IT WAS A WARM MAY night in 1977. I was 19 years old and the manager of a fast-food restaurant. I was also in the middle of a five-year addiction to compulsive gambling that would eventually lead me to the brink of spiritual and financial bankruptcy. It was about 10:30 p.m. and I was cleaning up the store after closing. I was planning on going to the racetrack to catch the last race when I was done.
WHAT WORRIES ME? It isn’t the stock market, but rather stock market investors.
Despite all the hand-wringing, this doesn’t strike me as an especially dangerous time to own stocks. Corporate earnings are rapidly recovering from last year’s economic shutdown—not exactly a scenario where you’d expect a big stock market decline. Meanwhile, bonds and cash investments are offering scant competition for investors’ dollars, which is another reason to be bullish on stocks.
But even if the overall market appears no riskier than usual,
IF I’M HONEST with myself, I’ve been financially comfortable for so long that I’ve lost the ability to truly relate to those living paycheck to paycheck. But over a lifetime of working with people and their money, I’ve learned to be aware of signs that someone may be on the brink of breakdown—and could use some help.
I was only 22 years old when I had my first shocking experience with the power of money to cause a life to self-destruct.
A FEW MONTHS AGO, I decided to join a neighborhood golf club. Although I started playing when I was a teenager, I’ve never been that good. Since the group invited players of all handicaps, I thought it would be a fun way to get some exercise and meet new people.
I realized on the first day that I was probably the youngest player. Despite my rustiness, I was putting for birdies on both of the first two holes.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE to manage money prudently? Yes, we should save diligently, favor stocks, diversify broadly, hold down investment costs, buy the right insurance and so on. But all these smart financial moves stem from key assumptions we make about our lives and the world around us.
What assumptions? I believe prudent money management starts with five core notions—which, as you’ll discover below, sometimes contradict one another:
1. We’ll live a long life.
WHEN PEOPLE MENTION Eastern philosophy, Westerners often have images of mystic monks in saffron robes, surrounded by clouds of incense and speaking in cryptic riddles like, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
In fact, Asian philosophy can be very pragmatic in addressing everyday decisions, from family matters to investment choices—and many Westerners welcome the different approach to facing life’s challenges.
Daoism (also called Taoism) is one of the world’s oldest philosophies. It’s believed to have emerged more than 2,000 years ago during a period of dissolution,
WE ALL HAVE LIMITED time and limited money. How can we make the most of these two scarce resources?
More than anything, the answer lies in getting the big picture right. That means thinking through the tradeoffs involved, so we don’t allocate too much time and money to some parts of our financial life, while neglecting others.
On that score, it’s hard to offer hard-and-fast rules because personal preferences play a key role. Still,
I THOUGHT SAYING goodbye to my coworkers, and walking out my office door for the last time, would be the most memorable moment from the beginning of my retirement. But, no, that moment didn’t come until the next day.
I woke up, got out of bed and walked into the living room. Staring out the front window, I felt this sense of calm and peacefulness that I can’t remember ever feeling before. I felt so relaxed that I could swear I was weightless.
TWO YEARS AGO, I was 100 pounds overweight and constantly hungry. I had been overweight most of my life. But as a father of young kids, I was newly motivated to try to improve my life expectancy. I fortuitously discovered intermittent fasting and the low-carbohydrate way of eating, and instantly had success. Right away, I set an ambitious goal of losing the entire 100 pounds in one year. With a lot of hard work and dedication,
WARREN BUFFETT doesn’t have the best investment record over the past three decades. That accolade apparently belongs to Jim Simons. Buffett also isn’t the world’s richest person. In fact, he hasn’t held that title for the past dozen years and currently ranks No. 6, with barely half the wealth of today’s richest person, Jeff Bezos.
I doubt Buffett feels bad about this. Is your surname neither Simons nor Bezos? I don’t think you should feel bad,
THIS IS AN ARTICLE about not writing an article. It started with a Vox piece about the changes in society wrought by the 2007 introduction of the iPhone. One graph that caught my eye showed chewing gum sales steadily declining from 2007 to 2017, which was when the Vox article was published.
No economist would ever tie an economic trend to any one factor, but the article proffered an interesting hypothesis. It suggested that,
I SPEND WAY TOO much time analyzing what went wrong and how to do better. Instead, I should probably focus more on what went right and how to do it again.
This tip came from a close friend, when I told him about my money mistakes. My friend’s logic? Despite my missteps, I must have done a few things right to offset the damage.
He had a good point. There are three things I did that paved my path to financial freedom.
JIM AND I RECENTLY moved from Granada, our first home in Spain, to Alicante, a city by the Mediterranean. The move gives us the opportunity to walk along the coast each day.
A few weeks ago, we hiked a rugged coastal trail that’s part of a nature preserve, with an ancient Roman dock still partially visible. Along the coastline, you can also see how layers of sand have built up over the centuries, compacting together to form the breathtaking sandstone hills we enjoy today.
ONE OF THE KEY skills I quickly learned as a new parent: how to curb some of my emotions. Take last night. We were enjoying our normal bedtime routine, including bath time, bottles and a few favorite books.
Then I was vomited all over.
Being vomited on was just another evening with our 16-month-old twins. If you dial up or down your emotions too much in response, they have you. Dial them a bit too high,
BASEBALL USED TO BE a game where managers would go with their “gut.” But Brad Pitt changed everything. In the movie Moneyball, Pitt played Billy Beane, the first baseball general manager to use data analytics to great success—and suddenly it was all the rage.
Today, from a typical game, seven terabytes of data are gathered, everything from the arm angle of every single pitch to the exit velocity of hit balls.