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Lessons from American Greed tv series?

CNBC is desperately trying to create tv series to fill in the time between live market coverage, and I would say American Greed is the only one that halfway works. We might consider what the lessons are from their true tales.
My takeaway is much of the greed was on the victims side in expecting to be able to beat the system (broadly available rates of return) by hooking up with a local shark. Of course the program endlessly weeps for the folks who put their entire savings into something a friend of a friend promised would double every 3 months.
But yesterdays story had someone sucked in by something I could resonate with... they were kind of forced to liquidate assets in a hurry to create a sudden huge tax bill, even though that asset value had accumulated over decades. The charlatan promised to reinvest it into something that cancelled out gains (into an expense?) and would feed back the money over time (annuity-like?) The IRS rejected it not because the scheme was wrong but because the financial company was a fake. So it got me wondering if there are legal smoothing techniques for sudden bumps in cap gains, esp with ever higher penalty rates on income growth.
Another issue is picking a reasonable financial advisor. I don't like the way folks hook up using social networks... that leads you to folks with connections or a slick style rather than technical ability I think. But I must admit that to anticipate state tax muddles, you may need to somehow beat the local bushes for appropriate knowledge. What's locally advertised seems to be the sharks. What I find praised by social networks seems to be for bedside manner. An example local problem was how my state treated the 2010-11-12 roth-split conversion tax. They disastrously taxed it all lumped into 2010, then went and denied all my deductions in 2012 just because my fed income showed the split into 2012. Well, I was warned here to do the conversion in 2 stages myself, but not told why.
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dumbstruck

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