When Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates speaks, people tend to listen. Not only is Gates an acclaimed businessman and investor, he's also a well-known philanthropist who's made it clear that he's passionate about educating others.
As such, it pays to take a lesson or two from someone who's managed to accumulate well over $100 billion in his lifetime. Whether you're a new investor or have been putting money into the stock market for years, here are a few key pieces of advice to take away from one of the most innovative public figures of our time.
1. "It's fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure."
Anyone who invests money is apt to see both gains and losses. And while it's perfectly OK to be happy when an investment turns out to be a huge moneymaker, it's also important to be humble enough to learn from your mistakes.
Think about some of the investing blunders you've made in the past, and aim to grow from them. Maybe you were once quick to unload a stock that started to underperform, only to lock in losses and have that same stock recover several months later. You wouldn't be the first person that happened to, but the key is to learn from your failures as an investor rather than pretend they never happened.
2. "If you were born poor it's not your mistake, but if you die poor it's your mistake."
You can't help the circumstances you're born into, but investing makes it possible for anyone to grow wealth. Imagine you're 25 with just $500 to your name. If you invest it today and leave it alone for 50 years, and your investment generates an average annual 7% return (which is a few percentage points below the stock market's average), you'll wind up with close to $15,000.
Now, imagine you put $500 into a stock portfolio today and continue putting in $25 a month for the next 50 years. Assuming that same 7% return, you'll wind up with close to $137,000.
3. "To win big, you sometimes need to take big risks."
Many people shy away from the stock market because they know it's volatile and worry about losses. But if you're looking to grow wealth, you'll need to take on some amount of risk -- there's really no way around it. The good news, however, is that the stock market has a long history of recovering from downturns and coming out ahead, so if you adopt the right strategy -- namely, to buy quality stocks and hold them for the long haul -- you're more likely to make money than lose money.
4. "I never took a day off in my twenties. Not one."
It may not be easy to mimic Bill Gates' work ethic, but here's an easy way to put your money to work every single day during your 20s: Invest it. You can do so in a traditional brokerage account or in a tax-advantaged retirement savings plan, like an IRA or 401(k). If you make a point to invest from an early age, you'll have an opportunity to earn money every day so that by the time you're older, you'll have a lot of it.
5. "Patience is a key element of success."
People who buy stocks with the goal of making a quick buck tend to get burned. If you want to succeed at investing, take a long-term approach and prepare to exercise patience. You may not see the gains you want in your investment account in a year, two years, or even five years, but if you load up on quality stocks and leave your portfolio intact, your patience is likely to pay off over time in the form of substantial gains.
While you may not have close to the same level of wealth as Bill Gates, you can still learn a lot from him. Take the above advice to heart, because it could set you on a very financially rewarding path.