Acclaimed investment advisor and novelist John Spooner has a new book of practical advice for any young person just getting a start in life.
After my last book, No One Ever Told Us That, had been out for several months, a young man knocked on my office door. He seemed to be in his late twenties or early thirties, in a suit and tie, with highly polished English shoes. I seldom see young people so turned out. He was holding a small package wrapped in bright paper, like a birthday present.
"Do you have a minute?" he asked.
"Not really," I said, "but come on in."
He held up the package. "This is for you," he said. "You changed my life."
"How did I do that?" I said. "Although I'm flattered."
"I read your book," he said. "In a chapter about the problems in almost all families there was a line. I've had issues with my family for years and it was eating me up, having to stifle my feelings. Your line was, 'Love your family, but don't let them suck the oxygen out of the room.' I kept thinking about that line. And it gave me the courage to finally speak out. When I did, years hiding these things just fell off my back. Thank you for changing my life."
I opened the present.
"It's pictures done by my favorite artist," he said. "He does graffiti." I thanked him and asked him to tell me about himself, which he did. And then he said, "You know, you should write a book for us, for me and my friends. We're out of school for 10 years or more, married or not, kids or not, parents who you can tell are going to be needy, and jobs, careers we're not sure about. So many things we're not sure about. We need a lot of help."
This was a young man, suddenly honest about so many things, and not finding many answers, particularly in practical ways. After he left I had a flash about my first years in business, trying to scratch a living as a young stockbroker. My ambition then, in the early 1960s, was to make a six-dollar commission before lunch. My share would be one-third, or two dollars. I figured that two bucks would pay for lunch, and whatever I made in the afternoon would be gravy. Before I had launched in this career, I mentioned to my father that I was considering business school.
"You've been in school long enough," he said. "Time to go to work."
Like the young man knocking on my door, I knew little or nothing about so much. And now I was out in life, a stranger in a strange world, wondering and worrying about almost everything, including: Would anyone ever love me? Would I ever get married?
Now I feel like I'm almost back at those beginnings long ago.
My wife of 45 years, Susan, died of lung cancer in June of 2011. We were all alone in our house, looking out of our bedroom at sailboats, white against blue, rushing into harbor. "It's late, isn't it?" she asked, coming in and out of morphine-assisted sleep. Those were her last words to me.
[ ... ]
Most of you readers have never had to deal with a real personal loss, almost certainly not the loss of a spouse. But I will give you a life lesson that I have been preaching to people, clients, and friends, for many years. In a grieving situation, such as the death of a spouse, or more to your age situation, a divorce, it takes two years in your new incarnation to get used to the rhythm of that new life. No matter how prepared you are, how rich, how smart, how tough. It will take two years to understand what a life alone will mean to your daily routine and emotional stability. You cannot rush this process. And I have watched and counseled probably several thousand people in this situation. It will take two years to get a handle on your new reality. What you will spend? Whom can you trust? Can you reinvent yourself?
I have never been divorced and Susan has been gone for three years; I now know that I was right about the time frame. [ ... ] But after these two years, I now understand what the new normal is. And because I do not believe in retirement, it's as if I'm 29 years old again, only with some accumulated assets and many years of observing human nature: the good, the bad, and the occasionally very ugly.
I run an old-fashioned pain-in-the-neck business, and it operates seven days a week. It's a pain in the neck because it involves advice and counsel, not just about financial matters, but about many life decisions as well. They have included arranging to deliver a dead body from Spain to the United States for burial, getting a new credit card to Kathmandu for a student, calling the boyfriend of a client's daughter in South Africa to urge him not to break up with her, and getting bank credit for a great mystery writer who couldn't even get a loan from a loan shark. A pain-in-the-neck business, as I said. But incredibly rich in people and their stories. Some of these instructive stories, I hope, will make you look at your future in different ways, help you travel your new lives out of that nest of parents and teachers, and give you a guide for the many things that lie ahead of you. There will be practical solutions to building your team of the people you will need in key areas—legal, medical, and financial—and how to deal with bumps, such as losing a parent, divorce, raising children, getting fired, getting into clubs, sibling rivalry, getting plumbers and contractors to come on time, dealing with nonprofit boards, and a lot more. If I feel like I'm 29 again, I'm struck by how much I was clueless about at that time. And what I've learned since then has been learned mostly by trial and error, the hard way.
I hope I can make your journeys a little easier with lessons about many new challenges where you're going to need fresh advice.
Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Lessons for Young Adults by John D. Spooner. Copyright 2015 by John D. Spooner. All rights reserved.
ABOUT THE AUTHORJohn D. Spooner is the only investment advisor/novelists in America. His bestselling nonfiction includes Do You Want to Make Money or Would You Rather Fool Around? as well as Confessions of a Stockbroker, Smart People, and Sex and Money. His novels include Class and The Foursome. His book No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Letters to My Grandchildren has been a Boston Globe #1 bestseller and ranked #2 on Amazon's bestselling business books list.
A Managing Director of Investments at a leading Wall Street firm, Mr. Spooner lectures widely and has appeared on numerous TV and radio programs, including Wall Street Week, Fox News, and NPR, on the philosophy of investing. Currently he is a guest commentator on Bloomberg National Radio. Spooner is on the board of the Harvard Alumni Association and was a co-founder of The Curious George Foundation.
Inc. magazine has said about him, "Spooner, known nationally as the author of Smart People and Confessions of a Stockbroker, is a phenomenon, as much a psychologist and futurist as an investment advisor." Robert B. Parker, author of the Spenser series, has said that "Spooner is one of the best writers in America," and The Boston Globe has said that he is "a national treasure." He has been a contributing editor for Worth magazine, and his been the business editor of Boston Magazine.Mr. Spooner watches over assets for over two thousand clients all over America and the world. A graduate of Harvard, he lives on Beacon Hill in Boston.
Learn more at www.johndspooner.com