Investment Notes from Mom

Disclosure: I am not a qualified, or even semi-qualified, investment advisor. You can find them many other places than here. But I am a qualified mom. And note-taker. So these are just notes from my history of doing things with money that I’m passing on to my own kids. If your mom disagrees with me, please listen to her. I’m not going down that path…

But, I have a few stories so I’m going to share them because they all have mom types of lessons in them and that’s what moms do.

The first company I ever invested in was called DNA Plant Technology. (You can read about them on Wikipedia here.) My reasons were pretty simple. They were down the road from where I lived and were doing very exciting things that you can probably guess from their name. They went public on the NASDAQ and I bought 100 shares at about $5, which was a big deal then. And, several years later, I sold them at the exact same price. Which, given that banks paid interest on savings accounts at the time, might seem like a bad choice. But that’s only because you’re not thinking like a mom. Here’s the deal. While that money was sitting in treasury down the road, it was helping those scientists make great advances for all of us. And, even more down to earth, I didn’t think about that $500 in terms of vacation or new clothes or anything else I might covet, because it wasn’t what a real investment advisor would call liquid. I couldn’t use it. I couldn’t just rock on down the road and ask the head of accounting for a check. So effectively, several years after I felt great about being part of a big future technology vision, I was rewarded with $500. Which I promptly put in the bank.

Mom Lesson #1: If you can’t spend it, it’s easier to save it.

That last story is about investment capital, also known as money. Benjamins. Moo-lah. This one is about social capital, or the value of who you know. And it comes from the late Helen Gurley Brown who you may or may not know wrote the shocking-at-the-time bestseller, Sex and the Single Girl. (You probably know this if you found it on your mother’s – or grandmother’s – bookshelf.) All I remember from the book is her amazing grasp of economics. She opined that in bad economic times it was hard to get a job but easy to get a husband, and in good economic times, the reverse was true. This is pretty consistent with what I’ve often spoken about. When you aren’t making money, you’re more driven to make babies. Or at least practice. (If you were born after she wrote this book, at the time babies were only made by two people, one called the husband, who went to work, and the other called the wife, or wife-and-mother. Life has more choices now.) Just so you know, she didn’t exactly have it all, but after a well-established career, she did get with the man of her dreams and was, to all accounts, happy with both him and her stellar career for the rest of her life, though she did not have children. I don’t think that was important to her. The important thing was, she was right about careers and relationships and she figured out how to have everything that was important to her. And, she turned a deaf ear to those who didn’t agree with her.

Mom Lesson #2: You can’t have it all unless you alone decide what ‘all’ means.

Finally, a lesson on game playing, courtesy of the wildly successful (though not Oscar-nominated) Crazy Rich Asians. I hope you’ve seen it, but if you haven’t, it’s a love story, mostly about a future daughter-in-law and mother-in-law. In many respects, it’s political in the sense of feeling you have to satisfy a very diverse (here in the emotional sense) audience. And, of course, there’s the long game/short game aspect, which I am definitely not going to spoil for you. If you don’t know much about games or about how money affects people, you’ll learn and it will be more fun than watching another round of real political money games.

Mom Lesson #3: Money may not be the root of all evil, but it certainly can feed it. So whether it’s family or politics, be careful who you feed!

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