The Best Investment Advice You Will Ever Get

I’m going to simplify what I consider to be the best investment advice I have ever been given and share it with you.  Here you go:

1. If you have any credit card or other type of consumer debt on which you pay 5pct or more interest, pay it off.  Compound interest is your enemy.  The chances of you earning more on your money than you are paying in consumer interest rates are slim. Pay it off.

2.  Cash is King. Now that Madoff is in jail, no investment can offer returns with zero risk. If you don’t fully understand the risks of an investment you are contemplating, it’s ok to do nothing. In times of massive uncertainty like we are facing today, doing nothing is a valid and IMHO preferable investment strategy. Just put your money in the bank.

3. Cash Creates Transactional Returns.   What does this mean ? It means that you should analyze what you spend money on over the course of a year. You will get a better return on your money by being a smart shopper and taking advantage of  cash, quantity or other types of discounts than you will in the stock market.  Saving 15pct on the $1k dollars worth of items you know you will absolutely spend money on is a better return on your money than making 15pct in a year on a $1k investment  because you don’t pay taxes on it.

If you have under 100k dollars in liquid assets,  your net worth will be higher in one year if you follow this advice  than if you follow ANY other investment advice any broker or banker will give you this year.

64 thoughts on “The Best Investment Advice You Will Ever Get

  1. Great, succinct post. I’d amend #3 a tiny bit… many Americans buy in bulk because per item, it seems cheaper… but they often don’t need these things, so make sure if you’re at a warehouse/discount store that you’re only buying things you’ll really use or need! Otherwise you’re really not saving money.

    Comment by harmonyjupiter -

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    Comment by mastersellingbydonaldbrownliefleming -

  3. Awesome advice here! Awesome blog!

    Comment by joesanphoto -

  4. Mark – what is your take on investing in gold?

    Comment by jnt -

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  6. Hey Mark, thanks for the tips!!! It validates what I am doing right now. I feel better knowing that others are heading into the realm of liquidity.

    Comment by D. K. Williams -

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  8. @cory1481

    Deflation is valuable only if you can take advantage of it. Cash allows you to do that.

    (And why bring the Fed into this? Me thinks you have an ax to grind…)

    Comment by omonubi -

  9. Exactly, its BACK to KEY basics!! But hopefully the economy will churn and accelerate out of this great recession. not to forget to invest in ourselves to upgrade our
    Business Mindsetto have a better lifestyle….

    Comment by mylifewinson -

  10. Cash is king!! love it

    Comment by hotandsnot -

  11. Hey Mark,

    We met yesterday evening in Hwood! Taking a chance reach out I gave you my card MBA In Real Estate. Would like to discuss a strong business plan/proposal regarding the opportune Realty market in California and what my investment group is doing successfully. Thanks

    Comment by mbainrealty1 -

  12. If you want stability Invest in a silo full of canned food in bulk at 1$/can. When a can of soup costs 6$ and you are hungry you will have created a 500% ROI out of thin air!!! Now thats, money in the bank!

    This brilliant advice is forward looking and the reader should do their own research to understand the risks associated with investing in a silo full of canned food.

    Comment by nathanfrantz -

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  14. more good investment advice… don’t overpay for injury-prone centers that can’t hedge on the pick and roll. I guess you finally learned this lesson since you didn’t sign Shaq this offseason 😉

    Sorry MC, I had to. I kid because I envy. good luck on the upcoming season.

    Comment by pmk3 -

  15. If you have cash, is it time to buy some real estate? Prices are so beaten up, it’s crazy.

    Comment by dcangelo -

  16. I agree that CC debt is bad and should be eliminated. Cash is and always will be most valuable when everyone thinks the sky is falling and acting irrationally ( ie when you can buy for pennies on the dollar). So having it is a very powerful thing, even now as the market flirts with 10k if u listened to MC’s last post u would have saved some $. Saving money here and there isn’t difficult however it does seem that pay & compensation are getting lower and prices of products continue rising.

    The real question i have is how do we get some sort of funding to all of the discouraged/unemployed workers in america. It seems that most people will have to do something to make money so my guess is that they will be forced to do something “self-employed: to make ends meet. If there is cash flow available in small amounts to help these small business get up and running it would a good thing and the failure rate might lower than if these companies were started undercapitalized.

    Comment by mfkiv -

  17. Mark,
    Ive tried to contact you over email. Are you ever going to do another round of open source funding like you did earlier this year. I have a business that is socially responsible and environmentally friendly and we already have the largest university in America under contract without a product. I have read about the company in last months INC magazine that you funded and wondered if you were still looking for good start-ups to invest in. Even if you are not interested I would love to pick your brain. I can be reached at Thanks for taking the time to read this.
    -Max Altschuler

    Comment by maltsch1 -

  18. May be i don’t get you.I don’t totally agree with you .Just put money in bank sounds not good .

    Comment by ssmpan -

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  20. I invested in the firm of Serta, Stearns & Foster. {that’s a mattress joke}

    Comment by TestShoot -

  21. So, to sum it up: Pay off everything; Sell your stocks; and hoard cash. Yes, you net worth will increase but not as much as it could have if you had taken on more risk.

    Mark, do you have any debt that you are paying more than 5pct interest on? You probably do and since you do, why not pay it off? Becuase a bird in the hand (2010) is better than two in the bush (2011).

    Thanks for the advice and I enjoy reading your blog, but I think that you sometimes find it hard to relate to folks in the sub-$1B net worth category.

    Comment by econ365 -

  22. Mark,

    I would be dubious of any ” investment advice” that is rendered to the public generically. To illustrate: Look at Cramer or Suzy Orman… they may have some good ideas but they are providing ” advice” before understanding the unique situation of the investor; age, backround, career, family situation, net worth et ceterra. And so are you. How can ” advice” that fits for an “conservative” Retired 60 year old worth $100,000,000 also fit for an “agressive” 27 year old with no assets.
    Generic advice is a form a exploitation. ( Think Cramer and Suzy Orman again)It is harmful, dangerous, and , ultimately a terrible disservice to those that admire you. They deserve more from a Leader like you.


    Comment by cubax99 -

  23. @ omonubi:

    When the average american income is decreasing, deflation in the price of goods and services is THE ANSWER. This allows the average person to maintain their relative standard of living. When Fed expansionary policy is used to prop up asset prices that have been unsustainably inflated- this HURTS the average household. Do not buy into everything “Helicopter Ben” spews. The goal of the Federal Reserve is to maintain stable prices and low unemployment- the dollar has lost 96% of its value since the inception of the Fed; unemployment is ~10% and underemployment is around 20%. Why do you trust the words of someone who is such an obvious failure?

    Comment by cory1481 -

  24. “… if you have more than that sitting in cash then you will get KILLED by the Federal Reserve’s printing press…”

    Comment by kkabardeyy -

  25. As for ING Direct, I have used their service since 2005 and they are very legit. As long as you know how to use their internet banking site it works fine. Maybe open a small account to get familiar with the site and once you are familiar start moving more money. It was free/no fee for me when I transfered money from Chase into ING Direct. When I transfered money online from Chase to US Bank they charged a 1% fee.

    Also look for bank promotions, Westfield Bank offers 3.5% on checking accounts as long as you have at least 1 direct deposit/external transfer and make 12 debit card purchases per month. It is only 3.5% up to the first 25k but still a great rate. I am sure there are other bank promotions going on.

    Comment by toddq1381 -

  26. If you are tempted to buy stocks and try your investment strategies at the stock market, first try making a fantasy stock account. You can do it yourself using pen/paper or you can make a free account on, where you get $1 million fantasy dollars to invest.

    Also as for student loans, that is a good question. The current rate on stafford loans is 6.8%. I would say government student loans are OK but student loans from banks are bad. Most people can complete a bachelor degree with a reasonable amount of debt, but when it comes to medical, pharmacy, veterinarian, law, dental, or optometry or any other professional degree/school the debt burden become unbelievable.

    Comment by toddq1381 -

  27. great advice from a billionaire!
    no really, great post.

    Comment by youngrichandgoodinbed -

  28. re: cory1481

    “… if you have more than that sitting in cash then you will get KILLED by the Federal Reserve’s printing press…”

    Inflation is the LEAST of our problems right now – the Fed is petrified of it. A moderate inflationary monetary policy might actually do us some good, but I’m not counting on these Fed bozos to come up with it. There is a real risk of a deflationary economy, the likes of which haven’t been seen in this country in our lifetimes.

    Comment by omonubi -

  29. @ POINT 1 …Wow Cuban, I wish you had written that to the Federal Government about 30 years ago, before we had trillions of dollars in debt as a Nation.

    @ POINT 2. Are banks zero risk? If anybody says they are, I think the people living in the 1930’s would disagree with you….People, I SAW ITS A WONDERFUL LIFE!!! FDIC?? I guess it can stay afloat if we give it a government bailout!!! yayyyyyyy.

    @ POINT 3 Come’on America, shop at Costco! But seriously, this is probably the best point of the post for most people.

    I wish there had been a POINT 4: Short the possibility of the Obama administration allowing ATLAS SHRUGGED being made into a movie.

    Comment by ckmy -

  30. Great advice, Mark. Just like a company that gets into cost-cutting rationalization mode – it is the easiest way to create shareholder value. Every cent of cuts drops to the bottom line. But there is good debt and bad debt, and the most evil debt on the planet is credit card debt. The other great evil in the US was mortgage interest deductibility. It fed the leverage drug. I Canada we NEVER had mortgage interest deductibility. And we have had no real estate crisis. I once saw a stat that to the tune that half of all homeowners in Canada have NO mortgage….then again, we don’t have the entrepreneurial mo-jo that the U.S. has.

    Comment by manicfinance -

  31. There are so many more good quotes out there, but here are a few that come to mind right now:

    “Buy when the blood is running in the streets.” ~Baron Rothschild

    “Bull markets are born on pessimism, grow on skepticism, mature on optimism, and die on euphoria. The time of maximum pessimism is the best time to buy, and the time of maximum optimism is the best time to sell.” ~Sir John Templeton

    “Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No.2: Never forget rule No.1.” ~Warren Buffett


    “You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.” ~Warren Buffett

    Best of luck to everyone!

    Comment by morethanyouexpected -

  32. There are stocks/mutual funds that are the big American names—-as well as up and coming companies. I know that we’ve seen established companies go into bankruptcy and promising companies fail—but relatively conservative investing in stocks, mutuals or ETFs (i.e. not trying to get rich quick, but putting money into presumably solid corporations with good balance sheets) is something I’ve been doing since I got out of college about 25 years ago. There have been more ups than downs for me. If we can’t have confidence in these types of investments, we are saying that America’s future is bleak. I’m willing to tie my future to the country’s future. If there is a total failure of our system that leads to a complete collapse of Fortune 500 type companies, there’s a good chance the FDIC won’t be able to honor their commitment to insure savers for the lousy under 250K savings accounts either. In other words, I’m willing to gamble on private sector stocks and bonds—I feel that leaving that money in insured bank accounts is gambling that the government will be solvent enough to cover savers if there is run on banks—-I have more faith in Wall Street than Pennsylvania Avenue these days.

    Comment by dcangelo -

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  34. Hi Mark,
    Great advice and I am already doing all of what you have listed. We pay of the credit card every month, only use it for points.
    I stopped contributing to my Son’s account with Smith Barney/ Morgan Stanley heck I don’t even know their name any more. My Husband has a 401K with his employer and contributes the max. I have an IRA and invest $5k a year for the tax break. The account that is doing best investment wise is an account I have with TD Ameritrade on stuff i researched and purchased myself. Cashed a stock in that I paid $7.40 for in 2000 and it went to $42 last year but was killed on taxes.

    So everything else is in the bank in a money market account earning a grand total of .47%. UNBELIEVABLE. We have $95k sitting in there doing nothing, yet when I wake up in the morning it is still there 🙂 We bank with Chase.

    So my question is this……what can we do for a better rate of return? It seems the longer the CD the higher the rate but what if I lock in for 5 years and the rate goes up in a year. ? So I have not done CD’s. The money sits at the lowly .47%. I have looked at ING Direct but are they legit? There must be somewhere else that offers a better rate than what I am getting.

    We always take advantage of buy now no payments for 18 mths. We ALWAYS have the money before we buy and pay it off at the 17 mth mark.

    We have not been making extra mortgage payments…tought about it but are instead bankink it with the ‘CASH IS KING” MOTTO that I have been sprouting off about for years when I first heard it from the CEO of CSCO. Forget his name.

    So any advice would be appreciated for a better rate of return.

    Thanls Mark and good luck to your Mavs in the upcoming season!

    Comment by lakergirl1 -

  35. Great advice although I would have thought that “in times of massive uncertainty” are the best times to invest, while in times of certainty (eg 2006-2007) are the best times to sell. Also IMO if you need the advice of brokers or bankers then most likely the best investment is cash no matter the situation – the agency problems are just too big.

    Comment by bengle123 -

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  37. I’m new to your blog and just read your great post and the great comments about your proposed tax on trading. I’m totally for a market designed to benefit companies seeking investment rather than being designed to benefit traders. Rather than a trading tax going to the state though -could each transaction have a charge applied with the proceeds going to the company traded. That would make companies and investors want to be in such a market. Liquidity could be provided by a market making computer (administered by the company traded) that would have to provide a bid ask spread no greater than the transaction charge. I think the index trackers like Vanguard also have a lot to answer for. They provide the feedstuff for traders to profit from. The traders instigate a market movement (perhaps with no rational basis), the index trackers blindly pile in and amplify it in a positive feedback loop and the traders cash in. The point of the market is to allocate resources to where they are most productive. The current mix of high frequency traders and index trackers seems an abandonment of that.

    Comment by stone100 -

  38. The current futility of investing got me wondering. I guess the lure driving capitalism is accumulation of wealth. If wealth means purchasing power relative to everyone else then successful capitalism leads to redistribution of wealth to the most accomplished capitalists. People with limited wealth spend most of it on products and services, those with excess wealth invest the excess. If wealth is evenly distributed, wealth for investment has scarcity value and there are customers able to afford the products and services produced. So the investments pay off and wealth accumulates to those investing. They then have a glut of investment money and no customers able to afford the products of the investment. That is where we are now. Last time this happened WWII and the holocaust was the “answer”. The potential for things to work better surely is there. If the people in the World living on less than $1/day were able to afford clean water and basic education, providing that would give an enormous economic boom. China might try and sort things out -no doubt with much collateral tyrany. The free world has a challenge and we seem to be failing at it.

    Comment by stone100 -

  39. Mark,

    after reading your blog, “the stock market is for suckers and why you should put your money in the bank” i liquidated my portfolio, modest as it is, and stashed the cash… even though i was taking a bit of a loss to do it. Rather than take my broker’s advice and wait for the “bounce back” i went cash now.

    i’m letting folks know this not because i consider you my financial advisor, but because i believe you are a smart a guy, who is far more financially successful than i am, who is telling it like it is. you’re also is a man with no vested interest in what i, or anyone else reading your blog, will do financially and i can tell you’re just telling THE TRUTH!

    your “insider” advice on how the market really works and who makes the money in it, has helped me save a lot of cash NOW by stopping my losses here rather than letting them fall even further by chasing them in the market like some alcohol-crazed gambling addict at a blackjack table.

    i have a financial planning background and consider myself an investor, but now, thanks to you,i understand fully why my successes have been so spotty and inconsistent. i will invest in stocks again someday, when i believe i can take advantage of the impending doom looming on the horizon. till then, as you say, “cash is king” in my world. i’m already sleeping better knowing i’m liquid in case “life” happens while others are waiting for the “bounce back.”

    great stuff you’ve written and i for one, thank you for it.

    so does my BANK ACCOUNT!

    Comment by iamtrevort -

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  41. For most I’ve my adult life, I’ve been up to my a$$ in consumer debt. Yes, I made “bad choices”, but when you’re sold a credit card at 18, women and wine won’t wait ;). I’ve lived with the consequences and always worked to repay my debts (with interest). I’ve never gone bankrupt. But then again, I’ve never had any liquidity either.

    A few years ago, I took Mark’s advice – I sold off my meager “investment” holdings and paid my debt down. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I felt exposed at first, having no backup plan, but I’m in a *much* better financial position today. Cash, cash, cash. I feel FREE. Thanks, Mark! I’m more grateful to you than you will ever know. 🙂

    Now that I’m considering doing something with my spare cash, I’ll once again take the advice of those smarter (and more financially succesful than me) – DON’T invest in ANYTHING you don’t KNOW well. The biggest LIE in Finance is that everyone can win. It’s simply not true. Only the quickest and best informed do. I’m not saying don’t invest, but I am saying you better know what you’re getting into and not delude yourself that “it will all work out for you”. I’ve seen too many friends lose their investments to “bad luck” this way. Start with CDs and MMFs. If/when, we enter a deflationary cycle, you will be well-positioned. 😀

    Believe none of what you hear, and half of what you see. And most importantly BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!

    Comment by omonubi -

  42. do you consider student loans to be consumer debt?

    Comment by 21gunstudios -

  43. This isn’t even investment advice really. Don’t go in debt, spend wisely, and don’t invest in anything at all. Great, thanks!

    It’s a great time to invest and there are plenty of well established and safe ETF’s, Mutual Funds, and Index Funds to choose from. If you have cash that you don’t think you’ll need in the next 5-7 years, leaving it sitting in a bank is retarded.

    Comment by rhino3 -

  44. Hi Mark!
    Thank you for this very sound advice. I also agree in these uncertain times, that sometimes it is best to not do anything (except for saving). One should not feel pressured to be invested in the markets! Many Thanks, Elizabeth

    Comment by griere77 -

  45. Mark,

    This sounds good for someone who needs to eliminate debt (at least the “you should eliminate debt first” part).

    But “Cash” is not king. It’s an investment too. An investment into Federal Reserve Notes and this investment involves a lot of risk.

    History has proven that no matter how much it seems like an empire is immune from the basic economics of inflation… they never really are immune.

    Every country in history that has “printed money” as enthusiastically as we are… has experienced either hyperinflation or complete currency collapse.

    So… cash is a speculative investment. How can a speculative investment be “king”?

    – Jeff

    From MC> did you read the entire post ? Take a look at your expenses for the past year. What did you buy that if you bought in bulk you could save 15pct or more on ? Toothpaste, cereal, soap, shampoo, sodas, socks, how much on non-perishable items do you spend in a year ? That is what you can use that cash for. Cash in the bank can earn you far more if you save enough to use it for significant discounts. Thats a tax free return on your money. Thats not a speculative investment. Your toothpaste isnt going to lose value to your teeth no matter what inflation/deflation does

    Comment by Jeff Nabers -

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  47. Great advice…but be realistic MC. If someone’s net worth is less than 100k and they have debt…do you actually think they are sitting on cash to pay off the debt? A resounding no. The best they can do is cut back on credit card spending, which, based on economic reports, people are doing.

    Comment by therugelachman -

  48. kid mercury, you had me until #3. As a Constitutionalist, I have to disagree with you, as we do need to provide for the common defense, is I believe the wording. The budget itself is not immoral, it’s the use of the budget that may be.

    Comment by Matches Malone -

  49. Mark, Normally you are right on the money… however:

    >> no investment can offer returns with zero risk <<

    There are insurance based products that offer returns with zero risk.

    Comment by consultski -

  50. Simple advice for those of us that are end users. What about those of us that are looking for people to invest in us?

    Comment by Matches Malone -

  51. It is an excellent idea to pay off debt. It is important that you only invest in what you know and understand. What you need to understand, and what Mark neglects to mention is the danger of inflation. According to the Consumer Price Index a basket of goods that cost $1000 in 1999 would cost $1315.21 in 2009. That means a DECREASE in purchasing power of 31.5% in ten years if you just sit in cash (that is the same as a loss on an investment). CPI is famously underreported by our governmen, just look at tuition, healthcare, energy, and insurance costs- they rise much faster than the CPI.

    What I am saying is that Mark’s advice is great for anyone with under $10k in liquid assets, but if you have more than that sitting in cash then you will get KILLED by the Federal Reserve’s printing press. You need to own hard assets (real estate that has NOT been inflated, precious metals, bonds, etc.) that cannot be devalued by the monetization of our nation’s debt.

    Comment by cory1481 -

  52. Mark- long time listener, first time caller. I know it’s very easy to tell other people what to do with their money…BUT…FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLEASE BUY THE DODGERS. I moved to LA nine years ago with the typical stereotype of Los Angeles fans but these people are passionate, informed, and deserve better. Everyone here is talking about and dreaming about you buying the team. Our farm system that made us who we are has been gutted and less and less money has been spent on development. I have had two buddies in the NBA, one who played for you, one against you and BOTH said you were the best owner in the game (nice touch with the visitors locker room). You would make a lot of people’s lives better if you did it. That being said, I have no idea if it’s a good investment. McCourt is running the team to make money, and I doubt you would have the same philosophy. Well, I’ll stop rambling. Whether you do or not I dig your style.

    Comment by ericjedelstein -

  53. Mark,
    Warren Buffet will say the same thing,
    but at the same time he says he loves
    the carnage of a depression so he can
    go on a spending spree at good prices.

    Comment by mrmalibu -

  54. Actually, if you folks believe the market is finished, why not short the SPY? Better returns there.

    Comment by thebesttradingsystem -

  55. This advice is awesome. So many people try to give complicated financial advice, but this is really the best advice you can get. I especially like the advice that if you save 15% on $1,000 worth of goods then you are making a better return than if you made a 15% return on an investment. Why? Because you don’t pay taxes. More importantly, who makes 15% return on their money? Not that many people. A lot of folks will promise to make you that kind of money, but not many can come through year after year. First, save that money on your purchases, then invest the money you save in safe investments. Boom! Your getting an awesome return on your money by making the easiest money their is to make — not wasting the money you earn. Thanks Mark!

    Comment by josephwesley -

  56. wow, probably the first time i’m disagreeing with you, mark. rebuttal:

    1. EVERY position is a trade. when you have cash sitting in your bank, you are betting that the purchasing power of that cash will stay the same or appreciate. for the past ten years, this is has been a bad bet. there is no such thing as a risk-free investment, if you ever plan on buying something ever again then you need to store your wealth and be concerned about preserving or growing purchasing power. do analysis of the US dollar — do you really think it is safe? do you think teh current banking system is stable? do you think FDIC actually helps, or could it just increase moral hazard for banks threaten the value of currency due to money-printing and depreciation?

    2. by extension, at this point, hyperinflation is a slam dunk. most people think hyperinflation is simply inflation plus, i.e. inflation on steroids. admittedly i was thinking this up until the stock market rebound of 2009, when i did more research. hyperinflation is always about a loss of confidence in a currency, and thus stems out of deflation. argentina 2001 is the prime example, and the path the US is currently on.

    3. avoiding hyperinflation begins with reducing governemnt spending, especially the completely unjustified and immoral war budget. ask yourself if government is going to get on the right track any time soon.

    4. foreign currencies, commodities, and precious metals are all safer than cash IMHO. or, put another way, there is risk everywhere — there is no escaping risk. as such i think it is best to conduct due diligence and proceed accordingly.

    lastly, mark make sure when you want to buy gold/silver you contact me, i’ll hook you up with all the good advice, profiting from kickbacks only, which i’ll fully disclose to you so you can see where i’m bluffing. of course, i don’t bluff — that’s only for amateurs who don’t understand the value of the truth. 🙂

    Comment by kidmercury -

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  58. I’m curious what your thoughts are on paying off a house mortgage (5%, 30 yr fixed) vs. using the money for something else. I’d imagine paying it off for several reasons, but curious if your reasons are similar…

    From MC: For mortgage, it depends on your tax situation and what the after tax cost actually is. if you can double up on payments and pay it off faster, thats usually not a bad approach

    Comment by x33z -

  59. “Debt is dumb, cash is king, and the paid off home mortgage has taken the place of the BMW as the status symbol of choice.”

    Dave Ramsey

    Comment by rangerhorn -

  60. That sounds more like a manifesto to CYA in the coming years. I see nothing good around the corner..

    Comment by chrisyoura -

  61. Advice for minimizing CompInt wounds from student loans? Consolidate?

    From MC> Depends on amount, term, rate and your tax bracket and financial situation. You just have to spend the time doing the math..

    Comment by coolmus37 -

  62. I thought the best advice was to invest in a shady tequila company from Mexico after meeting a failed entrepreneur and his hooker-style girlfriend in the office of your agent??

    Comment by akismet-2fb32106fc90bef71303dd413d9f2cd0 -

  63. I’ve also heard #3 stated as “A penny saved is two pennies earned”. Good advice.

    Comment by clarkcw1 -

  64. Excellent advice – there is a stigma people feel in “not doing anything” with their money. This helps explain that “doing nothing” can be a conscious (and wise) choice. Thank you.

    Comment by jeffkinch1 -

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