A few days ago, I, your humble servant, flew from LAX to Denver and from Denver to (as I thought) Fargo, North Dakota. The best part of the trip by far was sitting next to my beautiful and saintly wife. The second best part was meeting an astoundingly gorgeous Fox News fan named Sara Bard at my gate at LAX. Her husband owns an Italian restaurant in Nashville. She loves Cavuto and she's a knockout. How bad can it be? The trip went great until we got on our little Embraer to Fargo--and the Embraer was in no way the problem. The problem was that the airplane before us on approach to the Fargo airport had an electrical failure. This prevented its landing gear from deploying. The airplane had to land on its belly on the runway.
That meant the runway was closed so we poor hapless people on the following flight had nowhere to go. Airlines now have their planes fly with little fuel because fuel is expensive and heavy and they don't want to make the plane more expensive to operate. (This seems to me to be a major safety hazard, by the way.) So, we could not circle to see what happened. Instead, we were diverted to Grand Forks. There we sat on the ground until we refueled. Then, back to Fargo to land on the secondary runway.
The pilot, a sincere former Navy pilot from Puerto Rico, said that frankly he considered the secondary runway to be marginal but he would do his best and it would be fine. This scared me to death.
Because I am a commentator, among the thoughts that ran through my mind were these: "What would be the last thoughts I should tell my readers?"
I came up with a few. One is about Wall Street. Yours truly has spent much of his life following Wall Street. For many years, I wrote long exposes of questionable deals for Barron's, the great financial news weekly. And I was the victim of some questionable deals, where management basically stole our company from us.
But in my long years of dealing with Wall Street brokerages, I have never been mistreated by my brokers. I started as a very small client of Merrill Lynch when I was 12 and have had an account there since then. My father and mother had accounts there starting in the 1940s. We never had even the faintest suspicion of a problem.
I have an account in Virginia (inherited from my parents). The broker is a man named Robert Lobban. I have never met him and the account is trivial but he's always available. I have a larger but by no means large account in Los Angeles with a man named Kevin Hanley whom I have known since he was a child. His main colleague is a young fellow named Jerry Au. Both of them are available and helpful and straightforward at any hour day or night. They have assistants whom I have never laid eyes on named Anie Garapetian, Kristie Rivera, and Raul Hernandez. These are people of Wall Street and I would trust them with my last nickel. They have helped me with mortgages, investments, figuring out where to take money for taxes. They are Johnny on the Spot.
I have accounts at Fidelity. They are always available on the phone even at three in the morning. They are so inexpensive they might as well be free. I have a planner who works through them although he's independent. His name is Phil DeMuth. I would trust him with my kidneys.
Much of what I have invested I have through an investment firm called DFA, here in Southern California. They are thorough, incredibly efficient and effective , and seem to me to cost almost nothing.
I have a friend named Ray Lucia who talks a lot on the radio about finance. He has forgotten far more than I ever knew about personal finance. I often appear on the same platform with him at his events and we get paid by the same entity. He's been as honest with me as anyone could be. I am not a client of his, but I have learned an amazing amount from him.
My point is not to sell you on these people or firms. They all have plenty of business and don't need any more. I mention their names so they can frame this article and put it on their walls. My point is that with all of the talk about criminals in finance -- and I am sure there are plenty -- my experience with these big and small players has been superb. There are many fine men and women out there who can help you with your money. You have to look, get references, look up their records, but if you do, you will find people who will hold your hand even in these difficult times and guide you through the dark forests of money.
It's good not to be alone.
By the way, we landed without a hitch on the alternate runway at Fargo. I had a great time there and so did my wife. Fargo is a long way from Beverly Hills, but it's worth going a long way to be among such friendly people as the Fargonians.