It is the simple truths in life that are the most profound. Take Warren Buffett, for example. He can summarize all the investing advice anybody would ever need in a single sentence–”We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.” And in case you haven’t notice, Wall Street is fearful right now. Well Warren Buffett isn’t the only smart guy around. It turns out that famed Yankee catcher Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra is pretty smart, too. So let’s see what 7 secrets he can teach us about money and investing:
- “I knew I was going to take the wrong train, so I left early”: You will make mistakes investing. Even Warren Buffett has made mistakes, including (as he acknowledges) his 1993 purchase of Dexter Shoe. And I’ve certainly made mistakes, including the purchase of my first mutual fund, which came with a 5.75% front load and hefty yearly expenses. Ouch! But just like Yogi, get on the investing train early, and you can still reach your destination on time.
- “This is like deja vu all over again”: The market goes up and down, over and over again. When the market is in a panic and prices are falling, just remind yourself that it’s deja vu all over again. Otherwise, you may find yourself tempted to make a costly mistake.
- “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else”: Financial goals are a must. Financial goals enable you to set sound priorities, measure your progress, and make mid-course corrections. And measuring your progress against goals can help motivate you in times when you feel like giving up, and those times will come.
- “You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six”: You can try to beat the market by cutting it up into different slices. Certainly some have succeeded, most notably Mr. Buffett. But for most of us, trying to beat the market is like trying to cut the pizza into fewer slices, we still end up with the same pizza. This is why, for most, investing in index funds as the core of a portfolio is the smartest way to buy the whole pizza.
- “A nickel isn’t worth a dime today”: Inflation is one of the most significant risks to your financial future. Everybody seems to fear a market meltdown, when the real long-term risk to a portfolio is the quiet, ever present, never sleeping, inflation gremlin nibbling away at your nest egg. Long term, stocks beat inflation, many bonds do not.
- “90% of the putts that are short don’t go in”: And 90% of those who don’t save enough for retirement, don’t have enough for retirement. Don’t leave your investing putts short. If you do, you’ll never make it.
- “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded”: Much of the market participants act like lemmings, following each other over the cliff. It’s easy to say don’t follow the crowd, and it’s another thing to actually heed this advice. Nobody said this was easy, but to repeat Buffett’s sage advice: “We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.” Amen.
And in the words of Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Well, it’s over.
Published or updated August 28, 2007.