A hospice doctor gives investing advice

I used to have a patient who was an undertaker.  We had many conversations about philosophy and practicality,  and it didn’t take long to realize the profound insights one must learn when engaged in such a unique business.  As I was often fond of saying, when the undertaker speaks, you should really listen.  This belief that our experiences can lead to new and different perspectives has pushed me to analyze not only the meaning of our existence, but also the role that personal finance plays in our moment to moment lives. As a physician who takes care of people with the very worst prognoses, my outlook on such things as money have changed.  What, you say, good investing tips could someone in my line of business have gleaned from dealing with death and dying.  Sit back, relax, and read a few investing tips from a hospice doctor.

Note, these tips were not learned by accompanying the wealthy through this difficult journey.  They were not siphoned off of the personal books of those who had little interest left in hiding their secret ingredients to success.  They are simple, straightforward, bits of knowledge gained from walking down this lonely path with those reluctant to be making the journey.

Invest in people

Whether rich or poor, happy or sad, the one measure of a man (or woman) is the people who are left behind.  I can think of no greater measure of success.  You know it instantly when you walk into the room of a dying person.  They are surrounded by pictures, and letters, and cards, and friends.

I usually know who the successful investors are before I even reach the hospital room.  There are people walking in and out.  Noise and laughter peeling through the otherwise somber hallway.  Smiles and tears to combine a celebration of both life and death.

Listen to this one of many investing tips from a hospice doctor.  If you invest in people, the compound interest will multiply into a lifetime of love and happiness.  Long after you are gone, your essence will survive in the smile on the lips of those who shared in your asset allocation.

Invest in your children

Invest not only your money, but your time and love.  Help build the blocks of their adulthood and happiness.  Sprinkle them with your knowledge, humility, and kindness.  Lead them with your virtuous example.  In you, they will find the role model towards success and freedom.

Investing in your children will produce a lifetime of dividends.  They will be the shoulder to lean on and the undertaker of your vast life dreams.  Your time on this earth is short, but your progeny will carry on your spark.

You will never be able to repay them that which they unknowingly surrender to you. Instead, they will pay it forward to their own children.  And thus your goodness will continue on.

Invest in education

An expensive four-year college is fine, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  Read, discuss, take online courses, debate until your face is blue and walk out of the room disgusted.  The world is full of teachers great and small.  Knowledge is the emergency fund in which you shield your happiness.  Do not skimp!

I have watched countless patients die with a book on their nightstand, or an unfinished argument.  This is not sad or trivial.  Even the dying awake every morning with a plan for how they will spend each day.  Make sure your allocation allows at least a small part for acquiring knowledge.

Inquisitive people tend to die like they live: happy.

Invest in a hobby

There are few things that will make you as content as chasing a hobby. It will be the idea that wakes you up in the morning, and the thought that carries you gently to sleep.  Whether it’s collecting baseball cards, making jewelry, or knitting, really doesn’t matter.

Often when someone is dying, they collect the most important things around them.  Family, children, possessions.  I can’t tell you how many times I have entered the bedroom of a dying person to have to squeeze past the paintings and drawings, glass collection and stuffed animals, antique chess sets and signed first editions.

Your hobbies are interest-bearing accounts.   Hold onto them tightly.

Invest in the market

OK, even a group of investing tips from a hospice doctor would be remiss without the basics.  So don’t forget these simple steps:

  • Make money
  • Save as much as you can each year (20 to 50%)
  • Buy broad-based low cost mutual funds and ETFs
  • Max out retirement savings first, and then open a taxable brokerage account
  • Only hire a financial advisor to advise.  Not to invest for you.

In summary

These are my investing tips from a  hospice doctor.  As you can see, only the last section deals with money.  The reason, of course, is because finances are the easy part.  How you invest the rest of your time and energy, however, is likely to determine your perspective in those waning days when you deal with a doctor like me.

Don’t waste your life and regret.

Start investing now.

“DocG” is a physician who blogs at DiverseFI.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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