Personal financial management is a subject that is not taught in many schools, but is something that nearly everyone has to deal with in their lives later on. Here are some statistics: Some 58% of Americans do not have a retirement plan in place for how they’ll manage their finances when they get old. While people generally believe they’ll need about $300,000 to support themselves in retirement, the average American has only about $25,000 saved at the time of retirement. Average household credit card debt among Americans now stands at a distressing $15,204. If these facts are alarming to you, and you want to reverse the trend, read on for specific, targeted advice geared towards giving you a better future.
A classic Wall Street yarn, concerning a young man who was in the early stages of learning to be a professional speculator goes something like this. The young man had a problem, so he went to an elderly gentleman noted for his shrewd investment judgment, for advice. The young man had taken on quite an extensive line of stocks, but the market looked a bit over-valued and so he was thinking that his positions carried too many risks. He wondered if he shouldn’t perhaps sell. He was so worried about it that he was having trouble sleeping.
The old man’s advice was simple and direct: “Sell” he said. “Sell back to the sleeping point.” Although there is no doubt that this advice smacks of ambiguity, there is a simple wisdom in it. We may safely assume that neither the young man nor his elder adviser knew which way the market was going, but both were aware that the market was sufficiently shaky to cause legitimate worry. Translated into somewhat more orthodox investment terms, the advice meant – Sell enough of your stocks so that a market collapse won’t destroy you, but keep enough so that if your fears turn out to be groundless, and the market rises, you’ll still profit to some extent – in the meantime, get some sleep.
At first glance, it may seem a bit cynical on the old man’s part not to outline for his young disciple an exact and detailed course of action. But he couldn’t be honest and at the same time guarantee that he knew exactly what action might turn out to be best. Furthermore, the young man didn’t want someone to tell him precisely what to do. All he wanted was some help in easing the pressure and the help he received was clearly sensible.