Investor Beware!

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

We all want to invest for our financial futures, but today’s investment landscape can be a confusing and dangerous place. John Allen has seen Wall Street from both sides: he spent five years as a stockbroker, three years as vice president of investments with two different national brokerage companies, and is now an attorney specializing in securities arbitration. He quit the financial industry in disgust, and devotes himself to teaching investors how not to be cheated.

The central message: Arm yourself with knowledge, and never totally relinquish control over your money to someone else. The first part of the book examines the way brokerage firms really work, focusing especially on the continual conflict of interest created by the stated responsibility of the broker to represent the client, versus the lure of selling the client financial products which earn the highest commission for the broker. Allen calls the contemporary stockbroker a “used stock salesperson,” a label he pointedly applies throughout the text.

If you need a stockbroker or money adviser, checklists are provided to help with the decision, along with a summary of warning signs to tell if you’re being cheated. Similar commonsense rules give guidance on how to invest or trade along and which investment products to avoid altogether. Finally, a description of the arbitration system tells those who have been cheated how they may recover lost money.

INVESTOR BEWARE! is a brutally honest—some would say cynical—look at the investment industry. Allen means to hold brokerage firms to high professional and ethical standards, but no more than the average investor expects. The wholesale failure of firms to meet such standards justifies cynicism. New investors should certainly read this book (along with a good book on personal finance) before making any investment decisions, and even battle-scarred veterans could profit from it.