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The Smartest Financial Advice Ever

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CNNMoney.com asked forty famous people for their best piece of financial advice. You’ll hear answers from the likes of Bill Miller, Derek Jeter, Jon Barry, Steven Levitt, and even advice from Rodney Dangerfield. In the beginning of the slideshow, the photos are of the respondents but as you get closer to the end it’s photos of the origins of the advice; you’ll know what I mean when you get there.

Unfortunately, they didn’t ask me, otherwise this is what I’d say about the smartest financial advice I got:

The smartest advice I ever got from my parents was to always work hard. My dad once told me that I was one of those people who could complete a fifteen minute job in ten minutes. As I basked in the compliment, my dad told me that what would separate me from the other people who could do the same thing was what I did with the other five minutes. Everyone has talent in something, but not everyone has a work ethic. A strong worth ethic is what separates the great from the merely good. I can’t say I disagree.

Here are my favorites from the slideshow:

Elizabeth Gilbert: Swear off debt.

Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love, a book my wife has read and really enjoyed, and I thought this bit of advice from her parents was a gem. Her father passed along this message from her grandfather: “Borrowing money is like wetting your bed in the middle of the night. At first all you feel is warmth and release. But very, very quickly comes the awful, cold discomfort of reality.”

In Taiwan, and China, the concept of consumer debt is only a recent phenomenon. Until the last five or ten years, the idea of a credit card was foreign in Taiwan. My father told us a story about when my parents bought a home on Long Island that my grandfather wanted to give him the cost of the home (this was nearly thirty years ago). My dad explained to my grandfather that he could put 20% down and borrow the rest, a concept that made no sense to his grandfather. Why borrow money? Just keep saving and saving and saving until you can afford it. It’s amazing how pervasive consumer credit has become in such a short time.

Derek Jeter: Know where your money goes.

Derek Jeter is the shortstop for the New York Yankees and considering the size of his paycheck, it’s amazing this was the advice he thought of. I think it’s valuable because as we get older, the finances get more complex and you begin relying on more and more experts. We now have an accountant that handles our taxes, we leaned on a real estate agent when we bought our house, we’ll have to rely on the expertise of numerous subject matter experts as we grow older but it’s always important to be part of the process.

Chris Larsen: Take risks when you can.

Chris Larsen founded E-Loan.com and Prosper.com, two hugely successful and innovative companies in the lending industry. This bit of advice came from Jim Collins, author of Built to Last, Larsen’s MBA professor at Stanford. “You’re young. You can fail two or three times, even lose all your money two or three times, and you’ll be just fine. Taking that risk puts you in the path of wealth.”

In my MBA, I received similar advice from my Entrepreneurship professor. He said that, especially if you’re young, you should be willing to take risks and try paving your own way. It’ll be hard, you might fail, but the worst thing that can happen is that you go back and get another job.

There are a lot of good gems in there including appearances by Freakonomics author Steven Levitt, Four Hour Work Week author Tim Ferriss, and many many others.

The smartest advice I ever got [CNN Money]

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3 Responses to “The Smartest Financial Advice Ever”

  1. Oh man, that Elizabeth Gilbert is awesome – I loved that one too :) My father’s best advice was “never put anything on a credit card that you can’t pay off”. Not as interesting or sexy as the other quotes, but it’s still true!

  2. grumpy says:

    Just keep saving and saving and saving until you can afford it.

    This is a good way to become a lifetime renter. Instead of financing a home purchase, you keep saving and saving and saving while you keep renting and renting and renting. Do this for a while and the cost of renting will exceed what you’d be paying if you had bought the house, at which point your ability to continue saving will be impaired. Do this for 30 years and you’ll pay more to rent than you would have paid to buy, and you’ll have nothing to show for it.

  3. jim says:

    grumpy – I agree, but remember my grandfather lived in an era where homes cost a fraction of what they cost now. Plus he was in Taiwan, where homes cost a fraction of what they cost in the US. :)


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