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Lessons From Bernie

By Dian Vujovich

With Bernie Madoff about to learn his sentence for pulling off the biggest Ponzi scheme in American history, his future isn’t bright but his past actions got me thinking about the basics of money and investing and what we all can re-learn from his despicable behavior.

Let’s start with” Crime doesn’t pay.” Okay, sometimes it does but usually not for long. So while it did for him and his investors for a while, time and crime have a way of catching up with most of its perpetrators.

Sir Walter Scott’s, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” couldn’t be more accurate.

As is, “If something seems too good to be true it probably is.” Remember that one the next time an investment-type calls and tries to sell you a 15 percent guaranteed annual return when the stock market is in the tank and government fixed-income products are topping out at 5 percent.

“Bulls make money. Bears make money. Pigs get slaughtered.” And how piggy are you?

Then there’s a French proverb that goes like this, “There are more fools among buyers than sellers.” The lesson here: Educate yourself. Buyers, i.e. investors, generally know less about an investment product than its sellers.

We can throw in Ben Franklin’s, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest ” to reiterate that point.

And perhaps the most important investment lesson to remember from the Bernie debacle is to remember. Unfortunately, that’s likely to be forgotten as Roman Abramovich so poignantly points out in these few words: “Investors have very short memories.”

Don’t forget that one.

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