Not long ago, I attended a jazz concert at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
The concert was excellent.
I can’t say the same about the remarks of the professor who introduced the band.
Apropos of nothing, she informed us that the university – founded by slaveholder Thomas Jefferson – was designed to educate white southern men.
It was built on Monacan tribal land with the help of enslaved laborers.
She further insisted that – even though the people of Indigenous nations were originally denied an education there – we should pay respect to the elders of the Monacan Indian Nation, past, present and future.
Exactly how we might do that remained unsaid.
For clarification, I visited the university’s website, which described the “more than 500 year history of efforts in the so-called United States to separate Indigenous people from their land, culture and each other.”
The “so-called United States”?
Welcome to modern academia, which revels in tales of historic oppression against women, homosexuals and people of color.
These are apparently the key to recognizing today’s pervasive discrimination.
You rarely hear a mention of how much progress the country has made or how – while we have further to go – our nation has never been less racist, sexist or homophobic.
It’s the new world of wokeness, where individual achievements are the result of luck or privilege, and lack of success is generally due to discrimination or oppression.
It’s a celebration of victimhood. And it is tremendously disempowering to the folks who buy into it.
After all, if your character, skills and choices determine your outcomes in life, the way forward is clear.
But if your success depends on the actions of others or changes in society, how do you set about making your life better today?
I’ve spent the last 37 years writing and speaking about how and why some Americans reach financial independence and others don’t.
I can assure you that it has much less to do with whether you belong to a historically marginalized group than with your own habits and behavior.
Let me be more specific…
To increase your net worth – the real measure of wealth – you need to first maximize your income.
Annual pay is generally determined by nine factors…
- Educational attainment
- Chosen profession
- Years of experience
- Hours worked
- Work ethic
- Social skills
- Competency and proficiency
- Ability to cooperate with, inspire and lead your co-workers
- Ambition to rise in the organization.
The data is clear. If you want to earn more, you must stay in school longer, learn a financially marketable skill and/or make yourself indispensable to some organization.
For some readers, it’s too late to go back to school, change careers or learn new marketable skills.
However, you can still take smart steps to increase your net worth…
- Build equity by owning your home instead of renting.
- Live beneath your means and save regularly. (When your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep becomes your downfall.)
- Invest a significant percentage of those savings in a diversified portfolio of high-quality stocks.
- Put money into tax-advantaged vehicles like IRAs and 401(k)s.
- Minimize your investment costs with discount brokers and no-load funds.
- Let your money compound as long as possible.
- Try to stay married. (Not always possible, but divorce will halve your portfolio a lot faster than a bear market.)
If you’re doing these things and still not on track to achieve your most important financial goals, you have three options: Earn more, save more or generate a higher return on your investments.
These fundamentals are just a starting point, of course.
Yet all my investment advice is based on proven principles of success.
Principles apply to everyone. Not just members of certain groups.
Unfortunately, most people – even highly educated men and women – don’t know or understand many of these principles.
Or they lack the confidence to act on them.
That’s where The Oxford Club can help, with effective recommendations and strategies – as well as a bit of reassurance and hand-holding during tough times, like we’ve had this year.
Here’s the bottom line…
As an individual, you do not have the power to change society.
But you do have the power to take charge of your financial destiny.
It begins with understanding that investment success is not about following the right predictions.
It’s about following the right principles.
And it ends with taking responsibility, at the intersection of what matters and what you can control.
I’ll have more to say on this important topic – and the financial dangers of woke ideology – in my next column…