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Victoria, TX 77901

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Turning 50: What I Thought I Knew

This week, I broke the half-century mark. Professionally, the last 25 years have been spent neck-deep in the financial industry. Hopefully, I learned a few things along the way.

Once, I thought 50 was really old. However, some of the people I respect and admire most were very productive well into their 80s, if not their 90s. They opened my eyes as to what can be accomplished north of 50.  If you stay active, there is much truth in the adage that “age is a frame of mind.”

Hopefully, I developed a bit of perspective and determined when to have patience or a sense of urgency. In the process, I recognized the wisdom of listening.

My parents sacrificed heavily to put a roof over our heads, provide food to eat and instill a deep appreciation for education. Ironically, I remember turning to a classmate in graduate school and stating emphatically, “I will never go to school again.” And yet, I have never stopped gaining education. Today, it may be a trade journal instead of a text book, but I’ve come to know that once you stop learning, it is “game over.”

Thankfully, each time I wanted to buy something or needed cash, my parents helped me understand money could be earned by washing cars, mowing lawns, painting houses, etc. A work ethic and working for a living is the greatest gift I could have ever received.

I appreciate my doctor more and more. I look forward to our quarterly visits and realize that growing older is great…if you are healthy.

I don’t know what will happen with Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, but realize all of it costs money. We frequently discuss with clients that getting older is easy if you have financial resources. Health care, and the things that make life easier, can be quite expensive—more than we anticipate. As such, it is best to aim high when budgeting.

When our little firm started 18 years ago, necessity and fear resulted in 7-day work weeks. Today, I still usually work 7 days a week. However, it is because I am truly lucky enough to have found something I love doing, surrounded by people I truly respect and admire. Finding your passion is incredibly important to staying young and relevant.

Marriage requires a lot of work and is not for selfish people. Early on, Carol and I were both selfish and immature. We have now been married 23 years. Thankfully, no one else wanted us and we decided to stick it out. We came from very different financial disciplines. Fortunately, we found common ground as we learned to differentiate between “needs” and “wants.”

Financial decisions have consequences. When I was younger there was always a fast car or some other purchase that caused money to evaporate. I had little understanding how hard it was to make or keep money. There was little understanding of “opportunity cost.” When you spend money, you are consciously saying “this is the best way for me to allocate capital.” When I was 24 I allocated $6,800 on a race car. If invested, that money would have bought a modest home today. Ouch.

Age and money have an interesting dynamic. When I was young, I wanted to spend it on “things.” With age, I realize that “things” lose their luster and often require maintenance and real holding costs. Instead, I’d much rather spend time with friends having dinner.

Money made and invested today, is worth much more in the future. The earlier you start saving and investing, the easier it is later in life. There is tremendous truth in Aesop’s fable “The Grasshopper and the Ant.”

Achieving financial stability is far more about discipline than finding the next lottery pick. Regardless of which political party is doing what, capitalism still works. Capitalism is not perfect, but it does give the average person the opportunity to make a decent rate of return over long periods of time. Save and invest in good markets and bad. I can’t time the market, but I can see the benefits of capitalism.

At age 50, my toilet flushes and electricity flows to my house. I am in reasonably good health and no one is shooting at me.

Life is pretty good and I am really looking forward to the next fifty. I’m sure much remains to be learned.

Dave Sather is a Certified Financial Plannerand owner of Sather Financial Group. His column, Money Matters, publishes every other week.