There are thousands of classic quotes about money and investing that contain morsels of truth. The problem is applying these to modern life can be difficult. Here are my Top 10 money maxims along with updates for application in 21st century life. In combing through lists, I have tried to include some that are literally centuries old alongside those from our time; some funny, some serious and all aimed towards guiding us to better appreciate and understand the role of money in our lives.
Top 10 Money Maxims
1. “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.” Woody Allen
The comedic persona that Allen has developed over more than 50 years of writing, acting and directing is that of an insecure and fretful individual. This quote tells us plainly that money isn’t everything, but it beats the alternative.
2. “Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant.” P.T. Barnum
Barnum lived a colorful life and is perhaps best known for founding Barnum & Bailey Circus. His life as a businessman was built upon developing his “larger than life” presence. He apparently had many instances where debt and poor cash flow almost doomed him. I suspect the quote above sums up some lessons from his experiences struggling with repaying debts.
3. “Save for a rainy day.” Aesop
While this Greek storyteller may or may not have authored this saying, it fits well into the fables told in his time 6th century BC. We hear this saying often but in our modern world but we tend to eschew it as something “old fashioned”. Aesop reminds us some days won’t be bright financially and we will need to rely upon our savings until the sun shines again.
4. “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill
Churchill’s political career spanned more than 50 years but he was dreadful with money. There is an excellent book about this somewhat unexplored aspect of Churchill titled No More Champagne by David Lough. I read the quote above as informing us of the difference between what we do to earn money, in Churchill’s case writing books and what we do to actually build a life in which money plays a part.
5. “It’s our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” J.K. Rowling
Staying with the British theme, J.K. Rowling is a UK author and one of the top 10 Best Selling novelists of all time. She lived in relative poverty before publishing her first Harry Potter book. A fair amount of our efforts here are aimed at guiding clients toward making good choices, good financial decisions. Her quote fully resonates with our experience.
6. “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, buying things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” Will Smith
Actor, comedian, and producer Will Smith has become one of the most bankable film actors in the business. The modest circumstances of his upbringing seem to have grounded Smith better than most of those in Hollywood. This quote speaks to the “Keeping up with the Joneses” syndrome that can be a diversion to accomplishing important goals that actually matter.
7. “The stock market is designed to transfer money from the active to the patient.” Warren Buffett, Famed Billionaire Investor
Warren Buffett, now 89 years young, has a great way of framing words in a folksy way that make sense. His exposure to value investing directly from Benjamin Graham at Columbia University forms the core of his investing approach. Additionally, his investment time horizon is usually decades, not years, as is reflected in the quote above.
8. “Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody.” Benjamin Franklin
One of our founding fathers, Franklin was a curious intellectual in every sense. While he spent much of his time in the political arena, his talents as an inventor were legend. Given the sheer breadth of his interests, my guess is this quote is somewhat autobiographical as the concept of “enough” was likely foreign to him.
9. “Money is only something you need in case you don’t die tomorrow.” Carl Fox (Martin Sheen’s character in Wall Street -1987)
I couldn’t resist this one as Bud Fox’s dad in Wall Street had several great lines about the very basic elements of money. Of course, Bud could never find “enough” and that was the start of his undoing.
10. “Money often costs too much.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
While Emerson is best known as a writer and philosopher, he was one of the most prolific lecturers of his era. In modern parlance, I think his quote here tells us to consider the cost of trade-offs as we make less of something now in order to potentially have more of that something later? Sometimes the trade-off costs are too high.
Which of the above quotes do you live by? Wisdom abounds throughout the spectrum of time if we are willing to listen. There can be more than one financial path to reach your goals. Start there. Ready for a real conversation?