The Securities and Exchange Commission has a "Help Wanted" sign out. It is looking to employ an organizational psychologist who would help improve employee attitudes and job satisfaction by reducing burnout, conflict, and stress. Wait in line, SEC. There are lots of jobs like that.


I understand that this is a new position and it will pay up to $147,978 a year. I don't know where they got such a well-rounded figure but we're talking about the SEC, remember? Oh, applicants must have a degree in psychology (I guess that would help), and preferably a Master's or Ph.D.


Now, what's this psychologist supposed to do? Well, the SEC says they would be looking for recommendations on productivity, team building, diversity, and to "develop innovative solutions to complex psychological issues."


Oh, by the way, this is an appointment for two years with a possible two-year extension. Real job security.


"Solutions to complex psychological issues?" I'll give them one. How about a brokerage account statement that I can understand?


I find that these monthly statements are nearly impossible to decipher. They simply don't tell me what I want to know about my investments. For instance, how much money have I made or lost this past year and how does my performance compare to the overall market? Also, what's the asset-class breakdown of my portfolio?  Hey, these are complex psychological issues.


Moreover, these statements vary considerably among brokerage houses and if you have more than one account at a particular firm, this could easily add to the confusion. For the most part, brokerage statements don't provide the necessary information to follow a portfolio's performance. While the SEC says it's making improvements, the best way may be to track a portfolio using the free trackers available on the Internet.


In addition, many account statements don't tell you how much you've made on specific investments over a certain period of time.  All you generally get is what your portfolio was worth at the end of one month and at the end of the next. What you really want to know is how your investments have performed in terms of percentage gains or losses; that allows you to compare the performance of your individual holdings to one another, or to the wider stock-market index.


Of course, part of the problem may be that the brokers don't want to draw your attention to any losses. Call that psychologist!


Hey guys, how about just telling me what percentage of my portfolio is in stocks, bonds, and cash? A bare-bones asset-allocation table isn't too much to ask now, is it?


The SEC's regulations dictate the basic information your broker has to send to you, such as what you bought and how much you paid for it. Its rules don't tell the firms how that information has to be presented or even the style or layout that must be used.


By the way, like anagrams? Rearrange the letters of "Securities and Exchange Commission" and what do you get?


"Ah, administering US economic excess."


Hire that psychologist now!

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