Q: I have a 15-year-old grandson who I think is now ready to learn about money and how investing works. I would like him to learn the right lessons so he can avoid some of the mistakes I have made over the years. I am not sure about how best to accomplish this and would like a few suggestions.
A: First, this is a great idea and I commend you for taking this step to provide your grandson with this type of an opportunity. He’s quite fortunate, in my book.
Before he commits too much money with hands-on learning, I think you should work to stress the right mindset of the world's greatest investors. Speaking of books, thankfully there have been some wonderful books written that will help him develop good emotional habits for wise investing.
The late Sir John Templeton was one such great investor. One of his simple rules was to remind us that "an investor who has all the answers doesn’t even understand all of the questions." Nothing could be truer with investing. The questions are never all answered and there is always something out there you may never know for sure. And that's okay to admit.
Templeton's rule is, for me, essentially a reminder to embrace humility and that developing the habit of asking questions is very far from being a sign of ignorance. Learning to confidently and freely ask questions is an important skill that will enable your grandson to become better at absolutely everything he does in his life, not just investing, as you likely know from your own life experiences.
Next, Templeton urged people to "Invest, don’t trade or speculate." This rule stresses the importance of embracing the idea of evaluating and considering the probabilities of the various outcomes in any investing situation. Investing won’t feel like a trip to the casino for him once you've taught him to double check his possible upside and downside, which includes the idea of reasonable diversification. You will have done him a great service that will pay him dividends for a long time to come if you can get this feeling to sink in at an early age.
My list of recommended books always starts with Benjamin Graham’s "The Intelligent Investor." Graham is a master investor in his own right, but his claim to fame is that his greatest pupil was Warren Buffett, the world's most revered investor. The book isn’t too long and it begins by helping readers develop a framework for differentiating between speculation and investing.
Next, I thoroughly enjoyed an oddly named book written by Joel Greenblatt, "You Can Be a Stock Market Genius." It is written from the standpoint of explaining real-life investment situations and is meant to be an entertaining read for regular people, not just investment analyst types, as you can see from the tone of the title! I do think you and your grandson might both like it.
Jason P. Tank, CFA is the owner of Front Street Wealth Management, a fee-only wealth advisory firm located in Traverse City. He encourages questions and comments about future columns. Contact him at (231) 947-3775, by email at Jason@FrontStreet.com and at www.FrontStreet.com