Pomp and Circumstance

What do John F. Kennedy, Michael Dell, Barbara Walters and Will Ferrell have in common? All are known for giving famous college commencement speeches. Across the nation students are donning cap and gown to parade across a stage in front of proud friends and family. But before getting the coveted diploma, they must endure a graduation speech.

Winston Churchill famously told graduates to “…never, never, never give in.” U-2 rocker Bono challenged Penn grads to work on poverty and health issues in Africa “… because we can, we must”. Steve Jobs said that Stanford students should “stay hungry” and “stay foolish”.

But some of the best advice given to graduates was by Chicago Tribune writer Mary Schmich in a 1997 article known widely as the “Sunscreen Speech”.

Besides encouraging grads to “wear sunscreen”, Schmich gave some great advice about life that has much value for investors.

Schmich tells grads:

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.

It seems that worry about the future is our new national pastime. With 24/7/365 “news” networks, countless internet “pundits” and even our smart phones spewing a constant stream of mostly meaningless drivel, it is a battle not to take up the latest worry du jour. But worry about what might happen in the future distracts us from what we can control today like making smart money decisions or putting your financial house in order. It has been said that no one can add a moment to their life by worrying and the opposite is true – anxiety can steal both quality and quantity of life.

She also says:

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

At our Data Destruction and Donuts event last weekend we saw clients ditching the old bank statements, but I think successful investors need to go a step further. Toss out the old financial habits that have not served you well. Things like over-spending and under-saving or procrastinating on starting the estate plan or college fund. Take some time to think through how everything you do today will affect you in five years.  Keep that which will help create the future you want and throw away things that could derail your plan. An outlook that asks “What good will this do for me?” instead of “What harm will it do?” can help make your financial (and other) decisions bring more rewards and fewer consequences.

Finally, Schmick writes:

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Schmich believes (and I agree) that life lived in pursuit of safety is a life without growth, color and richness. A friend of mine says, “If comfort is your goal, success is not in your future.” While safety, security and comfort are all good things, they’re pursuit often ends in stagnancy. Investors open to change, new ideas and the unfamiliar can bring opportunities for growth and success. (Please keep in mind investing involves risk including loss of principal.)

As the world changes it brings opportunities for fresh big ideas. “What you are afraid of is never as bad as what you imagine. The fear you let build up in your mind is worse than the situation that actually exists,” said Dr. Spencer Johnson in his book Who Moved My Cheese?

We believe that today’s graduates will live in a world with a bigger future than we can even imagine today. The biggest impediment to that big future is our fear of the scary stuff along the way.

David Morrison

David uses Values Based Financial Planning to align your financial choices with your most important goals and your most deeply held values. He has a comprehensive process to consolidate, coordinate and simplify your financial life in a way that brings you more confidence and clarity about your future. Learn more about David here.

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The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. Stock investing involves risk including loss of principle.