Everything About Finance Distilled Into A Short List


Jason Zweig and Jonathan Clements had similar articles noting that there are very few personal finance topics to write about, recapped by Abnormal Return which estimates there's only 10-20 things to write about. Zweig said his "... job is to write the exact same thing between 50 and 100 times a year..."

Tadas at Abnormal Returns sums up the list of possible articles as follows;

  • Spend less than you earn.
  • Take free money when offered: company, government, etc.
  • Know what you own, i.e. avoid complex investments.
  • Your benchmark isn’t the S&P 500, it’s the ability to fund your goals.
  • The less you spend on investment fees the more you keep.
  • Insure against potentially devastating risks.
  • Avoid lifestyle creep and keeping up with the Joneses.
  • Invest in yourself (career, education, hobbies).
  • Borrow prudently, pay off quickly.
  • Avoid credit card debt at all costs.
  • Personal finance IS personal. What works for you may not work for someone else.
  • Money carries emotional baggage for everyone. Awareness is a good first step.

Ages ago I started joking with my wife that I only have seven blogs post and I just write them differently each time. As you look at the list you can find things that resonate with you and probably a couple of others you might add from your own experiences.

The bigger takeaway is that the list is short and reasonably simple, it distills much of what it takes to to be on financially firm footing. Number one on the list is to spend less than you earn (live below your means). Where I like to say that doing this will make every other aspect of your life easier, relevant to Tadas' list, spending less than what you earn will make just about everything else on his list easier to achieve.

Zooming out a little, much of what is good for us can be distilled into simple to do items. If you want to take care of yourself, starting with an annual checkup, making sure you exercise regularly and vigorously and consuming less sugar is a great starting point and next level; try skipping breakfast (intermittent fasting). There's often more to it but for many people it can be that simple for a long time.

What this really is about is people being able to address, figure out and then solve many of their own problems. I write about this often because I think it a crucial aspect of a fulfilling life. If you can minimize financial worries and feel physically healthy then you're likely in a better position to feel good about what you do for work and have more room emotionally for the other aspects of life you value (family, volunteering, your hobby and so on).