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Across My Desk: Wise Words From Thomas Kostigen



In his final Sophisticated Investor column on MarketWatch, Thomas Kostigen wrote about the lessons he's learned while writing his columns. What follows are some of his wise words:

"...I've learned a lot while writing in this space, and I'd like to leave you with some lessons that have made lasting impressions:

1) Psychology: The rich are no different than you and me. Despite what F. Scott Fitzgerald famously believed, wealth doesn't a man or a woman make. There are jerks, nice people, smart people, greedy people, and unethical people in all walks of life. The rich may flaunt their character traits more, but the same traits exist among all economic strata.

2) Investing: Long-term growth may be the road to success, but you have to take risk to get rich. No guts, no blue chips, as they say. Concentrated, thoroughly researched positions will make you rich. Diversification, as money manager Marty Whitman -- a hall of fame investor in my mind -- says, "diversification is for amateurs."

3) Lifestyle: They may seem fancy, but just because homes and vacations are expensive doesn't mean they are better. The magic of all things wears off after a while. Buy a new sports car and after a month I'll bet you will find something to complain about. Being smart about how you live trumps ostentation and shows you have class. Go to old-moneyed Greenwich, Conn. and you'll find the richest people driving the most broken-down looking cars. Think smart; don't show off.

4) Passions: Whether it's art or fly-fishing, the hobbies of the rich come out of the same engaged attitude that likely led to their financial success. Wanting something for more than its value is the key. That comes from an inner desire -- and stopping at nothing to achieve. Money doesn't come into the equation here so much as "winning." A good tennis or golf partner will be wanted whether rich or poor.

5) Goodwill: Rich people deserve more credit about their goodwill and philanthropy. A few bad apples make the headlines but most often the rich -- just like you and me -- have good hearts. They volunteer. They donate. Indeed, arguably without the rich many, if not most, of the cultural institutions in the U.S. would not exist. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are also proving that money given to the right causes can change the health and welfare of the planet. They are setting a huge example by the billions of dollars they are donating each year. This is where hope lies in our futures...."


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