Frugality for Fortune

When most think of building a fortune, they think of starting a business, taking a big gamble, or getting wildly lucky.

The reality is that building a fortune is easily accessible to anyone willing to live within their means, save diligently, and invest wisely.

The Millionaire Next Door illustrates this point well. So did a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

Ronald Read recently passes away at the age of 92 with $8 million in investments and saving. Did he start a business, take a big gamble or get wildly lucky? Nope.

He “displayed remarkable frugality and patience–which gave him many years of compounded growth.” “He lived modestly, working as a maintenance worker and janitor at a J.C. Penney store after a long stint at a service station….”

“Those who knew him talk of how he at times used safety pins to hold his coat together and sometimes parked his 2007 Toyota Yaris far from where he was going to avoid having to feed the parking meter.”

This isn’t quite the 1% popularly portrayed in the media. This was a normal guy who worked, saved and invested.

“Mr. Read owned at least 95 stocks at the time of his death, many of which he had held for years, if not decades.” Not really day trading.

His holdings were “spread across a variety of sectors, including railroads, utility companies, banks, health care, telecom and consumer products. He avoided technology stocks.” He invested in things he understood after doing his own research.

“Friends say he typically bought shares of companies he was familiar with and those that paid hefty dividends. When dividend checks came in the mail, he plowed the money back into more shares….”

No six-figure income. No internet start-up. Just living within his means, saving consistently, investing after doing his homework. Being patient, being frugal, thinking long term.

Financial success doesn’t require lots of luck or risk taking. Just simple strategies implemented consistently. 

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

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Frugality for Fortune

The big benefits of boosting your savings–even by small amounts!

Everyone knows they need to save more for retirement. But most don’t because they think they can’t afford it.

The reality is that even small boosts in savings can have large impacts over the fullness of time.

A Wall Street Journal article and a report by Fidelity Investments makes this point clear: even boosting your savings by 1% will have a meaningful impact on your retirement income.

It’s more fun to focus on getting higher returns, but the most potent force in anyone’s retirement plan is their own willingness to save.

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

The big benefits of boosting your savings–even by small amounts!

Save more!

The most important key to reaching your financial goals: saving.

You can’t get good returns on money you don’t save and invest. 

You may not be able to control inflation, tax rates, bond or stock returns, but you have complete control over your savings.

This point was nicely made in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “If You’re Not Saving, You’re Losing Out.

The last 15 years have felt like a wasteland for portfolio growth if you just look at market appreciation. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and NASDAQ indexes are up are 4-5% annualized over the last 15 years. That doesn’t look or feel like huge portfolio growth.

But, if you have been saving over the last 15 years, then your portfolio’s growth probably doesn’t look bad. In fact, your saving has probably caused more portfolio growth than investment appreciation or dividends. That’s not a bad thing, unless of course you haven’t been saving.

The easiest route to financial independence is through consistent saving. Getting great returns helps enhance the outcome, but the savings comes first, and contributes the most.

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

Save more!

Prior assumption: saving

As much as I love to blather on about investing in this blog, I must also make clear that all investing rests on a prior assumption: saving.

Put logically, saving precedes investing. Whether you can generate better or worse returns matters little if you don’t save or don’t save enough. A 100% return on $100 dollars will move your retirement meter an immaterial amount more than a 2% return on $100.  

Even prior to saving, you must manage your money. You must earn more than you spend or spend less than you earn to have savings. After that, you need to set aside that money for investment. Only savings can be invested.

My point may seem so blatantly obvious that it goes without saying. But, the truth is, people focus too much on investing (including yours truly) and not enough on saving.

There are two additional points with respect to saving that should be highlighted: 1) the more you save, the better; and 2) the earlier you save, the better.

To elaborate on #1, even if you generate moderate or weak returns, you can reach your goals if you save enough. For example, someone who saves $2,260 a year and generates 10% annual returns from the time they are 25 to 65 will have just as much money as someone who saves $8,278 a year and gets 5% returns from 25 to 65. 

Yes, the second person must save much more than the first, but savings can make up for poor returns. It’s smarter to adjust your savings to the returns you get rather than vice versa.

Also, the impact of compounding is greatly enhanced by saving more over time.  Even if you don’t get great returns, you can always work hard to save more money (earn more, spend less). The more you save, the better the outcome, all things equal.

The second point is probably even more important: the earlier you save, the better.

Early savings benefit more from compounding than later savings. For instance, if you assume two people get 10% returns, someone who saves $1,000 a year from age 25 to 35, but then doesn’t save another dollar, will end up with $278,100 by age 65; whereas someone who saves $1,000 a year from 35 to 65 will end up with $164,500. Even though the first person saved only $10,000 and the second saved $30,000–three times as much–the fact that the first person started earlier means they end up with 70% more money and therefore a 70% higher standard of living.

Many people think such an argument is pointless if you aren’t 25, but the math is the same with 40 to 50 and 50 to 80, or 55 to 65 and 65 to 95. The earlier you save, the better.

The prior assumption of saving before investment is frequently overlooked, but need not be.  

  • Saving precedes investment
  • Raise your savings to meet future goals
  • Start investing earlier rather than later 

Getting great returns is only relevant once you’ve saved enough–so focus on saving first.

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

Prior assumption: saving

Savings, not consumption, grows the economy

It’s hard to believe, but in a country where thrift was once a virtue, it’s become a vice in the view of many.

The blame lies clearly with economists and politicians who try to reverse cause and effect.  Their attempt fails when confronting the facts.

Imagine yourself on an island in the Pacific Ocean without any outside contact.  Do you think you could grow your standard of living by eating more, or by storing food?

The answer is obvious.  You can’t consume what you haven’t produced.  You can’t live in the shelter you haven’t built, you can’t eat the fish you haven’t caught, and you can’t escape on the boat you haven’t constructed.

To have the time to build the shelter and boat, you’d have to put enough fish aside so you could build instead of fishing.  You can’t both build and go fishing, and without fish you’d starve.  To grow your standard of living, you have to forgo consumption by eating less, which then becomes savings.  The savings then allows you to build shelter and a boat.  Savings is what leads to growth, not consumption.

And, so it is in the world economy.  To get to the point where we have shelter, transportation, clothes, etc., we need to first save up enough food to have the time and resources to devote to building the other things we need.

Here’s another example.  Assume you want to open a store that sells clothes.  To rent the store, purchase inventory and pay employees, you need money.  You can’t use the sales revenue you haven’t gotten yet.  You need to use someone else’s savings.  Once those savings are used to rent the store, buy the inventory and pay employees, you can pay back the person you borrowed from.  But, you can’t borrow what’s been consumed–it must be saved first.  The lender has to save instead of consuming in order for the store, the jobs or the clothes to ever exist.

Once again, so it is with the world economy.  To create growth, hire new employees, etc., you need savings first.  Savings that are invested create growth.  Consumption can’t do it.

If you spend more than you produce, your standard of living will go down.  That’s just a fact.  You can’t spend your way to prosperity.  You have to save first.  But, to save, you need to spend less than you make.

Sometimes, savings doesn’t produce growth.  As illustration, suppose you put enough fish aside to build some shelter, but a storm comes along and blows it away.  Now, you have to save enough fish up, again, so you have enough to get by as you rebuild a new shelter.  Consumption won’t fix the problem, only more saving. 

Using my second example from above, suppose the clothes store fails–suppose buyers are not interested enough in the clothes to pay as much as the rent, employees and inventory cost?  Then you won’t have enough to pay back the person you borrowed from.  To build back to the point the lender started from, more savings will be required–which means the lender will have to consume less and save more.

Once again, so it is with the world or national economy.  Bad loans are solved by more saving, not consumption.  Destruction by mother nature requires more saving, not more spending. 

More spending than production leads to lower standards of living.  The solution, once again, is savings, not consumption.

Don’t be fooled by those who say the U.S., or China, or Europe, or Japan, or anyone else can create prosperity or growth by borrowing to consume.  Growth comes from savings, not consumption.  And borrowing to consume requires even more savings to get back to break even.

Next time you hear someone prattle on about how we need more consumption to get growth “going” (I don’t care if they have a Nobel prize in economics–that just means they should know better!), think about an island in the Pacific and that consuming fish doesn’t create shelter or boats.

It’s time to go back to our country’s roots, it’s time to tear down the over-worship of consumption and spending and replace it with a reverence for savings and investment. 

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

Savings, not consumption, grows the economy

Higher saving rates are a GOOD thing!

The U.S. saving rate recently hit 5.7%, and all types of commentators have been saying this is bad for the economy. I think this is a load of hooey!

One of the most famous economists of the last century, John Maynard Keynes, made this fallacy main stream with his “Paradox of Thrift.”

I’ll spare you the details, but the gist is that savings aren’t spent in the economy, and therefore prevent growth, employment, all good things.

This fallacy has all kinds of people, including economists and commentators with IQs that are much higher than mine, saying that more savings will crush the economy.

But, I think they are full of baloney. Saving stuffed under a mattress, as they were during Keynes time, aren’t spent in the economy. But who puts their savings under a mattress nowadays?

No, most people put their saving into the bank, bonds or stocks.

If savings go to the bank, they are lent out again and used for consumption or investment in productive capacity. I call that spending.

If the money goes into bonds, then whoever sold the bond will either spend the money, which is consumption, or invest the money elsewhere, which will turn into an investment in productive capacity.

If the money goes into stocks, you get the same thing as with bonds.

If people save their money (and don’t stick it under the mattress), it gets invested. Investment is where higher productivity, new jobs, and growth come from.

We shouldn’t be encouraging people to spend, we should be encouraging them to save and invest. Consumption, especially consumption paid for with debt, is what got us into this economic mess to begin with!

What we need is more, not less savings. That will create new jobs, higher productivity and higher growth. This will not prevent growth, but is the necessary precursor to growth.

Okay, I’ll get off my soap-box now…

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.