An Accountant’s Story


Back in 1978 when I started in the financial services industry, my Uncle Morris had a long established tax practice in a rural part of New Jersey. He offered me some very sage advice one day when he said, in order to be successful in the financial services industry, one had to follow a very important rule. He gave me the following tips: Never get caught up with fancy investment stories that are full of Wall Street bells and whistles. And always recommend high-quality, substantive investments that offer some extra value, particularly those that have stood the test of time.

He then explained that if you can end up with a real rate of return, anything around 1 percent or better after tax and inflation, then you would be preserving your clients’ purchasing power.

Over many years, Uncle Morris had accumulated a diversified portfolio of small properties in moderately desirable areas, tax-free bonds (including some from New York City that were discounted due to some financial challenges at the time), some brand name stocks that were out of favor, and he often traded some of his services with the local farmers for natural farm-raised chickens, double-yolk eggs, New Jersey peaches, and other commodities.

He explained to me that goods of this quality were usually unavailable in the large grocery chains, and in the rare event they were available, the retail prices were far higher than what he paid the farmers. Uncle Morris was a retail-level value purchaser who bought at wholesale or at a discount. He understood the value concept and the importance of preserving his purchasing power.