I love to play poker. In one of my weekly games, I’m known as a lucky player. Anytime I get a card when the odds are against me, other players remark, “See? The luckiest guy in the world!”
Have I gotten lucky and won hands where I was a big underdog? Absolutely. Does it happen more for me than for any other player? That’s doubtful.
The reason I appear lucky is because I don’t play garbage hands that will consistently get beat. So yes, I’m not always starting with the best hand, but it’s usually a good one.
In other words, I’m setting myself up for success.
It doesn’t always work out, but I’m giving myself a better chance of winning by mostly playing strong cards.
What the other players aren’t picking up on is the number of hands that I fold. These guys play mediocre hands and curse their ill fortune when they get beat by a better hand. I don’t.
Investing is the same way. Sure, you can pick a penny stock that becomes a winning lottery ticket, but usually you won’t.
The luckiest thing that ever happened to me regarding money was when I was 22 years old. Someone showed me a statistic that said if I invested $2,000 per year for the next 10 years and stopped, I’d have more money than if I started at age 31 and invested $2,000 per year until I was 65.
That made a huge impression on me. Despite making less than $20,000 per year in income, I saved $2,000 that year. And as my income grew, so did the amount I saved and invested.
Back then, I didn’t know anything about investing. I couldn’t have told you if we were in a bull market or bear market. I’m not sure I could have even told you what those things were at the time.
I picked a few mutual funds that seemed reasonable and didn’t really worry about it too much. I knew I simply needed to let time work its magic on my money.
My investments have survived various bear markets, including two historic crashes, and are worth more now than that 22-year-old kid I once was could have imagined.
It’s not because I picked amazing stocks or funds – it’s because I didn’t touch the money for several decades.
That’s why, if anyone asks me what they should do with their money (and they don’t need the cash for a number of years), my answer is to invest in quality stocks – particularly companies that raise their dividends every year.
Now, I realize not everyone has decades to invest and build up their nest egg. But that’s why it’s so important to invest now and not wait for a better opportunity. Chances are you’re not going to be able to pull the trigger if one comes along.
When the markets tank, it takes an ice-in-their-veins investor, usually with loads of experience, to be able to buy when everything is falling. Most investors can’t do it. They wait until the market bounces and usually get in much, much higher.
Don’t play that game. Set yourself up for success by investing now so that you have as long as possible to let time work its magic on your portfolio.
When I saw that statistic 30 years ago, it was like being dealt a pair of aces. So maybe I am lucky. Start investing now, and you won’t need to be.