It takes a wise person to make millions and billions of dollars from investments, so why not partake in some of that wisdom? From Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett to historically notable inventor and investor Benjamin Franklin, here are some words to live by some some of the wisest people in the history of investing, and not just when it comes to money.
1. Don't Lose Money
“Rule number one: Don’t lose money. Rule number two: Don’t forget rule number one.” – Warren Buffett
This seems pretty straightforward, but it’s incredible to think about how often in our lives we lose money because of one reason or another. Las Vegas has made billions of dollars off of people prepared to lose money without a real hope of making it back. It may not be the golden rule, but it’s certainly one to keep close to the chest.
2. Invest in Knowledge
"An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." – Benjamin Franklin
Whether you're considering investing or switching careers, investing in knowledge will pay dividends in time and money. Consider the five-hour rule – something Oprah, Buffett and Bill Gates all adhere to. It’s simply spending five hours a week learning something new. If you’re not already doing this, consider adding it to your schedule for the week. There are endless resources online to get yourself on the right track, whether it’s simple YouTube videos, borrowing a book from your local library or subscribing to an educational site like Skillshare or The Great Courses.
3. Don't Play it Too Safe
"How many millionaires do you know who have become wealthy by investing in savings accounts? I rest my case." – Robert G. Allen
While this largely applies to investing, it also applies to other areas of life. Playing anything too safe won't give you optimal results. Especially when it comes to your money, there are some tried-and-true methods to responsibly invest. Do you research when risk is involved, and you'll come to a logical balance of risk and reward.
4. Know Your Investments
"Know what you own, and know why you own it." – Peter Lynch
Unfortunately, people tend to make decisions without fully understanding why they’re making them. For example, if you have a 401(k), do you know how it works and how it will work for your future retirement?
This goes for all types of investments and purchases, from home ownership (do you know why you bought in a certain neighborhood? Why you paid the price you did? If the home is in a growing area?) to cars (What’s the resale value outlook? Are repairs expensive?). Investments, homes, cars and other investments will always be around. Do your homework so that you make sound decisions, even when you have a financial professional or an agent guiding you along the way.
5. Financial Success Happens Slowly
"Investing should be more like watching paint dry or watching grass grow. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas." – Paul Samuelson
There are many things more rewarding than checking in on your 401(k) or other investment account and seeing how much it’s accumulated over time, but the key there is “over time.” Financial success from investing happens slowly, not overnight. Be patient and you’ll see results.
6. Find Your Niche
"Wide diversification is only required when investors do not understand what they are doing." – Warren Buffett
While this is true of investing, it’s also applicable to life. No one can be good at everything. The key to success is finding your niche in life and running with it. It’s okay to know how to do things like change a tire, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a mechanic. What skills work for you in your life? Focus on honing those.
7. Protect Your Reputation
"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." – Warren Buffett
Another nugget of advice from Buffett that can be applied to both investing and life in general. If you manage other people’s money, it just takes one expensive mistake to lose trust forever. It’s the same in life. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much goodwill you’ve built up; it can be lost in a matter of minutes. A familiar example is Hollywood stars who seemed squeaky clean until their mugshot is slapped across the front page of every tabloid.
8. Improve Yourself
“Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up." – Charlie Munger
Here are some wise words from Buffett’s counterpart Charlie Munger. If you want to put this into practice in your own life, at the end of each day, ask yourself what you learned that day. It doesn’t have to be a fact from a book; it can be an observation about your work, people close to you or something about your own life. Try to take that lesson and internalize it in a constructive way.
9. The 20 Percent Rule
"If you have trouble imagining a 20 percent loss in the stock market, you shouldn't be in stocks." – John Bogle
This speaks to the concept of not overextending yourself in general, not only when it comes to the stock market. Take a look at your income and budget, if your paycheck was cut by 20 percent would you still be able to pay the bills and keep the same quality of life? If not, then you might want to find a way to cut back on 20 percent of your expenses.
10. Don't Fall into the Same Habit
“The four most dangerous words in investing: ‘this time it’s different.’” – Sir John Templeton
Ask anyone who has jumped from one bad relationship into another, these words don’t only apply to investing. Unfortunately, we can become creatures of habit, which means we may habitually choose the same kinds of jobs, friends or romantic partners despite the fact that they didn’t work out before. It’s easy to get excited about something new and think that this time it will be different, but chances are that it won’t be. If it’s just a financial investment you took a gamble on again, then you can make that money back, but if it was an investment of time, then that’s the costly mistake.
11. Figure Out Your Talents
"I just took out that old white pad: Maybe I want to be an investor. Maybe I want to be a teacher. Maybe I want to write books. Maybe I want to stay home and be with my kids when they're growing up. I thought about all of that, and I was very open-minded about it, and what I came to is: My craft is financial services. Right or wrong, that's what I know, and I'm pretty good at it." – Jamie Dimon
Back in 2002, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon had been unemployed for 18 months, and this is the advice he gave stemming from that. If you’re trying to figure out what your next step should be, try writing down a list of things you’re good at, and then see how you can make a living doing the ones you like.
12. Research Your Charities
"Giving should be entered into in just the same way as investing. Giving is investing." – John D. Rockefeller
Giving in any form is wonderful, but unfortunately there are some not-so-genuine nonprofits out there. Before giving your hard-earned dollars, look into the organization on a website like Charity Navigator to see how much of their money is allocated to the the actual charity work as opposed to administrative tasks. This way, your donation really is an investment in the work that’s being done.
13. Learn Patience
"No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant." – Warren Buffett
Patience, patience, patience. It’s a hard lesson to learn in a world that’s moving faster by the day. But this illustration hammers the point home: Sometimes things just take awhile, so be patient and trust the process.
14. Surround Yourself With the Right People
"It's better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you'll drift in that direction." – Warren Buffett
Another way to say this is, "you are who you hang out with." If you want to be a businessperson, hang out with people who are involved in that industry. If you want to be a comedian, hang out with people who can help you hone your skill.
15. Only Buy What You Can Afford
“If you can’t afford to buy it twice, you can’t afford it.” – Unknown
The origins of this quote are hazy, though some attribute it to an interview with rapper Jay-Z, but regardless of who said it, the sentiment rings true. If you want the newest iPhone, ask yourself if you can afford to buy it twice before buying it once. Of course, there are caveats, like buying homes and cars, but ask yourself if you can afford to make the payments twice a month before you make them once.
Natalie has her BA from University of California, Riverside and has worked in digital media for over a decade. She has been a Bleacher Report featured columnist for Bleacher Report and created content for some of the leading companies in the financial space.