This is a 100% true story based on my own experiences.
It’s the story of my Retirement Fund, a fund which I joined almost a quarter century ago. It’s the story of how the company which runs this fund found a way to rip me off, and also of how the industry and government support the rip-off. I’m sharing it here so that you may perhaps learn from my experiences; perhaps you are sitting in the same boat as I am without even realising it.
This is a long article and it’s taken me an even longer time to write it – a few weeks now. I’m updating it as things develop (the battle continues), but I think I’ve managed to keep it all in a coherent logical order. Because it’s so long, I’m splitting it up for ease of reading.
In the Beginning
Once upon a time, a long long time ago, there was a young Bit Brain drinking his way through university. On very rare occasions, he would also study. Though he did not realise it at the time, young Bit Brain was quite well off. He had recently succeeded in being commissioned as a naval officer, so he was effectively being paid to be a professional student. His income was not high, but his basic necessities such as housing and meals were effectively heavily subsidised by the military. He wore uniforms all day, so his clothing expenses were low, and he had very few fixed monthly expenses. In other words, most of his salary was available as disposable income.
Then one day Jack* arrived (not his real name). I remember it clearly, because I had just set a new personal best for sit-ups (300 of them – I TOLD you this was long long ago!) when Jack arrived at my door. Jack the policy salesman lived adjacent to the campus. His wife was a military doctor (useful for some health-specific policy requirements), and Jack spent all day, every day, trying his hardest to sign up every first year student that he could find.
Long story short, I took out two policies, one of which was a retirement annuity (the other was a sort of general investment/savings plan). I was definitely young and naive at the time, but I wasn’t stupid. I read through the policy proposals in great detail, and everything was above board. I already had a main retirement fund, but being on a government salary, I thought it would be prudent to try to boost my eventual pension income. In short, I was happy to take out the policies.
Act 2 – Between Then and Now
With my bank account now safely keeping him fed on a monthly basis, I seldom saw Jack after that. Indeed, he and his wife eventually packed up and left the country, without so much as a “goodbye”. No surprises there, I expected nothing less.
But by then my details were in the database of the company running the fund, and they did not go unnoticed…
Over the next couple of decades I would get random calls from financial advisors affiliated with my retirement fund company. Usually I would ignore them, but every five or so years I would agree to sit down and work through my entire load of policy documentation with them. Being fastidious by nature, this was a long process. I would take all the documentation away and go through it with a fine-toothed comb, a comb which grew more experienced and wise with age. I would then call the advisor about any uncertainties or changes that I wanted, and would reschedule an appointment to sign whatever I needed to sign.
And sign I did. For those who may not know: policies are not stagnant. The company which administers the various funds releases new policy products all the time. Similarly it deprecates older policy products. This is often done in order to tailor to an ever-changing regulatory environment (for instance: perhaps 10 years ago a retirement policy was only legally allowed to allocate 25% of its portfolio to offshore equities, and now regulations have changed and it can allocate up to 50%), but at other times I suspect that it is done merely to obfuscate things and to keep clients signing new policies into effect, much like cellular telephone providers often do. I will discuss this further later on.
So over the decades I jumped from advisor to advisor – each disappearing into the mist after he had grabbed his commission – updating and revising my policies as I required. At this point I was still happy with my policies, and in retrospect, there was nothing wrong with them at the time. This state of affairs continued up until I decided that I could no longer stomach working for the government. That’s another huge story in itself, but the extremely short version is that I was effectively forced into retirement very early, and I diverted a lot more of my attention to crypto. That was back in late 2018.
This is where the plot thickens and where the story takes a twist towards the dark side.
Realising that I would lose a substantial portion of my monthly income, I decided to cut all unnecessary expenses and to consolidate my fixed monthly payments into optimal cost-effective options wherever I could. I took a look at my policy portfolio and decided that the monthly contributions to my savings plan/investment policy were a luxury which I did not require.
It was literally only a few days later that a new advisor gave me a call to ask if I would like to review my policies – I invited him over…
2018 Bit Brain was NOT like young Bit Brain, not at all! 2018 Bit Brain was a hardened cynic with an extreme level of distrust towards the fiat money financial environment, a comprehensive understanding of how money works and a wealth of life experience. He also had a strong incentive to cut costs and to make wise investments. He was no fool. Please realise: I’m saying this hand on heart – without ego or arrogance. This is not me trying to cover up or excuse my failures (because fail I did!), it’s me giving perspective. I know that I’m incredibly clued up on such matters compared to my peers. I’m also viciously intelligent and I’m not naturally trusting. I’m telling you this so that you know what kind of person can still fall for this – scam – because that’s exactly what it is.
Now, let me tell you precisely how they managed to get Bit Brain himself to fall for a (fully legal and government endorsed) scam.
Anatomy of a Retirement Fund Scam
What exactly does a retirement fund scam (aka “a retirement fund”) look like? Well I can’t tell you how all of them operate, or even how many are scamming their clients, but I can tell you how mine scammed me. Here goes.
In retrospect I now see that the act of migrating the plan/policy every few years is probably the best way in which they prevented me from comparing apples with apples. Each time the plan migrated, the previous documentation and projections would be nullified, I would receive a fresh pack of policy documentation which replaced whatever I already had. While I did file the old documents away, I honestly never bothered to check them. Once they’re no longer valid, they become worthless and one tends to forget about them.
The result of all of this is that they successfully broke the continuity of my policy, several times. I never had a valid baseline against which I could compare figures, at least not one that was more than a few years old.
Conspiracy hat on: this is probably why they called at least once a year to try to get me to rework my policies.
Speaking of policy documentation: that’s the next place they catch you. You don’t get a policy document, you get a large PACK of policy documents.
If I visit the online portal of my fund right now, I see not only my policy details overview (all the important stuff), but also links to five different policy documents. Why? That’s already ludicrous! But that’s not all.
When you sign a policy into being, you sign a whole lot of things: you understand the policy and it’s been explained to you, you accept the credentials of the broker, you accept the policy itself – etc. Along with that come the projections, the explanations, the glossaries etc etc. That’s just INITIAL documentation, I’m not even referring to that now!
As things stand now I have:
· The policy document itself (as originally signed by me).
· A summary of the policy performance.
· An annual cost breakdown.
· A detailed performance breakdown.
· A document explaining how to read the annual cost breakdown document and what it means.
· A document explaining how to read the policy performance document and what it means.
But those don’t suffice in isolation.
To properly understand your policy, you must click a few more hyperlinks and navigate to pages which allow you access to the:
· Rules of the retirement fund.
· Policy statement.
· Various bulletins explaining national legislation wrt retirement policies.
· Retirement fund tax implication documents.
… and one step further:
· Industry regulator laws and amendments to those laws (on the industry regulator website).
· National government acts (waste of time – almost impossible to follow if you’re not a lawyer who specialises in this field).
The result of this is that you are snowed under with documentation.
As a former military officer, I can inform you that this is a legitimate warfare tactic. Information Overload works by throwing so much information at the enemy, that they can’t pick the relevant from the irrelevant. The “enemy” (in this case the client) ends up throwing the wheat out with the chaff, not knowing what they are looking for and or information is pertinent. Information overload makes it nearly impossible to effectively process information.
And so it was with me. Until I actually sat down with ALL these documents (excluding the national acts), cross referenced them, studied them in great detail, physically took out the calculator and added them up again and again and again – I did not pick up the deception.
It took a long time. But when I finally did detect the deception, what I found blew my mind!
Stayed tuned for Part 2…
Yours in crypto
All charts made by Bit Brain with TradingView
“The secret to success: find out where people are going and get there first”
~ Mark Twain
“Crypto does not require institutional investment to succeed; institutions require crypto investments to remain successful”
~ Bit Brain
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I am neither a financial advisor nor a professional. This is not financial advice, investment advice or trading advice. Unless otherwise stated, all my posts are my opinion and nothing more. Crypto is highly volatile and you can easily lose everything in crypto. You invest at your own risk! Information I post may be erroneous, incomplete or construed as being misleading. I will not be held responsible for anything which is incorrect, missing, false, out-of-date or fabricated. Any information you use is done so at your own risk. Always Do Your Own Research (DYOR) and realise that you and you alone are responsible for your crypto portfolio and whatever happens to it.