What have I learned in 50 years.

In was recently looking through my 50th Anniversary college yearbook, in which I had answered the question: What have you learned in the fifty years since graduation? This was my response, if any one is interested.

Saul

What have I learned in the fifty years since graduation? It’s probably too late to really benefit my classmates, and the younger people who might actually benefit probably won’t read this, but here goes:

The one asset you have that is priceless is your youth. Money doesn’t compare. It’s incomparably better to be thirty and have fifty thousand dollars than to be seventy and have five million. It may be nice to have the five million, but there is nothing you can do with it that will give you the pleasure of being thirty. Therefore, profit from every day and don’t waste a single one.

The second most important asset is your health. Therefore, don’t wait to retire until you have lost your youth and health and are too old and tired to enjoy starting a new life. No one on his or her deathbed ever says, “I wish I had spent more time in the office.”

True happiness consists in being content with what you have, not in getting what you think you want. It’s incredibly important to think about this seriously and at length and understand it. You will not suddenly become happy in getting a new car, a bigger house, a new piece of jewelry, or whatever.

Having a good relationship is tremendously important. Relationships are never perfect, but in a good one you should have a feeling of satisfaction. If you feel tense, put down, or attacked most of the time, it’s time to leave. It’s the same for jobs. There is an inertial tendency to stay in a bad relationship or a bad job and to subconsciously think, “In my next time around, I’ll be happy and live the way I want.” There is no next time. Don’t waste five, ten, or fifteen years. You don’t get them back to live again. Do it differently now, this time.

I hope that you are all reasonably content and in as good a state of health as can be expected.

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Great post, Saul. You put a lot of thought into sharing your wisdom gained over the past 50 years.

In addition to what you have said I would add:

  1. The greatest satisfaction in life is really making a difference in someone else’s life. I want to die knowing my life has touched a few people deeply. My wife and I love watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” every Christmas. Our lives do matter and we do make a tremendous difference is more people than most of us will ever realize.

  2. I want to live as if it would not matter if I lost everything material tomorrow and had to start over again at age 65. Better a meal of bread and soup with contentedness that a feast where there is no real joy and laughter and love.

  3. I want to live this day as if it were my last one, because that day will come upon us all far more quickly than we know. And realize that every day is not only a gift but a bonus to be treasured.

Jim

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Beautifully said. Reminds me of John Bogle’s book, Enough.

Thanks Saul for your contributions not only regarding investing but your wisdom

Andy

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I really have nothing to add - but I have a few thoughts along the same lines to share - I too am old enough to be able to look back 50 years.

I would reverse health and youth, for if you are very ill, youth does not compensate. If you are blessed with good health don’t squander it foolishly with a tobacco or other drug habit. I’ll admit when I was young I tried a few drugs more than once, and I had a tobacco habit for far too long. I know telling young people to stay away from drugs doesn’t make much of an impact, I don’t know what does - but the smart (and/or lucky) make an effort to maintain good health. If you are unfortunate and suffer with illness at any age, do what you can to live as healthy a life as possible. Bemoaning or cursing your fate will not make your life any better.

Saul mentioned having a good relationship. My wife is Chinese and we sometimes struggle with language, but we are truly happy to be with one another. We both retired earlier than originally planned for different reasons.

I retired 4 years sooner than I planned because The Boeing Company had become a less satisfying place to work. I don’t want to sound bitter, I’ll leave it at management/employee relations had soured after the merger with MacDac. I decided waiting it out for a larger pension was not worth it. If you are not happy with your job, you should make every effort to find something that will make you happy and meet your needs. A job takes up about a third of your life. That’s too much time to be unhappy. My wife retired early because we were living 6,000 miles apart. That’s tough on a relationship. With Skype and texts and annual visits we were doing a good job sustaining our love and relationship, but there’s no comparison to being with the one you love on a daily basis.

Saul also mentioned being happy with what you have. My wife and I were talking about our financial situation just this morning. She said that being with a man she loves and who loves her is far more important than being with a man with lukewarm feelings even if he has a lot of money. I told her I felt the same way. I said we are comfortable but not rich, we would probably never be rich. The reason we invest is not to become wealthy, it is to do what we can to ensure our future comfort. At present, we have combined retirement income such that our needs are met. But inflation erodes the value of a fixed income, and should I die suddenly, most of the income evaporates overnight. There is no way of knowing what the future holds, but for most of us, it is possible to live comfortably now in such a way that we will be able to continue to live in comfort if we learn to be happy with what we have.

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Thanks Jim and Brittlerock for your beautiful additions.

I thought some more about why happiness consists of being content with what you have now, rather than getting, in the future, what you think you want. It’s because it means being content all the time here and now, not postponing it until you get the next thing…after which you will certainly put it off until you get the next something, or the next something happens, but it’s always in the future, and somehow never arrives.

Saul

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Saul,

Thank you for sharing, I really enjoyed reading that.

The one asset you have that is priceless is your youth. Money doesn’t compare. It’s incomparably better to be thirty and have fifty thousand dollars than to be seventy and have five million. It may be nice to have the five million, but there is nothing you can do with it that will give you the pleasure of being thirty. Therefore, profit from every day and don’t waste a single one.

I am 36, and I sometimes forget to live in the “now”. I do an excellent job of planning for the future, but I don’t always appreciate the present. This is a good reminder for me to enjoy today.

Thank you.
Fletch

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All I can say is thank you. Thank you all for sharing your experience and wisdom. Every now and then, I feel more grounded reading posts from Saul and Brittlerock. You guys rock.

I wish all the senior folks here many many years of great health and happiness.

Anirban

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Wonderful thoughts, Jim.

Thanks for sharing.

Anirban

This is why this board is my favorite! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you all for sharing your knowledge and wisdom.

Zangwei

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Hi Saul, All!

I think we’re on the same page regarding what’s important:

( link to a 2005 post )

http://discussion.fool.com/hi-paul-rather-than-give-you-specific…

Cheers!
Murph
Home Fool

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Hi Murph, Thanks for a great link.
Saul

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Saul. Loved reading it and reminding myself to keep them in mind always. Its usually difficult to cut through the illusion of money and a better future. It takes a lot of wisdom and life experiences to do so. A couplet from a persian poem comes to my mind:

Bozuragtaireen ustaad, tajurbeh aist

Experience is the biggest teacher in life.

Chandra

You’re welcome, Saul!

And thank you for the great work you do here!

Cheers!
Murph
Home Fool

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I have this note posted above my desk where I see it often and so I thought to share it here;

Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character…it becomes your destiny. Frank Outlaw

Thanks for the diversion from investing, it has been a pretty stressful month or so.

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What Saul said has been memorialized in the Sunscreen Song by Baz Lurhmann, a song made in the late 90’s.

https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=sunscreen+song+baz+lur…

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Not a ton of activity on the board today, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to bump one of my favorite posts of all time, the first post in this thread I’m replying to. Here’s my favorite part:

There is an inertial tendency to stay in a bad relationship or a bad job and to subconsciously think, “In my next time around, I’ll be happy and live the way I want.” There is no next time. Don’t waste five, ten, or fifteen years. You don’t get them back to live again. Do it differently now, this time.

Thanks, Saul. I think no matter how much we profit from modeling you in your investing, heeding this lesson will profit us more.

Bear

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