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To My Younger Self: Financial Tips You’ll Wish You Had Known

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July 11, 2012

Financial veterans and an inspirational Olympian play advisor—to themselves.

If you knew then what you know now, would you have done anything differently? This is a question many of us have pondered. So much so that Joseph Galliano took the concept and wrote the best-selling book Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen Year Old Self. When it comes to planning, saving, and investing, it is also a question that often nags us during the best and worst of economic times. So we decided to ask a handful of influential professionals, each writing from a different vantage point, what they would say to their younger selves.


Fred Tomczyk

TD Ameritrade PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Dear Fred,
I know you spent your early youth dreaming of playing in the National Hockey League and the decision to give up Junior A hockey on your way toward that goal was tough. It turns out you’ll still get to play hockey (collegiate), and the degree that you’ll earn from Cornell University will launch a long career in business, as well as a lifelong commitment to learning.

Early in your professional life you’ll be lucky enough to have someone you respect tell you to value experience over money. Listen to this advice, as it makes a big difference on the path you’ll take. Sure, making money is important, but there are other things like family, health, and happiness that are more important. You’re going to spend 40 years or more working, so you’d better enjoy what you do and who you’re doing it with.

Remember these three keys to pursuing success: always do things to the best of your ability; do what you honestly believe is right; and treat others the way you want to be treated. If you can uphold these principles throughout your life and career, I guarantee you will feel good about yourself and be proud of what you've accomplished.

Read more about Fred's early years


JJ Kinahan

TD Ameritrade's CHIEF STRATEGIST

Dear JJ,
I hate to break it to you kid, but you’re never going to make it to the big leagues, at least not in baseball. That’s okay. After college you are going to find out that your true passion is on the trading floor, not the baseball diamond. So don’t be afraid to pursue that career with all of the intensity that you first put into sports. Find great coaches and learn from them. Take ideas from everywhere, and don’t ever stop learning.

You aren’t going to get wealthy overnight, and that’s okay too. Think about investing as putting together a series of singles. When you work hard to get a little bit better every day, opportunities will present themselves, and you’ll be ready to swing for the fences. Surround yourself with smart people in the same way that you would build your team with the best athletes possible.

Finally, don’t throw out ideas just because you don’t understand them at first. Technology will turn this industry on its head seemingly overnight, so embrace it and become an early adapter. These are the types of curveballs that make coming to work everyday fun!


Beata Caranci

VICE PRESIDENT, DEPUTY CHIEF ECONOMIST, TD Bank GROUP

Dear Beata,
Everything is possible! The journey ahead looks long and difficult, but it will lead you to the independence that you crave. Yes, this dream will require working your way through high school and college, but the payoff will be freedom: The freedom to pursue the education of your choice, and, later, to create a life and a career that you love.

You are going to make mistakes along the way, but I’m not going to warn you away from those. I don’t want to dampen your enthusiasm or make you too cautious. I do want to tell you, not to take those mistakes, or yourself, too seriously. Instead, trust that you will learn from them and move on to greater things. When it comes to your finances, try not to get caught up in the whims of the market. It takes practice and patience to take the emotion out of investing, and this is where some professional guidance can do you some good!

The most important thing that I want to tell you is that there is no point in working hard if you don’t balance life with all of the enjoyment that it has to offer. Keep your dreams simple, and try to live them every day. Take pleasure in family, friends and travel. Life never has to be more complicated than that.

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David Gardner

CO-FOUNDER OF THE MOTLEY FOOL®

Dear David,
My first piece of advice to you is to start investing right now. Love numbers and get really good at math, but don’t let them rule your investing. Finding a great investment isn’t just about comparing earnings multiples, balance sheets, and profit margins. Be thoughtful about the underlying business. Get to know the people, the quality of the company, and its purpose.

You’re smart, but no one can outsmart the market. Heed the following advice: Don’t pull the trigger just because a stock has doubled in value. Don’t waste your time searching for stocks that you think are temporarily mispriced. Don’t let capital gains tax decisions alone drive your thinking.

Buying a stock means owning a piece of that business, so evaluate investments as a business owner. Consider its long-term corporate prospects, not its short-term stock movement. Invest in the companies that you think will have epic futures.


Jennifer Brecker-Myers

TD Ameritrade BRANCH MANAGER, WALNUT CREEK, CALIF.

Dear Jennifer,
Work hard to earn a scholarship. Pursue those undergraduate and graduate degrees and continue on to become a self-reliant, safe, strong and financially comfortable adult you.

But if I can emphasize just one thing, it’s make a plan. Not just a step or two ahead, but five, six steps ahead. Trust in yourself that you’ll execute that plan; second-guessing along the way won’t help. Save early, learn about the benefits and risks of homeownership sooner, and contribute at least the amount equal to company 401(k) matching funds from the start of your career—these early steps can impact the rest of your financial planning.

The time you’ll spend carefree and exploring on your own in Hawaii and Europe after undergrad—absolutely worth the investment! Work hard-play hard is a valuable mantra you’ll learn from those trips. Remember, life is precious, and allowing for time to be joyful and to play is not a luxury but a core requirement.