Category Archives: Current Events

We Forgive You Mr. Madoff: Love, Advisors, Nonprofits, & Jewish Community

Dear Mr. Madoff,

We in the Investment Advisory, Nonprofit, and Jewish community forgive you (well maybe not EVERYONE) Let me explain:

About a week ago, I asked people if you could ever be forgiven for the crimes you have committed against charities who help to make others lives better, your own people in the Jewish community, and from advisers in the investment business (which happens to be the same business I’m in). I asked the question whether you could ever be forgiven, not because I believe that you ever will, but because I wanted to know because of my own sense of religious curiosity, whether someone who had committed the crimes you had could ever be forgiven in the eyes of god.

Prior to today, I wondered and questioned whether it was even plausible for someone who had the reputation that you did, to knowingly deceive your fellow Jews, charities who help people, and innocent investors who turned over their life savings to you. I didn’t think that anyone had it in them to be able to look someone squarely in the eye when someone turns over their life savings to you (lot of trust there right, I know, because I have these same conversations every day with people), and KNOW the way you DID that you were GOING to bankrupt them. You looked people in the eye knowing you were going to ruin them.  Whoever read my previous posting on this subject, please forgive me.

Today I learned the truth. You are a monster. You knew exactly what you were doing. Sometimes when the train has left the station, it’s difficult to admit when we have done something wrong. We may tend to ignore difficult things because we don’t like to deal with them, perhaps because we are afraid. Sometimes there are consequences for this.  That’s not what happened in your case though. With you, you knew what you were doing was wrong, you SAID you knew that one day it would catch up with you. Why would you CONTINUE to lure more victims when you knew would get caught? You took money from charities, Jewish ones, as a fellow Jew. You took from CHARITIES and gave to YOURSELF. The enemies of the Jews are rejoicing for what you have done. You ARE a terrorist of the worst kind. You ARE a monster.

Ruth Ann Harnisch and I exchanged a series of emails about you after she posted a comment on my article about you where I questioned whether it was possible for someone to knowingly do what you did. I couldn’t believe it. Perhaps I’m a softee and believe that people deep down want to do the right thing. Ruth Ann Harnisch didn’t think I was looking at reality. She was right. You are the monster. We already know that now though. The discussion that we proceeded to have is worth repeating to others. It has to do with forgiveness. This was the question that I had originally asked. Could you ever be forgiven? The answer we came to was YES.

The kind of forgiveness we are talking about is the same kind of forgiveness someone has when a serial killer murders their child. We forgive the act. We forgive, because WE don’t want to hold on to the poisonous venom that we feel for you for what you have done. We forgive because forgiveness is good for us, Mr. Madoff, not for you. Make no mistake Mr. Madoff, you ARE a murderer.

As I looked into “forgiveness” further, I came across the story about “casting the first stone”

The King James Version of the Bible, in John 8:1 – 11 scribes and Pharisees had caught a woman in the act of adultery (the woman commonly referred to as the prostitute) and told Jesus who was teaching in the temple that the Mosaic Law required she be stoned to death. Trying to make an opportunity of this to trick Jesus that they might accuse Him, they, with stones in hand, asked Jesus what He says about the Law. After Jesus tried to ignore their repeated questioning, He told them “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” One by one each man dropped his stone and walked away.

Jesus was not arguing with the judgment. Nor was Jesus arguing the law nor the woman’s guilt. Jesus was arguing with our right to execute the woman. Once all the men had dropped their stones Jesus confronted the woman and asked her if any of the men were still there to condemn her. When she answered “No man, Lord”, Jesus told her that neither did He – He forgave her of her sin. He did not excuse the sin of adultery/prostitution, he forgave her of it. All that is sinful before forgiveness is still sinful after forgiveness. Not only was Jesus not afraid to call a sin a sin, He was not afraid to call a sinner a sinner. He even reminded her of the sin of adultery/prostitution by telling her “Go and sin no more.”

I asked my Rabbi about the process of asking for forgiveness when you have committed a sin against another. He told me that in Judaism, part of  repentance is the process of providing some form of restitution. Another smart man named Randy Pausch, whose “The Last Lecture” became an instant classic about how to live said this; “When you do something bad and want to apologize, know that a good apology has three parts.  1) I screwed up 2) I’m sorry 3) (This is the part most people don’t do) How can I make it right?”

Today in court Mr. Madoff, I heard you say you screwed up, and that you were sorry. What I didn’t hear was any interest in making good on the wrong you had done. READ WHAT MADOFF TOLD THE JUDGE Fortunately for you Mr. Madoff, you will have a lot of time to figure out how to make it right. Frankly, I’m not interested and don’t really care what you do. I’ve learned that to forgive, does not necessarily mean you have to “receive” someone back into your life. So with that Mr. Madoff, I’ll let you know that I’ve forgiven you, and now I’m done with you.

“You Go, and Sin No More”

SINcerely,

Investment Advisors, Nonprofits, and your friends in the Jewish community

Read my earlier post Can Madoff Ever Earn Forgiveness?

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Filed under Current Events, FOUNDATIONS, INVESTING, NON-PROFIT & CHARITY

The 5 Steps to Buying Your Happiness in Recessionary Times

President Harry S. Truman once said; “Recession is when a neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours.” While you may not have lost your job, more than likely, there’s a good chance you have lost a lot of money in your portfolio and are probably wondering what to do. It doesn’t matter if you are a business, individual, or charity, it seems as if all groups have lost faith in the buy and hold philosophy, and many are beginning to wonder if their advisers are actually doing anything to help them. Before you fire your adviser, put everything into cash under your mattress, and hunker down for nuclear Armageddon, there are a few things you should understand about how investments ideally should work within your plan, the role of advisers on your team, and important questions you should be asking whether you invest on your own, or you have someone helping you.

Revisit Your Goals
What’s important to you? If you found out you only had 6 months to live, what would you want to do in your life? Try writing your own eulogy. How would you want to be remembered? What would you want people to say about you? By starting with the important questions of life, you can get a really clear gut check and determine if you are actually doing what you want to do in your life. What are the things that came up? Often, we have limiting assumptions about what is possible in life. We use phrases like; “Some time, some day, if only blah, blah, blah”. When you take the time to have these conversations with yourself (or an adviser), frequently our real values get uncovered and we identify things we’ve always wanted to do. For example, many people say, “I’d want to spend more time with family”, or “I’d want to travel”. Once you have a list of these things, then then think about the reasons or excuses you’ve been making on why now isn’t the time. Usually this sounds like “I don’t have the money”, or “I’m to busy”.

Prioritize Your Goals
OK, so if not now, when? How much is enough? When will be the day? Perhaps you’ve achieved success in your business but you simply just don’t want to be bored with a “traditional retirement”. The important thing to consider here is WHEN. While some goals might seem crazy, no worries, just write them down. Ideally, when would you want to spend more time with family? What would you do? Where would you travel? Start to create some ideal time frames for the things that you said were important to you. Don’t worry about whether you think they are realistic at this point, just recognize that spending more time with your family WOULD make you happy, and write it down. Keep doing this exercise until you have at least 10 items on your list. Once you have the items listed, then prioritize them in order of importance. I like using index cards to do this since it allows you to move things around as you think of new things. Now ask yourself which of your goals you would be willing to give up in exchange for achieving the most important ones. Once you have completed this exercise, you have the foundation of a very powerful life plan for yourself. Now the question becomes how to pay for it.

Buy Your Happiness
OK, so how the heck do you do that right? “But I always thought…,blah, blah, blah”…Stop. Yes, money CAN buy happiness. I know,… I had you at hello, right? Here’s the thing about that…Having money will NOT make you happy, however figuring out what makes you happy, (as we discovered above in the “eulogy” exercise) formed the basis of your new plan. Now that you know what DOES make you happy, (spending more time with family, giving back to society, etc., now the question becomes, how do I use my wealth to buy those things for myself? Before you go postal on me, ask yourself, how much would it cost to leave your job so you can spend more time with family? What’s preventing it now? Perhaps you answered that making a difference in the world would make you happy? Well how much does it cost to make a difference? How much time do you want to spend making a difference? What’s preventing you from doing that now? OK, so your job is preventing that, how much do I need to have in order to “retire” so I can do the things that are important to me. Are you following all this? The point of this is to start to think about what it will cost, both personally, and financially to achieve your most important goals.

Position Your Finances
More than likely, taking less risk with your investments was one of your goals, (aka “Sleeping at night). During our exercise with the index cards, I asked you to prioritize how important your goals were to you. Where did investment risk fall in that conversation? The question really is, “What are you willing to do to reduce the risk in your portfolio?”. I think an even bigger question is, “How much risk do you really need to take in order to achieve your objectives?”. In my experience, investors are quite familiar with the question, “What’s your risk tolerance”, but most people have no idea how to answer that objectively. I have good news for you. Now that you know exactly what makes you happy, what your priorities are, and what you are willing to give up in order to achieve them, you’ve just answered what I believe is the most important question in planning; “How much, by when”.

Get Help when Needed
The fact is, we as investors usually don’t take the time to do these exercises, but now more than ever is the time to start. You have to know where you are, and what corrections you can make to get you back on track to achieving what’s important. If you don’t know how to do that, find a good adviser who can. If you have an adviser, talk to them about what you discovered about your goals and see how they can help you achieve them. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing this with your adviser, perhaps it’s time to find another.

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Filed under Current Events, ECONOMY, FINANCIAL PLANNING, INVESTING, Law of Attraction, NON-PROFIT & CHARITY, SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Can Bernard Madoff Earn Forgiveness?

For months now, we’ve taken great comfort in reminiscing and sharing in our disgust of Bernard Madoff, and as Rabbi Marc Gellman of “The God Squad” put it in his “Open Letter to Madoff” in Newsweek, his “financial terrorism” against his own, and against charities who do good for others is “an abomination”.

Earlier today, I had a discussion with Deborah Coltin, Executive Director of the Robert I. Lappin Foundation who was one of the charities that was bankrupted by Bernard Madoff. I was interested in speaking to her because I had been intrigued with an article she wrote that I came across on eJewishphilanthropy.com where she discussed in detail how Bernard Madoff came into the life of Lappin, and then bankrupted the foundation. While this is a story that has been repeated over and over, this one was different. It came as no surprise to me, but it was the first one that I had seen that proved to me that I might be onto something. You see, the Robert I. Lapin Foundation is rising like a phoenix from the ashes, fueled purely by the passion of its employees and of Mr. Lappin himself, an 80 something year old man with left with little, who said, “I will not quit”. Shortly after seeing this story, I saw another story about Elie Wiesel’s foundation vow to rebuild from the ashes. From these two stories, I made a gentleman’s bet with my friend Robert Powell who writes for Marketwatch. I bet Bob a dollar that we would continue to see more stories of these charities rebuilding from ruin, and passion overcoming what others see as impossible. What drives these people? What lessons do they have to teach us?

At some point in life, we all will take a look and ask the important questions. Did I lead a good life? How will people remember me? Did I make a difference? What I have I recognized in these stories, and in others like my friend Jim Maclaren, one of my heroes, is that we define our limits in life. Nobody controls our destiny, not even Bernard Madoff.

So the topic of this article was “Can Bernard Madoff Earn Forgiveness?”. Can he? As a member of the Jewish community, I shared the disgust and outrage felt by so many others. It is my opinion that Bernard Madoff did not know or have any ability to comprehend the harm his actions could have on charities, and his own people. To allow my mind to think otherwise would be to go to a place reserved only for the true monsters in history. I cannot allow myself to believe that a man would knowingly line his own pockets at the risk of what has actually come to pass. Ask yourselves, did anyone foresee the financial meltdown in the markets that has actually occurred. While a few people might have, the financial community at large did not. I believe that Madoff’s greed caught up with him when he could no longer hide what he was doing. I don’t believe he ever could have anticipated his greed would have harmed so many people. I have to believe this for my own sanity and peace of mind.

So as Bernard Madoff sits in his cell reflecting on what he has done, I must imagine he is remorseful. It pains me inside to think of what kind of pain he must be going through. For those who have been hurt by him, this is likely the kind of pain they and other members of the Jewish community wish on him for all eternity. I began thinking, regardless of whether one is Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, or Hindu, I believe that religion makes room for those who repent and express remorse for what they have done. From a scholarly perspective, I began to wonder what would God say? What would Bernard Madoff have to do in the eyes of God to be forgiven for perpetrating such harm on his fellow Jews and on his fellow man. My next question is aimed at the Jewish community. If Bernard Madoff consulted with rabbinical leaders and made good in the eyes of what Judiasm deems as acceptable, would it be enough? While we would all be quick to say “no”, think about that one and get back to me.

Are some crimes so outrageous that no good deed can repair the damage, regardless or how much remorse is shown? Is Bernard Madoff doomed to Hell, or can he earn forgiveness? What do you choose to remember, Madoff, or the stories of heroes who are brushing themselves off after being knocked down. Do we in the Jewish community have responsibility to all lend our hand and right the wrong that has been done? We all have a little hero in us don’t we? I prefer to hang in the company of heroes who know that ordinary people achieve the extraordinary and know that one person can make a difference. The secret is, life’s a lot more fun when you let your passion lead the way in good times and bad.

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Nonprofit Recession Survival Guide to Getting Donations

First the markets, then Madoff, now the Obama administration is proposing reductions in the charitable tax deduction for your biggest donors. What else could possibly go wrong? Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the snow day and nobody came to work. One thing is for certain; raising funds in the current environment is much more difficult that it was last year at this time. Here are some specific suggestions and things to keep in mind as you talk to donors:

Speak the Unspoken Truth
Personally, I like this tactic. Call it like it is. What are the most powerful four words in the English language? “I NEED YOUR HELP”. Talk to your existing donors about what is happening and the state of your organization. Tell them you need help. Let your donors know how the current environment is impacting your organization.

Be Specific With The Ask
This is something that is always a good idea. Even before the mess the last year, donor fatigue was certainly an issue. I believe that in general, nonprofits do a poor job marketing themselves when it comes to being specific about their accomplishments, how donations help, and making specific connections between the ask and the impact. Kiva.org is the opposite of everything I just said. Their supporters choose the cause (lending to a specific entrepreneur who needs a loan), and Kiva reports back on the status of the loan from the individual it was given to. It’s a terrific example of the donor getting involved directly with the cause that they support. Strategic, venture, or tactical philanthropy; call it what you want, people have been demanding more accountability in recent years. This trend towards greater accountability and transparency is only likely going to increase. Help your donors go from a “spray and pray” approach go giving, to being focused and knowing exactly what they are giving to.

Create A Donor Adviser Panel
Invite your top donors into a room for a “Manhattan Project” style round table. The objective of the group is not to gang up on them and tell them how badly you need their money, but to come together and brainstorm new ideas for raising funds. Let them know how much you have appreciated their past support and you are offering them a “no money required” way to help make a huge difference with the organization. Ally you want is their input. Not only will they feel appreciated, do you think there might be a possibility they could cough up a little extra after sitting in on that? If I were a betting man, I’d say your odds are pretty good. That’s not the objective though. Remember that. You are after their ideas and things you are not thinking about right now.

Address Financial Fear
Your donors are shell shocked with what’s going on in the markets now. Everyone is. Do you want to be someone’s hero? Address this head on. This is the one I think that nonprofits have traditionally been the most uncomfortable with. Even large organizations that have planned giving departments have struggled with “the line of control” that exists between donors and their professional advisory team. While planned giving folks want to “get that seat at the table”, and be INVOLVED in the conversation with the financial adviser, attorney, or CPA at the time giving decisions are being made, often they are not. Understand that there is a line, and there should be. Generally speaking, the unspoken truth is that donors know that planned giving officers have one motive, to get money for their organization. This is nothing new though, so what?

The real opportunity to be a hero here is to talk about some of the things that donors are afraid of now and things that they can do to feel more financially secure. The number one concern of the wealthy is that they will lose what they have. While this has always been the biggest concern, the fear is now being realized. Understand that unless your donors feel financially secure, they will likely not give at the levels they had given previously. You cannot help them feel more secure, but you can make recommendations that will. One of the things that’s at the top of the list is recognizing that donors and high net worth clients traditionally have had multiple advisers giving them advice. Their accountant is discussing their returns, their attorney discusses their will (or might not have in a while), and their “financial adviser” is talking only about their investments. Most people have no idea who they should be talking to about the big picture and their ability to achieve what’s important to them.  No wonder you have such a hard time getting a seat at the table, that’s because there usually IS NO table. The advice your donors receive is sporadic and fragmented in professional silos and generally NOBODY is discussing the big picture! Markets aside, the tax changes occurring are faster than the drop in their portfolio value and now is a good time for them to be meeting with their team to reassess where they are and reevaluate their goals.

The key to success lies in your ability to have a trusted relationship with your donor, understand what attracted them to you, what inspires them, what they are afraid of, and how to connect them with the appropriate resources who can help them achieve everything that’s important to them. To the extent you make yourself a master networker and not make it about you and your cause, you’ll be a hero. Ask your donors, “How can I help, YOU?”

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Does Obama Owe the Nonprofit Community an Explanation?

I’ve been discussing Obama’s proposed tax changes reducing mortgage interest and charitable contribution deductions with just about every intelligent person I know who has been following this story. Not one person I talked to can make a rational arguement as to how this directly benefits anybody. I consider myself to be a pretty open minded guy and I want to know what I am missing here. You would think there would be a good reason for this.

I’ve had a few comments from people that it’s necessary to roll back some of the tax benefits that the rich have enjoyed under Bush and bring them back to levels that are Clintonlike. Some have said that the rich can afford to pay more in taxes, while others have said that cutting the charitable contribution deduction won’t impact giving levels all that much. I’ve described myself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal and while I do support adding to education, healthcare, and alternative energy, I haven’t been able to see how cutting the deductions on real estate and charitable contributions fit into the big picture.

These tax issues will only impact indivudials who earn over $250,000 per year in income, so sure, why not take more from the rich for other things. Folks, you are missing my entire point. You might even be surprised to hear that I support raising income taxes (BLAH!!!! Rich, you are no fiscal Republican you CLOSET LIBERAL!!!). Whoa, hold on a sec…I never said that people who have or make more shouldn’t pay more in taxes. That arguement has no part of this conversation so drop it. Second, forget whether this will only have a MINOR impact on giving and people will still give because, yes, most people give because they want to, not only for tax purposes. Folks, I’m with ya here too. Totally agree. Just explain to me what benefit we will see from cutting the deductions on mortgage interest and charitable contributions.

Ok, let’s start with the mortgage issue. For one thing, wasn’t real estate the source of the mess we’re in now? (Don’t start with “No it was those greedy folks on wall street” either). If we want to sove the real estate mess, one of the things we need to do is stop the decline in home prices. How do we do that? Prices will stabilize when credit markets open up and people begin buying again. How do you get people to start buying again? Don’t we want to get investors back into the market? How do we do that? Hmmm…Let’s see…How do you get your children to want to do something? Special treats? Any parents out there? Do you use treats to drive you children’s behavior? How about an incentive to purchase real estate? How about INCREASING the deduction for mortgage interest? How about offering INVESTORS (THE WEALTHY ONES) MASSIVE INCENTIVES to put money into real estate. How about not just limiting it to mortgage interest? Perhaps throw some other goodies in there. While I’m certainly not suggesting that we create a tax incentive aimed only at the wealthy, wouldn’t you agree that this would be a pretty juicy “scheme” to get those “greedy rich folks” to put some of their “bad money” into some of those empty bank owned homes that ar lowering propery values in our neighborhoods. Hmmm, not such a bad idea…I suggest creating some kind of similiar incentives to restore the health of the non-profit community. While we don’t live in a charity (although your spouse or your mother might disagree with you), charities provide a vital role in American society. Without a healthy and thriving nonprofit community, the services that they provide would either go away, or require the government to provide those services. I ask again; doesn’t that sound like a very “big government” agenda to you?

Ok, so the long and short question I pose to you is this: Regardless of what income bracket these rules would impact, does it make ANY sense to you to be removing incentives to investments in sectors that are among the leaders lagging the economy? Am I missing something here because this doesn’t seem to make one bit of sense to me. I certainly don’t claim to know everything since I’m just a Certified Financial Planner Professional, not a politician who knows much more than I. I really do like Obama and what he stands for and what he wants to do for healthcare, energy independence, and education. These areas are broken in my view. These are important issues for the nation and ones that I relate to personally. Frankly,  I don’t think that the Republicans have these issues on their agenda and about the only reason I’m a regiestered Republican is because I generally agree with their economic agenda. To be completely honest with you, I’ve never been registered with either party until this year’s presidential election when I became a Republican and voted for Obama. How’s that one for ya? I like to keep ya thinkin…

Ok, so now you know my concerns and questions. Anyone want to explain this to me? Anyone want to start a new political party?

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Is Obama’s Plan to Cut Charitable and Mortgage Deductions Really Stimulus?

The news is out. President Obama announced plans to cut the deductions for charitable contributions and mortgage interest incurred for Americans who earn more than $250,000 per year and raise the top tax bracket from 35% to 39.6%. I have some very sharp opinions about this proposal. For the sake of full disclosure, I voted for Obama but am a registered Republican. I vote issues and people, not along party lines. You might say I am socially liberal but fiscally conservative. That said, I have big problems with this proposal. Watch a CBS News Video about the plan here.

When I went to school to become a Certified Financial Planner Professional™, economics was one of the things they taught. Specifically, they discussed the role that taxes play within the government, how the Fed and IRS work, and how it is the job of the Executive Branch to drive an agenda through tax policy. Generally speaking, I believe Republicans perceive that adjusting taxes downward equals growth through increased investment, while Democrats view taxes as a way to redistribute wealth. While this is a simplistic way of looking at things, this is exactly the way I see the proposed tax changes that Obama introduced.

I believe that changes in tax policy direct our actions. For example, generally given the choice of withdrawing money from an IRA versus a taxable brokerage account, I would typically recommend that people first take from the taxable account because capital gains rates are typically lower than ones income tax rate that they would be subject to if withdrawing funds from the IRA account. The tax benefit drives the actions. Add a 10% penalty for an early withdrawal on top of an ordinary income tax rate, and the IRA quickly becomes the funding source of last resort. Taxes and penalties drive the behaviors of Americans. Good tax policy is meant to create healthy economies. That is exactly the opposite of what Obama’s proposal does.

Charities are struggling to keep their heads above water right now and the housing market has already gone under. The housing mess is the most pressing issue facing the economy in my view. While the government struggles to pay for all of the various “stimulus” packages, charities that provide essential services for the needy, the arts, and everything else are closing their doors in record numbers due to a combination of losses incurred from the stock market and lost donations from their donor base. In my opinion, the last thing the Obama administration should be doing is creating ANY disincentives away from charitable donations or from mortgage deductions. While some may say that this only impacts the wealthy, we all know how Wall Street has come to Main Street in the last year.

Mr. President, you should be INCREASING the mortgage and charitable deductions to INCENT people into these areas, not reducing them. Rich, poor, it doesn’t matter because while these initiatives may not take effect for some time, perception is reality when it comes to human assumptions. The dire economic situation that the nonprofit and real estate sectors face need all the help they can get in order to be put back on a more solid footing. I believe in the end, these moves do nothing but exacerbate an already bad situation in two of the areas that now require the most help.

Traditionally, charitable contributions have served as a great way to reduce taxes and everyone won. Charities provided services that the government wasn’t as good at providing, Americans got a tax deduction for funding them, and the government didnt’ have to do that job. Everyone won. By changing this balance now with charities struggling already, this will mean less donations, force charities to close due to ANOTHER financial setback caused by poor government policy, and put the onus of providing the services that these charities provided, squarely back on the government’s shoulders. This sounds like a very Democratic thing to do from a fiscal standpoint. As a fiscally conservative Republican, I fear the consequences this will have on the system at a time of such economic distress. There are lots of things I don’t agree with in the Republican party (like energy and environmental policies for one), but when it comes to this proposal, I would never side with the Democrats on this. It stinks.

Last year, I wrote a review of  a terrific book called  “Who Really Cares?”, about the giving habits of Americans, and specifically, Republicans versus Democrats. Since we are on the subject. It might be a good refresher for those thinking about cutting areas that impact giving. It was a great book that anyone interested in this subject should read.

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Filed under Current Events, ECONOMY, ESTATE PLANNING, FINANCIAL PLANNING, FOUNDATIONS, INVESTING, NON-PROFIT & CHARITY, TAX

Council on Foundations Report: 28% Decline in Assets, Changing Investment Managers

A February 2, 2009 report published by the Council on Foundations showed that foundation assets had declined by 28% in 2008 among the 127 respondents who completed the survey. While the report points out that the decline included both grants and losses due to investment performance, questions remain about how foundations should invest money in an investment climate that continues to remain uncertain. The report highlights the fact that while many foundations had not made changes to their overall investment strategy, most were making changes to the investment managers, diversification, or overall risk levels in their portfolios.

Foundations are changing Investment Managers

  • 90% of foundations reported using outside investment managers
  • 48.6% of foundations had either changed, or were considering changing investment managers
  • 67% of foundations with assets greater than $100 Million had either changed, or were considering changing managers
  • Larger foundations (greater than $100 Million) were more likely to switch investment managers (67% vs. 41%) compared to smaller foundations under $100M

Increased use of Investment Policy Statements

  • 96% of foundations with assets greater than $25 Million had a written investment policy statement
  • Of those with written policies, 25% had reported changing their written policies since June 30, 2008
  • Smaller foundations with less than $100 Million were more likely to have changed their written policies
  • Use of written investment policies up among all groups

The report also pointed out that there was a significant trend toward attempting to lower investment fees, and a shift away from equity investments in favor of more conservative fixed income or cash. Nearly 41% of foundations surveyed held an average of almost 8% in hedge funds, although the report did not mention what impact if any the Bernard Madoff reports were having on hedge fund investments.

Richie’s Bottom Line:

Based on these findings, it appears that foundations are in panic mode. While most went into 2008 having written investment policy statements with their investment managers, foundations are giving them their pink slips anyway.  This begs a few questions in this manger’s view:

  • Do foundations understand what’s in their investment policy statement?
  • Is the investment dog wagging the foundation strategy or does the foundation strategy drive the investment mix?
  • Does the investment team have a meaningful relationship and understanding of where the foundations program objectives are or are they just being hired to manage a model portfolio allocation?

In my opinion, these are some of the critical questions that foundations should be asking as they make decisions about their advisors. While performance, fees, and written policies  seem to go without saying here, the real question foundations should be asking is; “Do I feel loved?” While that may seem like a silly question, it’s really no different than any other relationship. Do they love me for who I am or only for my money? How can you tell? Come on, you don’t really need me to answer that do you? Ok, fine I will… next time…“How to tell if my investment manager loves me”.

Click here to see the complete Council on Foundations Report

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Filed under Current Events, ECONOMY, FINANCIAL PLANNING, FOUNDATIONS, INVESTING, NON-PROFIT & CHARITY, SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP