The Kenwood Press
: 04/01/2016

Who can you trust?

Donna Colfer

At the age of 52, Sam started over financially as a result of victimization in a Ponzi scheme. Sam had lost $1.2 million – everything he owned.

Sam worked for years at the Chicago Board of Trade as a “floor trader” until the Board changed to electronic trading. Eventually, Sam moved to Florida where he settled into a new life. He started playing golf regularly with new neighbors and friends. One friend, Rolf, lived in a one-room apartment and rarely invited anyone to his home.

A couple of years passed. The friends were golfing and Rolf drove up in a Ferrari. Sam asked, “What the heck is that?”

Rolf didn’t say much, and later invited Sam to his home. In blatant contrast to Rolf’s one-bedroom apartment, Sam walked into a three-story home with an elevator and a pool. Rolf mentioned paying six thousand a month in rent. His walk-in closet was 30’ x 20’ and lined with Armani suits. A few months later, he drove to the golf course in a Bentley Coupe, and a few months after that, in a Rolls Royce. Sam was well aware of Rolf’s expertise as a financial adviser, but wealth of this magnitude had him overwhelmed with curiosity, especially the rapid accumulation. Rolf continuously conjured up his next big investment strategy, knowing he had Sam’s complete attention.

In his confidently cool manner, Rolf bragged of a monthly two percent return on his clients’ investments; 24 percent return in a year! Sam’s mind ran wild with possibilities. He allowed himself to be reeled in. But Rolf informed him of a minimum million-dollar buy-in. Sam didn’t have that kind of money but offered him $25,000 hoping Rolf would allow him to play with the big boys. Rolf pretended to give it some thought and came back with an offer: if Sam helped facilitate the trades he’d pay Sam a handsome salary. To sweeten the deal, Sam could use his own trading account; Rolf would feed millions into this account and Sam would initiate the trades. This seemed like a win-win situation and a dream come true for Sam. (As a financial counselor, I’ll interject the first rule of thumb for investing: if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.)

Within the next year, there were Vegas trips on private jets, dinners with $8,000 price tags, and five-room suites at the finest hotels. Life became a surreal paradise on a luxurious cloud of endless amenities. Everything ran smoothly and consistently. A dream come true with a trusted partner and friend.

Then something strange happened. Sam and Rolf met for their usual business meeting. But this time, they dined in an average restaurant, stayed in an average hotel, and Rolf’s assistant, who often accompanied him, seemed very upset. Then Rolf asked Sam whether he knew anything about an international warrant. Sam didn’t. By the end of the evening, Rolf grew angry towards Sam, and nothing made sense anymore. Sam was spinning with confusion. He knew they had millions of dollars on the books; what was going on? Suddenly, the puzzle pieces came together: the international warrant, the cheap hotel and dinner, the assistant crying. Sam remembered that all the trades were made under his name, in his account. Rolf’s name was on nothing, but he had access to everything. A horrible feeling overwhelmed him…he’d been taken. At home Sam did some quick research and learned that Rolf was a fugitive in Europe. Sam immediately arranged all his trade account’s assets be moved to an account Rolf couldn’t access. He tried to safeguard the money in hopes no other investor would be taken advantage of.

This story is more suited to a novel than a news story. To make a long story shorter, one of Rolf’s biggest clients became suspicious, called him out, and Rolf’s little empire tumbled down. Sam was innocent to Rolf’s lies, trusting his friend. Sam hired a good attorney, and because he separated and didn’t spend the money, he received immunity. Rolf went to prison on an international warrant to which the U.S. gave its full support. Sam still lost $1,200,000, partly earned through his salary. Because he was in a partnership with Rolf, the choices were to lose the money or go to prison. He agreed to lose the money.

The money archetypes displayed by Sam were the Innocent, the Fool, and finally the Victim. The Innocent is overly trusting of others, especially when the other person appears savvy. The Fool has a tendency to fly by the seat of his pants, impulsive and unwilling to do the research up front. If Sam had researched Rolf from the outset, before investing his $25,000, he would have seen the dangers. He would have seen the extreme contrast between Rolf’s old life and a three-story mansion as suspicious. Rolf displayed the ultimate self-interested Tyrant money type, using money to control people, events, and circumstances.

Financially speaking, when do you trust others? Do you research a subject you don’t understand before making a financial decision? Or would you rather just follow another’s advice? Do you have the courage to ask questions when you don’t know the answers? Remember, the best things in life take faith, love, and patience. Invest in these and your needs will always be met no matter how much you have.