A Beacon Hill Brush Off
I’ve always wanted to dispel the common investment myth that wealthy people have an automatic advantage in the stock market. So, I thought joining a Boston Brahmin social club would be the best way to explore this topic. Things did not turn out the way I expected, but the process reinforced some very basic life lessons along with investing realities.
The architecturally stunning club has a posh Beacon Hill address and its wealthy members have Boston pedigrees dating back hundreds of years. In the mid to late 1800’s clubs like these were founded as a way to preserve the power of old-moneyed families when the Irish starting taking over municipal offices. With their beaucoup bucks and tight control over city philanthropy, the society members would quietly pull power plays behind the scenes. That’s all true, but I wanted to find out what happens in the present day. Are there really fancy-pants brokers roaming the halls dispensing hot stocks tips while dropping their “R’s” as the local folklore conveys?
On my bean pot stationary, I crafted a letter to the membership committee. My family has only been in Boston a hundred years so I had to be thorough. I wrote that my grandparents went to Milton Academy, but left out the part about them being domestic servants at the school. I bragged about appearing on the society page in 1970, omitting that the newspaper was the now defunct Braintree Observer. My last boast was having tea at the Boston Athenaeum with the Earl of Harewood, then 52nd in line to the British throne.
Even with these impressive credentials I still thought my Brahmin street cred was a little lacking. So, I stretched the truth a bit and told them I was a local celebrity. I am The Wicked Smart Investor after all and I can act snooty with the best of them. “What you’ve never heard of me?” in a condescending tone.
Their answer was no, with no explanation, just no.
Like game 6 of the ’86 World Series it hurt. I’ve dealt with snobs and cliques before but this really stung. I turned to my fellow scribes for comfort.
First was local poet and anti-bullying activist Lila Dooley. In her book “Each Step I Take” the teenager reminds us of the cruel social pecking order of high school. The lowest rung on the social ladder are “the weird kids who are used to make the popular kids feel good about themselves” If the chosen few were really so wonderful in their own right, why do they need to pick on good natured eccentrics? Why does the social club have to exclude people based on a trickle of old Boston blood? The answer is these people are no better than the rest of us and they take great strides not to admit this simple truth.
Next , the staff of Investopedia cheered me up. Reminding me “many market advisors claim to be able to call the markets every turn. The fact is that almost every study on this topic has proven these claims are false.” So, the society curmudgeons really are not getting inherently better investment information than the rest of us. I always shudder when I hear of investors thinking they “have arrived’ because huge investment mistakes usually follow.
I like the fact that a plumber, waitress and mail carrier can get the same percentage return as the Boston Brahmin when they’re properly invested. ”Society members” may have more investable assets, but everyday people can get the same ROI.
So I never needed to join the hoity-toity club. Besides, I successfully manage Yankee money that is even older than the members’ money. Maybe if they’re good I’ll let them join my club.
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