Regarding your finances…If you had it to do over, what would you do differently?

What would you tell your children, your grandchildren to do? What do you wish someone had convinced you to do?


It’s been my experience that, generally, the young

a) feel immortal

b) need to experience for themselves (don’t listen to others)

c) feel they “have time”

Yes, that was me…

Even with those points, if you were able to travel back in time, and give yourself advice, what would that advice be?

Maybe these?

a) Start your saving and investing right away.

b) Live below your means.

c) Get Life Insurance when the kids arrive.

d) Be good to your knees. (Okay, that’s a little off-topic)


Not long ago, there was a period that I’ve dubbed “The Roaring Twenty”, 1980 – 2000.  During those twenty years, the stock markets went up more than at any other time in history, and it seemed that the climb would never end.  We came out of that period to face high volatility and for the last 17 years, most of us have been waiting for what became “normal”, to return.  Normal, in this sense, is almost 14% annual gains, year-over-year, that we experienced back in The Roaring Twenty.


That period of financial nirvana allowed us to accept (and internalize) truisms such as “buy term and invest the difference”.  We accepted the idea that risk (as evidenced in volatility) is inherent in the financial markets, and therefore unavoidable in our quest for, and maintenance of, retirement funds.  Here is a list of some financial truisms that we’ve all heard:


            The stock market always goes up over time.

            Just put your money in your 401(k); you’ll be fine.

            But my average return is…

            If I go up 10%, and down 10%, I’m even.

            Mutual Funds provide diversification.

            When bonds go up, stocks go down (& vice-versa).

            For greater returns, you must take more risk.

            Pay off the mortgage, extra payment-by-extra payment. You’ll save…

            Pay cash; all debt is bad.

            You have kids?  529!

            Buy term and invest the difference.


It’s time to get past all of that. These truisms, and more, can be ripped apart for their misdirection or lack of validity.

The last 17 years should, by now, convince naysayers that stock market climbs of almost 14% (year-over-year) is not normal, nor was it before 1980. It’s time to get beyond the “infrastructure fees” that (during that period) were built into mutual funds, hedge funds, etc. and go to a more reasonable finance period…with more reasonable expectations.

Incorporating the information above, here is my advice to a young me:

1)  Question the conventional wisdom

Does the stock market always go up over time? And if so, how much? What if it’s not in a straight line? How is it possible that industry-stated returns (percentages) result in distinctly different dollars for me, and distinctly less success than I expected?

2)  Don’t look to peers for advice

Peers (your contemporaries) are just as new to the arena as you. Learn to trust in experience and wisdom, if you can find it.  At least investigate…

3) Ignore the “my broker is so good…” testimonials

For every “it went up…” story, there are many untold “the losses were…” stories.

4)  If your advisor, upon you experiencing significant investment losses, says “don’t worry, you have time!”, get a new advisor

5)  If you’re pushed to use “age-based investing”, get a new advisor

The acceptance of risk with inevitable unexpected losses (in various years), with “time will save you…” is unacceptable. See #4.

6)  Question any use of the conventional (risk-oriented) investment portfolio during retirement

The financial industry has us accustomed to accepting volatility as price-to-pay for ultimate returns. Also, most advisors have us accepting the use of (at least some) risk in retirement when we cannot recover from losses through continued earnings/contribution. See #4.

7)  Don’t ignore or neglect tested, proven and traditional financial vehicles

Whole Life insurance, CD’s, savings bonds, etc. have their place.

8)  If you must invest, invest only in things/companies/ideas you believe in, and can investigate

Do not hang your future on “baskets” of securities.  There are fees, countervailing forces, etc. in mutual funds, and similar obstacles to success in many other instruments.  If you believe in IBM, buy IBM stock, and then pay attention.

9)  Buy Whole Life insurance (of a specific nature), and keep buying whenever you find the resources to do so

It’s unfortunate that it’s called Life Insurance; it has unbeatable living benefits…. This is a very traditional method for growing your assets for college funding, retirement, etc. It does not fall into the current conventional wisdom for asset growth; it does, however, precede and predate that current conventional wisdom by over 100 years.

10)  Do not wait to ensure that your later years (and those of your loved ones) are protected

Long-Term Care is, or should be, a growing concern. We are living longer but not getting healthier as we age.


Additionally, Here are The Rules Of Personal Finance

1) Start

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”

                        – Chinese Proverb

2) Seek, But Question, Advice

3) Do Not Assume Newer Products Are Better

But, Marketing on newer products might be better

4) Demand Continuity From Your Vehicle/System Of Choice

Volatility can prove to be a huge negative

5) Laugh At Averages

Arithmetic Averages will mislead  

6) Learn From Others’ Experience

Learn from your experience, smart. Learn from others’ experience, brilliant! And less painful.

7) Determine Who You Are

Based on the course you take, how well will you sleep at night?

8) Question “Risk”

Is it to your advantage to take risk?  Or to your advisor’s?

9) Review At Least Annually

Things change; life changes. Be flexible.

10) Share Details With Those Involved For Their (And Your) Protection

Forgotten assets can, and will, disappear.


And, as for that Mortgage pre-payment thing?

Your Home Mortgage Is A Form Of Disability Income Insurance! Why Pre-Pay?


Does any of this resonate with you?

About L N Himel

Site creator and author has well over 30 years experience in the world of Finance at both the institutional and personal levels. As is often true, his successes, but also the pain of the author's mistakes, have resulted in insights that you, the reader, might find helpful in your efforts to avoid pitfalls and poor results. Associated with Himel Financial Services, at
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