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How To Ruin Your Life

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Irony, as a rhetorical device, is rarely encountered in speeches nowadays, especially at financial or advisor meetings.

When irony is used, I believe its best that it be done sparingly; better applied with a scalpel than a trowel, so to speak. In light of these reflections, imagine my surprise to find that the keynote speaker at the opening general session of the annual meeting of the Financial Planning Association in Denver not only employed irony in his talk but heaped it on until the stage was overflowing.

The speaker was none other than Ben Stein. Yes, that Ben Stein, he of Ferris Bueller fame and author and TV personality. The session, entitled “And How to Save It: Entering the Golden Age of Financial Planning,” echoed the title of Steins new book, which also was being touted at the meeting.

Herewith, Stein on 20+ ways to ruin your life:

1. Forget tomorrow.

  1. Believe there will never be rainy days in your life.
  2. Dont bother saving money unless you feel like it.
  3. Dont learn anything about investing.
  4. Spend as much as you want and dont be afraid to go into debt.
  5. Set up a high-profile, high-consumption lifestyle with fixed expenses you cant afford.
  6. Compete with your friends to see who can spend the most on things like vacations, fancy restaurants, etc.
  7. Dont balance your checkbook or keep track of what you spend.
  8. Forget to pay your taxesthe government has so much money that it wont mind.
  9. Collect all the credit cards you can and when youve maxed them out, get new ones.
  10. Pay only the minimum on your credit cards.
  11. Believe you will never run out of money, but if you somehow should that someone else will take responsibility for your life.
  12. Dont worry about retirementits a long way off and Social Security will provide a good living.
  13. Dont pay attention to experts who tell you to diversifythe stock market is the only place to put money.
  14. If a person is quoted in the Wall Street Journal or on CNN or MSNBC, know that they always have been right about stock market predictions; if theyre wrong once, they dont let them on again.
  15. Convince yourself you can beat the market without knowing anything about ityour intuition is enough.
  16. If your investment program isnt working, stick with it.
  17. If taking charge of your financial life is hard now, put it off.
  18. Dont worry about buying stocks in a bubbleyou will be the only one who knows when to get out.
  19. You dont have to work hard.
  20. Dont buy a housespend the down payment on other things like vacations, fancy cars, etc.
  21. Find a partner with expensive tastes, marry him/her, then get divorced in a community property state.

The planners in the audience roared at Mr. Steins observations, so irony was indeed an effective way of getting across his message. They also understood that there are all too many people in this country who would take his words at face value and therein lies the golden age of financial planning.

Steve Piontek


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, September 16, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.