I started writing this guide for my daughters who are embarking on their own financial lives. My goal was to collect in one place advice that I failed to provide as they were growing up and that they were not learning in school. It grew into a book that I thought could help them and others become financially successful.
Let me be up-front about what the book is not. It won’t make you a millionaire by age thirty. It doesn’t give you a recipe for retiring at forty. It’s not a pep talk or tough-love admonition. Instead, it summarizes the information I think someone trying to have a successful financial life should know. It explains important concepts and terms in simple language. It outlines steps for taking control of your finances. It lists specific financial companies and products.
Part-way through writing the book, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. I don't know what the future holds for society, the economy, employment, and markets. Still, when it comes to personal finance, so far I see no evidence that the basic ideas I present here are wrong. Perhaps even more than before they can save you money and let you lead a more stress-free life.
I’m going to push you to think about money in ways that don’t come naturally.
Think long term. Money in the short term is a drug. It’s a dopamine fix when you have it and an anxiety attack when you don’t. But money in the long term is an ally. It puts goals and aspirations within reach and reduces stress and unhappiness.
Think “times.” When you think long term, money behaves unexpectedly. With money you don’t add, you multiply changes over many periods. It’s surprising what happens when you multiply inflation rates or investment returns over many years.
Look beyond “average.” A lot of what you read and hear about money is true on average. But you are not average. Your situation, your starting point, and your goals are unique to you.
Accept uncertainty. Money decisions are invariably about the future, but the future is unknown. There are no guarantees. You can try to put the odds in your favor, but always realize you can get lucky…or unlucky.
Be skeptical. The financial industry is huge and sophisticated. It uses fear and greed to trick you into buying expensive products and services you don't need. Always ask how much something will cost and how the person or company you are dealing with gets paid.