Recently over dinner with a small group of friends, the discussion briefly turned to my book and this blog. One friend, Neil, revealed that some co-workers were attempting to develop and market elaborate stock trading software using a “fancy” proprietary algorithm. I opined that investing success is easier than most people realize once a few concepts are understood and a few behaviors adopted. Fancy software is not really required. Neil agreed and indicated that his father-in-law served as proof of that idea. He went on to suggest that I should interview his father-in-law for this blog. Being the savvy blogger that I am, I immediately agreed!
I am pleased that Mr. Andy Rutter has agreed to share his wisdom and insight with us.
In speaking with your son-in-law, and listening to your daughter describe the frugal behaviors that she witnessed growing up, I was reminded of the book, The Millionaire Next Door, which observes that many people you might never suspect, a neighbor perhaps, have achieved financial freedom. The authors observe that these neighbors tend not to be boastful in manner or dress and interestingly, note that anyone can accumulate wealth, if they are disciplined enough, determined to persevere, and have the merest of luck. Was becoming financially secure something you actively thought about, and started working toward, from an early age?
Yes, because I was not working in a high-paying field I knew I should be saving and investing what I could in order to prepare for retirement. But the savings state of mind can begin at any age—it’s just better if it starts early.
RetirementSavvy: Please tell SavvyReaders a little something about yourself. What is your professional background?
Andy Rutter: I retired from a career as a public school teacher, where I taught English, government and economics. I have an M.A. in English.
RS: What are some of the essential behaviors individuals should adopt in order to become, or remain, fiscally fit?
AR: Having one spouse (if one can), living beneath one’s means, selling investments that are not performing and accepting a loss if necessary. Diversify investments through choosing a mixture of stocks, bonds and funds. Do some reading to try to determine where the economy is headed. With an aging population, the health area will probably remain strong. Energy stocks, also, as the world economy grows. High yielding dividend stocks—utilities—may have income difficulties as incandescent bulbs are phased out. Often, ordinary news articles can indicate trends. Avoid companies with high debt or large unfunded retirement plans. A quick check online can tell you the debt level of a company.
Make use of low-cost index funds to diversify. Buy when “there’s blood in the streets” (meaning to buy when others are selling), sell before the bubble bursts, and make use of the Rule of 72 for long-range planning. The fiscal “Rule of 72” means monies invested early will compound to a greater degree. If you are not familiar with this formula, the rate of interest divided into 72 will tell you how many years it will take for your investment to double. Example: If interest is at 8% (not unheard of a few years ago), divided into 72 means your principal will double in 9 years. Unfortunately at the present time, if your interest rate is 3% it will take 24 years to double. You don’t even want to do the math for current financial policies!
RS: What things can families do together, within the home, to encourage fiscal fitness and improve family finances?
AR: When the children come of age, encourage them to find a job and then to save a portion of earnings. Help children be aware of “opportunity costs”—choosing when to spend the money. Buying right now limits the ability to buy later because you’ve already spent your money. There is no need to feel deprived; many of the items people buy feed a transitory yen. Maybe you don’t always need to be “the finest tiger in the jungle.” And maybe you don’t need to keep up with the neighbors.
RS: During the years you were planning for your financial future, did you primarily manage your own finances or did you rely heavily on a professional money manager?
AR: I made my own mistakes … and have had my own successes. Sometimes money managers advise a stock purchase when the stock has already climbed quite high. When a stock makes the headlines it’s probably past the good investment time. Don’t follow the hype. My personal belief is that 80% of stock market fluctuation is psychological. One does not need a doctorate in mathematics—one needs a degree in psychology (probably abnormal psychology!).
RS: What is the one piece of advice you feel is indispensable, something you could share with SavvyReaders?
AR: The most obscene four- letter word in English is spelled DEBT.
At the conclusion of the interview, Mr. Rutter – or perhaps SavvyAndy going forward – thanked me for asking his opinion. In turn, I would like to thank him for taking the time to share his insight as I know his responses are filled with information that can serve SavvyReaders well. Additionally, I would like to thank my good friends Neil and Alison for introducing me to this savvy investor, someone we can all learn from.