Wealth and Status Are False Gods

Wealth and Status Are False GodsWhile it’s certainly one thing to know that money is a way to fulfill your requirements in life, it’s quite another when money becomes your primary motivation and measure of success, or when you come to equate happiness or worthiness with your wealth.

While there nothing characteristically wrong with material wealth or its pursuit, it’s easy to expect too much from money.

The New Testament (1 Timothy 6:10) reminds you to be aware of the difference between need and greed, “love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Money can push you to take on or keep you in unhealthy relationships and unsatisfying careers. It can lead you to neglect your social life and undervalue the importance of relationships. Besides, money can adulterate your soul, germinate dishonorable conduct, and make you unworthy regardless of the wealth you accumulate.

Status Is the Enemy of Passion

Prestige, cachet, status, wealth, and approval as dominant extrinsic motivators are appropriate and can be life-affirming in the short term, but they eventually confuse and undermine you from the things that do offer deeper rewards for a life well led. The British-American venture capitalist and essayist Paul Graham wrote in his stimulating 2006 article “How to Do What You Love” discussed the hollowness of pursuing “prestige”:

What you should not do, I think, is worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. You shouldn’t worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world.

….

Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.

….

Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well enough, you’ll make it prestigious. Plenty of things we now consider prestigious were anything but at first. Jazz comes to mind—though almost any established art form would do. So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself.

Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That’s the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn’t suck, they wouldn’t have had to make it prestigious.

Materialism is Shallow

Modern society is remarkably driven by statusAs a modern society, we are remarkably driven by status—because we regard ourselves more worthy of others’ respect if we possess a home in a status neighborhood, a vacation property, brand-name or even designer-label clothes, luxury watches, expensive jewelry, and so on. But the pursuit of a materialistic lifestyle comes at a high cost.

Writing about the shallowness of materialism, the Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias wrote in Recapture the Wonder (2003),

In a culture where the possibility of wealth and the acquisition of things is so defining of success, we end up pursuing things that, even if we are successful, can never deliver what we envisioned they would. The reason riches become such a snare is because we end up evaluating life in mercenary terms and being seen by others in such terms, and life is just not so.

Money can buy lots of things that make us feel good and important. However, people preoccupied with money and status are never satisfied. Often, their desires and debts grow faster than their means. The more they have, the more they think they need. Discouraging gluttony and lavish spending habits, the great Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote (per Dialogues and Essays,)

Shun luxury, shun good fortune that makes men weak and causes their minds to grow sodden, and, unless something happens to remind them of their human lot, they waste away, lulled to sleep, as it were, in a drunkenness that has no end…. Although all things in excess bring harm, the greatest danger comes from excessive good fortune: it stirs the brain, invites the mind to entertain idle fancies, and shrouds in thick fog the distinction between falsehood and truth.

Idea for Impact: You are rich if you think you have enough

Put the value of money and the pursuit of wealth in perspectivePut the value of money and the pursuit of wealth in perspective. Feel rich and have a soft spot for certain indulgences. But, don’t get trapped in the spectacle of riches.

Being rich and seeking status can cost a fortune—the things that you may have to do to flaunt your wealth can cost almost as much as your wealth itself. As the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said, “The money you have can give you freedom, but the money you pursue enslaves you.”

You are Rich If You Think You Have Enough

You are Rich If You Think You Have EnoughMoney isn’t the most important thing in life, except when you truly don’t have enough of it. Nevertheless, virtually everyone at every income level seems to place too much importance on it.

The relationship between money and happiness is well established: money can buy happiness, but it can only buy less than most people think. Beyond a humble middle-class living, study after study shows that people with more money are no happier.

What Money Gets You

Wealth can actually give you three essential things.

Firstly, money can help establish a financial foundation. Money can reduce or eliminate the despair caused by poverty and debt. Once you amass a sufficient amount of wealth, financial troubles will not weigh on you so heavily. Money allows you to not only live a longer and healthier life, but also defend yourself against worry and harm. Further, a sizable wealth can give you independence from the entrapment of having to make money just to make money. Berkshire Hathaway vice-chairman and Warren Buffet’s business partner Charlie Munger once said, “Like Warren, I had a considerable passion to get rich, not because I wanted Ferraris—I wanted the independence. I desperately wanted it.”

Secondly, wealth can allow you to have vacations, gatherings, and spend meaningful time with family and friends. Many studies have shown that the tenor of your social life is one of the most significant influences on your emotional wellbeing. Folks with many deep social connections are less likely to experience loneliness, sadness, low self-esteem, and problems with eating, sleeping, and relaxing.

Thirdly, wealth can allow you to invest your time absorbed in activities that you’re passionate about. Happiness research is clear: people are often happier when they spend their money on life experiences rather than on purchasing material goods. We humans seek meaning. Therefore, life experiences—especially those involving other people—make us happy primarily because events often generate vivid memories that we can later recall with pleasure. In contrast, we quickly adapt to material goods we purchase. Harvard Psychologist Daniel Gilbert, author of the bestselling Stumbling on Happiness (2006,) explained the pleasure from buying experiences as opposed to material goods in a 2011 paper in the Journal of Consumer Psychology:

After devoting days to selecting the perfect hardwood floor to install in a new condo, homebuyers find their once beloved Brazilian cherry floors quickly become nothing more than the unnoticed ground beneath their feet. In contrast, their memory of seeing a baby cheetah at dawn on an African safari continues to provide delight. Over time, {people exhibit} slower adaptation to experiential purchases than to material purchases. One reason why this happens is that people adapt most quickly to that which doesn’t change. Whereas cherry floorboards generally have the same size, shape, and color on the last day of the year as they did on the first, each session of a year-long cooking class is different from the one before.

Another reason why people seem to get more happiness from experiences than things is that they anticipate and remember the former more often than the latter. … Things bring us happiness when we use them, but not so much when we merely think about them. Experiences bring happiness in both cases …. We are more likely to mentally revisit our experiences than our things in part because our experiences are more centrally connected to our identities.

A final reason why experiences make us happier than things is that experiences are more likely to be shared with other people, and other people … are our greatest source of happiness.

Experiential Purchases Make People Happier Than Material Purchases.

Idea for Impact: You are Rich If You Think You Have Enough

Put the value of money and the pursuit of wealth in perspective.

Money is an opportunity for happiness. Money allows you to do what you please. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that more money and more material goods will unavoidably make you more happy. A certain amount of money will surely make life easier and satisfied, but more money and more material goods bring more problems.

Feel rich, have a soft spot for certain indulgences, and invest in memorable experiences rather than in material objects.

Don’t get trapped in the spectacle of riches.

Don’t let money own you.

The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy / Book Summary of “The Millionaire Next Door”

'The Millionaire Next Door' by Thomas Stanley, William Danko (ISBN 1567315682) The Millionaire Next Door summarizes anthropological research from the ’90s on the attributes of unassuming wealthy Americans. The authors, marketing professors Thomas Stanley and William Danko, offer unique insights into millionaires’ lifestyles and their buying habits. They explain that, in contrast to today’s earn-and-consume culture, the many ordinary folks who accumulate wealth live modestly and prize frugality.

When first published in 1996, The Millionaire Next Door generated widespread enthusiasm for its core message: that anybody could become rich by living below their means, efficiently allocating funds in ways that build wealth, and ignoring conspicuous consumption. Consequently, the book sold millions of copies and stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for three years.

A bulk of The Millionaire Next Door focuses on rejecting the stereotypical view of the wealthy; the authors write, “Most people have it all wrong about wealth in America. Wealth is not the same as income. If you make a good income each year and spend it all, you are not getting wealthier. You are just living high. Wealth is what you accumulate, not what you spend.”

The authors discuss the fancy trappings of wealth and the high cost of maintaining social status. They explain that wealthy individuals prioritize financial independence over a high social status. Further, they did not receive sizable financial support from parents, and raise their own children to be economically self-sufficient adults.

The Millionaire Next Door is a definitive example of books that present simple concepts by reiterating them ad nauseam with an overabundance of statistics, tables, charts, and anecdotes to attain a respectable book length. For instance, a tedious 31-page chapter discusses how the wealthy purchase cars and includes statistics for average price-per-pound of popular cars.

Recommendation: Skim. The Millionaire Next Door defends the timeless values of thrift, disciplined spending, and prudent accumulation of wealth. However, the book overemphasizes penny-pinching and the merits of hoarding money. The book feels dated (it was first published in 1996) and engages the reader in crude generalizations and oversimplifications.

When Getting a Great Deal Might Not Be Worth Your Time

Life Spent Searching for Deals

Most consumers love a deal. Some spend untold time searching for the best possible bargains.

If you’re one of these obsessive bargain-hunters, unless you derive some hedonistic pleasure in snatching deals, you may not have considered the possibility that you’re putting too low a value on your time.

Perhaps you could benefit from some perspective: the time you spend hunting for deals and trying to save that last penny may not be worth it. While you can quantify how much money you save by shopping around, you may not realize the opportunity costs of deal-hunting: it often comes at the cost of your time.

You may have a vague sense of the fact that “time is money,” but this might not be telling enough. You can find the approximate value of an hour of your time by dividing your annual income by 2,000 (or, more easily, by disregarding the last three digits of your annual income and dividing the result by 2.)

Obsessive Bargain-Hunters, Coupon Craziness Based on your “hour’s worth of money” or some fraction thereof, set a cost threshold, say $15, for the cost per hour you could spend bargain-hunting. Unless you’re saving as much as this cost threshold, deal-hunting is quite simply a waste of your time and money. So, don’t poke around the internet for a better deal or follow an auction on eBay if you’re saving less than $15 per hour spent deal-hunting. Similarly, don’t run to the Costco at the other end of town just to save a dime a gallon on 20 gallons of gas.

I’ve written previously that life is all about values and the priorities you assign to those values. Therefore, decide which choices in your life really matter and focus your time and energy there. Let numerous other opportunities pass you by.

Another part of leading a wise and meaningful life is not always seeking the best but instead making good-enough choices about the things that matter and not concerning yourself too much about the things that don’t.

Idea for Impact: Don’t spend more time on a task unless it really warrants this in terms of “time-is-money.” As the American Philosopher Henry David Thoreau said, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

Clever Marketing Exploits the Anchoring Bias

Clever Marketing Exploits the Anchoring Bias

In the ’70s, psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman were the first to study a cognitive phenomenon called “anchoring” and its influence on decision-making. Over the decades, extensive research on anchoring has explained that the way and context in which we receive information profoundly influence how we synthesize it.

The effects of anchoring are very visible in marketing, sales, merchandising, and product pricing as it profoundly influences consumer behavior. By offering clever price contrasts, marketers can shape customers’ purchasing decisions. For example,

  • By offering lower prices and promotional sales, department stores induce customers to compare the sale price against the original price—the “anchor”—and think they’re getting a bargain.
  • By displaying shiny, expensive new cars in the showroom, car dealerships encourage customers to accept the prices displayed on their used cars or less flashy models.
  • Patrons at restaurants tend to order the second least-expensive bottle of wine in an attempt to avoid looking cheap. Therefore, restaurants tend to put the highest markup on that very bottle.

The Case of the $429 Breadmaker

Anchoring Bias: Williams-Sonoma $429 Breadmaker Customers are usually more likely to purchase a product when competing alternatives are included, as opposed to having only one product option.

Consider a classic example of this “single-option aversion” phenomenon. A few years ago, Williams-Sonoma couldn’t get customers to buy their $279 breadmaker. They cleverly added a spiffier-and-slicker deluxe breadmaker model to their product line for $429. While Williams-Sonoma didn’t sell many of the new and expensive breadmaker, they doubled sales of the original and less-expensive model.

When the $279 breadmaker was the only model available for sale, customers couldn’t tell whether the price was competitive because there was nothing to compare it to. By introducing a better product for a higher price, Williams-Sonoma provided an anchor upon which its customers could compare the two models; they naturally sided with the $279 model as an attractive alternative.

The Case of the $69 Hot Dog and the $1000 Chocolate Sundae

Anchoring Bias: Serendipity 3's $69 Hot Dog Usually, absurdly expensive premium goods are less of publicity stunts and more of strategic marketing tactics.

Consider the case of Serendipity 3’s menu anchors. In 2010, the popular New York eatery introduced a $69 hot dog called “Foot-Long Haute Dog” with dressings as exotic as medallions of duck liver, ketchup made from heirloom tomatoes, Dijon mustard with truffle shavings, and caramelized Vidalia onions to justify the high price. Of course, Serendipity 3 gained plenty of publicity when The Guinness Book of World Records certified this hot dog as the most expensive wiener of all time.

The true purpose of these ridiculously priced premium items is to make the next most expensive item seem cheaper. Customers who were drawn by the Haute Dog’s publicity gladly ordered the menu’s $17.95 cheeseburger. Even if $17.95 was too pricey elsewhere, Serendipity 3 customers deemed it reasonable in comparison to the $69 hot dog.

A few years previous, Serendipity 3 similarly offered a $1000 “Golden Opulence Sundae” that was only available with a 48 hour-notice. They sold only one Sundae per month. Nevertheless, this was just a shrewd marketing ploy to convince customers to spend more on high-profit margin desserts such as the $15.50 “fruit and fudge” confection or the $22.50 “Cheese Cake Vesuvius.”

Unsuspecting customers ended up paying too much for other meals at Serendipity 3 while believing they were getting a great deal.

Idea for Impact: Be Sensitive of Anchoring Bias

In both the above case studies, even if the companies sold almost none of their highest-priced models despite the publicity they generated, the companies reaped enormous benefits by exploiting the anchoring bias to induce customers to buy cheaper-than-most-expensive high-profit products.

In summary, anchoring exploits our tendency to seek out comparison and our reliance on context. The anchoring bias describes our subconscious tendency to make decisions by relying heavily on a single piece of information.

Call to Action: Sensitize yourself to how anchoring and anchoring bias may subconsciously affect your decision-making. If you’re in marketing or sales, investigate how you could use anchoring bias to influence your customers.

For more on cognitive biases and behavioral economics, read 2002 Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman’s bestselling Thinking, Fast and Slow. Also read Nir Eyal’s Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products on how to influence customer behaviors and build products and offer services that people love.

Don’t Listen to Jim Cramer on Mad Money

Don't Listen to Jim Cramer on CNBC's 'Mad Money' TV Show

If you ever tune in to CNBC’s popular Mad Money show, you’ll notice that host Jim Cramer speaks about the financial markets with unabashed certainty. Behind goofy sound effects and onscreen antics lies his particular brand of stock market punditry.

Cramer’s energy and confidence are most evident in the lightning round where his devotees hail “Booyah” and ask for his take on a barrage of stocks. In response, Cramer presents quick statistics and declares, “Same-store sales in China rose 12% last quarter. It’s a screaming buy; they’re doing great. BUY! BUY! BUY!” Or, he blurts out, “This company is involved with deep water rigs, the deep water market has not come back at all. If it does go up at all, SELL, SELL, SELL!”

What’s most notable about Mad Money is that Cramer is seemingly equipped to answer questions about any listed company with all the gusto he can muster. How could he possibly know the ins and outs of every company: their products, finances, cash flow, competitive positions, market prospects, and current valuation? He may know of many companies cursorily, but how could he have intimate knowledge of every ticker symbol that his fans throw at him? You’ll never hear him say, “Sorry, never heard of them,” or “Gee … truth be told, I’m not familiar with their new products or how they compare to the competitor’s products. I really couldn’t tell you.” He is loud and boisterous. He’s got to have an opinion on every stock—if he doesn’t, there is no show.

Jim Cramer, the best entertainer in the financial media

'Jim Cramer's Mad Money: Watch TV, Get Rich' by Jim Cramer (ISBN 1416537902) Jim Cramer’s credentials are impressive: Harvard, Goldman Sachs, hedge fund management, and TheStreet.com. He is the author of many investment-advice books with titles as appealing as “Get Rich Carefully”, “Sane Investing in an Insane World”, “Confessions of a Street Addict”, “Watch TV Get Rich”. He is experienced. He has extensive knowledge of the markets. He is passionate. He is smart.

Nonetheless, do not let Cramer’s credentials fool you about Mad Money‘s intent. His antics are entertaining. He wears silly costumes, yells at the camera, throws chairs around when angry, hits things with mallets, and chews heads off foam bears—all while producing goofy sound effects that include squealing pigs and a flushing toilet.

Jim Cramer’s opinions on Mad Money are often one-dimensional, half-baked, oversimplified, or wide of the mark. In the very first Mad Money episode I watched in 2005, a caller on the lightening round asked him about a company called PetroKazakhstan. Cramer’s response was that he did not trust the Russians. PetroKazakhstan was a Calgary-based Canadian oil company that was led by Canadian executives, did all its business in Kazakhstan, and had little to do with Russia. (The state-owned PetroChina acquired PetroKazakhstan in 2006.)

Don’t identify Cramer’s show with sound investment advice

Jim Cramer's Sound Effects and Onscreen Antics on 'Mad Money' As with other programs in the financial media that are teeming with talking heads, watching Mad Money can give you pointers as to what’s happening in the markets and in business trends. You can get ideas for what stocks to research or even speculate on. However, none of it constitutes sound investment advice.

Cramer’s job is not to make you money. He gets paid by CNBC to generate viewership and to entertain viewers with the pretext of dishing out dependable investment advice. He is not a trickster; he just is an entertainer on Mad Money, a fact that he acknowledged in a 2007 essay in the New York Magazine: “On the show, I say stupid things, yell ‘Booyah’ with alarming frequency, and occasionally wear a diaper or jump into a pile of lettuce to illustrate the finer points of investing. … God knows why, but there seems to be a market for this kind of idiocy.”

Watch Mad Money for the frenzy and personality-driven entertainment. Don’t take his speculative tips or investment advice seriously. Instead, do on your own research.

Rule #21 in Cramer’s 25 Rules of Investing states, “Be a TV critic: accept that what you hear on television is probably right, but no more than that.” Now, that’s good advice.

Is Day Trading and Speculation for You?

A few weeks ago, even as stock markets around the world suffered a turmoil triggered by downbeat economic news from China, a prolific 36-year-old Japanese day trader claimed to have made $34 million by betting big against the market trends and timing the bottom precisely.

Notwithstanding frequent mention of such success stories and blaring ads in the media tempting you to stake money on your wits and your instinct to profit from market swings, it can be very hard to make money consistently in day trading and short-term speculation.

As a fundamentals-based long-term investor, I don’t think there is anything wrong with day trading or short-term speculation. With skill, strategy, and the right temperament, it’s possible to be just as profitable in speculating as in investing with any other time horizon.

Over the years, many sophisticated stock-analysis services have emerged to facilitate trading and speculation by amateurs such as these pictured day-traders from Bangalore. Vast online social networks such as StockTwits engage in the exchange of information, opinion, gossip, rumors, and stories of successes and losses.

Day Trading and Speculating by Amateurs in Bangalore, India

For a few successful trades, luck may be the main factor. However, in the fullness of time, the most important factors for consistent stock market gains are discipline, temperament, and risk management.

Most day traders fail because it’s too darn hard to time the market. They lack a coherent technique that works consistently. Instead of following a definite strategy rooted in fundamentals or a structured thought-process, they follow the news-tickers, minute-by-minute stock prices, volume- and price-trends, and poorly understood media-fed euphoria. Moreover, most day traders engage in short selling, a complex skill that goes against the grain of the conventional buy-and-hold mindset. Worst of all, most speculators don’t understand how their emotions come into play—both when they lose and when they win.

Like anything that requires focus, drive, discipline, persistence and a stroke of luck, day trading and speculation are hard to do successfully. It may take years of painful education and experimentation before creditable success. The U.S. market regulator Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) offers the following cautions on day trading:

  • Be prepared to suffer severe financial losses
  • Day traders do not “invest”
  • Day trading is an extremely stressful and expensive full-time job
  • Day traders depend heavily on borrowing money or buying stocks on margin
  • Don’t believe claims of easy profits
  • Watch out for “hot tips” and “expert advice” from newsletters and websites catering to day traders
  • Remember that “educational” seminars, classes, and books about day trading may not be objective

'Reminiscences of a Stock Operator' by Edwin Lefevre (ISBN 1500541052) Idea for Impact: Most studies on day trading and speculation reckon that over three-fourths of amateur traders lose money, some of which may have been borrowed. The high risk that comes with high-yield investments and the self-inflicted stress of loss and debt may not be for you.

A Low-risk Alternative: There is no fail-safe way to invest without any risk. If you don’t have the time, energy, determination, or a strong understanding of investing, consider low-cost index funds. Do your own research. Read my previous article about John Bogle, founder of Vanguard and his tireless advocacy of low-cost index funds.

Recommended Reading: Edwin Lefevre’s 1923 classic, “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator”, is a fictionalized biography of Jesse Livermore (1877–1940), one of the greatest stock market speculators of all time. This “font of investing wisdom” (per Alan Greenspan) is filled with insightful trading advice and shrewd market/price movement analyses.

Man Who Retired at 30 is Ridiculously Happy

Financial Independence “What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”
Bob Dylan, American Musician

Early in my professional life, I pursued an ambition to attain wealth—not because I sought after luxury, but because I wanted to realize a financial foothold that could help me become financially independent and invest in a meaningful life. I’ve been “retired” for two years now, work very hard on my true pursuits, and live life on my own terms. I might fancy a change in the future; for now, I am living the dreams and I couldn’t be happier.

Money is a False God

Most people spend the better part of their adult lives chasing the almighty dollar in an ostensible pursuit of success and happiness. Wealth, characteristically manifested in the acquisition of things, becomes so defining of their success that it becomes their primary measure of accomplishment. Later in life, they wake up to the distressing fact that everything they’ve earned isn’t bringing them the wonderful life it was supposed to.

Pursuit of riches becomes such a trap because many people easily appraise life in terms that are defined by others.

Enjoy a Life of True Wealth

I admire anyone who is self-disciplined and is willing to live their life on their own terms. Last year, The Washington Post carried an interesting interview with a man who had retired at the age of 30, not caused by extreme wealth but by living with less. Mister Money Mustache realized early that the pursuit of material things could lead to a persistent sense of emptiness. Rather than being unfulfilled, his family’s live-with-less way of life has made them “ridiculously happy.” Here is an excerpt of the interview.

Mister Money Mustache Q: You describe the typical middle-class life as an “exploding volcano of wastefulness.” Seems like lots of personal finance folks obsess about lattes. Are you just talking about the lattes here?

A: The latte is just the foamy figurehead of an entire spectrum of sloppy “I deserve it” luxury spending that consumes most of our gross domestic product these days. Among my favorite targets: commuting to an office job in an F-150 pickup truck, anything involving a drive-through, paying $100 per month for the privilege of wasting four hours a night watching cable TV and the whole yoga industry. There are better, and free, ways to meet these needs, but everyone always chooses the expensive ones and then complains that life is hard these days.

With Needs, Without Wants

Contentment is worth more than riches. Having few desires and feeling satisfied with what you have is vital for happiness.

Be Happy with What You Have

In a This I Believe essay, Marianne Bachleder of San Francisco reminisces about consumerism and about being conscious of how much she already has:

We forget to be happy with what we have and in our forgetfulness we spread the infection of discontent. It’s a mistake easily made in a world where everyone is expected to pursue every want—the newest gadget, the latest update.

I may want shiny things, but I don’t need them. What I do desperately need is the peace of mind found in moments of contentment and gratitude. I need to identify each of my wildcat urges to purchase or possess as either “want” or “need.” My needs are basic, predictable, manageable. My wants are chaotic changelings, disturbers of the peace that can never be satisfied.

I will tend my needs, I will whittle my wants, and I will say often, “I’m happy with what I have.”

Thrift to Wealth

'The Little Book of Main Street Money' by Jonathan Clements (ISBN 0470473231) Jonathan Clements, personal finance columnist at Wall Street Journal and author of ‘The Little Book of Main Street Money’ and the forthcoming ‘Money Guide 2015’, spoke of thrift and the wealthy in an interview with Vanguard:

Over the years, I have met thousands of everyday Americans who have amassed seven-figure portfolios—and the one attribute shared by almost all of them is that they’re extremely frugal. When I was at Citi, I used to joke to the bankers that they would know a couple was wealthy if they pulled up to the branch in a second-hand Civic, wore clothes from J.C. Penney, and asked to have their parking ticket validated.

Shop at Amazon & Support a Noble Cause

Gyaana Prawas : Science/field trip for tribal kids in South India / Aapatsahaaya Foundation Dear readers, during this holiday season, if you succumb to the urge for the latest and the greatest or if you are shopping for gifts for friends and family, please consider shopping at Amazon.com using this link or clicking on a recommended book on the right sidebar of this website.

With no additional cost to you, 100% of the referral fees earned by this blog from the international Amazon Associates program support the education of underprivileged kids in South India. Our philanthropy partner is Aapatsahaaya Foundation, Bangalore. In 2013, your purchases funded part of a science/field trip for tribal kids.

John Bogle’s “Little Book of Common Sense Investing” [Leadership Reading #2]

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing, John Bogle “In investing, the winning strategy for reaping the rewards of capitalism depends on owning businesses, not trading stocks,” argues John Bogle in making a strong case for low-cost index funds in his text, “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing.” With statistics and graphs, Bogle rationalizes that low-cost index funds outperform most investment professionals and offer better-than-average returns for investors over the long term.

John Bogle is the legendary founder of the investor-owned Vanguard Group, currently the world’s largest mutual fund company by total assets under management. Over the course of 25 years at the helm of Vanguard, until his retirement in 1999, he focused the efforts of Vanguard on offering cost-conscious investment choices to the masses. John Bogle is the bestselling author of many other books on investment advice.

Superiority of Low-Cost Index Funds

John C. Bogle, Founder of The Vanguard Group John Bogle founded the world’s first index mutual fund, the Vanguard 500 Index Fund in 1975. Since then, “Saint Jack” (as critics labeled Bogle mockingly) has untiringly promoted the virtues of low-fee, no-load, low-turnover, passively-managed index (or more precisely, index-tracking) mutual funds. Investing in such funds, he contends in “The Little Book,” is the simplest and most effective way to invest in a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds, and profit from earnings growth of businesses and the dividends they yield.

John Bogle methodically discusses every theme relevant to successful investing: the myths of speculation and market timing, inflation, frictional costs (fees charged by brokers and investment advisors, costs of transactions, front-end and back-end loads,) and the effects of compounding and taxes. He then convincingly counters arguments against investing in total market index funds through easy-to-follow quantitative appraisals of investing in individual stocks and bonds, actively managed funds, hedge funds, and sector-specific funds. At the end of each chapter, Bogle reinforces his position with words of wisdom from some of the greatest minds in economics and investing: Ben Graham, Warren Buffet, John Maynard Keynes, Peter Lynch, and the like.

Invaluable Insights for Investors

The majority of people do not have the time, energy, determination, or aptitude for understanding economics, examining investments, managing risk, and building wealth for themselves. They are either overly cautious, or they invest heedlessly, submit to market trends, or engage in speculation. In reading John Bogle’s authoritative book, modest investors will recognize that low-cost index funds offer them broad diversification, reasonably good returns over the long-term, and the ability to outperform a majority of investment professionals.

Informed investors will find, notwithstanding many drawn-out discussions, a great reiteration of John Bogle’s now-familiar, commonsensical ideas on the merits of index investing.

Leadership Reader’s Bottom-line