Your mutual fund just jumped 20% or more in the last two weeks. You're thinking, "Hey, my man is back, he's roaring back, and I should give him more money."
Please, I beg you, don't. Don't even think about it. Let me explain the way professional management works. You give the money to managers, they are supposed to make as much money as possible with the least amount of risk. That's the game. I just defined it for you.
Those fund managers who take on a maximum amount of risk and hammer you mercilessly when tech is bad or the
cracks, they aren't money managers. They're dice-rollers, gamblers who don't even understand the odds. They have had their time. They didn't know what they were doing when the market got bad and when it gets bad again they'll wipe you out.
Let's get personal for a second. These managers all hate me. You know why? Because I see the world through the eyes of a professional and I know they're a disgrace. They are full of excuses for their poor performance except for the most logical reason: "I didn't know what I was doing."
In the last decade we lowered the standards dramatically when it came to who could run our money. Frankly, we let anyone run our money. We didn't care if they knew anything about how stocks work, or how portfolios should be run or how losses could be avoided. We just gave them the ball.
When the game was easy these folks looked fabulous. They made a lot of professionals look like amateurs by taking on a level of risk that we knew was foolhardy and generating massive returns, the type of returns that are simply unsustainable and lead to huge losses when things go bad. They didn't know how to take evasive action. They didn't know anything about loss avoidance. In fact, they didn't even know how to sell.
Man, I hate those guys.
They have their defenders. They also act so professional on television I think they must be trained by the best acting coaches. They come on television not to help you make money but to raise money so they can take a percentage of what they raise. They can't sustain their returns but they know that once you're in you will be loath, either through inertia or through their brainwashing, to withdraw your money. Once you're in, they've got you. For good.
And I know why that is. Other than in these columns, these guys get a free pass from just about everybody. They come on television with their massive losses and they say, "Don't judge us by the short term." You tell them it's been a year of losses, and they say that's not enough time. Now you say that it's been two years of losses and they say, "Nope, still not enough time."
Newspapers and magazines don't attack them, either. They're all part of a corrupt bargain, willing subjects to write about when they win, but disappearing acts when they lose, so nothing critical ever gets written. And why not? In journalism there are unwritten rules about writing critically about fund managers. What's the point? They won't return your calls if your write critically about them
they cancel their ad campaigns, which upsets the business side.
You think that's an easy phalanx to attack? Do you know how much easier it would be for me to like all of these guys? Can you imagine how much money the
would give us if I just knocked off the criticism and joined the bandwagon?
Nah. Not going to happen. I would rather fail than praise these guys (who I know,
because I ran money professionally for years
, don't deserve to be in the game).
Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I think, darn it all, why couldn't these guys be better, so I could praise them, and then maybe they would place ads and
could be healthier financially? Why couldn't they just have avoided some of the losses or not been so arrogant and cocksure? Why couldn't they have been better managers?
But they weren't. So I can't. And we'll just have to make it without their advertising.
All the sweeter, when we finally get there, which we will do precisely because we told the truth about these alleged fiduciaries when no one else would.
So, now that you've had a couple of up weeks where these funds have gotten out of the down 50% class, do yourself a favor, take some out, and certainly don't give them more. There are other, better managers who know what they're doing and understand risk and don't have to come to you next quarter and say, "We told you that we were your loss-making portion of your portfolio when things are bad." What a crock. You don't give your money to anybody to lose it. You give money to professionals because
might lose it otherwise, not so they can take a crack at it.
So, next time you're to make that contribution, do yourself a favor. Read through our excellent mutual fund coverage and go with managers who regard your life savings as something worth preserving, not destroying. That's what a smart client does. Only in this business, because of the corrupt bargain between the press and the mutual funds, does anyone ever have to remind people not to be stupid clients. That's how the industry likes you to be. Don't fall for it. You wouldn't accept mediocrity in cars, or homes, or clothes, or doctors.
Why do you accept it when it comes to your money?
Don't forget, if you want my stock stuff, which included
plunge big ahead of the
bold move, you have to
subscribe to RealMoney.com. After that call, which could have made you tons of money, I don't think we have to debate anymore about this pay-on-the-Net thing, do we? If I were running a paper newsletter and had made that call, I'd immediately raise the price. Do they make big calls at
or whatever it's called now, or
No wonder they can't charge.
James J. Cramer is a director and co-founder of TheStreet.com. He contributes daily market commentary for TheStreet.com's sites and serves as an adviser to the company's CEO. Outside contributing columnists for TheStreet.com and RealMoney.com, including Cramer, may, from time to time, write about stocks in which they have a position. In such cases, appropriate disclosure is made. While he cannot provide personalized investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to send comments on his column to