Book notes: “Am I Being Too Subtle?” by Sam Zell

Sam Zell is a multi-billionaire who built up the largest commercial real estate holding in the US, was responsible for turning Real Estate Investment Trusts into a mainstream asset class, and has invested in countless major public companies. These are my notes from his book, “Am I Being Too Subtle?”

Pay yourself first

The concept of “paying yourself first” was, for me, the most powerful concept in the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. It’s so powerful I’ve applied the principle to many non-financial areas of my life too, and seen huge benefits.

My 10 financial principles

From well over a decade of reading obsessively and investing broadly (and often badly), I’ve identified 10 financial principles that sum up my view of how you should run your personal finances. You’ll disagree with at least a few of them.

Buying and selling property is painful. This is a good thing.

Buying or selling a property in the UK is one of the most painful and frustrating experiences that the majority of adults voluntarily put themselves through. Although I love property as an investment, I’ve always considered this transactional torment to be one of its biggest drawbacks. In fact though, for investors it could be one of its biggest advantages – by protecting them from themselves…

You’re wrong about your risk tolerance

When you first visit a financial advisor, they’ll take you through a quiz to determine your attitude to risk. This has a fatal flaw: you can’t possibly know how you’ll feel about losing money until it happens.

Holding “too much” cash can be a good thing

“Inflation is destroying your savings – you need to have your money invested”, goes the typical personal finance advice. After building your emergency fund, conventional wisdom says that the rest of your money should be working for you at all times. This makes sense as a general principle, but I don’t believe it’s true for everyone in all cases.

Investing, Saving, Earning

On the fairly safe assumption that you want more money than you currently have: investing, saving and earning.

Which should you focus on? The answer might surprise you…

Why you should make inflation your sworn enemy

When you hear the word “inflation”, you should mentally boo and hiss as if it’s a pantomime villain. Actually, no: there’s nothing pretend or exaggerated about inflation, so that’s the wrong response. You should get angry when you think about inflation. If your reaction at the moment is indifference or bemusement rather than anger…stay put.

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