The Best Financial (and life) Advice I Ever Got

The Wall Street Journal posted The Best Financial Advice I Ever Got (or gave) where many well known people from the world of finance share insights imparted to them at some point in their lives.

I thought it might be fun to do something similar with a few things I’ve picked up along the way and shared here over the years. One bit of advice that I think is a RandomRoger original is to take in bits of process from many sources to create your own process. The following then are things that have contributed to my own process not just for investing but also for life.

In no particular order;

“Your 20’s are for f—ing around, you make your money in your 30’s and 40’s.”

This is one I can quote verbatim and was told to me by a friend of my older brother when that friend was around 30 and I was 18. It would make sense to add your 50’s to that quote and maybe your 60’s. This doesn’t necessarily pertain to people like Mark Zuckerberg, the kid from Tumblr and many others but for the ordinary among us who still believe in college and then spend a few years in their mid-20’s figuring out what they want to do this is a reasonable path and one I have imparted to others many times since I first heard it. While you don’t have to have it all figured out in your 20’s you do need to make sure you don’t screw it all up in your 20’s or put differently that you don’t permanently impair your future.

Keep your investing simple.

This is something I picked up on from many different sources over the years. In my early days in the business I would read or hear people that we were told were great investors like Peter Lynch and very often the message had to do with simplicity. We all have different ideas on what is simple but this has been a huge influence on me.

Everything you need to know about finance you learned from your Grandmother. Don’t borrow too much money and save a lot of money.

That is a paraphrasing from Nassim Taleb. He has evolved into a caricature of what he was a few years ago but there were plenty of useful tidbits from him in years past including this one. This is also a message about simplicity.

A library should be filled with books you haven’t read not ones you have read.

This comes from Umberto Eco via Taleb in the Black Swan. I admittedly don’t have a library of books not yet read. To me this is about possibilities of things yet to be learned and experiences yet to be had. It is important to keep trying to learn. Markets, investing and anything else related to your finances continue to evolve and you do yourself a good turn by keeping up.

The more you put into it the more you will get out of it.

This pertains to many things including life. Over the years I have tried to do more than was expected and usually the results were positive. I think I first learned this in college when I wanted to run the Greek Week Volleyball Tournament. I had the entire thing set up before the interview so from my perspective they would have been crazy not to give me the job.

This has carried on in other things. I started this blog in 2004 wanting to do something extra and it has open more doors in terms of opportunity and fun experiences than I can easily remember. I believe I am doing things with the fire department that go above and beyond that will hugely benefit the department and may open doors for me personally. I don’t know what will happen but I believe I am creating options for myself and more options are better than fewer options.

Get very involved with volunteerism.

I am not precisely sure where this came from, perhaps a combination of my neighbor with the backhoe and the fire chief from when I first joined Walker Fire. In addition to what I mention above, chances are volunteerism provides different problem solving opportunities from your day job but can help you perform better at your day job. Obviously your volunteering also provides a huge benefit to society (or the beneficiaries of where you do your volunteer work).

“There is no situation where having more money made it worse.”

That one is attributed to Woody Allen and aside from the humor of it, it is about giving yourself more options in the face of some unknown and unpredictable future event. The first thing people think of in this context is usually something negative like a medical problem but could also be a positive like an unusual life experience.

Since it is almost that time of year what if you had a chance to “work” at the Dakar Rally (which is actually in South America) assuming your interests lie here but it would cost you $20,000. If you love the Dakar and this opportunity presented itself it would be nice to be able to do it without guaranteeing your financial plan would blow up. This can tie in with saving a lot of money above.

Invest for the long term.

This is generic on its face but sentiment has evolved on the blog to mean making sure you truly comprehend why you invest. For most people it is to have enough money when they need it like in retirement. When an investor truly embraces this then it makes it easier to stop worrying about the short term and avoid decisions that don’t actually serve the long term goal.

Markets go up most of the time but occasionally they go down a lot and scare the hell out of people.

Tell someone that today and they will likely tell you that of course markets go down a lot sometimes and all you need to do is be patient. Then come the next large decline people lose all sense of normal market cycles and reasoned thought. As I said all throughout the last bear market, the S&P 500 will absolutely make a new high but the variable is when. I knew this because it was normal market function. This will repeat.

Devote more energy to the things you can control like your savings rate, spending habits and hopefully your emotions.

We have no control over what the market does. If over the next ten years the market compounds at 1% your portfolio will not compound at 10%. We have a much better chance of controlling savings, spending and the extent to which we do not succumb to our emotions.

Exercise vigorously.

The best part of your workout should be finishing your workout. Being fit increases your chances for aging successfully meaning fewer health problem. Spending less on healthcare obviously increases the chances that your portfolio can last long enough to cover your retirement years.

And while we’re at it; get a dog, get a dog for your dog and don’t drink soda.

The pictures are a partial recap of 2013. The first one is from Bisbee, AZ. We did the 1000 Stairs race which is a 7k that goes up the 1000 stairs throughout the town. The second picture is of the fire station across the street from Wrigley Field, you can see the bleachers on top of the neighboring buildings. The next two are from New York in September (Montauk and Yankee Stadium). We made it to the beach for a few days on Lanai in October. The next picture is from the Green Gate Fire here in Walker in May. It started at midnight and while it could have been serious it turned out to be a fun training exercise. I worked for 16 hours on it that first day.

The last picture is the shrine at Station 7 which was the home of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots. The crew all died in the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30th. As was mentioned in the last area chiefs meeting “this will be with us forever.”

Hope everyone has a healthy new year.


  1. Great advice, Roger.

    A Happy, Healthy New Year to you too (two).

  2. I can not believe you did not add to start your own business.

    Marrying my wife
    going to college
    starting my own business
    Saving a bunch

    have been some of my best choices in life

  3. no exercise like this can be totally exhaustive but I did mention saving a lot of money and I also talked about college.

    You got married based on someone’s advice?

  4. Funny

    Marrying RIGHT is my advice

    Ask all the divorced people if you do not believe me 🙂

    Happiness and Finances are correlated with picking the right wife IMO

  5. BTW, the night I proposed to my wife I received unsolicited comments from my mother.

    She said “You should marry her”

    My mind was made up months before, but it was nice to see mom agreed and gave advice which was not common for her on issues like this. Or she hated the flussies I dated previously 🙂

  6. Marry correctly…the first time.

    Happy New Year to Roger and his faithful followers.


  7. thank you T, happy new year to you and your family!

  8. Another great post, you have an uncommon gift for saying “this is what works for me” in a neutral, non-judgmental way.

    Certainly not the first time I’ve seen you warn about diet soda, any chance you can share what that’s based on? I find lots of heat but little light when looking for actual, scientifically-validated, peer-reviewed studies. Easy to find people saying “it’s bad for you” with plausible-sounding reasons why it *might* be, but on the Internet that’s true of pretty much anything–and 1000 people repeating something doesn’t make it true. Honestly curious.

    Thanks for continuing to share your process,
    Rick B.

  9. Marrying right is everything!


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