I wish I'd known this decades ago

What would I tell my younger self?

a man sits at his computer screen scrolling with his fingers with a satisfied smile on his face as though he is very content with the news he is receiving.

Image source: Getty Images

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

A little while ago, I started an occasional series I've called 'Friday Fundamentals'… taking investing back to first principles to help new investors understand — and remind experienced investors of — the simple truths of investing.

Today, I'm going to share some bullet points I've pulled together that I'm calling 'Investing advice for my younger self' — I hope it helps!


When I started investing, I wanted to know the answers to all of the questions.

I gathered data, computed ratios, dived deeper.

It gave me a solid foundation… but it's not how I invest today.

What would I tell my younger self?

To still do that work, to give yourself a foundation. But move on quickly, thereafter.

To what? I'm glad you asked.

Do the simple stuff that puts you on the right track

Work hard. Save hard. Diversify. Add regularly.

Boring? Sure. But foundationally necessary? You bet!

Understand the big ideas

The truly big ideas help refine your investment universe really quickly: balance sheet strength, competitive advantage, growth runway, resilience. A few more, besides. But not many.

Apply the 80/20 rule

An extension of the above, really. Discard bad ideas quickly. Discard 'I don't know' ideas just as quickly.

You don't have to know all of the answers to all of the questions. You don't need to have a view on every company.

And once you've answered the most important questions about a company, you've probably got 95% of the information you need to make an investment decision.

Focus on quality

"It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price." — Warren Buffett

Why? Because a fair company doesn't have the ability to grow profits at attractive rates for a long time.

A wonderful company does.

Be patient

You only get the benefits of compounding if you let it happen. Sounds obvious, but too many people just can't leave well enough alone.

Stop rushing. Buy well, then let it happen.

Impatience is the enemy of successful investing.

Expect volatility… and long periods of underperformance

Amazon shares (I own) were lower in December 2022 than in April 2019. Then more than doubled in 16 months.

The ASX fell 38% when COVID hit, and is now near an all-time high

Don't fight it… ride the wave.

Don't go back to Square 1

Another one from Buffett. Betting the farm is dumb. Risking everything you've built up is dumb. This isn't a computer game. You don't get more lives, or to respawn at the last checkpoint.

Aesop was right. The tortoise wins.


I hope that's helpful. Have a great weekend!

Fool on!

John Mackey, former CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Motley Fool contributor Scott Phillips has positions in Amazon. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has positions in and has recommended Amazon. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

More on Motley Fool Take Stock

The Australian Coat of Arms flanked by a kangaroo and an emu features as a fresco on a building with the backdrop of a blue sky.
Motley Fool Take Stock

My 2024 Budget verdict

That’s a lot of ‘stuff’ to take in. And the numbers are mind-boggling.

Read more »

A young couple sits at their kitchen table looking at documents with a laptop open in front of them while they consider the state of their investments.
Motley Fool Take Stock

What should be in tonight's Budget

Good luck tonight, Treasurer.

Read more »

set of scales with a house on one side and coins or asx shares on the other
Motley Fool Take Stock

Why 'Property vs. Shares' isn't a fair fight

But if you asked me to look at the probabilities, I know what I feel more comfortable with.

Read more »

Legendary share market investing expert and owner of Berkshire Hathaway Warren Buffett
Motley Fool Take Stock

Highlights from Buffett and Berkshire

You’ll be a better investor for spending a little time taking in Warren Buffett's investing wisdom.

Read more »

A man lies on his back with arms akimbo dreaming of big success
Motley Fool Take Stock

Oil! Get off the grass!

Now that I think of it, what is the bowls equivalent of Happy Gilmour?

Read more »

A businesswoman ponders why her boat is sinking in the ocean.
Motley Fool Take Stock

High inflation. Falling retail sales. Are you ready?

I’m sorry if this feels a little ‘doom and gloom’.

Read more »

a man lies on his back on grass with his eyes shut and a contented look on his face as though he is dreaming
Motley Fool Take Stock

I don't care about my portfolio's performance this year

Want to hear something unusual… and a little strange?

Read more »

A young boy laughs with his grandpa as he puts a fishing net over his head.
Motley Fool Take Stock

Trading? Go fishing, instead.

Of all of the things an 11 year-old can become obsessed with, I’ll take fishing any day!

Read more »