Too Many Americans Invest From The Back Row



“We are a divided country, split along race and class. The divide is at its core about having different concepts of value and personal meaning.”  Chris Arnade, Divided by meaning

This statement accurately describes the investor schism in our nation.

Simply put, front-row investors run the world, while those in the rear are barely surviving.

For advisors, like myself, who deal with some clients sporting seven-figure portfolios, a hard dose of reality can be the pause that refreshes.

  • According to, 63% of Americans don’t have enough funds to cover a $500 emergency.
  • has found that one-third of all Americans have a grand total of ZERO saved for retirement.
  • According to the Russell Sage Foundation, the typical American household has a net worth 14% lower than in 1984.
  • The number of children living with one parent or none has doubled since the 1970s.
  • The obesity rate has tripled in this time period.
  • 8 million people have spent time behind bars at some point in their life, compared to 1.5 million over the 40 years previous.

To call these individuals “investors” is a stretch to say the least. The distinction between the haves and have-nots in our country is striking.

These stats are my personal reality check to keep me grounded and put things in perspective when “problems” like 0.25% interest-rate increases or Apple’s “missed earnings” create angst and breed predictions of the apocalypse (among the ivory tower sect, anyway).

Here are some stark contrasts between those at the front of the line and the majority filling the back rows of financial hopelessness and despair:

  • Front-row investors have diversified global portfolios and have set-up charitable foundations.
  • Back-row investors have a collection of part-time jobs and work on Christmas Day.
  • Front–row investors have qualified financial planners, estate attorneys, and accountants to guide them to a happy and healthy retirement.
  • Back-row investors deal with aggressive debt collectors, pay-day loan companies, and triple-digit short- term interest rates.
  • Front-row investors read books, travel, and discuss the problems of the poor.
  • Back-row investors far too often turn to drugs and alcohol as an escape from a brutal reality.
  • Front-row investors join gyms and have personal trainers.
  • Back-row investors take care of their elderly, sick relatives and hope to God someone will do the same for them.
  • Front-row investors have life coaches and birthday parties for their dogs.
  • Back-row investors sometimes follow demagogues because they are terrified about the future and feel no one is looking out for their best interests.
  • Front-row investors enjoy almost 100% of the gains from such things as globalization and short-term shareholder value maximization.
  • Back-row investors are downsized, take pay cuts, and have their jobs outsourced.
  • Front-row investors often send their children to expensive private universities and protest charter schools.
  • Back-row investors enter lotteries to secure a place in a charter program but often have to send their kids to the same inner city public schools that are the subject of  movies, due to the violence and mayhem that take place there.
  • Front-row investors see their wealth increase and incomes expand.
  • Back-row investors see only stagnation in all aspects of their finances.

I don’t know what the answers are to these issues and evidently, neither do the two candidates running for our nation’s highest office

If people had faith in their solutions we would not see the combined record disapproval rates that both nominees possess.

What I do know, as a financial advisor, the least of our nation’s problems are the average person’s stock portfolio performance.

Maybe just understanding this simple concept can make a difference to someone stuck in the back row.

After all, understanding that there is a problem is the first step toward solving it.

One thing is certain, if these problems that affect the majority of our citizens are not addressed, those in the front row may have much more to worry about than the performance of the S&P 500.

Like Norman Cousins once said, “History is a vast early warning system.”

The warning signs are there, we need to listen to them.


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