Fribble Tuesday, December 21, 1999

Combating the Fool Virus


A colleague advised me recently: "Make a plan for retirement. Decide what you want by when, and then determine how you'll get there. Cut out anything that isn't necessary to getting to your goal. That way you can retire when you want." He was, of course, talking about investing, much like a recent Fribble. The name of the game is deciding how much money you want to have by some date, then saving like mad until one gets there.

I have another proposition based on something else he said: "Your job is your biggest investment. You don't have any money invested in it [only time], but it returns X dollars per year and even increases its returns year by year." That set me to thinking. I like life. I like to enjoy living. I like to buy 5 CDs if I want and boots too ('course, I like and listen to music more than most people...). I like a $30 dinner with a $30 bottle of wine and friends that you can't put a price on. Suppose I don't deprive myself of the things I want right now for the things I want later -- suppose instead I get now AND I get later. How do I do that?

My answer is simple: Get more now. If I spend the time until retirement EARNING more, I'll have more to invest. (Now this is where you expect me to go into a sales spiel for Amway or something, but I don't know anything about that stuff. I think it only works if you're a great salesman and your friends are dupes.) So how to do it? I think you spend some energy defining a career plan to go with your investment plan. Take a little time here and there to look at where you are occupationally -- are you doing what you want to do? Are you earning what you're worth? Are you doing as much for your company as you can while at work? How can you make yourself more valuable to your company/clients/employees?

Today's job market is a bonanza: unemployment is nearing frictional levels in some industries. That means you can keep a job by doing the minimum, but it also means you can get to the top more easily because skilled, ambitious, driven people are highly valued. You don't have to flip jobs every six months, screw your employer, or work all night to Get More: it can be done by doing good work every day, looking for the opportunity to do that extra bit more, and making sure someone sees it. Work hard and smart, and the money will flow.

It's fun to think about how much money, relaxation, and time I'll have in the future when my Foolish investing pays off. But it's even more fun to have that thought while listening to the five CDs I just bought, wearing my new boots, and reflecting on just how good my $30 dinner was.