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I didn't have anything intelligent to say about cute girls this week, so I decided to say something intelligent about another important area: money. (After all, how can you enjoy the beautiful things in life if you are strapped down?) What I say is very simple, and very basic. But I wish somebody had told it to me many years ago. In five years I have gone from having a crippling debt to having savings that far exceed what I once had in debt.
(Note: I got this letter about the article below: "As a professional investment advisor who has been in the business for 35 years, I can tell you that the financial advice you provided in your newsletter today is the best summary of those truths that I have seen. You were right on target with each point!" - David R.)

Note: An updated version of this article

The Trick To Money Is Having Some
By Eolake Stobblehouse
(Apologies to Stuart Wilde for ripping off the title of his wonderful book.)

You know, it makes sense that if you should take advice about money from somebody, you should take it from somebody who: a) is doing well, and b) is not gaining anything from giving you advice. For instance me. Not a bank "advisor" (read salesman) who is on office wages and is not allowed to recommend anything but the bank's own services, no matter how overpriced. (Ever wonder why banks own the best buildings on any street? Always the corner.)

So if you agree, listen up. I have spent some time in the past couple of years reading up on various aspects of money, and I feel a lot better about it. And in the end I have discovered that 1: the basics are really simple, and 2: most people don't know them. (I am indignant that school taught me differential math, but not how to wash a shirt, how to get along with people, or how to manage money...)

Don't take my word for it, there is a recommended book list below. But here are some of the basics as I see them right now:

1: Live below your means.
Obvious? Maybe, but you have to do it.
Don't take credit. If you don't have the money you can't afford it yet.

2: Save 10% of your income.
Set this aside *before* you use money on anything else. You'll find you can live on the rest. And if you earn good money, save 20% or 30% instead.

3: Don't use money on anything you don't really need, or which does not give big returns either financially or spiritually.
This means for example that significant alcohol or tobacco consumption is a dead loss. Or things you buy just for status. Remember, wealth is not defined as the size of your car, but as how long you could live without income if you had to, at your current life style. (Oh, and your house is not an asset, it is a liability.)

4: Earn your money on something you love.
Your love and interest are the strongest forces you have.

5: Prioritize your time.
Example: get rid of the TV. (You'll feel better too.)

6: The money you don't need right now, put in the best savings account you can find.
Some of the best are online, not in your local bank.

7: The money you won't need for many years, put in Index Funds.
Many independant studies show that index funds (due in part to low charges/fees) do significantly better than both bonds and savings accounts and most mutual funds, over any long period of time you want to choose in history. Real estate can do well, but might not, and takes a lot more attention.

8: Occasionally, give something back to the world.
We don't live in a vacuum.

9: Occasionally, invest in something fun.
One can go overboard with frugality: why die with millions in the bank, a frown, and an ulcer?

Eolake Stobblehouse

Recommended reading:

The Trick To Money Is Having Some

The Millionaire Next Door

Rich Dad Poor Dad

Learn To Earn

The Richest Man In Babylon

Think And Grow Rich

Motley Fool

Motley Fool UK
It seems that 'Index Funds' are called 'Index Trackers' in the UK.

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