidelity Destiny, ranks in the bottom 20% of the large growth category over both the trailing 5-year and 10-year time periods.

Fidelity Destiny--a large cap fund--also trails the S&P 500 by an astounding 5% per year over the last ten years.

It's underperformance is consistent over almost any trailing time period you'd care to name.

And this is BEFORE adjusting for the front-end load!

What's more, it delivered these pathetic results with only slightly less volatility as the S&P 500, and the fact that 97% of its returns are explainable by movements of the S&P (high correlation) tells me that it provides next to no diversification benefit against it.

Fidelity Destiny is a dog with fleas. If a 401(k) fiduciary trustee steered employees into this mutt, he'd be facing Department of Labor inquiries and ERISA charges for failing to conduct due diligence.

Five years ago, investors would have been better off investing in a five year CD at 6 1/2% interest rates than in investing in Fidelity Destiny. A First Command rep who put his clients in that fund offered no value added for that transaction for his commission.

None.

Fidelity Destiny II is better: it only trails the S&P 500 by TWICE its expense ratio (it's got a somewhat more value-based approach than Fidelity Destiny I, and so does better in weak markets. But why choose this one over a no load S&P 500 fund going forward? I can't think of a reason at all.)

They are not designed to bring high-flying, short-term results.


They're apparently not designed to bring long term results either.

On the contrary, they are designed to keep short-term, "market-timing" speculators out of the funds — precisely because of the high front-end load. This approach benefits long-term investors by providing a stable fund largely immune to daily market fluctuations.


Oh, horse hockey. There's a much simpler and time-tested way to discourage market timers from disrupting the funds: Simply slap a 2% redemption fee on any shares redeemed within 3 months to 2 years of their purchase date.

But really--is your average E8 with just a few tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands in his account really going to be a market-timing threat? Are enough of them going to redeem at the same time to cause a problem?

Spare me.

It's not the mom and pop investor who creates cash drag and transaction costs sufficient to noticably sting other shareholders. It's the multibillion dollar hedge funds pushing millions and billions at a time.

A 2% redemption fee--payable to the fund itself, and NOT First Command, would cover cash drag and transaction costs easily, without penalizing everyone else.

Problem traders could easily be kicked out of the fund.

But wait: there's even less!

Since the 50% load is a one-time fee, and fund shareholders are then allowed to trade without paying the load, the 50% load would do nothing--NOTHING to discourage market timing in the fund, anyway!!!!

So Swan's argument is a sham.

If you believe Henriques, however, you'll consider these funds bad because they are "obscure" or because they don't employ the follow-the-heard approach.


No. I consider both of these funds bad because they're lousy.

Henriques then quotes some dissatisfied clients who demonstrate that they are short-term (if not also short-sighted) investors.


We've already established that long-sighted investors in the Destiny funds have no business remaining in the funds. Why stay in a large cap fund that trails the S&P over time? Especially a highly correlated one?

There's not going to be a such thing as a dissatisfied long term client with First Command. Those with the sense to be dissatisfied will also have the sense to direct their investment dollars elsewhere.

Certainly, some First Command clients are unhappy with the performance of their mutual funds over the past several years. Considering we've just come out of the worst bear market in some 70 years, who hasn't been unhappy with his mutual fund's performance?


That's the wrong question to ask. The right question to ask is how have your funds been performing, on a LOAD-ADJUSTED basis, compared to other mutual funds with similar investment goals and styles?

If other large cap funds have lost 5% and my fund lost 10% over the same period, I'm very unhappy. If other large cap funds lose 10% and mine only lost 5% over ten years, I'd be happy taking my manager out to a steak dinner.

Henriques should have compared First Command's mutual funds with the no-load funds whose managers she uses to disparage First Command. Nothing doing.


Lucky for First Command.

Henriques quotes Jack Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group.

I'll put Vanguard's lineup up against Fidelity's Destiny Series, or AIM's, or Oppenheimer's or Pioneer's, or Franklin Templeton's lineup any day of the week, fund for fund, style box for style box, over any 10 year period or longer. Especially on a LOAD-ADJUSTED basis!

What's more, I'll RAISE you a comparison of Vanguard's disciplinary record with First Command fund families, since two of them have run into serious regulatory trouble with the SEC or state regulators pursuing
market timing
allegations and other trading abuses.*

In addition, she could have explained how this long-term investing approach, called "dollar-cost averaging," allows First Command clients to buy more shares of their mutual funds when the market is depressed, thereby purchasing when shares are "on sale" so they can bring in greater returns when they sell decades later.


Oh. My. God.

Is this guy trying to imply that dollar cost averaging is somehow unique to contractual funds?

Just how much Kool-Aid are they serving at these First Command seminars?

Buy low and sell high?) Instead, these somehow "obscure" funds — from nationally recognized investment firms such as Pioneer, Fidelity, and AIM — are portrayed as "ill-suited" for military people.


50% front-end loads are ill-suited for anybody investing more than 1,000 dollars in his first year. More on that later.

Any such affinity company knows that its word is its bond, and if it fails to live up to its word, it is out of business.


As Porgy and Bess might say: "It Ain't Necessarily So." At least, not in the financial services industry.Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch made hundreds of billions of dollars on the strength of bogus research--their analysts have been caught red-handed lying their pants off to investors, and they got a 1.4 billion dollar slap on the wrist--peanuts on Wall Street-- and are still going strong.

Prudential ripped off billions of dollars, and has literally paid billions in fines and disgorgement, thanks to unethical sales practices. Their limited partnership comeuppance in the early 90s--as Prudential-Bache--was the largest scandal in modern market history. They've been hauled before the SEC and NASD and the courts multiple times. But they're still raking in the bucks.

That plan is a mix of investments (to achieve long-term financial goals), savings (for short-term needs of less than five years), and permanent life insurance to cover any permanent financial needs (e.g., providing a permanent "check a month" for widows or widowers, for instance; or death taxes).


A "permanent check a month?" Don't you mean an annuity?

Ok, fine. But that's hardly unique to First Command, either. So let's take a look at the fees? What are the underlying expenses? What are the surrender charges? How long are they in place?

Vanguard offers annuities, too. I'd love to take Swan up on his challenge to compare First Command with Bogle's funds. Vanguard offers annuities, too. (First Command refused to send me any prospectuses when I was first looking at them last January).

If you want an apples to apples comparison with other advisor sold annuities, fine. How about Capital Group/American Funds?

I triple dog dare you.

Lay 'em out, fee by fee, and return by return in variable annuity subaccounts. Let's play ball.

On the subject of life-insurance products offered to military clients, First Command carefully selects the companies with which it deals. In may surprise some that there are companies that sell life-insurance policies containing a "war clause" that invalidates the policy if the insured goes to war. First Command will not sell life insurance with such clauses to its military clients.


That part is commendable. It's hard to imagine a good fee-only planner who would overlook the war exclusion when recommending a life insurance policy to a client. But that is a useful service for First Command to provide. I'll give them that one.

The insurance companies First Command has chosen do. In fact, from a personal perspective, if my "option" were due this month, I could take it, and the insurance company could neither turn me down nor charge me a heavy rate-up premium — even though I'm serving today in a combat zone.


Oooh. First Command's policies are guaranteed renewable.

I'll alert the media.

I've described the operations of this firm in some detail because it is important people know that there are reputable companies out there whose sole mission in business is to help military people.


IraqNow readers, meet USAA. USAA, meet IraqNow readers.

USAA offers solid mutual funds and good insurance coverage in a variety of lines, with much lower fees and commissions than First Command.

What's more, unlike First Command, USAA offers index fund alternatives to high-cost actively managed funds, and does so on a no-load basis. And their counselors understand the military, too.

When a newspaper like the New York Times smears an honorable company, such as First Command, for providing products that are "ill-suited to military people," we should call them on it.


No. I'm calling on First Command for providing a program that is ill-suited to military people.

Here's why.

Consider a case study:

SFC Garon and his wife Lily are 35 years old, with two five year old children, whom they would like to send to a private school. They're just now getting startd with serious financial planning, and schedule a few appointments with a First Command Advisor.

Let's say the First Command Advisor recommends starting Roth IRAs for both SFC Garon and his wife, and recommends--wisely--that they max out their contributions the first year, and every year thereafter. He also recommends they start Coverdell Education accounts for their children, since Coverdell plans allow tax free dispursals on qualified private school expenses.

So in the first year, they make payments of $2000 each on two coverdell accounts for their children, and two Roth IRAs of $3,000 for the sergeant and his wife.

The accounts will then have a combined basis of $10,000, generating a commission of $5,000 for the First Command representative.

And he hasn't even sold an insurance policy yet.

And we're not even considering the long-term opportunity cost of investing in underperforming funds, nor are we considering the opportunity cost of losing years of earnings on the 5,000 dollars used to pay the commission.

Now consider the alternative:

Rather than contact First Command, the couple instead contacts the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, and finds a good fee-only Certified Financial Planning practicioner in the area.

The CFP would likely make many of the same recommendations: Max out your Roth IRAs for yourself and your wife. Contribute to your children's Coverdells.

The CFP is also more likely to recommend prudent debt payoff strategies; the FC rep will have no incentive to do so, and indeed, Enriques found one instance where a FC representative failed to do so.

The CFP is more likely to explain the benefits of the Thrift Savings Program--a great tax deferred savings vehicle which does not generate a dime in commissions.

The CFP is likely to hold more coursework and credentials than the FC rep.

The CFP is committed to abiding by a rigorous code of ethics--and if a fee-only planner, is committed to acting as a fiduciary. Meaning the client's needs must come first. If he fails to do so, the client has recourse to seek a revocation of the professional designation from the CFP board.

The CFP will be able to choose from a wider menu of funds and fund companies, and from insurance companies, and get the client into better funds. Without sales loads.

The CFP is more likely to recommend a sufficient emergency fund, since the fund generates no commissions for the FC rep.

The CFP will be able to develop a full-fledged financial plan for the clients, over a series of appointments.

Total cost: Probably between $500 and $1000.

Better plan. Better funds. $1,000 vs. $5,000.

Which is more suitable to the military family?

You make the call.


Splash, out

Jason


*AIM Funds was forced to settle on fraud charges after it got caught with its hands in the cookie jar, and then lying about it to investors.

Franklin Templeton has been hit with fraud charges by Massachussets investigators.





















Comments:
This week the Army Times published an article about the situation with First Command and others who target the military for investment and insurance sales. The article included comments by Patrick Swan that were only positive toward First Command. The article made no mention of the fact that Patrick Swan is a former First Command agent and provided no comments by anyone who thinks First Command is a bad choice for military investors.
 
As an alternative for the couple consult a CFP? How long, and subsequently, much do you think that will cost? Unfortunately for those that glean their information from sound bites from the Times or any biased source, you missed the point entirely. The 'simpleton' subjects you attribute as victims are of lower income and sophist action bracket that requires in-depth basic rudimentary education (read: time consuming) and their subsequent incomes makes them less than profitable. How could that same couple receive that same level of effort for the same price as found in the 'loading'? No one. If you know of a reputable place, please let me know. I'll use them. As the 'loading' transfers as opposed to commissions or fees, the service can likewise transfer. As the military member relocates often, this unique feature among others validate the model. The model allows the proper level of attention and education a low wage earner could not afford in an hourly or fee based driven CFP. To state otherwise is blind ignorance. Just as a side bar and maybe I am an opportunist, but if I were to 'rob', I'd choose a bank and not a shelter. Rob a king and not a guard. Lastly, the agents are all former clients and mostly military member? Anyone who would think that a veteran would take advantage of a Solider does not understand the Esprit De Corps concept. Please outline your particular grievance with FC and your own credentials.
 
As an alternative for the couple consult a CFP? How long, and subsequently, much do you think that will cost? Unfortunately for those that glean their information from sound bites from the Times or any biased source, you missed the point entirely. The 'simpleton' subjects you attribute as victims are of lower income and sophist action bracket that requires in-depth basic rudimentary education (read: time consuming) and their subsequent incomes makes them less than profitable. How could that same couple receive that same level of effort for the same price as found in the 'loading'? No one. If you know of a reputable place, please let me know. I'll use them. As the 'loading' transfers as opposed to commissions or fees, the service can likewise transfer. As the military member relocates often, this unique feature among others validate the model. The model allows the proper level of attention and education a low wage earner could not afford in an hourly or fee based driven CFP. To state otherwise is blind ignorance. Just as a side bar and maybe I am an opportunist, but if I were to 'rob', I'd choose a bank and not a shelter. Rob a king and not a guard. Lastly, the agents are all former clients and mostly military members? Anyone who would think that a veteran would take advantage of a Solider does not understand the Esprit De Corps concept. Please outline your particular grievance with FC and your own credentials.
 
I am a retired officer and an extremely satisfied First Command (FC) client for 20 years. You clearly have no accurate concept of First Command. Your posting is full of misleading accusations, empty claims and outright wrong information. Unlike you, I did my homework. I not only asked my FC rep a lot of straight forward questions, I took the additional step of confirming his responses with my CPA who is also a CFP as well as a friend who is a financial planner with a reputable national financial planning firm.

You give the impression FC Representatives are money grubbing, self serving individuals preying on the military. Nothing could be further from the truth. Virtually every FC rep served on active duty and they were all FC clients prior to becoming FC reps. My FC rep turned down the opportunity for a commission saying we should use new discretionary income to increase our standard of living. My brother is an active duty officer and wanted to invest some money for a two year period in something secure, but better than the 1.5% being paid by his money markets account. His FC rep actually suggested he consider a NO LOAD government bond fund for such a short term investment.
Are there individual FC representatives who might not act in the best interest of their clients? Of course; anyone would be naïve to say otherwise. Can’t the same be said for ANY organization? There are bad cops, bad politicians, bad athletes…and bad military officers but I think we all agree an entire organization should be not judged on the inappropriate actions of a few. FC, like most organizations, eventually identifies and weeds out these bad apples.
FC is an honorable company providing a valuable service. The key word here is service…personal, face to face service. Virtually every military installation is the world is supported by a local FC office. USAA, Merrill Lynch, Vanguard nor anyone else could begin to provide this level of dedicated personal service to the military community.
Contrary to your comments, FC provides comprehensive financial management services and their reps routinely go above and beyond the call of duty.

I’d like to address some of your specific comments.

”First Command's most often cited flagship fund, Fidelity Destiny, ranks in the bottom 20% of the large growth category over both the trailing 5-year and 10-year time periods.”
According to Morningstar your reference is true for the current 5 and 10 year periods but not for all 5 and 10 year periods. Furthermore, Destiny 1, prior to 2000 was a value/blend fund yet Morningstar compares its last 10 years of performance to the growth fund index because today it is structured as a growth fund. For the past three years it has been a true Growth fund. I find it interesting you failed to mention Destiny 1 was in the top third for the most current 1 and 3 year periods within the growth category.

“Fidelity Destiny--a large cap fund--also trails the S&P 500 by an astounding 5% per year over the last ten years.”
WRONG. Destiny did not trail the S&P by an astounding 5% PER YEAR over the last 10 years. Again, according to Morningstar, between the years 1994 through 2003 Destiny load adjusted returns out performed the S&P for two years and underperformed it for eight years. Of those eight only three were by 5% or more. Two of those eight were by less than 1%. But again that is for this most current 10 year period. Read on.

“It’s underperformance is consistent over almost any trailing time period you'd care to name. And this is BEFORE adjusting for the front-end load!”
WRONG. People like you throw out these meaningless challenges knowing the average person has no inclination to validate your claim. I took your challenge and looked at “any trailing time period you’d care to name”. I obtained performance data for numerous time periods comparing Fidelity Destiny 1 to the Vanguard 500 Index fund. All these figures assume a person invests $250 per month and they opened their account with a $3,000 investment. Destiny withheld 50% so they start with $1,500 while Vanguard starts with $3,000. Destiny returns ARE load adjusted.
Let’s look at seven rolling 20 year periods starting back in 1977.
1977-1997: Vanguard-$481,000 Destiny 1 -$694,000
1978-1998: Vanguard-$541,000 Destiny 1 -$720,000
1979-1999: Vanguard-$564,000 Destiny 1 -$622,000
1980-2000: Vanguard-$437,000 Destiny 1 -$412,000
1981-2001: Vanguard-$342,000 Destiny 1 -$287,000
1982-2002: Vanguard-$225,000 Destiny 1 -$179,000
1983-2003: Vanguard-$250,000 Destiny 1 -$193,000
I did the same for rolling five and ten year periods and the results were about the same. Some periods went to Vanguard, some when to Destiny. Hmmm.

”Five years ago, investors would have been better off investing in a five year CD at 6 1/2% interest rates than in investing in Fidelity Destiny. A First Command rep who put his clients in that fund offered no value added for that transaction for his commission.”
Allow me to rephrase your statement. “Five years ago, investors would have been better off investing in a five year CD at 2% interest rates than in investing in the VANGUARD S&P 500 fund. Any investor who put his money in that fund obtained no value added for that action and they didn’t even pay a commission”. There are five systematic contractual mutual funds. If you had $10,000 invested in these five funds along with the Vanguard S&P 500 Index fund from Jan 1, 1999 to Dec 31, 2003 the Vanguard fund was worth $9,300. The 2% CD was worth $11,023 and the load adjusted value of two of the dreaded systematic funds were worth more than the Vanguard fund. By the way, if a person invested $250 per month in to a systematic plan the total sales charge would not be $5,000. More on that later.

” But why choose this [Destiny] one over a no load S&P 500 fund going forward? I can't think of a reason at all.”
Maybe now you can.

”They're apparently not designed to bring long term results either.”
Depends on how greedy you want to be. According to Morningstar Fidelity Destiny 1 has a LOAD ADJUSTED 15 year return of 10%, 20 years is 11% and from inception in 1970 about 15%. Fidelity Destiny 2 has a LOAD ADJUSTED return of 13% for 15 years and 16% for 20 years.

”I'll put Vanguard's lineup up against Fidelity's Destiny Series, or AIM's, or Oppenheimer's or Pioneer's, or Franklin Templeton's lineup any day of the week, fund for fund, style box for style box, over any 10 year period or longer. Especially on a LOAD-ADJUSTED basis!”
WRONG. Another meaningless follow the lemmings over the no load cliff statement. You can’t compare style box to style box. Comparing a large value world fund and a large value domestic fund is like apple and watermelons. My sources used the Morningstar Category rather than the style box. Using Morningstar Principia Pro, they obtained data by restricting a database query to Vanguard, Franklin-Templeton, Fidelity Advisor, Fidelity Destiny 1&2 and Pioneer (who cares about Oppenheimer). They sorted on 10 year LOAD ADJUSTED returns and then identified the top 50 funds that were either Class “A” or no load funds. After omitting specialty funds, 31 funds remained. Below are the results. The first number is the total number of funds remaining by category and the second number is the number of Vanguard funds in that category. World Stock: 2/0, Small Value: 1/0, Small Blend: 2/1, Mid Cap Value: 5/0, Mid Cap Growth: 5/0, Mid Cap Blend: 2/1, Large Cap Value: 5/4, Large Cap Growth: 4/2 and Large Cap Blend: 5/4. My personal mutual fund portfolio consists of small, mid and large cap funds, both growth and value, U.S. and foreign. I for one am VERY glad my FC rep is NOT restricted to Vanguard funds.

”That part [war clause in insurance] is commendable. It's hard to imagine a good fee-only planner who would overlook the war exclusion when recommending a life insurance policy to a client. But that is a useful service for First Command to provide. I'll give them that one.”
If you knew a fraction of what you think you know about First Command you’d give them a lot more.

“Oooh. First Command's policies are guaranteed renewable. I'll alert the media.”
WRONG. The characteristic being referred to had nothing to do with being guaranteed renewable. He was referring to “guaranteed insurability” which is available as a very inexpensive optional rider offered by every insurance company FC represents. Most insurance companies offer this standard rider by the way. Every three years between the ages of 25 and 49, the insurance company GUARANTEES your right to buy more insurance (up to $50,000 depending on your policy). It can be whole life or term and you don’t have to prove you’re insurable meaning you can buy more insurance regardless of your medical condition (to include AIDS or even terminal cancer). They GUARANTEE you will pay the premium a normal healthy person of the same age and sex would pay. Now you can go alert the media

”IraqNow readers, meet USAA. USAA, meet IraqNow readers. USAA offers solid mutual funds and good insurance coverage in a variety of lines, with much lower fees and commissions than First Command. What's more, unlike First Command, USAA offers index fund alternatives to high-cost actively managed funds, and does so on a no-load basis. And their counselors understand the military, too.”
Want to work with USAA…welcome to 1-800-NO PERSONAL SERVICE. USAA no longer allows the average person to simply walk in and talk with a financial “counselor”. You go to a cubical and talk to the “counselor” over the phone…and you’re in the same building! Now if you want a true financial planner you can sit face to face with one at USAA but it’s going to cost you. They charge $925 to develop the plan (free at FC) and they will charge you $125 PER HOUR for advice (free at FC).

“The accounts will then have a combined basis of $10,000, generating a commission of $5,000 for the First Command representative.”
You’ve just shown how ignorant you are of systematic contractual funds and commissions for FC Reps. Since you can’t have a Coverdell account in a systematic fund like Destiny you would have to invest in a more typical level load fund such as those in the Franklin Templeton or American Funds. The commission on the $4,000 invested in the Coverdell is about $100 NOT $2,000. Assuming the FC rep put the IRAs in a systematic fund they would be investing $250 per month. The sales charge is 50% of the first twelve monthly plan investments so yes the sales charge on each IRA would be $1,500 but the rep’s commission is less than $800 per IRA. The commission earned on these four accounts is about $1,600 NOT the $5,000. Did you know if an investor changes their mind within 45 days of starting a systematic fund they get a 100% refund on all sales charges paid and they’ll still get a refund of the majority of the sales charges paid if they cancel as long as 18 months from starting the investment. Will any loaded fund to that?

“And we're not even considering the long-term opportunity cost of investing in underperforming funds, nor are we considering the opportunity cost of losing years of earnings on the 5,000 dollars used to pay the commission”.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. I already shot down the $5,000 commission drivel.

”Rather than contact First Command, the couple instead contacts the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, and finds a good fee-only Certified Financial Planning practicioner in the area.”
Let’s look at the long term cost of this. Most fee based planners charge between $100 to $150 per HOUR. There have been years in which I have made no changes to my FC financial plan and yet my FC reps still spent countless hours working with me with NO compensation. That’s their commitment to their clients. Show me a fee based planner willing to do that.

”The CFP would likely make many of the same recommendations: Max out your Roth IRAs for yourself and your wife. Contribute to your children's Coverdells. “
What does that tell you about the validity of the FC rep’s recommendations?

”The CFP is also more likely to recommend prudent debt payoff strategies; the FC rep will have no incentive to do so, and indeed, Enriques found one instance where a FC representative failed to do so.”
WRONG. Debt management is a critical and integral part of any analysis by any FC agent. How can you imply the fact Enriques found ONE instance is indicative of all FC reps. I recently met ONE officer who was a complete idiot. Does this mean you’re a complete idiot also? More on that later. By the way, there are countless examples of CFPs failing to look out for their client’s best interests.

”The CFP is more likely to explain the benefits of the Thrift Savings Program--a great tax deferred savings vehicle which does not generate a dime in commissions.”
WRONG. My FC rep is very knowledgeable about the TSP and in fact encourages clients to invest in it but only after they are fully funding a Roth IRA.

”The CFP is likely to hold more coursework and credentials than the FC rep.”
Every FC rep holds the Series 6 and 63 designation and many hold the Series 65 and Series 26. Many FC Reps have obtained or are in the process of obtaining the CFP designation. CFP’s are required to complete 30 hours of Continuing Education every two years. Surprise! FC Reps must meet this exact same requirement to maintain their licenses.

”The CFP is committed to abiding by a rigorous code of ethics--and if a fee-only planner, is committed to acting as a fiduciary. Meaning the client's needs must come first. If he fails to do so, the client has recourse to seek a revocation of the professional designation from the CFP board.”
Let me get this straight. Because CFPs have a Code of Ethics means they’re ALWAYs going to follow the code and put the client’s needs first? I bet you believe in the Easter Bunny too. CPA’s, attorneys and doctors all have a similar code of ethics…enough said. Contact the CFP Board and inquire about the thousands of client complaints against CFPs. The FC Rep falls under the oversight of the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) and the State Insurance Commissioner. Every FC rep is at the same risk of losing their licenses for misconduct.

”The CFP will be able to choose from a wider menu of funds and fund companies, and from insurance companies, and get the client into better funds. Without sales loads.”
WRONG. FC reps can sell funds from many mutual fund families. It’s quite common for FC reps not to recommend systematic funds when they are not appropriate.

”The CFP is more likely to recommend a sufficient emergency fund, since the fund generates no commissions for the FC rep.”
WRONG. Why do you continually imply that earning a commission is central to every recommendation a FC rep makes. An emergency fund is a critical element of any FC financial program and in many instances FC reps will recommend postponing an investment to build up an emergency fund.

”The CFP will be able to develop a full-fledged financial plan for the clients, over a series of appointments.”
Now this really highlights how ignorant you are about First Command. When I started my program, my FC rep spent an incredible amount of time meeting with my wife and me over several appointments before developing our plan. Every First Command financial plan addresses investing, insurance and savings. He reviewed our finances, our tax returns and did a complete budget evaluation with us. We discussed our short, mid and long term financial goals. He did a detailed analysis of my wife’s financial needs if I died. He explained all the active duty death benefits she and our children would be eligible for and prior to retirement reviewed the impact of losing these benefits and what we could do to minimize their loss. The plan was presented to us in another appointment. Once we received our first statements he made another appointment to review them to insure we could properly interpret the information. At a minimum, my FC rep calls me annually to schedule a review appointment. He has an open door and I can call and schedule an appointment at any time. He routinely schedules appointments at 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. or on Saturdays or Sundays to accommodate our schedule.

”Total cost: Probably between $500 and $1000.”
Sure, but that’s just to get the plan started. What’s it going to cost you for a life time of service from this fee based planner?

”Better plan. Better funds. $1,000 vs. $5,000.”
WRONG. Not necessarily better funds and it sure isn’t $5,000… at least for the FC Rep. You might just pay that and a hell of a lot more by paying a fee based planner $100-$150 per hour for advice.

”Which is more suitable to the military family?”.
First Command is not for everyone. Some prefer to do it themselves and that’s fine. You, and so many others just have a problem accepting the fact that I, like thousands of others, prefer not to and have chosen to work with First Command. Don’t you get it…It works for us and it will work for many others who have yet to be introduced to First Command. Why do people pay $20 to get their car oil changed or go eat out and pay much more when they could cook for themselves for less? Why do soldiers take their uniforms to the local cleaners when they could wash and starch them at home for much less? These are all simple tasks the average person can easily perform. It’s about service and people don’t mind paying for service. Some claim investing is easy and anyone can do it on their own given all the information available in books, magazines and on the internet. Just because people have access to information doesn’t necessarily mean they have the ability to effectively use that information. If it’s so easy, why are there thousands of postings to message boards by helpless people seeking advice? If it were so easy they wouldn’t have to ask others; they’d do their own research and act on it. Even more incredible; these people are acting on the advice of these complete strangers… like you.
I know I would not be as financially secure today had it not been for my relationship with First Command. I tried it on my own and it didn’t work for various reasons the most important being I have better things to do than sit in front of a computer researching mutual funds and reading message boards…things like spending time with my family.
The bottom line Jason, I think it’s unfortunate you berate First Command when you obviously know little about them and especially when their basic philosophy is so clearly in line with your own based upon your case study comments. I’m just curious, just what are your PROFESSIONAL qualifications that would reassure someone they should follow any of your advice?

Splash that one fella.
 
I see you referenced the Kiplinger article on First Command written by Steven Goldberg. I thought your readers might want to get the perspective from a highly respected mutual fund research firm; Dalbar Inc. Mr. Goldberg saw fit to take on this firm and again displayed his inept qualifications as a financial writer. Below is background information on Dalbar and their published response to Mr. Goldberg's article. Enjoy

DALBAR, Inc.
Corporate Profile

Having celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2001, DALBAR, Inc. is committed to raising the standards of excellence in the financial-services industry. Headquartered in Boston, with additional offices in Toronto, DALBAR develops standards for, and provides research, ratings, and rankings of intangible factors to the mutual fund, broker/dealer, discount brokerage, life insurance, and banking industries. They include investor behavior, customer satisfaction, service quality, communications, Internet services, and financial-professional ratings.

Kiplinger Lies

In a vicious attempt to gain recognition at the expense of credible sources, Kiplinger contradicts the finding that investors buy high, sell low and lose money. On March 12, 2002, Kiplinger attacks Baron’s Alan Abelson and the Steven Leuthold research report for making this observation on the basis of a DALBAR report. Kiplinger characterizes these sources as “Investment professionals (that) love to talk about how clueless individual investors are.”
The clueless person here is Steven Goldberg of Kiplinger who failed to understand the study, which models the buying and selling behavior of the mutual fund industry as though it consisted of only one investor. Mr. Goldberg contradicts the basic fact that when an investor pours money into the market with the NASDQ at 5000 and withdraws it at 2000 he/she will lose money! Mr. Goldberg’s concludes that DALBAR’s findings showing how investors under perform the market to be flawed but it is every aspect of Goldberg’s reasoning that is flawed.

Flawed Reason #1 “It (the DALBAR Study) credits every dollar invested on that day (first trading day of 1984) and every subsequent day with the same return as the S&P 500.”

Facts:The study does not credit every dollar every day. It applies returns to investments only for the days in which funds are invested. Gains/losses are compounded. Withdrawals and new investments are reflected at the times they occurred. The assertion in flawed reason #1 is simply wrong.

Flawed Reason #2“To get the full return of the S&P 500, using DALBAR's methodology, every investor would have had to invest at the start of 1984 all the money he or she had invested at the end of 2000.”

Facts:To get the full return of the S&P 500 investors would not have to be invested from 1984 to 2000. An investor could match or beat the S&P by either using dollar cost averaging, remaining invested or time the market successfully. Contrary to the statement made here, if every investor had invested today’s money in 1984, the returns would have been astronomical.The assertion in flawed reason #2 is simply wrong.

Flawed Reason #3“Look at it in microcosm. Suppose you're a 20-year-old investor. You make your first stock fund investment in January 2000 and stay invested all year.”

Facts:This is no microcosm. The typical investor is over 50 years old, not 20 and is most unlikely to invest on the first day and withdraw on the last, making the entire scenario most unlikely.The assertion in flawed reason #3 is not representative of a relevant number of investors.

Flawed Reason #4“The S&P lost 9% that year (2000), so the study concludes that over the 17 years ending with 2000 you lost 9%. That, of course, makes no sense.”

Facts:The conclusion drawn from the unlikely scenario is also wrong. The 9% loss that was mentioned is not applied to the 17-year period but only for the year when the funds were actually invested.The assertions in flawed reason #4 are simply wrong.

Flawed Reason #5“ In essence, though, the study pretends that money you invested in 1985, 1986 and every succeeding year was actually invested in 1984.”

Facts:The study does not pretend that investments are from 1984 to 2000 (every succeeding year) but only for the periods that funds are invested.The assertion in flawed reason #5 is simply wrong.

Flawed Reason #6“Only $71 billion was invested in stock funds at the start of 1984. Some $3.9 trillion was invested by the end of 2000. The reason for the lousy returns wasn't bad market timing, as DALBAR claims. Rather, it was that people had much less to invest in stock funds in 1984 than they did at the end of 2000.”

Facts:The major reason people had more investments in 2000 was the fact that investments had grown due to market returns. The real reason that the returns were not greater was bad market timing by investing when the market is high and withdrawing after values had declined.The assertion in flawed reason #6 is simply wrong.

Flawed Reason #7“I've had money invested from my paycheck into stock funds pretty much every month since January 1984. I didn't have a fraction of what I have now in January 1984. There's no way I could have had it all invested in stock funds since 1984.”

Facts:The money that Mr. Goldberg has today reflects an appreciated value, additions, withdrawals all compounded over time. The study does not suggest that it all could have been invested in 1984.The assertion in flawed reason #7 is simply wrong.

Flawed Reason #8“By averaging the returns of all the dollars invested over all 17 years, DALBAR comes up with its badly skewed results.”

Facts:The study applies returns to investments in each month that funds were invested. This removes skews that would be present if results were averaged. The statement that returns are averaged over a 17 year period is false, returns are calculated for each month. The assertion in flawed reason #8 is simply wrong.

The Truth
The study compares what investors have done in reaction to movements of the market. Its findings are that investors increase their investments when prices are high in an attempt to participate in market appreciation. Findings also show that withdrawals from investments increase when prices are low as investors seek to limit their losses. Unfortunately the results show that investors earned significantly less than they could have. The facts speak for themselves. Unfortunately, thousands of Kiplinger readers have been denied these facts.

Louis S. Harvey
DALBAR, Inc.
 
Small investors get no respect on Wall Street
By John Waggoner,
USA TODAY

Come to the Vanguard Group with $1 million or more, and you get portfolio advice, low fees and a personal representative to attend to your investment needs.

Come to Vanguard with $10,000, and you get a guy on the other end of the phone. Come with less than $1,000, you get turned away.Vanguard is typical. Increasingly, the message from Wall Street is that small investors need not apply. Merrill Lynch, which once bragged about bringing Wall Street to Main Street, requires a $100,000 ante to sit down with a broker. And Charles Schwab, pioneer of discount brokerage, pushed up fees on small accounts in an effort to make them be profitable — or go elsewhere.

BIGGER ACCOUNTS, BETTER TREATMENT
What it takes to get full service at some brokerages: Account minimum First service tier/ minimum Benefits Merrill Lynch $20,000 $100,000 Personal broker
Morgan Stanley None $250,000 Account fees capped at $250; 2 fee-free IRAs; free online bill payment Charles Schwab $10,000 Signature premium/$500,000 Assigned brokerage team, special toll-free number, outside research, free bill-paying service
Fidelity Brokerage $2,500 $100,000 Lower commissions, free bill-paying service, quicker phone service The Vanguard Group $3,000 $250,000 Advance notice of new funds, discounted commissions Source: USA TODAY research

Nearly every brokerage, brokerage house and bank has a special team that caters to the wealthy. Small savers, on the other hand, pay more for their investments, get little advice and often get the raw end of investment scams. All of which could be dismissed as the way the world works, except for one thing: Today's small investors aren't the stock dabblers of a few decades ago, who bought and sold stocks for the thrill of playing the market. They're investors because they have to be. Their retirement depends on it.

Pensions, once a mainstay of retirees, are disappearing. Just 17% of all private employees have traditional defined-benefit pensions, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), a non-profit research group. That's down from 44% 20 years ago. If you can't depend on a pension, you have to rely on your savings. But it's expensive to be a small investor. Small accounts cost more to service, and financial-services companies pass on the fees to customers.

The more you pay your fund or your broker, the less you earn, and the less likely you are to have enough to retire."Without a doubt, small investors get dramatically inferior treatment," says Douglas Schultz, a Westcliffe, Colo., securities expert. Financial-services companies can easily nickel-and-dime investors out of a portion of their earnings. Example: To save $1 million in 30 years, you have to save $820 a month and earn 7% annually. Give 2 percentage points a year to your fund or broker, and you'll end up with $828,000 — $172,000 short.

Richard Brenner, a postal employee in Hamilton, Mich., got slapped with a $50 fee from Wachovia Securities because his account was less than $250,000. "That was 10% of my earnings," he says. In protest, he moved his money to Hilliard Lyons, which doesn't charge the $50 annual fee and reimbursed him for an additional $50 fee that Wachovia charged for closing his account. Wachovia "never contacted me or asked me why I moved," he says.

Wachovia says the $50 fee pays for generating account statements and other services and that its fees are in line with industry practices. Even at retirement, most people haven't saved enough to be considered large investors by Wall Street standards. The average defined-contribution balance for employees of long tenure and continuous participation is $175,000, EBRI says.

Eating away at earnings

What eats away at small investors' earnings:
•Account fees. Charles Schwab & Co., the nation's largest discount brokerage, built its reputation as a champion of the small investor. But Schwab now charges accounts with $10,000 to $50,000 in assets $30 a quarter. That's $120 a year on a $10,000 investment, or 1.2%, and nearly twice what an investor would earn in Schwab's money market mutual funds.

But fees don't hit brokerage customers alone. Defined-contribution plans such as 401(k)s, the savings vehicle of choice for millions of small investors, can be expensive, too. Investors in small-company 401(k) plans — those with $5 million in assets or less — may pay normal expenses for the fund, plus up to 2 percentage points for administrative costs, says Trisha Brambley, president of Resources for Retirement, a consulting firm in Newtown, Pa. That's about 40% of all those with 401(k) plans. Those in larger plans can sometimes invest for less than they could on their own, she says.

•Commissions. Buy a mutual fund through a broker, and you'll pay more if you have only a modest sum to invest. Put $5,000 in the American Funds' Investment Company of America, one of the hottest broker-sold stock mutual funds, and you'll pay a 5.75% commission, or load. Invest $100,000, and you pay 3.5%. Franklin U.S. Government Securities is one of the nation's most popular funds for investors seeking income from their investments. It charges a 4.25% commission if you invest less than $100,000. That's 78% of the income the fund paid out the past 12 months, according to research firm Morningstar. Invest more than $100,000, and the commission falls to 3.5%.

Stock-pickers pay more, too. A regular brokerage account at Fidelity Brokerage (called the bronze level) charges $29.95 to buy stocks. Move to the gold level, and you'll pay $8 a trade. But you'll need to make 120 trades a year and have $30,000 in assets — or have $1 million in assets — to hit gold. If you have less than $1,000 to invest, many funds and brokerages simply won't let you in. American Century, which once would let you start an account with $5, now requires $2,500.

If you have less than $10,000 invested with the company, you must pay an additional $12.50 annual fee, waived if you do business only online.Even at the Vanguard Group, noted for its low fees, smaller investors aren't welcome. Minimum investment in a taxable account at the Vanguard 500 Index fund, the nation's largest stock fund, is $3,000. An IRA is $1,000. Investors with less than $10,000 have to pay an additional $10 annual account fee.

"My favorite fund company isn't that small-investor friendly," Barbara Roper, director of investor protection at the Consumer Federation of America, says of Vanguard. The Valley Forge, Pa.-based company says it averages just $7.50 on a $3,000 account. "It doesn't begin to cover costs," says company spokesman Brian Mattes.

Small investors get less

Not only do small investors pay more, but they get less — particularly when it comes to advice. For example, investors in defined-contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans, typically get no advice. Companies are required to give participants some information about the investments in the plan, but they don't tell them which investments best suit their needs. "People can get education but not advice," says Roper. "But people want someone to tell them what fund to put their money in."

The bad news: Advice costs money. "There's not much to be done with $5,000," says John Markese, president of the American Association of Individual Investors. "You're not buying much of a broker's attention."At Merrill Lynch, investors with less than $100,000 are directed to a call center, where they can speak to a Merrill representative on the telephone. If you've got the money, however, you can get advice, lower fees, or both:

• At Morgan Stanley, a $250,000 investment gets your account fees capped at $250 a year. At $1 million, you get no account fees and free IRAs for the whole family.
• At Schwab, $100,000 gets you to its Signature account level, which includes investment research from First Call, Argus, Vickers and Standard & Poor's.
• At Vanguard, $250,000 gets you advance notice of new funds and services, and a 50% discount off your annual brokerage fee.

Recent scandals have shown that some companies haven't been content with making the little investor pay up. Ten major brokerage houses agreed to a $1.4 billion settlement with state and federal regulators in May 2002 for dispensing biased stock recommendations.
Mutual funds, too, clipped the small investor. In July 2003, the NASD announced legal actions against five brokers for selling high-cost B shares of mutual funds to investors to get bigger commissions.

In September, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer began investigating funds for allowing big clients to dilute fund gains by rapid in-and-out trading. Mutual funds implicated in the scandal have included Strong Financial, Bank One, Bank of America, Janus Capital, Putnam Investments, Federated Investors, Fred Alger Management and Pilgrim Baxter.

Only the wealthy need apply

Mutual funds have held themselves out as trustworthy but have treated small investors worse than gamblers at a casino, says William Galvin, Massachusetts secretary of state. "At least at a casino, you get free drinks." "Everyone wants the wealthy investors. The small investor doesn't have a lot of advisory resources or friends in the mutual fund industry," says Roy Weitz, publisher of FundAlarm. But that's a bad strategy, says Joanne Mechling of Portland, Ore., because many big accounts started small. She and her husband, Scott Lee, have seen their accounts grow to the point where they can get a few fee reductions at Smith Barney, their full-service broker. "I've been investing with my broker for 10 years. Started when I barely had two nickels to rub together," she says. "He had the intelligence to say, 'These kids are 29 years old. If I start with them now, they might turn into something.' "
 
Retired officer

Get a grip. If you are extremely satisfied, you must have low expectations and goals or just don’t have a clue what is out there. Jason has a clear understanding of FC, and so do I. His post is accurate and is nothing but the truth. What homework did you do? What questions did you ask? What other FP’s did you talk to? Certifications mean nothing to me. Your CPA friend could be an idiot. You throw around titles like they mean something. If you friends were so smart, why aren’t they rich?

(Money grubbing, self-serving individuals that prey on the military?)

That’d be about right.

(Virtually every FC rep served on active duty and they were all FC clients prior to becoming FC reps.)

So. friggin. What.

(His FC rep actually suggested he consider a NO LOAD government bond fund for such a short term investment.)

Anyone that recommends a loaded bond fund should be shot for treason. A secure short term investment, and he reco’s a bond fund. Wowzers, put that man in for a nobel prize. Heck, I would have thought he would have gone for the internet technology fund.

(FC is an honorable company providing a valuable service. The key word here is service…personal, face to face service. Virtually every military installation is the world is supported by a local FC office. USAA, Merrill Lynch, Vanguard nor anyone else could begin to provide this level of dedicated personal service to the military community.)

Does it matter if it is face to face service? I regularly talk to hedge fund managers, executives, and other financial savvy types via email and over the phone. Am I learning anything less because I am not sitting down with them? You seem to value looking at someone over the information gained.

(Contrary to your comments, FC provides comprehensive financial management services and their reps routinely go above and beyond the call of duty.)

Except for Fiduciary duty…You do know what fiduciary duty is…don’t you?

(I’d like to address some of your specific comments.)

Me too

(WRONG. Destiny did not trail the S&P by an astounding 5% PER YEAR over the last 10 years. Again, according to Morningstar, between the years 1994 through 2003 Destiny load adjusted returns out performed the S&P for two years and underperformed it for eight years. Of those eight only three were by 5% or more. Two of those eight were by less than 1%. But again that is for this most current 10 year period. Read on.)

Hmm, let’s see what CBS Marketwatch says. Looking at their numbers, the Fido Destiny I fund has indeed averaged 5% over the last 10 years, while the Destiny II fund has averaged just over 10%. Stellar performance. The S&P has averaged just under 11% for the same time period, and this isn’t including loads. You do realize it is very rare for any manager to outperform the averages for an extended period of time, right?

http://cbs.marketwatch.com/tools/mutualfunds/fundcomparison.asp?siteid=mktw
http://cbs.marketwatch.com/tools/mutualfunds/fundcomparison.asp?siteid=mktw
http://cbs.marketwatch.com/tools/mutualfunds/fundcomparison.asp?siteid=mktw


(Let’s look at seven rolling 20 year periods starting back in 1977.
1977-1997: Vanguard-$481,000 Destiny 1 -$694,000
1978-1998: Vanguard-$541,000 Destiny 1 -$720,000
1979-1999: Vanguard-$564,000 Destiny 1 -$622,000
1980-2000: Vanguard-$437,000 Destiny 1 -$412,000
1981-2001: Vanguard-$342,000 Destiny 1 -$287,000
1982-2002: Vanguard-$225,000 Destiny 1 -$179,000
1983-2003: Vanguard-$250,000 Destiny 1 -$193,000)

Sure like to see where you got your numbers from. 23 year old stats are hard to come by. Incidentally, you are comparing the returns of several different managers, which apparently doesn’t matter to you.


(Allow me to rephrase your statement. “Five years ago, investors would have been better off investing in a five year CD at 2% interest rates than in investing in the VANGUARD S&P 500 fund.)

No, sir allow me. Five years ago, CD rates were in the 6% range or higher.

(WRONG. Another meaningless follow the lemmings over the no load cliff statement. You can’t compare style box to style box.)

OK, riddle me this: why does FC have numerous other large cap blend mutual funds (same box as the destiny plan) that have a 5.75% load listed on their website that have beaten the Destiny plan for years, but 70% of their clients are in the destiny plan.

(Want to work with USAA…welcome to 1-800-NO PERSONAL SERVICE. USAA no longer allows the average person to simply walk in and talk with a financial “counselor”. You go to a cubical and talk to the “counselor” over the phone…and you’re in the same building! Now if you want a true financial planner you can sit face to face with one at USAA but it’s going to cost you. They charge $925 to develop the plan (free at FC) and they will charge you $125 PER HOUR for advice (free at FC).)

Personal service doesn’t equate to face to face service. For some reason, you seem to value looking at a person more than the quality of what they are actually saying. FC’s plans aren’t free, what do you think that 50% load is for? You also fail to differentiate again the difference between an OBJECTIVE plan and one that is based on selling you the most expensive financial product, since FC reps are 100% commission based.


(Did you know if an investor changes their mind within 45 days of starting a systematic fund they get a 100% refund on all sales charges paid and they’ll still get a refund of the majority of the sales charges paid if they cancel as long as 18 months from starting the investment. Will any loaded fund to that?)

Again, so what? Any loaded fund isn’t going to lock you into investing for the next 15 or 20 years. Any loaded fund isn’t going to charge you 50% of the first year’s commissions.

(Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. I already shot down the $5,000 commission drivel.)

Ok, how about the opportunity cost of $3000 then? I don’t care what the rep gets either. It is all about the client. If the client is missing half of their investments, it doesn’t really matter to them where it went, now does it? What’s that worth in 20 years at 12%? I got about $32,000. Pretty hefty sum to leave on the table.

(Let’s look at the long term cost of this. Most fee based planners charge between $100 to $150 per HOUR. There have been years in which I have made no changes to my FC financial plan and yet my FC reps still spent countless hours working with me with NO compensation. That’s their commitment to their clients. Show me a fee based planner willing to do that.)

Fee based planners usually don’t need to meet more than once per year or so. Even if you spent 10 hours with one, you’d still be better off than going with FC using the IRA example above. Once you set up the plan, all you have to do is monitor it year to year.

(WRONG. Debt management is a critical and integral part of any analysis by any FC agent. How can you imply the fact Enriques found ONE instance is indicative of all FC reps. I recently met ONE officer who was a complete idiot. Does this mean you’re a complete idiot also? More on that later. By the way, there are countless examples of CFPs failing to look out for their client’s best interests.)

The difference is with a CFP it is a breach of Fiduciary duty. With a FC rep, it isn’t.

(Every FC rep holds the Series 6 and 63 designation and many hold the Series 65 and Series 26. Many FC Reps have obtained or are in the process of obtaining the CFP designation. CFP’s are required to complete 30 hours of Continuing Education every two years. Surprise! FC Reps must meet this exact same requirement to maintain their licenses)

I’ll wipe my ass with a series 6 cert. It doesn’t mean anything as far as being an financial manager.

(Let me get this straight. Because CFPs have a Code of Ethics means they’re ALWAYs going to follow the code and put the client’s needs first? I bet you believe in the Easter Bunny too. CPA’s, attorneys and doctors all have a similar code of ethics…enough said. Contact the CFP Board and inquire about the thousands of client complaints against CFPs. The FC Rep falls under the oversight of the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) and the State Insurance Commissioner. Every FC rep is at the same risk of losing their licenses for misconduct.)

You earlier talked about going beyond the call of duty, but evidently feel fiduciary duty can be excepted. No FC rep could sell a client the destiny plans given they have other mutual funds that outperform it.

(WRONG. FC reps can sell funds from many mutual fund families. It’s quite common for FC reps not to recommend systematic funds when they are not appropriate.)

Explain then why 70% of their clients are in the contractual funds?

(Sure, but that’s just to get the plan started. What’s it going to cost you for a life time of service from this fee based planner?)

100/year

(First Command is not for everyone. Some prefer to do it themselves and that’s fine. You, and so many others just have a problem accepting the fact that I, like thousands of others, prefer not to and have chosen to work with First Command. Don’t you get it…It works for us and it will work for many others who have yet to be introduced to First Command. Why do people pay $20 to get their car oil changed or go eat out and pay much more when they could cook for themselves for less? Why do soldiers take their uniforms to the local cleaners when they could wash and starch them at home for much less? These are all simple tasks the average person can easily perform. It’s about service and people don’t mind paying for service. Some claim investing is easy and anyone can do it on their own given all the information available in books, magazines and on the internet. Just because people have access to information doesn’t necessarily mean they have the ability to effectively use that information. If it’s so easy, why are there thousands of postings to message boards by helpless people seeking advice? If it were so easy they wouldn’t have to ask others; they’d do their own research and act on it. Even more incredible; these people are acting on the advice of these complete strangers… like you.
I know I would not be as financially secure today had it not been for my relationship with First Command. I tried it on my own and it didn’t work for various reasons the most important being I have better things to do than sit in front of a computer researching mutual funds and reading message boards…things like spending time with my family.
The bottom line Jason, I think it’s unfortunate you berate First Command when you obviously know little about them and especially when their basic philosophy is so clearly in line with your own based upon your case study comments. I’m just curious, just what are your PROFESSIONAL qualifications that would reassure someone they should follow any of your advice?

Splash that one fella.)

If you want to go with FC, that’s fine. It’s your money and your future. I really don’t care. Just consider the fact that the rest of the free world has completely shunned contractual mutual funds in favor of lower cost alternatives. Also consider the fact that the average joe doesn’t know squat about investing and selling them the most expensive product on the shelf as a used car salesmen is decried as unethical but somehow when you do it with investing it is ok. Maybe everyone else is wrong. Maybe the emperor isn’t really naked. Maybe FC has the secret sauce, even though the numbers just don’t reflect that. If you feel paying 200 for an oil change is acceptable, then fine go ahead and pay 10x what everyone else is paying.


Investing, btw is easy. You don’t have to read much at all. Just buy the market and forget about it. Split your money between the S&P 500, Nasdaq, and Wilshire 5000 and forget about it. You can set up a nice investment program on your own in a weekend. You obviously have no concept of what it takes to be an individual investor. I have a life, friends, and family, AND my portfolio would trounce yours handily. Again, you go back to the professional qualifications bit. They don’t mean a thing other than you know the regulatory requirements and such. It doesn’t mean you know how to invest or make money. They don’t have tests for that sort of thing other than the annual Forbes 400 list.
 
Get a grip. If you are extremely satisfied, you must have low expectations and goals or just don’t have a clue what is out there. Jason has a clear understanding of FC, and so do I. His post is accurate and is nothing but the truth. What homework did you do? What questions did you ask? What other FP’s did you talk to? Certifications mean nothing to me. Your CPA friend could be an idiot. You throw around titles like they mean something. If you friends were so smart, why aren’t they rich?

My my, touchy are we? Clearly you’ve never been a FC client and I’d bet the same goes for Jason so you don’t have a “clear understanding of FC”. You’re not even close. Anything you say about FC is purely second hand and hearsay. There are people who like something and others who don’t. Just ask a Ford and Chevy owner. If I’ve never owned a Ford in my life it’s pretty hard to legitimately bad mouth them solely based on what others have told me. The same goes for FC. Over the years, my advice to fellow Officers and NCOs has been to personally check out FC. I’ve told them it was right for me but it may not necessarily be for them. I encouraged them to go meet with FC and decide for themselves and not listen to what others might say. My CPA friend could be an idiot? Wait, she’s a CFP, those people you and Jason proclaim to be the answer to all FC client problems. Are you saying there might be good CFPs and bad CFP’s? Stop the presses! I get it, the good CFPs are those who support your perspective and the bad CFPS are the ones who don’t. Finally, who says my friends aren’t rich and what does that have to do with the price of tea in China bubba? By the way what is your definition of “rich”?

Does it matter if it is face to face service? I regularly talk to hedge fund managers, executives, and other financial savvy types via email and over the phone. Am I learning anything less because I am not sitting down with them? You seem to value looking at someone over the information gained.

You email with hedge fund manager, oooh I’m impressed. Now there’s a good place for people to invest. A hedge fund: an extremely risky, unregistered private investment partnership that is NOT subject to the same regulatory requirements as mutual funds, including mutual fund requirements to provide periodic and standardized pricing and valuation information to investors. By the way, just because face to face personal service is not important to you doesn’t mean it isn’t to others.

Except for Fiduciary duty…You do know what fiduciary duty is…don’t you?

Let’s see. According to the dictionary a fiduciary relationship exists whenever one person trusts in or relies upon another. Every FC rep has a fiduciary responsibility to their clients. Just ask the NASD. I’ve put my trust in FC and they have never violated that trust. Just because you may not agree with the type of advice given does not mean a FC rep doesn’t have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients.

Hmm, let’s see what CBS Marketwatch says. Looking at their numbers, the Fido Destiny I fund has indeed averaged 5% over the last 10 years, while the Destiny II fund has averaged just over 10%. Stellar performance. The S&P has averaged just under 11% for the same time period, and this isn’t including loads. You do realize it is very rare for any manager to outperform the averages for an extended period of time, right?

Who said anything about what Destiny averaged over the past 10 years? I was addressing Jason’s claim Fidelity Destiny “ trails the S&P 500 by an astounding 5% per year over the last ten years.” His statement is simply wrong.

Sure like to see where you got your numbers from. 23 year old stats are hard to come by. Incidentally, you are comparing the returns of several different managers, which apparently doesn’t matter to you.

Maybe if you used a financial planner you too would have access to long term stats. Maybe you should email one of your “hedge fund managers, executives or other financial savvy types.” You’re right, changing fund managers doesn’t matter to me especially when it comes to Fidelity. I can see where it would to an index investor who pooh poohs managed funds.

No, sir allow me. Five years ago, CD rates were in the 6% range or higher.

You missed my point completely genius. Who cares what CDs were paying five years ago? Jason made it sound like Destiny was a bad fund because it couldn’t beat a 6.5% CD over the past five years. What Jason didn’t bother to mention was that virtually every equity fund sucked over the past five years. My point was even a paltry 2% CD, much less a 6.5% CD would have outperformed your darling unmanaged Vanguard S&P 500 Index fund over the past five years.

OK, riddle me this: why does FC have numerous other large cap blend mutual funds (same box as the destiny plan) that have a 5.75% load listed on their website that have beaten the Destiny plan for years, but 70% of their clients are in the destiny plan.

Let’s see here’s my choices: Pay 5.75% load for EVERY investment I make for the next 15 years OR pay 50% in the first year and then it’s a NO LOAD for the next 14 years. If I listen to you for financial advice it sounds like the 5.75% is a MUCH better investment opportunity over the systematic plan. Let’s look at a simple example. Assume I want to invest $100 per month for 15 years at 12%.

My first choice is one of the terrible rip off systematic funds.
Year 1: I only invest 50% of my first 12 $100 investments.
Years 2-15: My entire $100 is invested for the next 14 years…a NO LOAD fund.
Total Invested: $18,000
Total Load: $600
Average Load: 3.3%
Account Value: $44,054

Now your better alternative of the 5.75% load fund
Years 1-15: I invest $94.25…but for every month for the entire 15 year period.
Total Invested: $18,000 (OK so far)
Total Load: $1,035 (oh yeah that’s better!)
Average Load: 5.75% (you win again!)
Account Value: $44,435 (Yowzer a whopping $381 more over 15 years)

Oh boy, that 5.75% load sure is better. I pay $435 more in sales charges and my account is only worth $381 more. Now you know why I listen to my FC rep rather than self proclaimed financial gurus like yourself. I’d be willing to bet you’d jump at the chance to try to convince any investor in a systematic fund to jump ship as soon as possible, even after the first year, and move to a no load fund. After my first year, my systematic fund is a no load forever.

Again, so what? Any loaded fund isn’t going to lock you into investing for the next 15 or 20 years. Any loaded fund isn’t going to charge you 50% of the first year’s commissions.

OK oh wise one. Please go to the current prospectus of ANY systematic plan and reference the page number where it indicates they “lock you into investing for the next 15 or 20 years”.

Ok, how about the opportunity cost of $3000 then? I don’t care what the rep gets either. It is all about the client. If the client is missing half of their investments, it doesn’t really matter to them where it went, now does it? What’s that worth in 20 years at 12%? I got about $32,000. Pretty hefty sum to leave on the table.

If everyone considered “opportunity cost” before making any decision then no one would ever pay anyone for any kind of service and everyone would buy the absolute cheapest product on the market. Do people think about the opportunity cost for paying Jiffy Lube $20 to change their oil? What about buying a Vette verses a Honda Accord? What about eating at Morton’s rather than McDonalds? I’d be willing to bet even you routinely pass up on opportunity costs. You see, most people don’t mind paying more for service or a product if they see a value in doing so. Thousands of FC clients feel we’ve gotten our money’s worth in service. The fact you don’t see a value in FC doesn’t mean there’s no value and because you wouldn’t work with FC doesn’t make it wrong that others do.

(Let’s look at the long term cost of this. Most fee based planners charge between $100 to $150 per HOUR. There have been years in which I have made no changes to my FC financial plan and yet my FC reps still spent countless hours working with me with NO compensation. That’s their commitment to their clients. Show me a fee based planner willing to do that.)
Fee based planners usually don’t need to meet more than once per year or so. Even if you spent 10 hours with one, you’d still be better off than going with FC using the IRA example above. Once you set up the plan, all you have to do is monitor it year to year.

Ah if life was so simple and all we had to do was monitor our investments. I paid my load to First Command 20 years ago and never paid it again. I’d hate to think what I would have paid a $100 per hour planner over the past 20 years.

The difference is with a CFP it is a breach of Fiduciary duty. With a FC rep, it isn’t.

Why is you seem to think CFPs are the only form of financial planner that has a fiduciary duty to clients. Do they get some kind of “fiduciary stamp” that FC reps don’t. Again, I think the NASD just might disagree with you on this one.

If you want to go with FC, that’s fine. It’s your money and your future. I really don’t care.

If you truly don’t care if I or anyone else works with FC then why do you bad mouth them especially when you clearly don’t know squat about them.

Just consider the fact that the rest of the free world has completely shunned contractual mutual funds in favor of lower cost alternatives. Also consider the fact that the average joe doesn’t know squat about investing and selling them the most expensive product on the shelf as a used car salesmen is decried as unethical but somehow when you do it with investing it is ok. Maybe everyone else is wrong. Maybe the emperor isn’t really naked. Maybe FC has the secret sauce, even though the numbers just don’t reflect that. If you feel paying 200 for an oil change is acceptable, then fine go ahead and pay 10x what everyone else is paying.

I love your statement: “Also consider the fact that the average joe doesn’t know squat about investing…” . This is exactly why the service FC provides is so important especially when you consider most financial planning firms won’t give the average Joe the time of day when they’re just starting out.

Investing, btw is easy. You don’t have to read much at all. Just buy the market and forget about it. Split your money between the S&P 500, Nasdaq, and Wilshire 5000 and forget about it. You can set up a nice investment program on your own in a weekend.

You don’t get it. It doesn’t make any difference how simple or easy a task is to accomplish. A 6th grader can change the oil in a car yet millions pay Jiffy Lube every year. It’s all about choice and the fact thousands of families like mine have chosen to work with FC does not make it wrong. Besides, if it’s so damn easy then why are there tens of thousands of clueless lost people searching for guidance from absolute strangers on internet forums? If it’s so damn easy, why do people panic and do stupid things and sell AFTER the market has crashed and then wait until AFTER it’s recovered to move their money back in. Don’t tell me you don’t read these statistic…New Flash – Market Down…inflows to money funds at all time high, Market Up…money flowing back to mutual funds. Maybe, just maybe, if a FC rep can keep their client fully invested and continue to invest in a down market they will come out far better than the “average joe” trying to do it on their own. Even the best no load index fund in the world is worthless if you panic and sell…which millions of people unfortunately do.

You obviously have no concept of what it takes to be an individual investor. I have a life, friends, and family, AND my portfolio would trounce yours handily.

How juvenile. I bet when you were younger you went around claiming “ My dad can beat up your dad!”. Besides, just you don’t have the slightest clue what my portfolio looks like and your claim is as empty and meaningless as your claim that you have a clear understanding of FC.

Again, you go back to the professional qualifications bit. They don’t mean a thing other than you know the regulatory requirements and such.

Professional qualifications don’t mean a thing? Whoa, you mean a professional qualification like CFP! Let’s face it, all you have to do for your CFP is complete some correspondence courses and take a test. Just as you said “It doesn’t mean you know how to invest or make money.”
 
i couldnt resist to post a quick observation. in all fairness, i am a first command client and have been now for about 2 years. my parents were and are clients for a shade over 20. i was most struck when reading that the "anti" first commando's were just that "ANTI" everything about first command. the posts that were favorable were both supportive and understanding of others who wanted to do it themselves. speaking of bias - we can see to whom it belongs. in my particular case, my wife received a significant inheretance and because we were not really investing with FC or anyone (except TSP) at the time, i called USAA (i have auto insurance with them so i had their numbers and web access). after a phone discussion with one of their "investment advisors" we had that money in some nice little USAA mutual funds. off to war i go and am unable to do the additional research i wanted to do. when i get back and settled in with my family i looked into what i had and found that the "funds" contained HUGE amounts of bonds and whatnot - clearly NOT what i had indicated were our investment objectives. I thought my head was going to explode. on top of this, most of the few funds were essentially identical to each other. BOOM! i did look into having a professional and looked into both american express advisors and first command. the end result was we went with first command because they were much cheaper, and their long term planning strategies and associations with estate planning attorneys and tax professionals really helped us in the long term. but make no mistake, we paid them well, but we paid them MUCH MUCH less than the gentleman at american express. i take full responsibility for letting USAA screw me, and i take full responsibility in working with an exceptional company and the ROCKING returns we are experiencing now. if a person wants to do it themselves, i support that wholeheartedly. i have a pretty demanding career and a great little family, i would rather work those areas and not be mired in minutia. by the way, my final comment is that i have checked the regulatory record for first command, and NO ONE i could find can match their pristine record. Nick
 
To Jason et al,
Read that last posting very carefully. If everyone were to listen to you they’d have the impression the only people who would ever work with FC are either stupid, clueless, easily duped into being ripped off or are just plain lazy. This last poster comes across as none of those. He tried it on his own and it didn’t work for him. He looked into other financial planners and in the end found the COMPREHENSIVE analysis and evaluation provided by FC and the overall cost to be far superior to any other alternative. SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE. He sounds intelligent enough to try it on his own but just doesn’t want to. You know with these active duty guys they have other things on their minds…like GOING TO WAR. And even if he were a moderately successful do it yourselfer, what’s his widow going to do when he comes home in a flag draped casket? Get on line and get financial advice from a bunch of know it all strangers? Give me a fricken break. Fiduciary responsibility… yeah right, you people sling out your so called expert advice with absolutely no liability at all. FC provides a phenomenal service as evidenced by this young man. Take your blinders off guys, why don’t you just come to the realization that FC does provide great service. It may not be for you and that’s OK.

To the previous poster. Congratulations of seeing the advantages of FC. I can promise you, based on my own personal experiences, that you will be well served. Thank you for serving your country in a time of war to preserve the right of these other idiots to spew their venom. I encourage you to spread the word about FC and your experiences. Don’t be intimidated by these clueless know it alls. You’ll run across them all the time. By the way, God forbid you are killed; you can sleep at night with peace of mind that your personal FC rep will be there to help your wife in any way possible. I had a friend (who was a FC client) who didn’t come home alive. It was simply astounding what their FC rep did to help her. Her other options would have been get on the phone and talk to another USAA “counselor” or get on the internet and seek advice from complete strangers. Do you think they are in better hands with FC? Damn Straight. Again, thank you for your service and may God be with you and protect you.
 
Well I guess I am one of those dumb old military members that needed my pockets picked. I think back to 1984 and remember sitting down with my first FC Rep. I was all of Thirty Years old and an E-6/PO1. He asked me a simple question. How long did I want to work, or what year do you want to retire. Being a dumb military man I replied that I wanted to do my Twenty and go. Well after a rather broad smile he said let me clearify the question. So he asked at what age did I want to wake up in the morning knowing that I didn't have to go to work ... that my time was really mine and not an employer's. So I told him that Fifty Five was my target end retirement age. We agreed it was time that we needed to get started if I am reading these posting correctly "picking my pockets". That's when I started my "Financial Jurney". And yes I thought the Front Load was a hard pill to swallow. And yes Face-to-Face service every year does have meaning to some of us. I recall the first five years thinking I was loosing my butt. And some of you folks would agree. But, I listened carefully to the advise I was given and followed it fairly closely. Then on March 31, 1993 I put the Uniform on one last time. I was now a E-9/MCPO and I was ready to exit the military after serving Twenty Two years. Well now I am a civilian and I'm sitting rather perplexed trying to make heads or tails of a Corporate Benifits Package. My FC Rep sat me down at his table and again Face-to-Face made sence of the whole thing for me. And yes he probably could have "piicked my Pocket" again but, instead he explained something called Asset Allocation and Risk Assessment. And then, we put my 401K together. He could have helped himself to those dollars in a number of accounts that we already had established. But, instead he picked four Very Good performing Mutual Funds from Vanguard. Yes, we made sure that our IRA's were maxed out first. As a matter of fact instead of helping himself to those dollars in an existing Non-Deferred account he made absolutly sure that I was takeing advantage of every Tax Deferred investment possible. And, yes I still sit down with my FC Rep every year Face-to-Face and assess my progress. Oh, and by the way my FC Rep is a CFP. And. I would highly recommend that anybody that deals in a trust relationship with a Financial Planner make sure that that person has taken the time and effort to obtain CFP Certification. You make sure your Doctor, Lawer, Dentist and Auto Mechanic have certifications. Then why not your Financial Planner? I don't accept anything less. My portfolio is in very good shape. It is well diversified and the asset re-allocations that we execute yearly are holding their own very well in todays market. I have some of every investment product that FC sells, plus another half a dozen Vanguard funds in my 401K which my FC Rep counsels me one. And, when the company that I work for makes changes in the 401K I just pick up the phone and make an appointment, let my FC Rep review the changes and normally go with whatever changes he recommends. The bottom line here is that I have been an FC client for going on Twenty Years. I am comming up on Four Year to go before I get to my Retirement Goal Year, Fifty Fifth birthday in 2008. My FC Rep still has me maximizing the Tax Deferred accounts i.e. the "Catch Up" now that I am over Fifty. And I am nothing but confident that I am going to get to where I set my goal. I am very happy that I stayed the course. And, I do not think that any other organization would have gotten me here. But, then again none of them asked if they could help me either. And, I am dam sure I would not have done it on my own.

Just a Dumb Old Sailor that needed his Pocket Picked. Thank you First Command. you made the difference.
16/7/2004 LLL
 
Actually, my statement that Fidelity Destiny I has lagged the S&P 500 by more than 5 percent PER YEAR for the trailing 10 years was precisely correct. And as of this writing, it's still correct. Fidelity Destiny I trails the S&P 500's annualized record by 5.15 percent, as of April 3, 2005.

The argument was also true when first posted last summer.

These posters attempted to obscure the facts by ignoring the damning trailing returns figures and conflating them with rolling period returns: A very different measurement.

These people obviously know better: they seem to be bent on trying to confuse readers.

That's the kind of people First Command apparently tolerates.

Jason
 
First Command could have been a great company and filled a need by offering good financial advice to servicemembers.

Rather than rely on the quality of their service, advice, and products; First Command relied on deceit, lies, the respect given to the rank of its ex-military agents, keeping clients ignorant, and buying access to its market through sponsorship of military related events/programs/scholarships. And yes, First Command even relied on intimidation (the situation with First Command district agent James Provo and the USAF Captain he went after is not the first example of this type of behavior by First Command).

I always knew First Command had agent and profits foremost in mind, but I trusted them and stayed with them for a number of years. Frankly the way they handled this whole situation finally made me lose any shred of trust or respect I might have had for them.

Bad thing about a niche market where people value integrity and honesty--once your reputation is blown you've got a big hill to climb to gain it back again. It will be interesting to see where First Command is in a year or two.
 
That last post is odd. Every FC agent is a client first right? So am I to assume that they like screwing themselves? I mean, they are not BMW dealers driving around in Mercedes. They own all the same products they recommend. Why would someone deliberately try to screw up their own retirement?

Bottom line, I am a happy client because they got me investing and stayed on top of me to do what I needed done. I would be no where near where I am today. It is unfortunate that this happened to them, but hey, it is politics. How else can this whole NASD thing be explained? I mean, they have been selling front loads since the 1970's. If what they where doing was so bad, why did the government allow it to go on for so long? Something just doesn't seem to be right here. Besides FC is in good company. The SEC fined investment firms over $2.5 Billion dollars last year.

Life goes on. Not everyone will agree on FC, but at the end of the day, they are the only ones out there actively trying to get soldiers to invest. That alone, makes them a great company. Todd
 
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In order to succeed at anything,
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For example, if you want to be a
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Hi,

I was just looking around the net for web sites related to spirituality and relationship and came across your blog. I was going to add a blog to my site, for spirituality and relationship and of course other related material, but I'm not sure if it would work.
I'm a bit worried about getting un-wanted 'rude' posts rather than ones related to spirituality and relationship on my site...... perhaps I just try it out - then you can come and post on it :)

Take care
Stewart
 
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If possible, stay away from shopping malls.
High-dollar shopping malls have expensive
overhead and are designed to sell, sell, sell.
Prices are generally higher and in most cases,
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buying. It is better to shop at stand-alone
shops or on the Internet.

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