The Investment Answer – A Dying Man’s Legacy
As investment professionals at Truepoint, we dedicate ourselves to analyzing and communicating the merits of asset allocation and passive investment vehicles, grounding our conviction in decades of academic research and empirical data. Sometimes, however, hearing others echo the advice can be even more powerful, especially if the source is an unlikely one.
Gordon Murray spent 25 years on Wall Street, the epicenter of active money management. Originally a bond salesman for Goldman Sachs, Murray’s career saw him rise to the ranks of managing director at global investment banks Lehman Brothers and Credit Suisse First Boston. However, it wasn’t until retiring in 2001 that he truly learned the principles of prudent investing, very different from those instilled in him on Wall Street.
It was a terminal cancer diagnosis in 2010 that inspired him to share what he learned with others. In addition to presenting the case for Wall Street reform to Congress, he used the remaining months of his life to produce The Investment Answer, a book co-authored with his financial advisor, Dan Goldie. As Murray wrote just ahead of his January 2011 passing:
For decades, we have watched much of the traditional financial services industry (which includes money managers, the mainstream financial media, as well as Wall Street brokers) take advantage of innocent, hard-working investors’ lack of financial expertise and their behavioral tendencies.
Deep down inside I knew there was a better way to invest. I knew about passive investing, of course. I knew about low-cost investing. But I did not realize that an individual investor could get these kind of returns, not in theory but in practice, in an actual investment portfolio. When Dan laid it all out for me in his office in 2002, I thought, This is it.
A late 2010 New York Times article, “A Dying Banker’s Last Instructions,” profiled Murray and the simple 70-page investment guide. As summarized by columnist Ron Lieber, “This is not new, nor is it rocket science. But Mr. Murray spent 25 years on Wall Street without having any idea how to invest like a grown-up. So it’s no surprise that most of America still doesn’t either.”
While the advice Murray provides isn’t revolutionary, what makes his story so appealing is his about-face and the inspirational platform upon which he is delivering his message – “When you basically accept that your days are numbered and you embrace the disease… I found that you can really touch a lot of lives in a positive way.”
As influential as the empirical evidence may be, Murray’s story provides an emotionally powerful reinforcement of our investment philosophy. By March, The Investment Answer had reached number one on The New York Times Business Best Seller list.