I remember when I used to feel inadequate about money and investing. I felt like I was floating in the middle of a dangerous ocean, with no wind in my sails, and I lost my direction home.
It was a helpless, scary feeling to know almost nothing about how to start investing, because I desperately wanted to master money, but I didn’t know where to start learning how to invest.
I always imagined life would be easier if I understood how to invest, and create money from money, but getting that knowledge felt so elusive. It felt like financial wisdom was reserved for a select club. Unless you were born into that club, or went to school for years to learn it, you’d forever be struggling money, while the few people who did understand money and investing would be passionately living their dream lives.
This story is about my road to learn how money and investing works. Once I began to learn, I stopped feeling lost and afraid. I started to feel empowered. Learning was the breeze that filled my sails. Learning helped me cross my ocean of challenges, and find my dream life on the other side.
This is how you start to learn to master money and investing:
It was three years ago when I realized something had to change with my limited understanding of money and investing. I was sick of feeling lost. I was in an Alpha Group with my wife (We’re now leaders), and our leader opened with a question to start the discussion.
“If you could have one super power, what would it be?” She asked,
A few ordinary answers flashed in my mind: Jedi mind powers. Ninja athletic skills. Wings to fly through the universe at the speed of light. Claws and strength like Wolverine. All really cool super powers.
But these answers felt too generic for me because I am a trail-blazer at heart. I tried to think deeper trying to find a unique answer that hadn’t been said before. My answer finally hit me. It was like a lightning bolt exploded in my mind when it was my turn to answer.
I spit the flaming-hot answer out of my mouth, “I wish I understood the art of finance better.” I said, “I wish I had financial wisdom as my super power, because I don’t understand it right now.”
I was amazed that I was willing to share my weakness in front of the group. But then I was also amazed by how many people agreed with me, and wished they had that same super power. I realized the majority of my friends knew how to be great people, but none of us confidently knew how money and investing worked.
The group discussion moved on to the next subject, but my mind was stuck on my answer. A desire to master money and investing had electrified my mind. I wanted to learn, and I didn’t care what it would take.
I started my journey to master money and investing with these four tools that I believe are essential for any new adventure to be successful:
1) FEARLESSNESS. I had zero fear of failure. I wasn’t afraid to learn or try something new.
2) CURIOSITY. I was ready and hungry to explore new thoughts.
3) TEACHABILITY. Teach me, God, I thought. My mind was a blank slate.
4) SMART FRIENDS. I have a network of successful friends I could learn from and tap for knowledge.
Attitude, mentality, and character MUST be your first investment to be successful with money and create wealth. I promise you, there’s nothing in life you can’t do if you have these qualities in your heart, attitude, and mind. It’s when you don’t have these qualities leading your life, that you will find yourself lost and in trouble.
God must have heard my fears about money and investing in group that night, because right after that, is when my adventure and training sessions began. I don’t want to share these 4 lessons I’ve learned to show off, because I am a human with flaws like everyone else. I want to share my experiences with money and investing to help other “Me’s” out there who want to learn, but don’t know where to begin.
MASTER MONEY AND INVESTING LESSON #1: Understanding compound interest. Compound interest is, as Einstein stated, the 8th Wonder of the World.
This was my first lesson about mastering money. In 1980 when I was born, a family member gave me $300 worth of XCEL Energy stock for my first birthday. (Share price was $12 at the time, so a $300 investment bought me 25 shares.) I’m not sure why my family member picked that stock. I was too young to ask them. I was having a hard enough time learning how to use my hands to eat.
Since my mind wasn’t mature enough to realize the value of stock, I spent the majority of my childhood playing with my kites, bikes, and building tree forts instead. I basically forgot I even owned stock.
Once a year, I would get a letter in the mail from XCEL Energy which was the financial statement showing the value of the stock. But since I didn’t understand, or really care, about financial language, it seemed boring and I didn’t pay much attention to it.
If I would have taken the time to actually understand financial language, I would have seen that dividends were being paid to me as cash. Since I was signed up in their dividend reinvestment plan, that cash was automatically buying me more shares of stock. The 8th wonder of the world, compound interest, was working for me throughout my entire childhood and I didn’t even know it.
Today, I’m 37 years old, and now that I can read those financial statements I get in the mail, I can appreciate how those original 25 shares of stock were seeds that have now grown into a forest of 471 shares and growing every day without me doing anything. XCEL Energy share price is now worth around $40 a share. Do the math. You’ll see that my original $300 birthday present when I was born is now worth $20,000. What’s that forest of money going to look like if I don’t touch it and let it compound for another 30 years? $100,000? $250,000?
I don’t tell this story to promote XCEL Energy stock. Individual stock picking can be a dangerous game. I just think it’s an awesome, example illustrating the power of compounding interest when an investment seed is fertilized with time and left to grow.
Albert Einstein once called compound interest, “The 8th wonder of the world.” If Albert Einstein takes the time to describe a theory all of us can have in our lives with such powerful words, that means it’s probably a concept worth the time to learn more about and fully understand.
The secret to creating wealth, is developing the skill to see into your future. You must be able to visualize: 10, 20, and 30 years into the future if you want to succeed with investing and money.
Use the power of imagination to see how your decisions today may look after 30 years of compounding time is added to them. Every time you’re about to spend money, ask yourself, “Ok, I have the cash now, but do I really need to spend it? What’s this cash going to look like and be worth in 30 years if I save and invest it instead?” This is how financially smart, savvy, and successful people think. They are constantly using their power of imagination to see how today’s decisions, will impact their future selves.
After that night at group where I wished I had the super power of money and investing, I’ve started to use my imagination to think like this all the time.
For example, splurging and seeing my favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings, live in their stadium is one of my favorite things to do in life. But before I buy NFL tickets, I think through what the experience is really going to cost, and what that experience is worth to me. Sure, I could easily pay $300 cash for lower level, 50-yard line seats without blinking an eye. But now that I understand how money and investing works, I don’t just look at the sticker price of the tickets. I also look at the opportunity cost of going to the game, and the future value my future self will be missing if I bought those $300 tickets.
I ask myself this question: How much will today’s 3 hour game cost my future-self in 30 years if I saved and invested that money instead? If that $300 could turn into $20,000 like my first birthday present did, is that seat at the game really bringing me $20,000 worth of entertainment and value?
I compare those numbers to the different choices I have available. For example, I realize I can have just as much fun going to the game with a $50 upper deck ticket, and still make out like a bandit investing the remaining $250 I saved from not buying the $300 ticket. In this situation, that sounds like a great win-win entertainment and financial decision to me! I get to have the same memories, enjoyment, and experience at the game. I also get to invest the money I saved by investing it and make my future self proud and happy of my decision.
I always ask myself before I purchase anything, what brings me the most value and happiness from my choices? How does the current value of something, compare to the opportunity cost that I could earn if I invested that money instead?
Being savvy with money and investing is a delicate balance of asking yourself: How can I best maximize the experiences of today, while I also use my imagination to grow the value of my money years from now?
This is how financially savvy people balance their choices of life. They find the style of how they can best enjoy today, while making a plan how they can best enjoy their future to its fullest extent. Financially wise people basically find ways to eat their cake, and save it to. That’s how they learn to master life. The path to mastering your life is really just a series of decisions that weigh today’s value, compared to future values, so you can harvest the best value for yourself.
And while we’re on this subject, don’t get me venting started about the lost opportunity cost when a 20 or 30 years old buys, or finances (throw up in my mouth), a new car. Just imagine if they chose a used car instead, and invested the remaining 10K or 20K they saved for the next 30 years. Haha. Haha. Seriously. I’m laughing at all the money you could reap if you’re still young and can postpone buying luxury items until the seeds of your investments can grow into a forest of wealth. Once your forest of wealth is growing, then you can enjoy picking the fruit, letting the forest regenerate new fruit, and buy whatever the heck you want with your basket of cash.
Making the right decisions early on is the super easy path to reach millionaire status. Don’t believe marketing companies, and sales people, who try to make you believe it’s normal to spend huge amounts of money on horrendous, evil debt payments for luxury items that you don’t even need! Replace these luxury items with high-quality, less-expensive items that do the same thing and invest the rest!
Remember this truth in our modern American world: The marketing companies who want to sell you these things are trying to manipulate you so they can turn your money into millions of dollars for themselves over time. LEARN HOW TO KEEP YOUR MONEY SO THAT YOU CAN LIVE YOUR MILLIONAIRE DREAM, AND NOT THE MARKETING COMPANIES. Save your money. Do what God is calling you to do with your life. Create your wealth and live your dream life.
MASTER MONEY AND INVESTING LESSON #2: How to invest in stocks. Destroy inexperience and fear of failure by relentlessly learning and trying.
Before my wife and I were married, we paid off our bad debt, which included a student loan and car loan. (I’ll write about my decision to keep my manageable mortgage at some point) After living frugally for the first year of our marriage, we saw that we had a 6 month emergency fun of cash, and a surplus that went beyond that. We realized it was time for us to start learning what to do next with this surplus of money that was above and beyond our emergency fund.
We looked at the options of what we could do with the extra money. We could go shopping and buy more “stuff.” I could get a cooler guitar, and my wife could go bat-crap crazy at the art supply store. But after talking about it, we decided we already had everything that makes us happy.
Sure, a $5,000 guitar would feel awesome in my hands! Or a bigger house, with 2000 more square feet, would be cool to walk into to. But would we be happier with these “better things” than we already are with my $1,000 guitar and modest home? We realized, our happiness would probably decrease, once the credit card and tax bills came due for these new “cool things.”
What we decided rather than more expensive things, what we really wanted was more time and freedom to pursue our dreams; passion projects such as this blog; and finding our purpose in life. To embark on this adventure, we knew we needed more money to fund our adventure, so we decided to use that surplus cash to learn how to invest with it.
Investors learn how to make money when they’re sleeping, and that’s the life we wanted. We decided the opportunity to learn was more valuable to us than buying and consuming “stuff,” so that became our motivation to learn how investing worked.
We didn’t know where to start, so we contacted a financial advising family friend to ask for advice. He had a good track record with the family members I trusted, and had owned his own financial firm for 20+ years, so I figured getting his advice was a good place to start.
The first time we met with him, I was impressed. He actually advised us NOT to invest with him at that time. He showed us that financial markets were at an all-time high, and there may be better investing opportunities coming later in the year after a few global events took place. For a man who is paid by closing sales, and earning commissions, I was extremely impressed that he turned down an easy sale with newbies like us to find better values for us down the road.
He advised us to hold onto our surplus cash, continue to save, and wait for the dust to settle on the world stage and review our investment opportunities at that time. I felt comfortable with this advice. Even though I was new to investing, I at least knew that buying low and selling high is how you win in the game in business, money, and investing.
Six months later, he called us after the global events he was talking about caused the market to fall 20%. “If you still have that money to invest, now’s a great time. You’ll buy in at a 20% discount.” He said.
We met him again and reviewed several IRA and ROTH IRA retirement, and non-retirement mutual funds he suggested. Since I am self-employed, and operate my own independent sales business, I have to plan for my own retirement. Those conversations helped me learn a lot more about retirement IRA’s, ROTH IRA’s, and how they’d all impact my yearly tax payments. It was like I was learning a new language, and as I learned, I was becoming more fluent making my own financial decisions.
We decided to invest our surplus money that day, and for the first time as adults making our own decisions, my wife and I walked away owning a mixture of 4 retirement and non-retirement investment mutual fund accounts. (FKGRX, FISEX, TEDIX, and FRDPX, for any investment wizards out there.)
The timing advice our adviser gave us was spot on, because a month after our purchase, the markets rebounded and we captured our first experience on how investing works. A 20% return on a five-figure investment isn’t money to laugh at, especially when we didn’t have to work for it.
But I’m not telling this story to flaunt the money we made. The real reason I am telling this story is to show the most important factor in learning how money and investing works. Can you spot it?
The most important lesson in this story is that we saved our money and took a risk trying. By trying, we had broken the barrier of fear and inexperience. We were now actively learning, and gaining valuable real-life investing experience with every decision we made.
A truth of life is that no matter how much information you read and study, real life experience is always be the best teacher. We were now gaining real-life learning lessons, and this learning was providing us more opportunities to grow than money could ever buy.
If you can learn one thing from this second lesson on money and investing, it’s that if you want to know how investing works, this is the secret: Save some money, get good advice you trust, and start trying.
Surround yourself with the best money friends you can get and then just try. Once you start trying, you’ll never suffer from inexperience again. Trying is the path to find your investment style.
Remember that all investing carries some risk. But doing nothing probably carries even more risk. You may lose in the short term, but your focus should never be on the short term anyway. Always focus on learning and growing over the long term, and you are almost guaranteed to win at anything you do in life.
I think his below quote sums up what wise money and investing should look like:
“Investing should be more like watching paint dry, or watching grass grow. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas.” Paul Samuelson.
MASTER MONEY AND INVESTING LESSON #3: How to invest without a financial adviser on your own. Learn, learn, grow and try more.
Once the helpless state of inexperience is in your rear view mirror, you are on your way to being an experienced investor. Now you can learn how to grow and become great at money and investing.
I advise you to devote yourself to learn, learn, and learn more. There are hundreds of incredible personal finance writers out there telling stories about their good, and bad, adventures in the finance world. Let them be your guides so that you can learn from their mistakes. If you do can learn from them, you won’t have to learn the hard way, because they have already done it for you.
Follow them on social media like Facebook, or even better, start a twitter account, and follow everyone on twitter who is writing about their adventures to understand money and investing. Start here with @WealthWellDone of course!
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— Wealth Well Done (@WealthWellDone) February 10, 2017
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One of the great, eternal maxims of life is:
If you want to know who you are, look at your friends.
— Wealth Well Done (@WealthWellDone) December 19, 2016
Make new smart, talented, and experienced online friends who understand personal finance. It’s a great way to start building the new, smarter you.
For example, as I continued my pursuit of learning, I found this awesome writer JLCollins who showed me the way buy low fee, index funds. Read his classic “Stock series” here.
I was so inspired by his words, and learning more, I opened a vanguard account on my own 3 weeks ago, and bought my own VTSAX shares so I can compare this index fund to my actively managed mutual funds.
Update 2017: In the last few months, I have been inspired to venture out and start investing on my own with Vanguard. After learning all I could, I left our financial adviser and his 5.77% sales charge, and the .88% annual management fee on the mutual funds he sold us. Look at all those fees! Even though these investments were increasing in value, they were like buckets with holes in them that were leaking money at the same time with all those fees!
I am now investing in S and P based Index mutual funds, and only paying a 0$ sales charge, and only a .05% annual management fee on the mutual funds I buy through Vanguard. I am now pocketing all those 5.77% sales charges and .8% annual management fee for myself. Nice!
All those fees add up, which is why it’s important to pay attention to them. Look at this example: If I invest $20,000 a year (which is our goal. Sometimes more; sometimes less.) 5% of that amount per year is, $1,000. If you accrue that yearly fee over the next 30 years of our investing life, that’s $30,000 + a varying annual maintenance charge going to unnecessary fees. Just imagine if you could save yourself those fees, and get compound interest working on that massive pile of cash rather than giving it away to fees. You can. It’s called being a Boglehead.
In conclusion, before I invest, I always ask myself, what’s the worst that can happen?
My answer: If I lose everything I’ve invested, I’ll at least learn, and know what not to do next time. I’ll find a way to survive, and can always be happy with my hiking boots, caring wife, friends and family, and my personal relationship with God. Because these are ultimately what create my feelings of wealth, meaning, and happiness anyway.
This is also why I never invest my emergency fund. AN EMERGENCY FUND IS FOR EMERGENCIES! DON’T LOSE YOUR MONEY FOR EMERGENCIES IN A CRAZY STOCK MARKET SWING!
Wise words to the beginner investor: If you don’t have the discipline to save an emergency fund, you’re probably not ready to start buying and selling and playing with investments. First, practice making your discipline stronger by building an emergency fund of six months cash. This way you can avoid the heart attacks of the high and low swings of your investment numbers.
The market will go up, and the market will go down. But don’t be worried about the short term. It takes time for a forest of wealth to grow from your first invested seeds. As the great investor, Warren Buffet has said:
“Someone is sitting in the shade today, because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
Remember, all great stories about money and investing first start because someone chooses to turn on their imagination and actually think about their financial life. Start thinking about how you can creating a forest of wealth with your decisions today. Not just a blade of grass. Or a tree. But an entire forest of wealth that you grow on your own.
MASTER MONEY AND INVESTING LESSON #4: PONDER THIS AND LET IT SINK IN.
“It’s the compounding of assets, not just money, that creates true wealth.” Robert Kiyosaki.
— Wealth Well Done (@WealthWellDone) February 10, 2017
If you don’t understand how important the above sentence is, a great place to start learning is by reading Robert Kiyosaki’s classic book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. If you’d like to support our site, you can buy it directly through our Amazon affiliate program by clicking on the below image.
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