I am about to fly to Greenville, South Carolina, to say a prayer at the wedding of my son.
And as I do, I think of my old man at my wedding to my wife for life, Alexandra Denman. My father did not give a speech at the wedding, but he did speak briefly at the rehearsal dinner the night before.
Some of what he said had to do with money and investments, and most of it turned out to be excellent guidance. I now repeat as much of it as I can recall.
He said that the No. 1 advice about financial life was that money accumulates around capital. In this great country of ours, the key element in capital was the possession of a valuable skill.
It’s incredible how basic skills, such as roofing and plumbing, are not glamorous but pay amazingly well. You do not need to be a physician or a mathematician to make a good living.
But some skill of some kind that is in demand will be the difference between comfort and scarcity for you and your family. That form of capital is free in high schools, community colleges, and some state universities. Go for it.
Second, it’s vital beyond words that you start saving right away. It’s much more important than getting the coolest video game or the best sneakers. Your savings are your best friend in any season.
Founding father Ben Franklin, the great American humorist and philosopher, said that the three most important items in bad times were an old wife, an old dog and ready money. I can tell you in blood that he was right.
In every crisis of my life, “ready money” has been the difference between terror and a good night’s sleep.
Third, when you do save (and you must save), diversify sensibly. The No. 1 item you must save is money itself, and then stocks in a highly diversified portfolio. Do not expect that you can beat the market on any consistent basis by picking stocks. Just get a diversified basket of stocks, and you will do fine.
Fourth, at the earliest stage of your life that’s possible, buy a home. Real estate tends to do well over long periods, and it has breathtaking tax advantages. Don’t impoverish yourself by buying more house than you can afford, but get a home as soon as you can.
Fifth, consider precious metals. They have been an allure for mankind basically forever. There is no clear reason to expect that allure to fade. They are especially valued in times of uncertainty, and we seem to be destined for such times for a long time. Maybe forever.
Sixth, and very importantly, do not get into unsecured debt on any but the smallest terms. Credit card interest can eat you alive. Stay away.
Seventh, take advantage of all subsidies. In every state, government pays for free public education and has loans and loan guarantees.
Eighth, teach your children the same things I am now teaching you.
My pop has been gone now since 1999. But his advice still rings out loud and clear and has saved me from many an anxiety-ridden night.
He learned it in bad times, during the Great Depression and World War II. But it still works like a charm in this era or any other time.
Good luck and God bless you to my son and his wife.
Ben Stein is a writer, an actor, and a lawyer who served as a speechwriter in the Nixon administration as the Watergate scandal unfolded. He began his unlikely road to stardom when director John Hughes hired him as the numbingly dull economics teacher in the urban comedy, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Read more more reports from Ben Stein — Click Here Now.
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