- Where to put your investment capital is a key consideration for anyone.
- Part 1 made a compelling case for equity investments for people of all ages.
- But there is a more important planning consideration that must come first: Will you have or do you have enough capital? If you are not yet retired, are you investing enough of your income so that you can become financially independent? If you are at retirement age or already in retirement, do you have enough capital to create an inflation-proof income for the rest of your life? If not, then "retirement" (I prefer the word "independence") may not be an option.
- Where to put your investments is a futile question if you haven't addressed the previous issue.
- Once you have addressed the planning considerations, you can then address where to put your investments.
When I was a young boy, I would watch my father come home from work, clear out his pockets full of keys and notes and money and put them on his dresser. The change was put in a cardboard box.
Every couple of weeks, we would take the box to the bank where it was put in a counting machine than had a big noisy wheel that separated the various coins. It wasn't until later in life that I realized this: my college education was paid for partly with loose change. Thanks, Dad!
Here are some general strategies for different age groups. Note that these are ideal actions. I know personally that you cannot or will not always be able to do these consistently. Job loss, health problems, market crashes, business challenges, divorce or other issues can prevent the ideal scenario from occurring. I speak from my own experience. To the extent that I have done all these, I and those I love are better off. I have made mistakes. I have failed. But because I followed these principles and actions more often than not, I have survived many challenges. I also know that if I had been even more disciplined, I would be in much better financial shape.
(Note: These are not specific recommendations for any individual, but they are meant to get you thinking about your own strategy. Consult the appropriate financial professionals regarding your own situation.)
Children: Parents, start your children out with the wisdom of saving. Give them an allowance connected to chores they must accomplish. It's called responsibility. Have them give the first portion ("first fruits"/10% or more) to one or more charitable organizations. Have them put half of it into a savings account. Let them choose to spend the 40% that's left. These are positive formative habits that can last a lifetime.
High School and College Students: Hopefully, you are working at a part-time job. Follow the structure above. Help support yourself. Seek education that reflects and equips your gifts. That is not necessarily college, but seeking knowledge and wisdom that fits you and your calling will create rewards of great value. Learn about how the economy and businesses function and how they provide for your needs and your wants. Only businesses provide what people need.
Don't expect or desire the government to provide. It will only tax productive businesses and people, taking from them to give to you. So avoid becoming a dependent mooch; be productive, a creator and giver, not a taker. College students (and parents), make sure you have good health insurance. Yes, you feel healthy and invincible, but a couple of days in the hospital can run up $100,000 or more in bills, so don't play healthcare roulette. Ditto on auto insurance (if you have a car) and renters/personal liability insurance.
Young Singles: Use the previous principles. Give and save. Live on much less than your income. If you can, live on 70% of your take-home pay. Avoid consumer debt like the plague. It is good to have a credit card for management, perks, and to build a good credit rating. But make sure you use it carefully and pay it off on time every month or you risk being in financial bondage. Make sure you have good health, disability, auto, renters and liability insurance.
Be entrepreneurial, whether you dream of having your own business or you work for someone else. Be the best you can be and make yourself super valuable to others. Avoid risking having a child outside of marriage; this is too easily a disaster for both you and the child. (A child is a $200,000 to $275,000 commitment. ($245,000 according to CNNMoney.) So think with your brain, not your hormones.) Calculate your future spending needs and commit enough to bank savings accounts for cars and other shorter-term goals. And start investing as soon as you can.
If you have a matching 401(k), 403(b) or SIMPLE IRA plan at work, put the maximum in until you have used up the match. Then start a Roth IRA. Choose two to five stock mutual funds and begin real long-term investing as an owner. A portion should be in International and small companies. Growing a portfolio of well-managed mutual funds or exchange traded index funds (ETFs) are recommended for those with less than $100,000 or $200,000 of investment capital. Generally, larger amounts are recommended to prudently develop a portfolio of individual stocks. The more you save and invest now the better off you will be.
Young Married Couples (And "enraged" couples): Become one financially. Talk about it. If you are inclined, and I hope you are, pray about it. Agree on goals and budgets. Make a sound budget that spends much less than you make. Follow the above recommendations and principles. Add savings for a home purchase down payment if that is a realistic goal. Avoid the two biggest mistakes people make: buying too much car and too much house. Plan for children, both emotionally and financially (See above).
Couples with Children: Budget, budget, budget. Control, control, control. Controlling spending is critical. Save and invest for emergencies, housing, and education and still try to invest for retirement. (I know it is hard.) Take full advantage of any retirement plan matching programs. You are special, and God bless you for being good, responsible, loving parents. Consider Section 529 education accounts for college tax-advantaged investments. Start when they are babies with stock funds, then transfer to short-term bonds or guaranteed accounts when you get within three years of needing the money.
Forty and Fifty Somethings: Depending on the children factor, put your savings and investment contributions into overdrive. Don't sacrifice quality and fun, but do the math and act accordingly. Refer back to the Part I article and look at the capital needed table. Pay attention to your insurance, making sure you have excellent health, disability, auto, home, liability, and by age 60, long-term care insurance (consider as a life insurance rider), or if you don't want insurance formulate a self-insurance plan.
Those at or in the Independence (Retirement) Period: Add up all your investments that can produce income and/or capital gains. Multiply the total by 3%, 4% or a maximum of 5%. Add this number to your Social Security and pension benefits. Is that enough income? If not, you will need to either cut back on your budget, continue working or get some part-time work. This is reality. If you have enough income at 3% or less withdrawal rate, then you are in the best position.
You can afford to be a bit more conservative. But you can also afford to be a bit more aggressive. If 3-4% withdrawal rate is comfortable, you can consider more conservative socks of established companies that can produce 3-4% dividends. Utilities and other "blue chip" companies are in this category. Well run REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) can also be a good addition as can healthy companies in the energy sector. Even if you are in good shape income-wise, consider earning extra from the same activity you love to do. As long as you are in good physical and mental health, you can be productive, offering creativity and wisdom to a world that desperately needs both.
- Discipline is the genesis of freedom. Freedom costs.
- The earlier we start, the better off we will be.
- To the extent we follow the principles and actions that constitute wisdom, we will be better off even if bad things happen. (After the 2008 crash, my business revenues declined almost 25%. But I never missed a payroll. I was able to survive and come back largely because I had savings and investments to draw on.)