The Choices That Define Your Financial Life

  • Act as if personal finance is a game where you only get ten tickets to play.
  • Invest as if you are holding a checkbook with only a dozen checks inside.
  • Speak as if you’re holding a six-shooter, is it worth one of your bullets to make the point that’s on your mind.

I’ve been hearing versions of the above my entire life. It’s been great advice and encouraged me to:

  • Slow down
  • Resist the urge to interrupt compounding
  • Keep it simple
  • Focus on the big decisions
  • Treat small movements like noise

So, we started your kids with the allowance game.

Then, we moved onto discussing the family’s allocation of capital towards education.

With that, we considered the impact, across generations, of borrowing.

What next?

Teach your kids their financial lives will be about no more than a dozen choices.

Here are mine:

  • Study finance (class of 1990)
  • Save 50% of my take home (1990-2007)
  • Partners investment scheme (late 90s, all in then, equivalent of 1 yr spending now)
  • Work to build a startup (2000)
  • Sell into the frenzy (2005-2007)
  • Move into a low-cost Vanguard portfolio (2008 onwards)
  • Boulder real estate (2010 & 2012))
  • Downsize (2012-2013)
  • Borrow long at 3.25% (2013)
  • Debt free (2007 & 2020)
  • Have kids with a kind woman from a humble background (on going)

Every other choice turned out to be noise. What to do?

Focus on actions, not outcome.

What does that really mean?

Do what moves you forward and have faith. Sport, marriage, money, all things… daily action is the fundamental force moving you towards “better.”

Education matters => I was given a chance in Private Equity because I had high marks in a useful field. Between my high school graduation (1986) and my youngest’s (2031) the nature of “useful” will have changed. However, the need for skilled people to “do” will endure.

The most useful part of my degree wasn’t finance! It was financial accounting, programming and mathematics => I learned fundamental knowledge in college. I learned my profession on-the-job. You learn the valuable part by doing work, for the best people you can find.

This keeps popping up over and over again (professors, partners, coaches, mentors, twitter follows). At 53, I’m learning from people less than half my age! Do work to learn.

Avoid Ruin => studying, then working in, financial accounting helps you learn when a situation doesn’t feel right. Embezzlement is an old game and it’s useful to learn the patterns. Financial fraud happens, and will continue to happen. Take steps to reduce your family’s exposure to ruin.

With the accounting, I learned the most with 9 credits spread across three courses. Financial Accounting 1, 2 and 3. Small investment, huge return. Do it when you’re young. Being forced to rely on others to do your financial math is a disadvantage that will cost you.


Let’s pull it together for you…

Starting your working life (in a useful field, with your financial accounting courses done)…

You are at least a decade away from making the shift to lifestyle sustainable, so you focus on:

  1. Learning by doing with the best people who will hire you
  2. Savingget that first $100K banked, you will be grateful when you’re older
  3. Waiting for the fat pitch – once in a lifetime investment opportunities happen once a decade
  4. Turning yourself into the sort of person you’d like to marry, the friend you’d like to have, the parent you aspire to be => meaningful connection is true wealth

Your mind will try to trick you into thinking it’s the investment choices that matter.

It is not.

It is the four habits I outlined above, and avoiding substance abuse.

The Choices That Define Your Financial Life