3 Sep 2012

In honor of Labor Day

Many people regret that schools do not teach important life skills -- such as how to manage money* -- that would make life easier (less labor!!). After several decades of managing my personal finances -- mostly with success but learning from failure -- I offer the following advice.**

  • It's better to be paid "less than you're worth" than be proudly unemployed.
  • If you think you can do the job, but they don't, then offer to work FREE a few days per week for a month. You will be busy (good) even as you look for other jobs; they can decide if they want to hire you. You may even be able to network inside the company.
  • Think long and hard before taking more money in exchange for a longer commute. Time is money.
  • Have savings so you can dump a shitty job. Happiness may be priceless, but you need to pay the rent.
  • Spend less than you make. That means reward yourself AFTER you get paid.
  • Remember that it's often easier to spend less than make more.
  • A tax rebate is YOUR money. It's not a gift. Put it in savings or pay off debt.
  • Try to avoid cars. They are expensive and separate you from humans. 
  • It's cheaper to pay for a health club membership than heart bypass surgery.
  • Invite friends to your house for drinks, not a bar. Cleaner floors, better serving sizes.
Savings and investment
  • Always keep $10,000 (or 6 months living expenses) in your savings, as security.
  • After that $10,000, allocate your money to cash/bonds and equities in proportion to your age, i.e., YEARS % in cash/bonds and  (100-YEARS) % in equities. If you're 30, then its 30% cash/bonds and 70% equities. As you age, you will have more cash/equities and lower variation in your portfolio.
  • Following Nassib Taleb's advice, invest in high risk (high return) equities, not a broad market index.
  • Don't buy individual shares. Buy low-fee indexed mutual funds. (I use vanguard.)
Housing and debt
  • Don't get into debt for anything except a house. School loans may be a necessary evil -- or just plain evil.
  • Remember that buying and renting often cost the same, since the value of tax deductions and/or equity appreciation are reflected in the house's price. 
  • That said, you get flexibility with a rental, stability with a house.
  • If you buy a house, then do so because you want a place to live, not as an investment.
  • Do not lend/borrow money from friends unless you're prepared to make it a gift.
Got other suggestions/ideas?

* as well as eating well and avoiding pregnancy!
** I'm not a financial adviser, etc. If you make money, buy me a beer. If you lose money, write it off as "education" :)