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Letter to my young savers

By Beth Henary Watson
LPL Financial Planner


Dearest little ones,

I meet with many people about their finances. Even more people than that, knowing my profession, bring up the topic. If I could pass on to you just a few important lessons, they would be these:

Time is your most important resource

Nearly everyone who is now 60 wishes they had started saving for retirement earlier, that they had saved more, that they hadn’t cashed out that 401(k) back in the day. Because you are only 3 and 5, you have the opportunity to learn from the regrets of others. Saving $100 a month starting at age 22 gets you much further that saving $1,000 a month starting at 55.

Being aware of time’s passing is about much more than money. It should inform your choices about how you spend your free hours, what you do for a living, how you treat your spouses and children. Alertness to your own mortality—and everyone else’s, too!—may help you make better decisions about what’s important.

In On the Shortness of Life, the philosopher Seneca wrote:

“[Life] will not lengthen itself for a king’s command or a people’s favour. As it started out on its first day, so it will run on, nowhere pausing or turning aside. What will be the outcome? You have been preoccupied while life hastens on. Meanwhile death will arrive, and you have no choice in making yourself available for that.”

Frugality is a necessary skill

Families we see in our office who have done well with their money have not been above clipping coupons and reusing aluminum foil, particularly when they were just starting out. Frugality gets a bad rap, but it really just means “careful management of material resources and especially money.”

Good stewardship of our resources, including time (see above) and relationships (see below) as well as money, is important to achieving any sense of security and control in life. In our world that often seems to teem with overeating, overspending, and overscheduling, frugality requires practice for most people.

Our family currently practices frugality in many ways that you don’t yet notice. Most of your clothes had a previous owner, and will be worn by another kid after you outgrow them. We eat almost all of our meals at home, not because we have to, but because it costs exponentially more for the same stuff at a restaurant. When you have two little kids you will see that eating out is also stressful unless there is a playground.

Most folks who clip coupons don’t have to do it forever. And frugality is a relative skill anyway. What’s important is creating a gap between what you make and what you spend, which requires restraint in varying degrees.

Relationships matter

Last (for now), but certainly not least, never forget that people matter. Genuine relationships matter. You don’t have to be the life of the party, but people should know that they can approach you and that you will listen and respond with integrity.

No one likes a know-it-all. Your opinions about religious and political matters are just that. Most other people have them, too, and browbeating won’t change their minds. It’s easier for some than for others, but try to listen to hear, rather than to respond.

As financial planners it is very important for us to listen to what the client’s priorities are. Maybe they want to retire early to do some active traveling. Maybe they want to help their children get a good start in life. Everyone approaches life differently and we work to help each family reach for their unique dreams.

Try to listen to your friends and others you meet. How can you help? Can you encourage them? Don’t be the friend who secretly—or not so secretly!—wants their peers to fail so they will look better.

“Comparison is the thief of joy,” Teddy Roosevelt famously said.

I encourage you to live your own life with the knowledge that it is always too quickly passing, with prudence and moderation, and with a heart that’s open to those around you.



Beth Henary Watson is an LPL Financial Planner at Corner Post Financial Planning.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.