I’ve recently been contacted by a few disgruntled Ray Lucia investors who found their way to my website and asked for my help. Short of recommending they file complaints the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and FINRA, there was little I could do.
However, since I’m one of the few people writing about Lucia, I’ve become a sort of clearing house for these people. One investor who recently contacted me on behalf of her 75-year-old father wants to organize a meeting and speak to others in the same situation. This person was able to get dad out of one of the non-tradeable REITs that Ray Lucia (senior, not junior) stuck him in and is willing to share with others how to do it themselves.
So, if you’re interested, let me know and I’ll pass along the details.
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
For more visit: A Professional’s View of Ray Lucia’s Non-Trade REITs
In 2010, radio talk show host Ray “Buckets of Money” Lucia threatened to sue me for $300,000 for defamation over a blog post on this website. My post pointed out Lucia’s relationship to a securities firm that paid $2 million to settle U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges.
Nothing ever came of the threats and, coincidentally, (or not?), Lucia shortly thereafter told the SEC that he would no longer register with them as investment adviser. Lucia still hosts his radio show and rounds up new clients at his free seminars with actor Ben Stein.
I was content to leave things alone until last week when I heard from a client of Lucia’s son, Ray Jr., who now runs the investment business started by his illustrious father.
This person, whom I’ll call Joe, is, runs a small home repair based business and is approaching retirement age. Joe attended one of Lucia Sr.’s “Buckets of Money” seminars 18 months ago and entrusted his money to Lucia Jr. He wishes he had read this blog beforehand.
Today, they are illiquid. About $80,000 of Joe’s money — 30 percent of his net worth — is locked away in real estate investment trusts (REITs) that aren’t traded on any exchange and therefore can’t be sold for years.
Joe’s wife is ill and may need to take early retirement, which leaves Joe wondering how he’s going to pay the bills.
For some retirees, REITs can be a good investment. REITs are required to repay at least 90 percent of taxable income to investors or the forfeit their tax exempt status. So, they are sort of function like bonds but with much better rates, something like 6 percent.
So what’s the catch? The REITs Joe is invested are non-traded REITs. This is an investment that can’t be sold for years — at least not without taking a big loss. FINRA, the financial industry self-regulatory body, last year issued an investor alert warning about the dangers of these non-traded REITs.
Both Ray Lucia Sr. and Jr. are big believers in these non-traded REITs. What they don’t tell you is that it’s a great deal for the folks at RJL Wealth Management. Brokers love non-traded REITs for the whopping commission a sale generates, which can range between 10 percent and 15 percent (!). If you really feel that you need a REIT in your portfolio, then buy a publicly traded one on Charles Schwab or some other online broker where the commissions run $8.95.
Joe never found out what the commissions were on his non-traded REITs including Behringer Harvard Multifamily I, which for years has combined high fees with poor performance. (For more, see reitwrecks.com’s Non-Traded REIT Forum.)
But that’s not all! For getting Joe in this predicament, RJL Wealth Management, Lucia Jr.’s company, collects a 1.9 percent fee — more salt on the wound. Buyer beware.
I’ll be on Investoradio this Saturday, Aug. 21, talking about Ray Lucia and high fees. You can listen online through this link. Just like Lucia, Investoradio hosts Tom Cock and Don McDonald run their own investment advisory, but their fees are less than 1 percent, compared to as much as 2.9 percent for RJL Wealth Management.
Here’s a link to the show.