One of the problems that I’ve run into during my 40-plus years of writing about business, money and investing involves fear. I’m talking about people who should be investing now but are afraid to do so because they don’t have much market experience—and are terribly worried about losing money.
I first encountered this fear problem about 30 years ago, when my late broker offered my now-deceased parents what I considered a can’t-miss junk bond selling at a big discount from face value. It was an investment that my broker would normally have kept for his own portfolio; he offered it to my parents as a favor to me because we were friends, but he didn’t offer it to me.
My parents were afraid of losing money. So I came up with an idea: I guaranteed, via a kiss and a hug, to buy the bond back for what they had paid for it if its market value declined. If the bond’s market value rose, they would get to keep the profit—and, of course, would get to keep all the interest income the bond generated. Heads, my parents would win. Tails, they wouldn’t lose. (The issuer ultimately redeemed the bond at face value.)
On a handful of other occasions, I have given similar deals—I’ll buy it back for your out-of-pocket cost anytime you want—to people whom I love. And who needed the encouragement offered by the Allan Money-Back Guarantee. So far, it has worked out every time. The people who got the guarantee have all come out ahead, and I haven’t had to shell out a dime.
I have been very careful how often I offer this plan. Please note the word “handful” in the previous paragraph. Except on the first occasion, I have guaranteed only investments that I own, too, and in which I have confidence.
If you want to do what I did in order to help someone get started, here are some of my guidelines.
- You should offer the guarantee only to people who need it;
- you should make sure that it covers an investment in which you have confidence;
- and, most important, you should have the financial wherewithal to make your guarantee good without causing undue problems for yourself.
I have found this guarantee—what Wall Street types would call a put option—a useful tool. It has helped the guarantee recipients—and it made me feel good about being able to offer them help.
And that will do it, folks. This is the first installment in what Money.com and I hope will be an episodic series of useful, simple, practical investment-related ideas. I hope you find it helpful. Or at the very least, interesting.