[ed. note: Today we have another member of the Gumshoe fraternity of special columnists to introduce — to a select group that includes Myron Martin writing about junior mining stocks and Michael Jorrin sharing his “Doc Gumshoe” thoughts about health and medicine, we’re adding a blind squirrel. Jim Skelton, who modestly notes that “even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and again,” will bring a valuable perspective to the group — he won’t necessarily be a “stock picker,” but he knows this business in a way most of us never will. His first column will come up over the next week or two sometime, and we’re not sure yet whether his pieces will be free for all or restricted to the Irregulars… but without further ado, I’ll let him introduce himself to you here today]
This months adventure: “What’s Old May Become New Again”
Hello and greetings to all residents of Gumshoeland! My name is Jim Skelton, a/k/a “The Blind Squirrel”. I am coming to you from the beautiful Palm Beaches of South Florida, my home for the past 40 years. My purpose here? I will be writing from time to time with an eye toward providing you, the Gumshoe reader, some insight into aspects of the investment process itself, the investment firms that provide the platforms for your use, the products they put out, and the way Financial Advisors and clients interact for mutual benefit. Hopefully a mutual benefit, of course. I can promise you that much of what you’ll see and learn is going to be material that isn’t found anywhere else. Why be just another voice crying out in the wilderness, extolling the virtues or vices of yet another equity when there are already thousands of such cries for you to pick and choose among? No, there will be little if any of that. We’re going on a trip that will take,some very different roads. Roads that may lead you to a greater understanding of how all this works, either for or against you. But being another stock “guru?” Not this Blind Squirrel!
After following a Blog I got up and running on the Gumshoe site last August entitled “Stellar Biotechnologies – The Real Deal or Just More Tulips?”, Travis thought it might be a good idea to bring me onboard for a trial run to see if my experience in the financial world could be something of a value-added nature to have around. So here I am – and yes, I am pretty much as amazed as you might be to find this happening. Thanks, Travis – I appreciate your confidence. I’ll do my best not to disappoint!
To get this party started I need to tell you something of my life experience, qualifications, and how I wound up on these pages. These past 65 years have seen me wander down many and varied roads, the most signifigant of which was the 20 years I spent working as a Registered Financial Consultant with four of Wall Streets largest and most respected firms: Merrill Lynch (1984 – 1991), UBS PaineWebber (1991 – 1998), Prudential Securities (1998 – 2000), and Edward Jones & Co (2000 – 2003).
Prior to that career I was the CEO of my own small retail business dealing in ladies swim and resortwear. That got underway in 1972 and by 1978 I had five shops up and running – and me running to keep up. Many valuable lessons learned over the 12 years spent doing that. Starting a small business from scratch and working to make it successful is no small thing. And since I was truly a “small business”, that is code for saying the CEO also sweeps floors and cleans bathrooms when necessary.
Well, as I said, I did this from 1972 until 1984 when I found a new opportunity in the financial services sector. I was vetted by the good folks at Merrill Lynch, hired into their training program, and in June of ’84 took a seat at a bullpen desk in the downtown Ft. Lauderdale office, new series 8 license in hand and a ton of optimistic thoughts filing my head. Not a single doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t become a million doliar producer before the end of 1987, if not sooner. I picked up the phone and got busy “dialing for dollars” off a list of supposedly qualified investors I had bought for that purpose. And my real world education began.
There is no reason to get down into the weeds about my experiences and education with those firms at this point. There will be time and place for those “war stories” later. Just understand that I worked with hundreds of clients, helped manage tens of millions of dollars of portfolio assets, and went through some of the best of times in the market – the Great Bull of ’82 – ’99 for example, and the absolute worst – the Crash of October 1987.
In late 2002 I decided I needed to conclude this chapter of my life. Get out there while I was still (barely) young enough to interest an employer and find out what else I might be interested in and good at. So, I closed my Edward Jones office and on January 2nd, 2003, found myself intentionally unemployed and seeking new adventure. It was a career of exactly 20 years to the very day.
My first step was to get trained and licensed to become an industry-side Arbitrator for the SEC. You know – one of those people that sit as judge and jury when an individual investor brings suit against a (usually former) broker and/or his/her firm for some form of malfeasance, real or imagined. I served on a few cases over the next three years and got an entirely new view of what can and does go on between clients and their brokers. Sometimes the broker has been a very, very bad boy. And sometimes the client is just whining about things lost when they knew very well the possibility of that and the risks they took. Hearing their stories was an education that cannot be purchased.
But that role is just piecemeal, occasional work. I began to cast about, finding new opportunity as I went, adding to my experiences (and licenses) in the financial world. And some off-the-wall things mixed in just to keep things interesting. I went to work with an insurance agency that represented Blue Cross – Blue Shield and discovered the world of health insurance. Didn’t care for it. I moved on to Humana just as they, and others, were preparing to roll out that then-new government program we all know as the Part D Prescription Drug plan. And I was able to work with the annuity and supplemental health insurance plans they offered in the Senior markets as well. Interesting work, but not for me for various reasons. By then it was 2005 and I decided that Real Estate was my next stop, so I got licensed as a R/E agent and signed on as an independant contractor with a small regional firm. Bad timing, Within six months the bubble began to deflate and home sales dry up. So I leveraged that experience and came onboard with a Mortgage Brokerage firm in my area – another license in hand. And that, too, began its own implosion as refi apps and new home sales shrunk. It became harder and harder to find qualified applicants.
I even went to work for about 3 months as a sales rep for a large auto dealership, selling a new and exciting product just being introduced to the market – Hummers! That was actually my first venture away from financial firms, the Spring of 2003.That was a TON of fun but things changed rapidly at the dealership. Promises that had been made getting broken, changes in commission schedules seemingly on a daily basis, and the realization that a lot more people liked the idea of owing one of those beasts than could afford one. And the work hours. Geez, Louise .. I hardly got to see my wife at all. So I cut that loose, but never regretted it.
After all of this, in the summer of 2007 a personal event occured that took me totally out of the game for some four years.It was health related, and I would up losing my left leg and most of the use of my right. It cut short my ability to work, which led to other unhappy things unfolding in my life. All came to a head in 2011 and I began to recover that which had been lost and rebuild a life. And that is where I am today. I’ve seen great success, been brought low by unfortunate circumstance, and found a way out of the situations with a boatload of knowledge that I am pleased to share when appropriate. That’s what I plan to deliver to you over time so that you may learn a thing or two that will probably never be spoken of elsewhere. I hope you enjoy and benefit from it.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that all I write, as well as that of other contributors on Stock Gumshoe, is never to be construed as financial advice or recommendation of any particular idea, investment, or strategy. We are JOURNALISTS, not ADVISORS. There is a huge difference – just ask the regulators at the SEC. I will always disclose if I am long or short any stock I might mention and not trade in them for at least 72 hours after publication. I urge all readers to seek professional assistance from a registered Financial Advisor or CPA before taking action on any ideas you might find interesting as they could relate to your personal situation.
So, I’ll be back atcha soon with the first real edition of the Blind Squirrel Diaries. Until then, may all the acorns you uncover be free of wormholes.
The Blind Squirrel
DISCLAIMER: I am long Stellar Biotechnologies (SBOTF). I will not transact any trades in that position until this article has been released for at least 72 hours.
Personal Capital is an advertiser with Stock Gumshoe, but Travis also uses it every day for his personal accounts and finds it invaluable. Here's what he said: "They offer a great (and genuinely FREE) 'second opinion' for your financial plan, but what I love most is their automated financial dashboard -- it will look at all your assets and debts, tally up your asset allocation, project where you'll be at retirement, and suggest ways to manage risk or improve returns. It's free, I think their free tools are great, and I think it's worth checking out -- you can do so here.