How My Wife’s 401(K) Ended My Retirement
Dear Wall Street Daily Reader,
I retired in 1999, hoping to spend the rest of my days relaxing and playing tennis…
I had worked almost nonstop for more than 30 years on Wall Street up to that point. During my career, I developed the now ubiquitous “Chaikin Money Flow” oscillator…
Now, as a regular investor, you likely haven’t used the tool in your personal financial research. But today, the Chaikin Money Flow is built into the world-famous Bloomberg Terminal… And Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg’s major competitor, has it on tap as well.
Traders use the Chaikin Money Flow to get a read on the money moving behind the price action of a stock. And by the late 1990s, it had become an industry-standard tool.
So by 1999, I had spent my life’s work collecting and interpreting financial data. It had paid off… And I was ready for a life filled with tennis, books, and relaxation.
In short, life was good… I was enjoying my retirement, and our wealth was still growing.
Then, 2008 came along…
“Marc, I’m paying him to ride my account to zero”…
That’s what Sandy said to me midway through 2008. And it changed everything for me.
You see, my wife Sandy retired with me in 1999. After working as vice president at beauty-products company L’Oréal for several years, she built her own business in marketing and consulting. And fortunately, her business was still growing in 1999.
Despite my Wall Street successes, we managed our retirement funds separately. And since her business was getting bigger, she didn’t have much free time on her hands. So it made sense for Sandy to pay an expert to look after her retirement.
Sure, the fees were high. But as the overall market rose throughout the early 2000s, the fees didn’t seem that important. Sandy was busy with her business… And her retirement nest egg was growing alongside it.
But as the financial crisis set in, Sandy’s 401(k) account was bleeding value almost every day. And at the time, it looked like there was no end in sight…
To make matters worse, her high-fee active manager didn’t want to talk to her… The few times she was able to get him on the phone, he was dismissive.
Then, something incredibly ominous happened…
On September 16, 2008, money market accounts “broke the buck.” That’s the fancy way of saying that money-market savings accounts – which were supposed to be safe places to generate income – were now losing money.
I vividly remember the exact words I told Sandy at the time… “This means we’re in deep trouble.”
I called my friend, Bill Griffeth. He was CNBC’s Closing Bell host at the time.
“Marc, what’s going on? We’re just about to air,” Bill asked me. He hadn’t heard the news about the money-market accounts yet. It stunned him.
Even worse for us, Sandy’s actively managed account was down much more than the overall market at the time… It was sitting on losses of about 50% at that point, while the broader market was down about 20%.
Sandy’s portfolio manager didn’t know what to do. And Sandy wanted out – rightfully so.
This situation is what kicked me out of retirement. It woke me up to the fact that plenty of regular folks were getting hosed. And while I’d created tools in my career to help Wall Street, I hadn’t done much to help out the little guy.
So I came out of retirement with a simple goal… To figure out how to help individual investors.
It inspired me to found Chaikin Analytics and create the Power Gauge. Tomorrow, I’ll share more about both.