Following tips from the world's best investors can help you with your own investing. Sometimes, though, you can get useful help even from experts in other fields.

For instance, inspired by the movie "Julie and Julia," I recently looked into the life of legendary cook Julia Child. Here are some interesting things I learned about her.

  • She was something of a late bloomer, not learning how to really cook until she was in her mid-30s. Her television debut came more than a decade later.
  • She showed us that it's okay to make mistakes. On her TV show, she would occasionally drop or spill something -- and keep going.
  • She didn't cut corners in her cooking. When there was a formula to be applied in a recipe (such as for making pie crust, or a sauce), she followed it closely in order to get the best results.
  • She was not only wildly successful in her work, but she also had a lot of fun along the way.

As helpful as these tips have been in my cooking, I've also found ways to apply them to my investing as well.

Late is okay
Not all of us get an early start on investing. But late-starters can still accomplish a lot. Even if you begin investing in earnest at age 45, you can amass substantial wealth. Plunk $12,000 into the stock market each year for 20 years, and if you earn an average of 9% annually, it will become nearly $670,000 -- a rather useful sum for retirement. Hang in there at your job for three more years, until age 68, and you'll end up with more than $900,000.

In our Rule Your Retirement newsletter, I learned that in order to make your money last in retirement, you should conservatively aim to withdraw 4% of it annually (adjusting it for inflation each year). So 4% of that $900,000 would come to a payout of $36,000 in your first year -- or $3,000 per month. That's not bad for a late start.

Our blooper reels
Nobody wants to make mistakes. But we can succeed in investing even though we goof up now and then.

We might not imagine great investors committing blunders, but they do. Warren Buffett, for example, talks about missing out on shares of Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and the profits they would have brought. More recently, he's been self-critical about his ill-timed purchase of ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP).

The great investors learn from their mistakes, though, and repeat them less often, or never. Buffett quickly learned to remain within his "circle of competence," and as the Internet bubble swelled in the late 1990s, he didn't load up on high-flying stocks such as Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO), Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), and eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), which soon burned many short-term speculators who bought at the top. He stuck with seemingly fuddy-duddy investments such as Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and American Express (NYSE:AXP) -- staples of the investing world that ended up avoiding much of the pain of the tech bust.

Love your life
Finally, it's important to do what you love. Dig a little deeper into the craft of investing and you might find you love the challenge (and reward) of it. If so, then you'll likely do better with your investing because you enjoy and want to be tending to it. And if you find you don't, then you can simply (and profitably) opt to let others direct your dollars -- and save your time for the things you truly love to do.

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Wal-Mart, eBay, Coca-Cola, and American Express. eBay is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. American Express, Coca-Cola, and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. Try any of our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.