Why You Shouldn't Manage Your Friends' Money

f you have financial knowledge, people who know you might view you as a very valuable commodity – a free money manager. All too often, the person asking you to invest his or her money is the person who knows a little something about investing – just enough to get into trouble. If you’re nailing double-digit returns this year, why couldn’t you repeat the performance year after year, right?

Money friendsThe Problems with Investing for Others
You may think that investing for someone else is just a way of helping out a friend, but the thing is, when you start investing for other people, particularly your friends, you enter a world of complications that you might not have foreseen when you started out.

Legal Matters
Managing a friend’s money is a sticky business and if you go through with it you may be breaking the law. Investment professionals must be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission or have a federal license. They are heavily regulated by the government and by trade organizations like the National Association of Securities Dealers, for the protection of consumers. If you invest for a friend for compensation, you could be breaking laws that are in place to protect investors from people who aren’t qualified to have discretionary control over others’ accounts.

Short End of the Stick
Despite the drawbacks, investing for friends isn’t always doomed to failure. With skill, smarts and a whole lot of luck, you might rake in the cash. If that’s the case, you still have to consider whether or not your friend is taking advantage of you. Helping out a friend is nice, but when that help consists of making significant amounts of money for that person and getting little or nothing in return, you might be suffering from an off-balance relationship.

Unrealistic Expectations
That friend of yours, the one who thinks that your 35% returns this year are going to happen next year as well, might be in for a nasty surprise when your picks make next to nothing. When you invest for friends, you have to deal with unrealistic expectations that can really put a damper on a relationship. If your friends wants you to invest for them, they likely don’t understand all of the risks involved with investing, including not quite meeting the investment goals that they may have been projecting.

Losing a Friend’s Money
Not meeting a friend’s investing expectations could jeopardize your friendship, but falling short of your friend’s projected returns could be a best-case scenario. When things go wrong, making some money is a lot better than losing money, which isn’t an abstract concept for anyone who invests actively. When you bring money into a relationship, things can get uncomfortable pretty fast, especially when that money is hemorrhaging out of an investment account. Do you tell the friend to suck it up? Do you repay the person out of your pocket? Do you try to make up the difference with new picks? Really, there probably isn’t a good way to deal with losing a friend’s money and you should consider this risk before you agree to invest for anyone.