Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Investment Pitch Before Christmas

'Twas the month before Christmas, and all through the land,
Marketers hoped for consumer demand.
Investment promoters accordingly yearned
For a Holiday boost to the fees that they earned.

"At this time of year, there exists such a clutter,
We'll never break through!" the marketers mutter.
But the folks at Fidelity had a bright flash:
"Use verses to gather new customers' cash!"

"It's a Yuletide maneuver whose fire is sure:
A poem in the style of old Clement C. Moore."
So what in my e-mail inbox should appear
But Fidelity's version of Holiday cheer.

Inside was a message, official and sleek,
From a 529 plan entitled "UNIQUE"
(It's the school savings plan of the State of New Hampshire).
They started their pitch like an eager, young Prancer:

"Dear Dr. Goose," I was greeted by name,
But I didn't much care for what thereafter came.
The language - how trite! How the rhyming would wobble,
With emphasis placed on the awkward syl-LA-ble.

The sentiment - fulsome!  The meter - how sloppy!
Did interns get wasted and scribble some copy?
Even eight tiny reindeer could easily see
That "Fidelity" isn't a rhyme for "tax-free."

As I drew back my gaze, and was turning around,
I wondered: what more on UNIQUE could be found?
Investment expenses constrain NAVs;
How would this plan compare in expenses and fees?

I went to the internet, flush with designs
To evaluate all of the 529s.
I googled a website and rapidly came
To a listing of plans, by expenses and name.

On Michigan, Iowa, Carolina(*), New York!
Your plans are not laden with very much pork.
Now DC, Nebraska! Now Kansas, New Hampshire!
Your costs are consuming returns like a cancer.

In Fidelity's plans, up to 16%
Is charged in a decade - a ruinous rent.
More moderate plans may only charge you
Just 5% (maybe as little as 2).

This confirms the suspicion right under my nose:
Fidelity's poets are plumly paid pros.
In college investments, keep fees in your sight;
Happy Christmas you'll have, and sleep soundly at night!

The foregoing liberties taken with The Night Before Christmas (with apologies to the descendants of Clement Moore) were inspired by the following, actual e-mail sent by Fidelity Investments to current and potential clients:

   'Tis the holiday season, a great time for cheer,
   When special traditions bring loved ones near.
   A time to give gifts that can give on and on,
   Gifts that can give after the season is gone.
   For your daughter, your grandson, your niece or your neighbor,
   A special child in your life that deserves such a favor.
   Give the gift of an education while there's time on their side,
   They can later use the savings toward accredited schools nationwide.
   Qualified withdrawals are federal income tax free,
   Open a UNIQUE account today with Fidelity.


Fidelity manages the 529 college savings plans of several states, including New Hampshire, whose UNIQUE College Investing Plan is among the costliest of all fifty states.  That's according to SavingforCollege.com, which ranks the Fidelity-managed 529 plans of Arizona, Delaware, Massachusetts and New Hampshire as tied for the distinction of 4th most expensive in the nation.  For more information, see the Journal's guide to How to Find a 529 Plan.
(*) Note: SavingforCollege.com ranks the North and South Carolina 529 plans as 7th and 2nd least expensive, respectively; top (or bottom) honors go to New York.

The poem in this post was originally published in the Wall Street Journal's Total Return Blog.

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