Last March President Obama put out a proclamation stating that April 2011 would be National Financial Literacy Month. Here's the first sentence of the proclamation: "Americans' ability to build a secure future for themselves and their families requires the navigation of an increasingly complex financial system."
From what I can see Americans did not learn much during Financial Literacy Month. That's unfortunate. Americans need to be financially literate to make wise investment choices and to be wise voters.
I have talked to numerous people about investing. When I ask them which stock market performed the best during the last decade: America or Mexico, virtually all picked America's. The fact is, a decade ago the Mexican stock market was about 6,000, as of Aug. 11 it was 33,000. It's easy to verify this on the Internet, but you must understand that markets all over the world have recently been very volatile to the down side.
In comparison, U.S. stocks (S&P 500) have been flat for the past decade. And I'm talking long-term investing, not short-term trading. (Another tidbit -- Bill Gates is not the richest man in the world, Carlos Slim is, and he lives in Mexico City.)
I'm not suggesting investing in the Mexican stock market or any stock market and especially not now. I am simply saying that only investing in U.S. stocks and bonds may be a mistake.
America was a financial power in the 20th century, but may not be in the 21st century. In the future, the best investment portfolio may be one that is invested in alternative investments.
How many financial advisers were telling you to invest in the Mexican stock market back in 2001? How many financial advisers advised getting out of the U.S. market before 2008? When the crash occurred in 2008, how many financial advisers took no responsibility and just blamed the "market?" And how many advisers told you to get out before the recent correction? If your adviser did warn you, that's great, you've got a good one.
Gold is another investment that has performed well during the last decade and it's another investment that hardly any investment advisers were recommending a decade ago.
My point with this is that while Americans are waiting to become more financially literate, they might want to re-evaluate their financial adviser's track record. Not the sales pitch, but the track record.