Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: I Hired an Idiot to Manage My Money

Well, not those exact words, but that was the sentiment behind it. Offering some life advice for a younger version of himself in an Esquire column, retired NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar provided some poignant anecdotal evidence on investing.

Allowing someone else to manage your money is a huge leap of faith. Psychologically, letting go of control of something as important as a retirement nest egg or a child’s tuition is difficult. On the other hand, good financial planning is difficult. Improperly investing that cash means it could not grow enough to satisfy future needs — or worse, a bad investment could result in losses.

There is no secret formula to investing. Good investors pursue strategies more like artists than scientists (though scientific tools are certainly applied), and the process of the most successful money managers in the business is notoriously difficult to emulate. What works for one investor may not, and probably will not, work for another. Every person has their own investment goals, and has to bushwhack a new trail in order to get there.

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But most people have little — if any — time for bushwhacking. It’s not realistic for someone who works full time to also juggle children, a hobby, or a social life alongside the hours and hours of thought and research it takes to pursue a truly competent investment strategy. This is why money managers exist, and in the pursuit of saving time people turn to financial advisers and trust them with the fate of their assets.

Unfortunately, but not too surprisingly, this does not always go over so well.