Today’s Letter from Grandma Sylvia


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Dear Reader,


Did you have some time this past week to celebrate Thanksgiving and to give thanks?  I hope you did.  I did.  Now, after the harvest plenty, I’m ready for a few very simple meals.

The Big Picture

A well-known Shaker dancing song begins:


Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight


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Robert Fulghum wrote about all we need to know we learned in kindergarten.  Simple ideas but timelessly important.


Albert Einstein wrote

Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.


In investing and in our lives, we can learn to simplify.


A Story

The more individual stocks I owned, the more I had to follow each one to see what was happening in the marketplace.  Owning GE has been a terrible decision and I had to sell my shares at a loss.  Owning Costco has been good, but I have to watch to see how the company is doing.  Some people have dozens of shares of different companies and they might need to keep an eye on how those companies are doing in relation to their competitors or to consumer interest.


The simpler my portfolio can become the less I have to track individual investments.


In general, if I can do the simple things in my life, I am usually better off.


What is simple may not always be obvious, but one person has put his list of Money Rules on an index card.



Today’s Topic: Money Rules

Howard Pollack, a Professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, mentioned in an interview that all the investment advice you need can fit on one index card.  He was inundated with requests for this advice and wrote a book, The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to be Complicated.


This is what is on his index card:



  1. Max your 401(k) or equivalent contribution
  2. Buy inexpensive, well-diversified mutual funds such as Vanguard Target 20XX funds. (NOTE: Where XX is your retirement year.)
  3. Never buy or sell an individual security. The person on the other side of the table knows more than you do about the stuff.
  4. Save 20% of your money.
  5. Pay your credit card balance in full every month.
  6. Maximize tax-advantaged savings vehicles like Roth, SEP, and 529 accounts
  7. Pay attention to fees. Avoid actively managed funds.
  8. Make financial advisors commit to a fiduciary standard.
  9. Promote social insurance programs to help people when things go wrong.


These are worthwhile ideas to think about and use in our lives.

Important Ideas

The important ideas in this letter are the nine points on Dr. Pollack’s index card.



Now it’s time for me to go outside and check if there are any more winter chores to be done. It’s good to feel the outdoor plants are tidied up and ready for their long winter nap.  Wish you were here.


Grandma Sylvia

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