Real Life Money Confessions

True stories about how other people feel about money.

When did you start really thinking about money?

I started watching Wall Street Week during college, when I was about 20 years old. It was a very famous show in the 1970s on PBS about finance, and they’d educate people about the stock market. It was my first exposure to the stock market, which I wanted to learn more about. I thought it was very interesting and I wished I had money to invest but, at the time, I didn’t have any real money. 

How did you feel about money when you were in your 20s and 30s?

I was interested in learning about money in college and law school, but I didn’t have substantial money until after I graduated law school and became a working lawyer—I was 24 years old when I graduated and 25 when I was sworn in. And even then, I had family obligations, so it was the first time I had money coming in, but it was also the first time I had major expenses. So I tried to do two things at the same time: Pay the expenses and start an investment plan.

It wasn’t until my 30s and 40s that I had money to invest. I started as soon as I could because I learned that what you should do is start saving, even if it is a little bit of money, as early as you can. It’s the most important thing in investing: Start early. Because even if you stop, for whatever reasons, during the following years, the money that you did invest, will be making money for you even while you’re not contributing to it. 

If you’re investing in your 30s and 40s, you’re talking about an investment career that could last 30 or 40 years. That’s the best part of investments. The earlier you do it, the longer your investments will accumulate money for you. If you get in the habit of investing, the investments take care of themselves. 

The best way to plan for your future is to do it as early as you can and as steady as you can. It doesn’t even have to be a lot of money each time. 

How did you learn about investing? 

I read a lot and watched investment television shows all the time. I always remember reading Money magazine when I was very young, trying to get some insights. The information in there is very, very basic, but that’s how I became educated when I was younger. 

I was never told what to do, but I was always of the opinion that if I didn’t know something and I thought it was important I would learn it. 

Did you manage your investments yourself or did you hire someone to do it? 

I constantly monitored all my investments myself. I never really relied on an outside investor. I managed my own money. When I began to have a family, I had long-range plans to pay for the education of my kids which was a major concern of mine. For that I invested primarily through a Magellan fund that is part of the Fidelity family of funds. Peter Lynch was a very popular manager at the time and he got a lot of publicity with his success with the Magellan Fund. I had all my kids' college money invested in the Magellan Fund which did very, very well. 

But remember: There’s always a balance between how much you want to spend on investing for long range plans and how much you want to spend your money on having a good time while you and your family are growing. 

Any regrets from this time of early investing? 

I wish I had more money sooner, rather than later, but that’s just a matter of what profession you go into and how fast you’re able to accumulate disposable income that you could use for investment purposes. The most successful element of my investing was that I did it as early as I could. 

Did salary impact your decision to be an attorney? 

It was all about the money. In fact, when I was in college I thought I would be a teacher, but I changed my focus because I wanted to make more money. 

Any regrets?

No. 

Did you encourage your children to go into professions where you knew they’d make more money? 

I didn’t encourage any of my kids to do something other than what they wanted to do. I never attempted to sway them one way or another. My father never interfered in what I wanted to do or encouraged me one way or another. Never ever did he make a suggestion as to what I should do career-wise. 

Any advice you’d like to pass on to those who aren’t so money savvy? 

One thing you should never do is be fearful of the stock market. When it goes down, never pull your money out. In fact, when it goes down that’s the best time to invest your money. That’s when the stocks that you want to own will be cheapest. In fact there’s that famous saying that the time to buy is “when there’s blood in the streets.” In other words, when everyone thinks the world is ending, that’s the best time to invest. 

And always limit your investments to things that you understand. Never invest in something you don’t understand. It’s sort of the Golden Rule. If you don’t know what you’re investing in, don’t give someone your money for that investment.  

When was the first time you felt like you had money?

When I was able to buy a brand new car. It was 1976, a year after I became a lawyer. I bought a Monte Carlo. 

What does it mean to be rich?

It’s having enough money that you don’t have to worry about having money. 

Any plans to retire? 

Well, I thought I would have stopped working already, but it’s easy for me to still accumulate money, so I really don’t want to retire. Fortunately I’m in a career where I’m able to work. I work behind a desk; my work isn’t physically challenging. People are living longer these days, but now that’s an extra challenge, because you’re living longer, you need extra money for a longer life span. I would like to retire and not work. And I would have enough to exist from my savings. 

What do you think of when you hear the word money?

Security. Fulfilling what you would want to do in your life. Being able to do what you would like to do in life.