An article that came out yesterday in AARP the Magazine was billed on the publication’s cover in bold type as "Shark Tank Lessons to Make You Rich". The title on the article inside of the issue is "The Worry-Free LIfe: Do you dream of financial independence? The all-star investors of the reality show "Shark Tank: share their inside tips to help the rest of get rich, too". The author of the piece supposedly started with “bait” to the Sharks, asking of them “an idea with huge potential for the 109 million Americans who are 50 or older and desire financial independence”. He went on to ask, “could the Sharks take the advice they often give the entrepreneurs who pitch them business ventures on the ABC hit reality show Shark Tank and broaden it to our financial world?” Seven lessons were provided with the first being from Kevin O’Leary. Lesson 1: “Be ready for when the poo-poo hits, because it always does.” The article might as well have ended there because in its own words, it was “poo-poo” hitting our mailboxes. What a waste of an opportunity to generate some real information from a very interesting group of individuals on behalf of the AARP target audience - the 50Plus demographic. The information provided was a complete misfire, a colossal waste of ink and paper set us up for “click bait”!
Ironically, the Shark article was preceded in the issue by one written by the CEO of AARP, Jo Ann Jenkins, billed on the cover as “Disrupt Aging: Don't Let a Number Define Your Dreams". Its title inside the magazine, "Disrupting aging is about challenging beliefs and stereotypes and sparking new solutions so more of us can choose how we want to live and age". It is based on her new book and contains many of the right words. However, the Shark article that followed unfortunately did not challenge beliefs or stereotypes much less touch on any disruptive solutions. The Shark article was in the section on “Get Smart About Money - 2016” but beyond the “poo-poo” lesson could have been taken out of a script that I used when I was a stockbroker in Santa Barbara, California in 1980 at EF Hutton and Company advising 50Plus clients. It was almost all about how to pick stocks and balance a portfolio of assets, not about “help(ing) the rest of us get rich". Readers were enticed to falsely assume that “help” was going to somehow be connected to the type of investments the Sharks make on the show. Unfortunately the large majority of AARP the Magazine readers, as investors, don’t have a large enough asset base to have room for a private equity component - the asset class that early stage angel or venture investments fall into. Remember, the average Baby Boomer, according to BlackRock, currently only has $136,500 of investable assets to generate a future retirement income, a massive shortfall. A major pension fund on average wouldn’t invest more than 5% of its total assets in early stage private equity investments as a category. Therefore, even if the $136,500 portfolio wasn’t in a shortfall position to start with, $6,825 would be the limit to invest in the private equity asset class, much less a single deal.
You want a disruptive idea AARP could have thrown out? How about talk to the 50Plus demographic about ways they could combine their time and a small amount of money to start businesses like some of the smaller successful ones that have shown up on Shark Tank and apply to be on the show. It didn’t seem to occur to the author or to the Sharks, given the starting question, to talk to the 50Plus demographic about being the "lean" entrepreneur, risking more time than money, as opposed to a stereotypical brokerage client looking for staid portfolio advice.
You want another disruptive thought? This one came from my wife Noelle: offer investment in a fund managed by each of the Sharks that their viewing public could invest in alongside them. It would not be hard to provide the chance to co-invest, maybe with an appropriate cap per person to give as many folks as possible a chance to join in. An investment like that could actually fit the average 50Plus asset base. And on the other end of the spectrum, why not create a fund with some “impact investment” dollars that could generate returns by co-investing with the Sharks that would be directed to entrepreneurial education for adults in the 50Plus demographic who are about to face a severe shortfall of income in their “retirement” years. I could go on, but you get my drift based on my most recent 50Plus posts.
The article written by Jo Ann Jenkins preceding the Sharks article had good content, but was really a sales pitch for her book entitled Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life. Jo Ann, my advice to AARP is to think more entrepreneurially, study your target audience carefully, stop with the click-bait style titles and get real, be truly authentic, and demonstrate what it means to ask disruptive questions or actually be disruptive in this space. Make the “Real Possibilities” you have put in the name of AARP to replace the less sexy “Retired People”, real robust possibilities. Show as many living examples of AARP members doing inspiring things as entrepreneurs and being disruptive ourselves as you can. That is one of your new efforts I will absolutely compliment you on. FYI: I for one haven’t renewed my membership after my first year as a member. I don’t like the way AARP bombards our household with ad after ad obviously, unable to employ technology with sufficient smarts to distinguish that the umpteenth offer to join, containing a temporary membership card, is being sent to an existing member. My suggestion on how you could generate some “impact dollars” to invest alongside the Sharks to benefit some folks in need of entrepreneurial education would be, redirect the postage on all those repetitive offerings to the Shark Impact Co-investment Fund or at least some other fund designed to make a real impact for the 50Plus business community.
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