If you have investments in a 401k or with a financial adviser, do you know what you own? Do you know why you own it? Do you know how your investments are doing? Compared to what? What are you paying for the privilege?

For most of us the answer is no to all of those questions, but there is a cost for not knowing. Depending on decisions you made in the dark, it could be many thousands of dollars. Let’s go about the business of stopping that bleeding.

You know if you have investments that those questions do nag at you from time to time. The larger frustration is doing something about it. You could spend years learning financial planning if you were of a mind to. You aren’t.

More troubling, you don’t know where to turn, and in fact you don’t know what you don’t know.

The "My Checklist System for Investors" is the answer. This five-point checklist will guide you through. More importantly, you will be protecting yourself from 90 percent of what you might inadvertently do to yourself -- or what others might deliberately do to you. This is especially important if you have only been in your employer’s retirement plan for years. You may have been "educated" but you haven’t been truly prepared for what awaits you.

Do you realize you buy investment services unlike anything else in your life? You shop for a house, a car, an HD TV and buy only after researching and learning about the marketplace. You work to get the best possible deal. Incredibly, you do nothing of the kind with your investments. You find an investment adviser you can trust and go with him or her. Considering your hard earned savings make up the singularly most important part of your financial life, you are asking for trouble allowing someone else to tell you whether you are getting a good deal. Here we "flip the script." We give you the ability to know for certain what’s going on in your accounts. It might be good, it might not. Using "My Checklist System for Investors" you will know.

Briefly let me tell you how this all came about. One of the most important lessons learned while covering business over the last 19 years for WDIV-TV is entrepreneurs have a common and enviable way of thinking. They fill consumer needs with unique and inventive approaches.

In trying to duplicate that, I set about the long and difficult process of becoming the first ever working journalist in nation to attain the Certified Financial Planner Professional™ designation.

I believe I hit the unique part by combining financial bona fides to professional communication. Solving the inventive part proved more elusive. After writing enough financial education to wallpaper Michigan, it became obvious few people have the time or the inclination to learn finance. Yes, the language is thick and arcane, but it runs much deeper than that. Most Americans don’t even budget. People spend more time planning summer vacations. Squaring that circle kept me up late at night for years.

The investment consumer is not well served by not knowing much and the investment industry is happy to have customers who don’t ask many questions. America’s financial regulations are written with the mistaken assumption that when an investor goes into a relationship with an adviser both parties know what they are doing.

With so many baby boomers retiring every day, the consumer need is strong for some kind of help. There had to be a way to make the process simple enough to be understandable and effective.

Along the way I found a friend, a former stock broker, who had been conducting financial education seminars all across Michigan. He too worried about the wide gulf between what people need to know about investing and what they actually did. He too struggled with watching people make needless and costly mistakes. We discussed it at length and realized we needed to come at it from another angle.

My friend, and now business partner, had the “eureka” moment. Instead of teaching financial planning, we needed to put a program in the investor’s hands that was in effect, a one stop shop.
The system had to give step-by-step guidance on exactly what to do and look out for; a system providing the questions to ask and help evaluating the answers. We knew not to require learning a lot of financial gobbledygook.

We did dozens of iterations and settled on the five point checklist that provided one more important service: show you exactly how to understand whether your relationship with an investment adviser is a good one.

This should change the investment game from the ground up. We had professionals look at our program. They told us it is bold, unique, and has the potential to start a bit of a revolution.

Then came this: a recent Bloomberg article shows what happens to investor accounts when employees leave their company and look to rollover their 401Ks into IRAs. $300 billion was moved last year alone and many investors fared quite poorly in that exchange.

The article put a more recent spin on what we knew has been going on for many years. Preventing this kind of wreckage was our overarching concern from the beginning. We hope 401K plan participants suggest their employers to include "My Checklist System for Investors" as part of their retirement package information as a protective shield as they send retirees on their way.

We have put heart and soul into this project. As we set out to change the investment world one informed investor at a time, I was reminded of the words of one of my heroes who recently passed away. The late Zig Ziglar would say, “You can get everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

That is our guiding philosophy. We hope you like, and more than that, use "My Checklist System for Investors."

Your nest egg will be all the better for it.