When we think about finance, we typically think about numbers and math. My guest today, however, argues that doing well with money is less about what you can put on a spreadsheet and more about what goes on in your mind, and that if you want to master personal finance, you’ve got to understand how things like your own history, unique view of the world, and fear and pride influence how you think. 

His name is Morgan Housel, and he’s an investor, a financial journalist, and the author of The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness. Morgan kicks off our conversation by explaining how doing well with money is less about what you know and more about how you behave, and illustrates this point by comparing the true stories of a janitor who saved millions and a prominent Wall Streeter who went bankrupt. He then explains how the seemingly crazy decisions people make around money actually make a kind of sense. From there we get into why you need to know the financial game you’re playing and not play someone else’s. We then turn to why it’s hard to be satisfied with your position in life when your expectations keep rising and why not continually moving your goalposts is the most important skill in personal finance. We discuss how getting off the never-ending treadmill of wanting more requires seeing money not just as a way to buy stuff but to gain greater autonomy, keeping the “man in the car paradox” in mind, and understanding the distinction between being rich and being wealthy. We then talk about the underappreciated, mind-boggling power of compound interest, using the example of Warren Buffet, who made 99% of his wealth after the age of 50. We then discuss why you should view volatility in the stock market as a fee rather than a fine, why pessimistic financial opinions are strangely more appealing than optimistic ones, and why it’s best to split the difference and approach your money like a realistic optimist. We end our conversation with the two prongs of Morgan’s iron law for building wealth.

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Show Highlights

Why personal finance success isn’t about knowledge, but psychology Understanding that nobody is actually crazy when it comes to money decisions (even though those decisions might be crazy)Why context is crucial to understanding people’s financial choices Who buys lottery tickets? Why do they do it?Why personal finance is more “personal” than “finance”Are there overarching principles to follow, despite the personal nature of finance and wealth?The underappreciated role of luck in our financesHow to be more content with what you haveKeeping your expectations from rising in lock step with your income/net worthThe difference between being rich and being wealthy The mind-boggling power of compound interestBalancing optimism and pessimism Morgan’s golden rule of financial success

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

AoM’s personal finance archivesThe Motley Fool5 Books for the Personal Finance Education You Never HadHow to Achieve a “Rich Life” With Your FinancesWhat Every Young Man Should Understand About the Power of Compound InterestGraduating From a Paycheck Mentality to a Net Worth MentalityWhy and How to Start an Emergency Fund

Connect With Morgan

Morgan’s website

Morgan on Twitter

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