Like most people, I did not enter adulthood with much Wall Street savvy. I had very limited knowledge of stocks or bonds, let alone more complicated investment vehicles. What I absorbed from my parents example was: work for what you need, spend less than you make, avoid debt, seek value in everything you buy, give regularly, but don’t lend to others with an expectation of seeing any return (it ruins relationships). That’s pretty much it. From my grandmother who lost her young husband, her home, and her livelihood due to a farm accident during the Depression, I learned that you are never in control of your life, but even when difficult things happen, you can survive and flourish.
So many today spend so much time trying to emulate Warren Buffett or wonder how they can be the next Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates or Elon Musk (think PayPal, Tesla). Sure, it’s just fun conversation, but it’s also a huge distraction. Guess what – those identities are taken already by the real Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Elon Musk. You, however, are unique. You can take what you know, seek to know more and be your own success. It may look different than theirs, but you have potential for success, nonetheless.
The people I admire and learn the most from are many of our clients, young and old, who are a lot like my parents and my grandmother. They spend less than they make, save some and give some away and seem to be much more satisfied, less affected by market swings or life circumstances and able to focus on where they have real influence. When they have questions about financial matters they seek wisdom and education rather than act on a “hot tip.”
The formula for wealth is simple. The process may be a bit difficult from time to time, but it’s really not very complicated. Spend less than you make. Commit a percentage to regular saving and giving. Invest funds above and beyond your current needs for short-term, or long-term growth, depending on when you will need the money. Repeat.
I love to read and, as a youngster, I read a fictional account of an elderly woman who had accumulated quite a bit of wealth. It was a surprise to everyone that she had accumulated such a nest egg because she didn’t appear to have any source of wealth. She had the discipline to live beneath her means and the forethought to invest the rest to accomplish her particular long-term goal which was to provide funds to a favorite organization.
We don’t always know the lessons we teach our children about money, but just as they learn from our behavior, we can learn from theirs. There is often a component of what they pick up from example as well as their own personality makeup that tells you quite a bit about what will motivate them. I think back to my sons’ and daughters’ favorite books as they were little and realize that those said a lot about who they would become, what would motivate them and how they might think about money.
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