NEW YORK (
Dear Larry Fink,
You and the
(BLK - Get Report)
executives who work for you have been talking to anyone who will listen about the importance of me getting back into the markets. While you may be right, there is something about this sales pitch that grates on my nerves.
You, who blushed on TV Thursday when Maria Bartiromo asked if you wanted to be U.S. Treasury Secretary, do your best to present yourself as a concerned citizen as you discuss the importance of my saving for the future so I will have enough money to retire.
You launched into an extended lecture on the subject last month during a presentation at a conference hosted by Barclays.
"The headlines have to be today. I mean, this is a responsibility that everybody should have, the press should be focusing on it. Everybody should be focusing on it, if you don't act now, you'll never build that necessary pool for savings," you said.
But two of your top executives, Rob Kapito and Quintin Price, sounded just like any other dime-a-dozen money managers on
Thursday, talking about the potential for share buybacks and how they like large cap dividend-paying stocks. And, by the way, Kapito noted, "iShares are a great, liquid way to get in."
So that is the first grating part. You guys are selling stuff, so it is difficult to swallow the notion that you care about me--or even worse, the future of the country. If you were really such caring individuals, such concerned citizens, you probably wouldn't have spent your lives swimming with the sharks on Wall Street.
Second, you act as though there is some kind of guarantee that investing according to your plan is going to work.
interviews Thursday, both you and Kapito noted that the stock market is up 23% versus some previous period when you insisted I should get out of cash and get back into the market. At the same time, however, you keep saying I am too short-term in my thinking. I need to be thinking 20 or 30 years into the future, you say. If that is true, why are you talking about what the market has done during the last year when it could just as easily have gown down 23%?
You also spoke to Bartiromo about the fiscal cliff and troubles in Europe as creating "push and pull" which would lead to investing opportunities. You hastened to add, however, that people like me need to just get into the market and not worry about all of this.
I seriously doubt that this is the same advice you give your top institutional clients. If they want to know where the market is going in the next five minutes, five hours, or five days, you are probably going to have some pretty good information about that--and if the client is important enough, you are going to share it. But your advice to me: stick with the iShares, kid.
You tell me keeping my money in cash isn't going to get me to retirement. I need to earn five or six percent a year, you say. You said during the Barclays conference that this problem--all the people like me sitting in cash when we need to earn five or six percent--"will become the largest problem in our country in the next 10 years," and "will be much greater than our healthcare problems of today."
But you can't guarantee me five or six percent, and I probably need more than that. Meanwhile, since you speak about healthcare costs, you may find it interesting to know that I am not even particularly sick but will spend $6000 on healthcare this year. Three friends of mine, all under 45, have recently spent in excess of $15,000 each out of their own pockets on dental work. That's not hypothetical money like your five or six percent: it's real money.
In short, Larry, when you tell me to get my money out of cash and stick it in iShares, I feel a bit like Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos, when he told
that he turned down your bid to conduct stress tests on the Spanish banks because "if you are going to be the referee and at the same time you want to buy assets, there's a very clear conflict of interest."
With your finger in every pie imaginable as you rule the world from your golden corporate perch, you might show a bit of humility, a bit of genuine concern. It will make you less annoying, a better candidate for Treasury Secretary and--who knows--it may even win you a few more customers.
Written by Dan Freed in New York