Evolution

stockvault-crowd-at-a-music-concert132431Marea and I went to a Barbra Streisand concert at the TD Garden in Boston on Tuesday evening with our neighbors, Lara and Roland.  While I have enjoyed Barbra’s music over the years, I had little interest in seeing her perform live. 

The festivities began with dinner in Boston’s famed North End.  Roland took charge of driving into town, which isn’t easy these days.

“We’re going to hit a lot of traffic,” Roland advised.

“That’s OK,” I said, attempting to add a little levity, “Babs isn’t what she used to be.  I’m fine with getting there by the encore.”

Dinner was outstanding, but as we waited for our check, I could tell that Lara and Roland were concerned about arriving on time for good ol’ Barbra. We hustled over to the Garden and weaved our way through the T-shirt vendors hawking their half-price tees for $20. 

Marea just had to have one. (Of course, those same tees were being sold for $10.00 after the show.)

As I entered the storied Garden, I looked up reverently at the Celtics’ and Bruins’ legacies hanging from the rafters.  I thought about Larry Bird and Bobby Orr, and started to get excited about just being at the venue.

And then I looked around.  This was certainly no Taylor Swift audience.

The average age of everyone in attendance had to be over 70.  I felt like a kid!  Fifty years ago, these Streisand admirers may have been passing around some illegal cigarettes in preparation for the show; on Tuesday, the only drugs being considered were fiber pills, statins, and Coumadin.

As we were waiting, I struck up a conversation with a couple behind us: Robert and Janet.  Robert thought it would be a good idea to head to the restroom before the show started.  After what seemed like an eternity, he returned exclaiming, “You know it’s an older crowd when the line for the men’s room is three times as long as the one for beer.”

I laughed and asked, “You think the guys need to be on oxybutynin?

He let out a loud belly laugh, “No, although we do need guides to get us back to our seats!”

As we bantered back and forth, I asked Janet where she and Robert lived.

“We’re not married,” she answered quickly.

I saw an opening.  “So you two are living in sin?”

They both laughed.  “Just the opposite! I’m a priest and she works for the church!”

We all cracked up.

Since I had already dug this hole, I thought Why stop now?

“Father Robert, may we have a blessing before the show?”  I asked.

“You’ll receive your blessing at church on Sunday,” he chided slyly.  Laughs all around.  This was one witty priest!

So I guess talking with a member of the cloth at a concert is a little different than when I first started going to shows.  But when you think about it, hasn’t everything changed?

Consider the investment industry, which has evolved as much as popular music over the past 50 years.

In the 1970’s, when I was getting ready to attend college, I remember watching EF Hutton tell Americans, “When EF Hutton talks, people listen.”  (Check out the vintage EF Hutton commercial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MXqb1a3Apg)

Smith Barney “made money the old fashioned way: they earned it.”

Stockbrokers focused on growth and recommended the hottest stocks of the year.

And the industry evolved. 

Despite the fact that MFS first introduced mutual funds back in the late 1920s, they didn’t become a hot investment choice until the 1980s.

By 1990, fee-based accounts which were designed to offer investors an alternative to brokerage commissions, entered the mix.  (I was involved in a fee-based money management startup back then and to say the least, convincing firms to offer a fee-based option was extremely difficult.)  Today, fee based accounts have become a significant source of brokerage revenue.

Well, here we are in 2016 and the financial services industry is once again about to experience another major change as the Department of Labor’s (DoL) fiduciary rule takes effect.

Beginning next April, advisors will be responsible for making decisions in the “best interest” of clients who have retirement accounts, such as IRA rollovers. Furthermore, all fees and costs associated with the purchase of products must be disclosed; advisors must guide investors through some form of retirement planning in order to meet “best interest” requirements; and the entire process must be documented for possible regulatory review.

Is this new DoL regulation a good thing? On the surface, yes, but the cost of implementation to maintain compliance is going to be an issue.  Also, advisors must plan collaboratively with investors, who will be required to become more active participants in the process.  This also means clients will have to understand the theories behind specific investment decisions, and their potential consequences.

Many questions still need clarification.  Given the hours required to develop a plan, will advisors have the time to address the needs of all clients? Will the regulations necessitate a cut back on the number of small accounts they service?

And will this concert start already? 

Barbara entered.  I had to admit: she was 74 years old and still looked great.  Of course this meant little considering my eyesight and our distance from the stage.

“The concert planners should have hung a few more large monitors from the rafters,” I sort of whispered to Marea. 

Robert was listening and he wasn’t going to let my comment slip by.

“You’re aging yourself,” he said.  “Want my binoculars?”

“Are those the extra-strength senior citizen variety?” I asked.

“You betcha,” he laughed, handing them to me.  I looked at the stage for a brief moment and then handed them back.

“You can use them,” he offered.

“Nah,” I said.  “You need them more than I do.”

We all laughed.

So, what did I think of the show? One thing that hasn’t changed from 1970 is Barbra’s beautiful voice.  However, I must admit, I had more fun with Father Robert.

After the last encore, we turned to say goodbye to our new friends, but they had already left their seats. I looked back and caught Robert’s eye. He gave me a thumbs-up and a smile. 

I guess we did get a blessing after all.  Maybe I should have asked for another one for small investors.  With all of the issues surrounding the DoL ruling, advisors and investors trying to adjust to the new guidelines will need all of the help they can get.

2016-08-24T15:09:45+00:00