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In protecting nest egg, mind the swindlers, adviser says in new book

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Jan. 16, 2017


PITTSBURGH ó In his book highlighting the damage that can be caused by swindlers and how to avoid them, author Ward Garner included a section on family and money.

Experience has taught him that many parents are willing to jeopardize their financial independence when it comes to their children ó and many children will gladly encourage their parents to spend money on them.

"Kids can mortgage a house, finance a car and get loans for college, but parents cannot borrow for retirement," said Garner, 54, a financial adviser at Bill Few Associates in suburban Pittsburgh and author of "How to Protect My Million: Strategies to Identify and Avoid Swindlers."

"Itís hard to say no to your kids," he said. "Kids can be a big swindle because they hold the keys to a parentís heartstrings."

One client of his ó a single mother ó inherited $750,000 a decade ago. After paying for her childrenís college education and buying them new cars and houses, she is left with only $250,000.

"She would have about $1.5 million today had she not let her kids swindle her into believing it was OK to lavish them with cars, college education and homes," Garner said. "The fact is this lady will live with less in retirement.

"Kids are not necessarily interested in their parents being financially independent," he said. "They want what they want. Parents work until they die and thatís how kids see it."

While Garner is a financial adviser, his book is not really a financial planning book. There are no chapters on how to invest in stocks or mutual funds. Instead, thereís information on spotting false promises, learning to say no, navigating tax problems and avoiding swindles related to aging and death.

The self-published, 162-page book was released in August. Garner said he has been generating sales of about one book a day since September on Amazon.com, as well as through speaking engagements where his book is available for sale.

"I never realized how many different types of swindlers there are until I wrote this book," Garner said, adding there are two general types ó the intended and unintended swindler.

Convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff was an intended swindler. The cashier at a big box store who asks a customer to purchase insurance on an electronic item that costs $200 is an unintended swindler because the cashier is simply doing was he told to do.

Itís possible for a person to be swindled by his or her own ego, Garner said. The ego may urge an individual to live large today because life is short. "The ego also doesnít allow people to take advice sometimes because it canít admit others know more than them."

Garner said he got into the financial services business in 1989 at age 28 through a swindle. A cousin who drove fancy cars and oozed with success suggested he get into selling penny stocks, which generally trade for less than $5 a share and are typically high risk. Many traditional advisers avoid them.

"The lights were bright and blinding me to the truth," Garner said. "But over time, the lack of a good nightís sleep saved me and wouldnít allow me to continue."

He got out of the penny stock business within six months. He moved to a small money management firm in Pittsburgh, then worked at PNC Bank for a year. He has been an adviser at Bill Few for the past 21 years, working on a fee-only basis.

While the title of his book could be misinterpreted as targeting the wealthy, Garner said people donít necessarily need $1 million to have something to protect from swindlers.

"Your million is whatever you have, even if itís $5,000 or $20,000," he said.