What I have learned in 50 years

Some one reminded me of this post, and I see that I posted it in 2015, and again in Feb of 2019. Since then we have a hoard of new readers of the board who I hope could benefit from it. Here goes:

Saul

I 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:

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.

Saul

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I second that…

I was planning to retire this year. In fact, I was planning to be retired by now. Then the wife got cancer, and rather than scramble trying to choose the best ACA exchange available coverage, I just kept my employer insurance and continued to work. Then I fell and broke my back, from which I am still recuperating. Good thing I have good medical.

Still planning to retire. These events have convinced me more than ever that I want to travel more (already done a lot, but I want more), collect experiences, enjoy life. Because one day -probably sooner than I realize- I won’t be able to anymore. When 1poorlady is recovered from chemo, I’m outta there. The timing is bad for travel (with COVID-19 rampaging around the globe), but we’ll find a way to be safe and experience more of life. Rather than dying at a desk in a cube farm.

1poorguy

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Well said!

Couldn’t agree more. “Youth is wasted on the young”. I realized things a bit late in life but am glad I didn’t obsess over stuff like FIRE and instead enjoyed my trips and life.

It hits home a bit more now that a friend from my young days and first full time job going back to 1985, unfortunately passed away last week at 58. At least he managed to retire at 56, partly because he just didn’t enjoy the job anymore, and not do to a large retirement savings.

Sadly a preventable death IMO.

Do the best you can to enjoy life, it can change quickly.

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Saul,

I think you have a few more years than me, but not many. I have been telling friends almost the same thing since I first retired at age 51. in 2007 My wife and I rented our house and set sail for the Caribbean, next stop Med. Then 2008 came and we decided to work for the summer in a boys sports camp in the Berkshires and think over our plans. After seeing our portfolio cut nearly in half over the summer, we decided to shelve our plans and go back to work.

Long story short: we worked for a couple of more years, but we need not have. Even with a halved nest egg, we had enough. Deciding how much is enough, of course is the crux of the issue.

I suspect that we have not seen the worst this market can throw at us and many of our members will have to decide how much is enough. My wife and I were talking the other day, that we are happy we went sailing in our early fifties, while we were still healthy and the joints didn’t ache. I know more than a handful of folks who kept working yet one more year and never went sailing. When they finally had enough money, their health began to nibble at their ambitions.

Like you, I would gladly give up most if not all my money to have the vigor of my 30-year-old self.

Gordon

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True happiness consists in being content with what you have,

Which has previously been recorded in a well known ancient book on Ethics.

Hi Saul,
Youth is nice to have but it’s not the priceless asset. It’s temporary. It fades away eventually. It’s like flowers in the spring. What’s priceless is our inherent wisdom. But inherent wisdom is like gold ore, we need to refine it into gold. That’s what’s truly priceless within each of us.

“True happiness consists in being content with what you have, not in getting what you think you want.”

That’s what wisdom is about. Indeed, It’s better to be old and wise than young and foolish.

Buddha said: Unsatisfied people won’t be happy living in the heaven. Satisfied people is happy sleeping on the ground. Johnny Cash - A Satisfied Mind is nice song about this theme. I see some people got rich from being poor during childhood and became a jerk. They think they are better human being because they have more money and anyone less wealthy is inferior. Money is just a mean to support our life in this short journey on earth.

" If you feel tense, put down, or attacked most of the time, it’s time to leave. It’s the same for jobs"

Agree. I’ve been investing for 10 years. In 2019, I finally decided I had enough BS from the office and quit the office job cold turkey. Wrote a long email to manager. I noticed the security of a paycheck is a shackle put on our feet. It’s a like a bird in a cage being fed and not want to fly outside. Once I quit the job, I thought hard about my investing strategy. When I was working full time, I didn’t have too much time to think about investing. Wake up, go to work, come home, sleep… I was invested in dividend growth stocks because it’s the easiest and getting a slightly better return than index. It’s okay return but mediocre in terms of it didn’t provide me freedom to do what I want. In 1 short month staying full time at home, I’ve figured I can do better and switched dividend investing to growth investing.I bought large number of growth stocks. The difference? 20% return vs 12% return(dividend) per year. YTD I am up 7% so far while SP500 is still down 9%. I make more money without a job than with a job!

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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

Oh they do, I am 27 and probably one of the youngest here. Thanks for the message, Saul. This is already how I look at life currently but it’s always good to hear that from someone with so much more life experience.

That’s exactly the reason why, once this pandemic is over, I intend to travel to and discover SE Asia. I have been contemplating this for a while but my (boring) office job kept me where I am, however I work in the airline sector and it’s not unlikely that I will be part of a restructuring, which could give me the opportunity to do what I wanted to do for a long time (once travel resumes). The good thing is, even if my stocks return only 5% annually, it could cover a reasonable lifestyle in these cheap countries. So why should I wait and do this only when I am older? More money isn’t going to make me happier.

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Great words of wisdom, I certainly agree…however, those trading money for youth, are you saying that you’d do something differently?

…if,so, what?

Thank you for sharing.

Kevin

Of course one should not waste one’s youth but neither should one waste one’s middle or late years. Dr. Willam Thomas puts is succinctly, “A life worth living.”

Denny Schlesinger

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’ve been studying options for well over a decade and I’m not going to talk about options. Instead it’s about a new investment metric I invented while studying options, “Dollars per day.” "Fifty thousand dollars, five million dollars without a frame of reference don’t mean much, in fact, they can be dangerous. At one time I was doing extremely well in the market, I was in the top 5% of the world’s population! Then I made a mistake, it had been so easy that I decided to double my portfolio one more time. I never recovered economically from that stupidity. Now I use “Dollars per day” to gauge how well I’m doing.

If you need $50,000 a year then you need $137 per day. If your portfolio is producing your required “Dollars per day” you are doing just fine. I’m happy to report that my portfolio is producing well above my required “Dollars per day.” Beating the market is nice but irrelevant. Cover your “Dollars per day.”

Denny Schlesinger

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I recall the great Jack Palance telling Billy Crystal in City Slickers:

'Curly : Do you know what the secret of life is?

[holds up one finger]

Curly : This.

Mitch : Your finger?

Curly : One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean schitt.

Mitch : But, what is the “one thing?”

Curly : [smiles] That’s what you have to find out.’

Any of us who have lived for many decades will, if asked for our ‘one thing’, need to think about what each of us has ‘found out’. Saul’s distillation into ‘profit from every day and don’t waste a single one’, taken together with ‘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’ would rank in the top 3 for me also. The one I’d add would be that, beyond health and family, your reputation is the most valuable asset you have created in your life as a by- product of living it. Remember that there are no pockets in a shroud, and all the money in the world counts for nothing once you’re gone, but your reputation will live long after your every dollar has changed hands.

Now, back to making a few bob…

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Beautiful share.

Things got pretty blank-and-white in this thread, regarding retirement, so I wanted to chime in with an additive thought: Another option is finding income through work that has a greater balance. I don’t think I will ever fully retire. I’ll just find a new project that interests me. I guess it depends on your definition or retirement. Anyway…A major silver lining of this pandemic is that more people may be able to continue working remotely. Here is how I fantasize the difference might turn out:

Before: Work long hours and get very few days off per year, making it really difficult to do something I really want for my immediate family’s life: travel to see extended family. I’m from the beach near Los Angeles and I’ve been lucky enough to live in several countries because of my work. Now I have friends scattered around the globe I never see. We now live in Canada and our family is spread across Southern and Northern California and Oregon and Indonesia. The time difference in indonesia takes days off. trip in jet-lag making it hard for me to join my girls on their trips (they go without me most of the time while I stay back and work). Getting to Oregon or Tahoe from here is 2 stops and takes so long that a 2-day trip is pointless. So I’ve been settling for a quick get-together in LA over the holidays once per year. Seeing family 10 times in 10 years, with the odd trip every few years, is not cool.

After: Maybe we can rent an RV and I can work from each place during the week and drive on Weekends? Maybe I can work from Indonesia for a couple of weeks and only take actual work days off for local trips to Bali, etc.

…my point is, this is what I value and what I used to think I had to wait for, but without leaving my job I can perhaps have it now that we know we can work remotely successfully. I’m sure others reading this might be able to find some new accommodation to achieve a greater balance and freedom in life or switch careers to one that provides satisfaction and these things. What used to be click-bait for get-rich-quick schemes (work from the beach any time you want) may become something more accessible to more people. (Well, maybe not literally from the beach, but that is never good in real life anyway! Too much glare, sand in the keyboard and grease from suntan lotion…tried it, not as fun as it sounds!)

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I am someone almost 30 who has read your post. I would very much like to be 70 and have $5 million instead than be 30 and be $250k in debt, but I will take your word and cherish the time I have now.

Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Always appreciate your posts and hope to read them for a long time to come.

Dear Saul,

This is my first post to this board. I appreciate your humanity, your wisdom & love.
I have been pondering retirement for the last couple of years. Part of today is set aside to write about the pros and cons of doing that.

I’m young at 61 with good health and funds enough.
I won’t miss a day at my office. It was a good run.

I’ve printed this and will keep it where I can read and reread.

Jodi

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I have enjoyed some of the heartwarming and grateful posts thanking Saul for his wisdom, but please let’s end it here. Saul has already asked that we stop this thread.

Thank you.

Bear
Assistant Board Manager

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