January 24, 2017

The Best Piece of Financial Advice You’ve Ever Received

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Many of you who know me personally are familiar with my love of quotes and one-liners. What can I say? I like simple statements that can be remembered and candid statements that cut to the chase and don’t beat around the bush. That’s why I asked a number of friends, family members, and people I work with what the best single piece of financial advice was they had ever received. Here are some of the responses:

“Little pigs get fat, but hogs get slaughtered.” – This can have to do with greed or pressing your luck.
“Live below your means.” – This is the number one response for me personally because it’s so short, so powerful, and so true. If you spend less than you make, financial planning becomes a matter of determining the optimal order to go about achieving your financial goals, but if you spend more than you make, financial planning simply becomes a question of how best to take on water.
 “No one on their death bed has ever said they wished they had spent more time at the office.” – There are a lot of disenchanted former employees and retirees that can swear to this one. Then again, there are a lot of friends, spouses, and children who probably can, too.
“If you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” – There is much more to choosing an occupation than salary, bonus opportunities, vacation days, and benefits, and life moves pretty fast.
“Money often costs too much.” – Don’t let money cost you your happiness, your health, your friends, your family, or your faith. Don’t clinch your fist so tightly that you miss out on what really matters.
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Especially right now given where today’s interest rates are!
“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” – I know some multi-millionaires who would be willing to admit they are poor and I know some people living paycheck to paycheck who seem to be quite rich.
“Never spend your money before you have it.” – This can lead to credit card debt and emotional disappointment. Don’t count on gifts, inheritances, bonuses, or equity awards tied to future performance until the money is in the bank!
“The stock market is designed to transfer money from the active to the patient.” Frequent action in a portfolio may feel good, but I firmly believe investing with a long-term approach gives you the best chance for investment success. Sure, make an occasional tactical move and rebalance your portfolio when there has been a sizable move in the markets, but be cognizant that transaction costs, fees, and taxes can kill investment returns.
“If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” You are going to have a finite amount of money pass through your hands during your life. It’s either more now or more later, and you’re going to need some later.
“Know what you own and why you own it.” I truly believe everyone wants a basic understanding of their finances. If you don’t know why you have something, you should find out why you do, or you probably shouldn’t have it. In practice I don’t ever suggest a technique, strategy, or investment to someone unless I can explain it.
“Try to be greedy when others are fearful and try to be fearful when others are greedy.” This is Buffettesque contrarian investment strategy at its core. It is usually "warmer" if you are in the herd with other investors, but it does often make sense to head in the opposite direction of the herd when it comes to investing. Buy low and sell high. Don’t buy high, sell low, and repeat until you are broke with the rest of the herd!
“Keep giving while you’re living so you’re knowing where it’s going.” – Giving to other people or even charitable causes can be quite fulfilling while you are still alive. It can also be a great way to test your potential beneficiaries and heirs with a little to see if they would be good stewards with a lot.
“Money is nothing more than a tool.” – If you can come to the realization that money is nothing more than a mechanism for peace of mind and a tool to purchase experiences, provide experiences, and further causes, your whole financial, social, and spiritual outlook could look a lot different.

It is my hope that these pieces of financial advice will be as valuable to you and your friends and loved ones as they are to me. If you have one that's not on the list please share!