"I had to tell my mother," Brunhild said. "Mom lived off of this money."
His story is one of many in the report released today on structured investment products by John Wasik. Wasik took a deep look at the investment category -- which includes products such as auction-rate securities, principal-protected notes and reverse convertibles. All told, Wasik estimates that such investments have cost investors at least $113 billion.
These instruments seem to be the answer to many investors prayers -- a way to gain an additional boost in interest while maintaining safety. However, the structures of these investments are exceptionally complex, and many investors have no idea what they're actually buying.
The paper's findings aren't surprising. We've written here a few times about how terrible these investments are. As we've noted, these products have the following characteristics:
- The complexity will be designed in favor of the issuer.
- Products may include some type of guaranteed downside protection.
- The cost of the protection will be excessive, though it's likely the buyer won't be able to figure that out.
- No institutional buyer would touch it, due to the excessive cost of the protection.
- There will be a more efficient way to accomplish the same objective.
For more information on structured investments, see chapter 19 of my book The Only Guide to Alternative Investments You'll Ever Need, written with Jared Kizer.
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