Having grown up in a household where money was scarce, early on in my life I made a decision to learn about money – how to make it, how to save it, how to invest it, and to be blunt…how to become rich.
Over the last 5 decades I’ve read countless articles (and written thousands myself), devoured hundreds of books on money and investing (and personably written nine), attended courses, and paid for mentors.
Yet, despite this intense financial education, it took me longer than I would have liked to learn some of life’s most important money lessons.
Here are 10 things I wish I’d been told early in my investment journey—or told more loudly, so I actually listened:
1. Learn delayed gratification.
If you do the hard things now and you’ll have an easy life later. But if you do the easy things now and you’ll have a hard life later.
As Warren Buffet said: “Wealth is the transfer of money from the impatient to the patient.”
2. Taking on debt is not a problem – not being able to repay debt is.
I know many people will tell you not to take on debt, but I see good debt as a form of leverage to help me grow my asset base.
That means you need to learn good money management skills including having a “rainy day” cash flow buffer.
3. Watching the market on a day-to-day or a week-to-week basis doesn’t improve the performance of your investment portfolio.
Don’t make thirty-year investment decisions based on the last thirty minutes of news.
Real estate investing is a long-term game, but the media will keep distracting you with “experts” giving short-term predictions.
Remember…it’s not the media’s job to educate you. It’s their job to get your attention and click on their links because they’ve already sold your “eyeballs” to their advertisers.
4. Thirty years from now, you’ll wish you’d invested more.
Sure, property seems expensive, but it has always seemed that way.
Who wouldn’t like to buy their parent’s house for the price they paid for it thirty years ago?
But boy did it seem expensive to your parents then.
5. Nobody really knows short-term investment performance.
One of the downsides of following the financial news is that you hear all kinds of smart, articulate experts offering eloquent predictions, but they usually turn out to be hopelessly wrong.
So be careful who’s forecasts you listen to.
There are 25 million property experts in Australia – everyone seems to have an opinion about property, don’t they?
But you know what they say about opinions… they’re like belly buttons; everyone has one but they’re basically useless.
Of course last year even the “respected” economists got their predictions wrong.
And that’s because most economists are generalists and don’t really understand how property works. Now I understand how that could sound like an arrogant statement – but just look at their track record and you’ll see that it’s true.
That’s because understanding property markets are part art and part science.
While the economist makes have an understanding of the science part – the data that’s not enough on its own.
What they’re missing out on is the on-the-ground knowledge and perspective – the art part - to compliment the data.
Someone looking at data can make it say almost anything they want; the trick is knowing how to take that information and use it in conjunction with some practical experience in order to accurately make an investment decision.
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At the same time, there is a new breed of enthusiastic amateurs out there offering investment “advice” at present.
They may be well-meaning, but just don’t have the type of perspective they need to give sound holistic advice.
6. Property investment is a process, not an event.
Yet most investors just find a property they like near where they live, rush off and buy it and then wonder why it underperforms.
On the other hand, strategic investors have a plan and build a good team around them and get legal, tax, financial planning, and strategic property advice first.
7. Money can’t buy happiness
Sure any problem money can solve isn’t really a problem – is it?
But money can’t really buy happiness
Psychologists and researchers broadly agree that four major points have a big impact on making people happy:
- Control over what you're doing.
- Progress in what you're pursuing.
- Connections to other people.
- Having purpose and meaning.
That's it. You'll notice "more money" isn't on the list.
But you can easily see how money ties into these points.
Money can grant you freedom from a nine-to-five job, offering control over what you're doing.
It can provide the tools necessary to achieve progress in whatever you're pursuing.
It can afford you time off and a chance to spend time with other people.
It can give you the ability to provide for people other than yourself, bringing meaning and purpose.
To the extent that money can buy happiness, most of us would do better to think of how it can help us achieve these four points.
8. When you first start to study a field it seems like you have to understand a zillion things.
However acclaimed finance columnist Morgan Housell taught me that that’s not the case.
He explained that you need is to identify the core principles - generally 3 to 12 of them - that govern that field.
And this holds true for investing.
Housell explains that a million things you thought you had to understand and memorise are simply combinations of the core principles
9. Will your future self approve?
This is a great question to ask whenever you make a major decision today.
Now obviously this is relevant to what you spend or save today, but it’s just as relevant in other areas of your life such as health - smoking, drinking, and exercise- what would your future self want you to do with your body today?
10. Don’t worry - things will work out.
Most of what you worry about will never occur and if it does, it probably won’t be as bad as you expected.
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