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Mark Levitt
By Mark Levitt

This article appeared originally in the October 2008 Levitt Letter.

Dear Mark,
My husband and I have always taken notice of your astute financial advice, though we’ve been slow to act. For the past few years, our full-service broker seemed to be doing well by us. This year we learned the hard truth that, as you said, no one cares more about our investments than we do. People also need to be aware of expense ratios and other fees. We recently celebrated our personal “Freedom Day” by moving our assets to Vanguard! Current market situations are not easy waters for investors to navigate, but at least we’ll have more choices and control.

Guarding our resources means having more to share. Thought you’d like to hear that your words of wisdom have made a big difference. Thank you!
P.H.

Dear P.H.—
“Experience is the best teacher, but if you can take advice, the tuition is less.” Congrats on seeing the light, and thanks for the kind affirmation.

Unfortunately, I paid full tuition with no scholarships to learn about the stock brokerage industry’s pitfalls. My brokerage firm’s systematic treachery and orchestrated perjury were astounding —but probably no worse than tactics used by other firms who fall all over themselves to propagate good-guy images. Only the loss of each of my parents grieved me more than the utter shamelessness with which my brokers mistreated me, my family (including Zola and my wife) and, worst of all, this ministry.

For months and years since 2000, I asked God why—“Why did You allow this pain in my life?” Finally the answer hit me like a ton of bricks: So that I could warn those who listen to this ministry. Now you, the reader, know the inspiration of this semi-monthly “Wise As a Serpent” series that began in Feb. 2007. To read the whole collection in one place, visit www.levitt.com/essays.

Many who read this newsletter are baby boomers, about to retire. Or maybe they received an inheritance that Wall Street insists should be entrusted to one of its wunderkind financial consultants. I respectfully beseech you to read through the ten prior “Serpent” articles, which begin with the basics of saving and not overbuying on houses and cars.

Rather than condemning stockbrokers as evil individuals, I declared that the industry is rigged with conflicts of interest that are against the small investor. I do not label the Vanguard employees who sell no-load, broadly diversified mutual funds as saints. I simply observe that they have reckoned with the folly of picking individual stocks or timing the purchases of investments.

The “Serpent” articles point to the wisdom of several seasoned experts. Please treat yourself to the pearls that I came upon too late to protect Zola, the rest of my family, and this ministry from Wall Street’s sweetly smiling barracudas.

P.S. Please note that this ministry has invested solely with Vanguard since 2001 in a “fund of funds.” Our modest cash reserves are tremendously diversified and have seen reasonably steady growth that abides with the parable in Matthew 25:14-30.

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