The Ben Stein-Ray Lucia Mutual Admiration Society

Actor and corporate pitchman Ben Stein charges more than $50,000 for a single speech, according to his page at the Keppler Speakers Bureau.

If that’s the case, I would love to know how much he charges Ray “Buckets of Money” Lucia for making numerous appearances each year at Lucia’s free seminars and lauding him in The New York Times as a “guru.”

Let’s face it: it’s Stein, not Lucia, who is the big draw at the seminars. Stein has made a career out of being a bow-tied smartypants ever since he famously played a dull economics teacher in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He even sued over his signature look in this lawsuit in which he describes himself as “the most famous economics teacher in the world.” In the public’s mind, Ben Stein is what an economist looks like.

The public doesn’t know or care that Stein is a securities lawyer by trade whose credentials as an economist amount to a famous economist for a father and a bachelor’s degree in economics. Never mind that to the folks I know in the finance world think Lucia and his buckets are a joke. Never mind that anyone at Goldman Sachs who starts blabbing about buckets of money will be shot at dawn.

I doubt that Stein truly believes that the “genius” of Ray Lucia is his bucket strategy. His genius such as it is lies in his salesmanship. Lucia understands that regular people don’t want to read financial reports and SEC filings. They want to see a man who plays an economist on TV. They want to hear jokes get some free advice about what to do with their retirement nest eggs. They want a show.

So they come for a show and they leave with a new money manager, Lucia’s son, Ray Jr. It will take a while before these unsuspecting investors realize that Lucia Jr. has drilled holes in their buckets with his company’s high fees and questionable investments such as non-tradeable REITs that earn Lucia huge commissions.

Stein provides his pal Lucia an additional, equally valuable service — repeatedly dropping Lucia’s name in his business columns in The New York Times and elsewhere. Stein’s shilling got him canned from the Times, so now he name drops Lucia in his American Spectator diary.

Stein will say almost anything if you pay him. He served as an expert witness for lawyers at Milberg Weiss until the firm went down under federal indictment for bribery and fraud. He has pitched Comcast, eye drops, cars, office equipment. So it’s no surprise that Stein praises Lucia as a “guru” or a “genius” in the same breath as Warren Buffet.

But this is a particularly insidious form of advertising. If you repeat something enough times, goes the old saw, it becomes truth. Especially when you can repeat it in The New York Times.

I happened to be sitting at Morton’s restaurant in Beverly Hills a few days ago with Mr. [Phil] DeMuth and with another financial adviser for whom I have high esteem, Raymond J. Lucia (for whom – full disclosure – I am about to give a speech or two urging people to save for retirement).

Ray and Phil said something like this to me: “You know there are not a lot of shows on TV that actually teach the viewer how to be a better investor. There is a lot of stock picking and predicting what can’t be predicted, but there is not a lot that tells the ordinary Joe or Jane how to save for retirement.”

Ray and Phil were right. And they will keep being right.
~ The New York Times, Feb. 27, 2005

I was recently on a panel with the stock guru Ray Lucia, who offered overwhelming data about how impossible it was to pick stocks, trade in and out of them and fare as well as the market. His data was terrifying.
~ The New York Times, Oct. 14, 2007

I checked with my investment gurus, Phil DeMuth, Raymond J. Lucia and Kevin Hanley. None of us could see how Mr. Madoff could do what his friends said he could do.
~ The New York Times, Dec. 26, 2008

I am to give a speech at a huge gathering hosted by my pal Ray Lucia. It is about investing. He has an immense crowd of well over 1,000 people today and my job is not really to sell them anything, but to give them a general overview of the economy.
~The American Spectator, May 2010.

Now, to pack and prepare to go see my pal Ray Lucia. Ray is simply the best wealth manager I know of. He knows more about personal finance than any other person I have ever met. His advice — lots of liquidity and very wide diversification — is so sensible it has saved me from suicide many a night. This guy is a lifesaver where managing money is concerned. We are colleagues, so I am not disinterested, but even before we were colleagues, I was learning from him and being guided by him.
~The American Spectator, June 1, 2010.

I have done the best I can, with the help of some true geniuses of finance like Phil DeMuth, Chris DeMuth, Ray Lucia, Anil Vazirani, J.W. Roth and, supreme above all of them, John Bogle and Warren Buffett, to invest wisely.
~The American Spectator, Aug. 12, 2011


  1. Holly Scherrer

    Ray Lucia is a financial “guru”. Ray is a workaholic and is concerned about each and every client he has. Ray has developed his strategies over many years of hard work and sacrifices.

    Ray Jr. worked for a top accounting firm prior to working for his fathers business to gain a broader knowledge before he was allowed to work for his fathers organization.

    As with any investment firm their are going to be fees. Certainly the choice is for the investors but understand there is a trade off. Certainly you can pay less and get ok advise but you could pay a little more and have a firm that dramatically improves your portfolio.

    While no organization can offer 100% security. The wise investor selects a firm that has a proven track record of success and there are substantial success stories with RJL Wealth Management.

  2. ned brown

    Sept. 5, 2012, 1:07 p.m. EDT
    SEC: Talk show host Lucia spread misleading info

    By Ronald D. Orol
    WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – Federal regulators on Wednesday charged nationally syndicated radio personality Ray Lucia with spreading misleading information about his “Buckets of Money” strategy at investment seminars. Lucia is alleged to having claimed that the wealth management strategy he promoted at the seminars had been empirically backtested over actual bear markets, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division. However, Lucia “performed scant, if any, actual backtesting of the Buckets of Money strategy,” according to the SEC. The SEC said it is seeking financial penalties and “other remedial action” in the proceedings.

  3. Eric

    Hi Holly,

    Financial Guru Ray Lucia was just charged with fraud by the SEC.

    From the SEC’s website:

    “The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a nationally syndicated radio personality and financial advice author for spreading misleading information about his “Buckets of Money” strategy at a series of investment seminars that he and his company hosted for potential clients.

    Lucia and RJL have admitted during the SEC’s investigation that the only testing they actually performed were some calculations that Lucia made in the late 1990s – copies of which no longer exist – and two two-page spreadsheets.

    The SEC’s order finds that RJL violated Sections 206(1), 206(2) and 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rule 206(4)-1(a)(5) thereunder. The order finds that Lucia willfully aided and abetted and caused RJL’s violations of Sections 206(1), 206(2) and 206(4) of the Advisers Act and Rule 206(4)-1(a)(5) thereunder. The SEC’s Division of Enforcement is seeking financial penalties and other remedial action in the proceedings.

    Holly, you are a great woman. You work for a great man.

  4. Steven

    I would like to see Mr. Lucia’s personal account or his mother’s.. Let’s see how this holistic investing works.. My Mom’s account has doubled in the last 10 years net. We have grown the capital while taking out income.I will show that to people I advise..

  5. Pingback: Mark Cuban files brief supporting … Ray Lucia? | Seth Hettena

    and….the SEC LOST! Ray won. So take that. I could give two craps the SEC or ANY other government agency charges anyone with something. We are ALL supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.

    Heaven forbid you are the crosshairs of the government admin state.

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