If you don’t know Mark Matson, CEO of Matson Money, a Cincinnati-based investment advisory firm with some $3 billion in AUM, it’s not his fault. In addition to his financial advisory business, he’s a regular on the Fox Business channel and CNBC. Matson has a website devoted to his screen time (www.markmatson.tv) where you can find each of his appearances catalogued, as well as a link to his weekly Livestream.com internet show (boasting “over a million minutes viewed”), his podcasts, a handful of home movies looking at investor psychology, and even a 16-minute visual homage to his wedding.
Yet he’s about to kick the Mark Matson marketing machine into higher gear: He’s just published a book, Main Street Money: How to Outwit, Outsmart & Out Invest the Wall Street Bullies, as a companion to a self-funded $500,000 television show that will air on PBS in March – think Ed Slott's “Stay Rich for Life” or Suze Orman’s Women & Money lectures that have graced the station during previous pledge drives. Matson’s theme: Main street investors are getting ploughed under by sophisticated Wall Street types, boorish pundits and peddlers of sleazy investments, and need to learn how to fight back.
Registered Rep: Is there a lesson here for financial advisors about marketing themselves? What do you hope to get out of the PBS special and book?
Mark Matson: When people see $500,000, that kind of investment is something that gets them to think ‘how many clients are you going to get out of it?’ I really don’t think of it in those terms. There is a high degree of uncertainty as far as how many people this will reach. If you look at the statistics, there are about 150 million homes that have television. Reaching a million households is definitely do-able. Most of all, though, this show and the book are about helping investors stop spending, and speculating, with their money.
RR: Might this be perceived as advertising?
MM: It is not an infomercial. If it was advertising, we would be paying for the time on television. It has to meet the quality and standards of PBS. Many of their shows are privately-funded by artists. PBS doesn’t pay for this programming. I could have invested $500,000 and PBS could have sat back and said, it doesn’t meet our standards, you need to go home. It is not pay to play.
RR: That’s a provocative subtitle for your book. Who exactly are these Wall Street bullies?
MM: There are three kinds of bullies: The first are outright conmen, the Madoff-types who eventually end up in orange jump suits. The second are the prognosticators, the people who tell you what is going to happen with GDP, the economy, the market; they predict which sectors are going to be good, when the market is going to crash. The third are the gurus who tell you they know what stocks you should buy; how you can add alpha to your portfolio by stock picking, adding return without risk. All the traders are bullies by nature and all mutual fund complexes that have active managers are bullies. The more experience you have had, chances are you’ve of been burned by these bullies.
The reality is that the market is random. All the knowable and predictable information is in the price already, so when you trust these people you end up losing more money than you could ever have anticipated.
RR: Your assessment of the wealth management model, are you saying it’s broken?
MM: Yes. I remembered the movie “Wall Steet.” Gordon Gekko talked about greed being good. I know now that the greed we have on Wall Street is never good. It leads to destructive things -- like trading too frequently. The challenge is for investors not to get seduced into the gambling aspects of Wall Street – the latest hot sector, tech or gold. You don’t invest one million dollars in one bank, and you don’t buy five or ten stocks like Jim Cramer. I have coached over 1,000 advisors over the last 20 years on how to improve their business model. Adivsors as a whole don’t have any more discipline than investors do. In fact, when I have seen large amounts of money panic and do the wrong thing, it has usually been advisor-driven and not investor-driven.
RR: You’re a proponent of free markets. Your take on the bank bailouts?
MM: I was against the bailouts. I tell you what, nobody came to my door with a bag of cash – and if they had I would have told them to go away. The bailouts were also an indication that the bullies had no idea what they are doing. Unfortunately, free markets are not orderly. They have chaos and destruction. That’s one of the reasons we have not come out of this pain of high unemployment, this sluggish economy. The bailouts didn’t not allow the market to clear itself.