Hands-On Investing

From the title, I was hoping the New York Times was actually going to profile investors who give as much thought to ownership as they do to buying and selling. (Financial Advisers Want Hands-On Investors – NYTimes.com, 2/9/2011)

United Capital Financial Partners to serve people who had $500,000 to $10 million, but to really concentrate on clients with $1 million to $2 million. Still, he said he would take on clients only if they were willing to take an active role in managing their money.

Making people take responsibility for managing their wealth is now emerging as a shared goal of both the brokerage firm and the advisory community.

So far, so good. Maybe clients with a reasonable cushion will want to be involved with the companies they invest with, thinking beyond the next quarter.

“When we started United Capital, we realized people have the wrong financial goals,” said Brandon Moss, a managing director in the firm’s Dallas office. “They want to beat the S.& P. 500. If after this, they still say, ‘Let’s beat the S.& P. 500,’ then we haven’t done a good job of creating the right financial goal.”

Great, I thought, the firm wants to help its clients realize money is a tool, not an end in itself. However, when I read to the end it turns out, the bottom line was asset allocation.

She remained engaged in managing her money for one simple reason: she wanted to have enough to live out her retirement and not be a burden to her family. If that does not get people involved, what will?

How about the idea that she can “not be a burden” to not just her family but to humankind in general? Maybe by helping their client be involved as an owner in the companies she invests in, United Capital could help her do far more than she has dreamed for decades. Aging baby-boomers, especially those with the target $1-2 million to invest, could learn to reach back to the ideals of their youth. They can certainly invest to beat or approximate returns of the S&P 500, or to take a less risky path. They can also use those dollars invested to amplify their voice, transforming the world into a better place for their families and other families as well.

To the investors attracted to the model of being “hands-on,” I would recommend that you spend a little time investigating other sources of investing advice, such as Newground Social Investments. You might also want to check out the United States Proxy Exchange, which is helping investors utilize what levers investors have to transform how corporations are governed. Consider working with them and other organizations, such as ShareOwners.com.

Find working to transform the rules too distant or theoretical? Then consider spending some time with those who are primarily focused on environmental and social issues. The Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility has been working for forty years to achieve “a global community built on justice and sustainability through transformation of the corporate world by integrating social values into corporate and investor actions.” Hands-on investing can be so much more than not burdening your family. Think bigger; get your feet wet too.

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