Rational Reminder Guest (5).pngIn 1983 Paul founded Merriman Wealth Management. The firm was built on giving free public workshops that showed investors how to do everything on their own. Since many investors find doing everything on their own daunting the firm grew to $1.6 billion under management when, in 2012, he sold the firm to employees and Focus Financial. At the same time as the sale he established The Merriman Financial Education Foundation.

The Foundation is dedicated to helping investors from birth to death. The educational outreach includes writing a bi-weekly column for MarketWatch.com, recording a weekly podcast, teaching online classes and building a library of videos. The Foundation website includes many D-I-Y portfolios at Vanguard, Fidelity and Schwab, plus a list of Best-In-Class ETFs. His newest book, “We’re Talking Millions! 12 Ways to Supercharge Your Retirement.” Is designed to help all investors but particularly first-time investors.

 

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It takes only a handful of smart choices to convert regular savings into a secure future. Today we welcome famed financial educator Paul Merriman onto the show to discuss how the right habits and investing approach can add millions to your retirement nest egg. After chatting about his personal and professional background, we dive into Paul’s investing philosophy and how it’s been influenced by the work of Eugene Fama. A significant theme in this episode, we then talk about why Vanguard’s portfolio allocation ensures that clients have the smoothest possible emotional relationship with their investments. This leads to a discussion on the benefits of simple versus complex funds and how simple funds fit with the preferences of many do-it-yourself investors. Linked to this, Paul explains why it’s emotion and not strategy that gets in the way of successful investing before exploring the challenges of sticking to portfolios that are heavily weighted in small-cap value stocks. Reflecting on his career as an advisor, we ask Paul about his difficulties in working with clients as well as the role of financial advisors. Later, Paul unpacks some of the top habits and beliefs that lead to investing success; a key focus of his new book, We’re Talking Millions. We wrap up our conversation by touching on target date glide paths, how Paul’s foundation educates investors, and the relationship between money and a life well-lived. With such an illustrious career in financial education, tune in to benefit from Paul’s investing advice.


Key Points From This Episode:

  • We introduce today’s episode with financial educator Paul Merriman. [0:00:17]

  • Paul shares details about his personal and professional history. [0:03:16]

  • How Eugene Fama’s work impacted the way that Paul built his firm. [0:06:55]

  • What PWL Advisors went through to access Dimensional’s products. [0:08:21]

  • Insights into the fateful chat that Paul had with Jack Bogle in 2017. [0:09:08]

  • How Paul helps his clients balance fee frugality with expected returns. [0:13:29]

  • Exploring the trade-offs between simple and complex funds. [0:16:49]

  • Paul compares his former buy-and-hold strategy with his simpler new approach. [0:19:06]

  • The costs of do-it-yourself investors having an overly-complicated portfolio. [0:22:46]

  • The rationale underpinning the small-cap value strategy. [0:27:20]

  • Why it’s so difficult to only invest in small-cap value stocks. [0:25:36]

  • What Paul would say to clients who want to ditch their small-cap value stocks. [0:37:32]

  • Paul reflects on challenges when communicating with investors. [0:40:39]

  • We ask Paul about the value of financial advice and financial advisors. [0:46:32]

  • Discover the habits that every investor should follow. [0:51:29]

  • What Paul is trying to achieve with the Merriman Education Foundation. [0:58:21]

  • Pros and cons to target date glide path funds. [01:02:00]

  • We chat about Paul’s radio show from the previous decade. [0:50:35]

  • Hear Paul’s top lessons on the relationship between money and a life well-lived. [01:08:51]

  • How Paul defines success. [01:16:29]

Small Cap Value Stocks Tell Tale Chart.png

Read The Transcript:

Ben Felix: This is the Rational Reminder Podcast, a weekly reality check on sensible investing and financial decision making for Canadians. We are hosted by me, Benjamin Felix, and Cameron Passmore, portfolio managers at PWL Capital.

Cameron Passmore: So welcome to episode 147. This week’s guest, many people will have heard of, as he has been so active in making a difference in this industry for so long. Today, we welcome Paul Merriman to the podcast. Paul is a financial educator, author, public speaker. He founded the firm that bears his name back in 1982.

A bit of a backstory. I’ve known of Paul for probably 25 years. We’d never met before, but as we think of different guests that we could reach out to, have on the podcast, I sent him an email probably six or nine months ago or so. I just found an email online, sent it out, and within I think two or three minutes, my phone was ringing, he called me back, because he’s a phone guy, right? And he’s got a very unique radio-type voice. I pick up the phone, and sure enough, it’s Paul Merriman. What a nice, warm, kind guy. He was one of the people that shaped our business back in the ’90s in the same era of Larry Swedroe, Mark Hebner, who was on recently, Jack Bogle as well. So these people really formed how we built the practice back then.

I just couldn’t believe I’m talking to Paul Merriman, and right away, he said absolutely. Love to come on on the podcast, so we exchanged emails and phone calls a number of times since then, and he asked us to welcome him on after his most recent book was published, which it was this past December. So that’s how Paul ended up on the show.

Ben Felix: Yep. Pretty cool, and same as you, Cameron. He’s one of the people who are out there. If you start researching index investing, Paul’s stuff is out there, just like we’re doing a podcast in publishing model portfolios and research and all that kind of stuff, he’s been doing that for however long that is, 30 years.

Cameron Passmore: In that first phone call, he says, “You work with Ben. I love his videos.”

Ben Felix: That’s pretty cool.

Cameron Passmore: He said, “Could we get Ben’s videos embedded on our website?” “Absolutely. They’re out there.” So he was well aware of what you’ve been up to and what we’ve been up to. So that was pretty cool.

Anyways, he talks a lot about his background in the episode, so won’t belabor that too much. But it was an interesting conversation. But I’d say, yeah, let’s just let it roll from here.

Ben Felix: Yeah, let’s go.

* * *

Paul Merriman, I must say it’s a great thrill to welcome you to the Rational Reminder Podcast.

Well, I’ll tell you, I really mean this, it is a thrill to be here. I have been so blown away by the work that you guys are doing at educating investors. I just think it’s a life-changer. Sometimes you don’t know that until you’ve been doing it for 30 years and you get emails from people saying I’ve been following your work for 30 years, and you’ve changed my life. You guys are changing lives, so thanks for inviting me.

Well, I was one of those guys that has been following you for decades. There’s certainly inspiration from you that is coming through on the efforts that we’re doing. Now Paul, you’ve had an incredible career. There’s no doubt about it. I’d like to kick off this interview with you describing your career.

Well, not all of it was really very incredible, for what it’s worth, Cameron. I started wanting to be in the industry, the brokerage industry. Thought it would be really cool to become a stock broker and get to meet really successful people. I started trying to get into some firm when I was 19 and still going to college, thinking when I graduate, will you want me? The answer was, “No. We want you to go out. We don’t care what you sell. Go out and sell something.”

At age 22, I kept going back, by the way, and at age 22 when I was graduating, they called me and said, “Would you really like to come to work?” I was thrilled, only to find out it was not anything like what I thought it was going to be. So within three years, I was out of the industry. It is a great place to make money, but it comes with so many conflicts of interest that it just was difficult for me to accept that.

So I did a whole bunch of things between then and when I was able to retire at age 40. I didn’t know anything about the fire movement then, but that’s what I became part of by default. So after having run some small businesses and a small public company, I was able to cash in and have over a million dollars, which I still thought was a whole bunch of money, and start a whole new career for fun.

It had nothing to do with making money. I started an investment advisory firm. My minimum size account was $2,000. If you had $2,000, I would work for you, and charged them 1%. So I was yours for $20 a year. So that was not a business model that would ever cut it, and it wasn’t until a bunch of people joined me that they demanded that I change my ways.

But we built a real firm, and we built it on teaching people how to do it themselves. It’s not so different from what you guys are doing. The reality is most people don’t want to do it. So we were there to do it for them, and we thought we charged a fair price. You guys certainly do. That was the beginning, and the end was I sold it in 2012. We had 1.6 billion under management. I took some of the money I got from the sale and started our foundation devoted to teaching people how to take care of themselves.

Paul, in 1993, I believe, is when you came across Professor Eugene Fama’s work on market efficiency and what the implications of that are for investors. Can you talk about the impact that Fama’s work had on the way that you built your firm?

Well, I will tell any professional who has not been exposed to that work, although today, that work is available easily, but it was not available to everybody in 1993. But if you love this business, and you really want to help people, and you go through their I think it’s three-day event that they have academics come in and talk with you and people from the company talking with you, you come away from that three days sky high, ready to change the world, and understanding that there truly is, at least based on everything we know about the past, a better way to invest if you have the investor’s best interest at heart.

I was so excited about it that we immediately tried to have the right to use their funds, because in those days, I don’t know what it’s like today. You have a better idea than I do, I suspect, but in those days, they didn’t want all firms to come use their product. They wanted people who were committed to a buy and hold, who were committed to a number of things that would not only benefit the clients of the advisor, but also benefit other clients of other advisors because it was eliminating the turnover that cost investors money that most investors don’t even know is disappearing because of turnover. So it was truly a life-changer, but I’ll tell you my beliefs about investing, it took them almost a year to approve us. They really made us jump through a lot of hoops.

Wow, yeah, that’s interesting. Can you speak, Cameron, to the experience? It might be interesting for Paul to hear too, what was it like when PWL went through the same process with dimensional?

Cameron Passmore: Well, that’s when they first came to Canada back in the fall of 2003. Yeah, we met with the most senior people at the company. Came to do due diligence on us as much as us on them, because we were one of the lead firms to start working with them when they came to Canada. Were part of a handful of companies that had asked them to come to Canada. As they were doing their due diligence, they wanted to come and check us out and see what our processes were and if we were really embracing the philosophy. So it was not easy to get in.

Interesting. So similar experience to Paul.

Jack Bogle. That was one of the questions that our community board had asked us to ask you about was that meeting you had with him I believe in 2017. Can you talk about that meeting? Did it change any of your views on investing?

Well, it changed a lot about investing for me. I loved the fact that he was going to give me an hour in his office. He gave me an hour and a half. I’d heard he is a little bit on the gruff side, if he wants to be. He was as gentle and as nice as he could be with the exception of about 30 seconds. What I found was I always thought of Vanguard and John Bogle as being my competition, because they were preaching a different story and advocating a different combination of asset classes. I had a hard time understanding what part of the academic research did John Bogle not understand? He was very open to talk about it.

It turned out Vanguard was not our competition. We were in a totally different part of the world in terms of the investors that we were serving. But from their world, they wanted everything to be as simple as possible, they wanted it to be as acceptable as possible. For example, if we have a portfolio that is partly small and partly large in value, in growth, etc, and the S&P 500 is doing great and these other asset classes aren’t, we have prepared our clients that that is the way it goes. This is the other side of the coin when you have broad diversification.

He says, “Our clients can’t take that. We need clients who are satisfied with being,” for example, he was always an S&P 500 guy. When we first started having him on the radio, he didn’t want any international in the portfolio. He just wanted the S&P 500. Later, gently he starts to add a little international, but he almost always he would say, “But no more than 20%, because you just don’t need it.” He also started advocating for the total market index, which has virtually the same return as the S&P 500 for the last 90-some years.

So it wasn’t a big change. It was still a cap weighted, but it means it’s cap weighted in companies that the people who are investing at Vanguard know and love probably. So when they’re down, like from 2000 through 2009 when the S&P 500 not only twice loses half of the value of its portfolio, but the compound rate of return is less than 1% to negative 1% a year for that 10-year period. If that had been small cap value at a negative 1% and the S&P 500 compounding at 7 or 8% like our accounts did, and if you were around back then, your accounts would have likely have done. We would have been gone. We would have been the devil incarnate, because we had those things and went down. But when it was the S&P 500 that went down, people said, “It’s okay. They’re great companies. They’re here to last. It is simpler and more dependable.”

That’s what Vanguard wanted for people. He knew DFA. He knew all about DFA. He was a great fan of Fama and French. He approved of what the wrote, but he said, “That doesn’t mean it’s right for our investors,” which, by the way, goes over into the target date funds. It’s the same thing. They want to treat people not like they’re idiots, but they want to be gentle and make sure that they don’t do something to disrupt the emotional attachment that they have to that target date fund.

That’s really interesting. Given that conversation that you had with him, I think that the Vanguard investor, especially now maybe more so than then, is very focused on fees and costs, which without question are important. How do you think investors should balance that fee frugality with expected returns?

Well, there are a couple things I find interesting about the fee discussion with Vanguard investors. They will tell me they want the lowest fees. I say, “Okay, why aren’t you going to Fidelity? If you really want low fees, they have zero fees on some of their funds.” But it turns out it’s okay if the fees are higher if they’re at Vanguard, but otherwise, they’re not.

The problem I have with the fee discussion is that if they tell me it’s all about fees, then my response is, “Now wait a minute, let me understand. If the S&P 500 has 4/100 of 1% internal expense ratio, are you telling me that if you found a bond fund that had a 1/100 of 1%, you would think it would be smarter to be in the bond fun.” They go, “Oh, that doesn’t make any sense. Why?” “Well, because stocks make more than bonds.” Oh.

So then you have to go further and say if you believe that there’s a premium for small cap over large, which even John Bogle believed that there was in the long-term, but sometimes you have to wait a very long term to see it. But if there is, then what you should be doing if you want to have small cap in your portfolio is you should have the small cap that has the lowest fees. You’re not comparing the S&P 500 to a small cap fee, because they’re different kinds of funds.

It even, I think, then it gets more complex than that. We do a lot of work with small cap value. We recommend the Avantis Funds. Are they, by the way, in Canada?

Their products are not in Canada, but as Canadians, it’s fairly easy for us to access the Avantis funds.

Great. Anyway, the small cap value fund at Vanguard is a very large small cap value fund. The fund that we recommend is a very small small cap value fund, more heavily discounted too, in terms of the value. A lot of investors thought that the small cap value at Vanguard was better, because it was making a better return than the one that was a smaller small cap. That’s not what it was about.

As you guys know, it was because large cap was beating small, growth was beating value, so a larger, more growth-oriented, if you want to look at it, is going to likely do better, and it did, but now that small value’s coming into vogue, the Vanguard fund looks like a dog. It is not a dog. It’s just a different asset class. That’s something that a lot of folks who are into the small and value are not aware of how delicate those things are even within each style box.

That’s a really good way to think about it. On a similar line of thinking, somewhat related anyway, not exactly the same, but how do you think investors should think about that trade-off between simplicity, like maybe the Vanguard S&P 500 at the most extreme, and then keeping I think probably do-it-yourself investors in mind. So simplicity at the one end with Vanguard versus something more complex with maybe the Avantis and the more extreme factor exposures built in there. How should investors think about that trade-off between simple and complex?

Well, this was where the finger-wagging happened in my meeting with John Bogle, because he was critical of our work. Our work that made us… Didn’t make us famous, but it had lot of people at least following our ten fund strategy, which is big and small, and value, growth, and US, and international, and leads, and emerging markets. He said, “You can’t do that to the do-it-yourself investor.” He said, “You’ve got to make it simple or they’re not going to stay the course. They’re not going to rebalance appropriately. They’re going to see an asset class that is way out of favor, and they’re going to want to get rid of that, because they’d rather have everything going up at one time, which is one of the problems that do-it-yourself investors have.

So I do believe, and our foundation is acting like we believe that even though we want people to have some small and some value, and we want broader diversification than you’re going to be able to get with any single fund, that we still want to keep it simple. So we have developed strategies today that are 100 times simpler than the old ten fund strategy, because we now can do with two funds what we would have otherwise have recommended ten and even make the rebalancing dirt, dirt simple for the individual investor.

That was another question from the community was to compare and contrast the former ultimate buy and hold portfolio which had, I believe, 10 equity components to the new two fund solution that you’re proposing.

There are two fellows that are working at the foundation doing the research, Daryl Bahls and Chris Pedersen. These guys have done some amazing, beautiful teaching tools as well as Chris Pedersen is the one who came up with the two funds for life strategy, a combination of a target date fund and a small cap value.

It amazes me that by putting a four fund strategy together using a balance of US and international and large and small, and value and growth, that the return for the last 51 years is virtually the same as the ten fund strategy. What it leaves out, REITs and emerging markets. One that’s very volatile and potentially profitable, the other one less volatile and not expected to have high profitability, but to be more about reducing risk.

But virtually, the return, the compound rate of return of the four fund strategy is the same as the ten fund strategy over 51 years. That makes me ecstatic, because that means it is more likely for people to do it, and because there are fewer moving parts. The parts are very simple. The S&P 500 is your large cap blend. Don’t need large cap blend over in the international, because you’ve got it here in the US. Generally, they go up and down together, not always. The large cap value, you get that internationally.

So now you’ve got your large cap value, your large cap blend. In the international, you do the small tap blend. In the US, you do the small cap value, which works out beautifully, because it’s hard to get small cap blend internationally. It’s easy to get small cap blend in the US. So those four funds have a track record that is far better than the S&P 500, is about the same as the 12-fund strategy, a little more, a little more, but it is meant to compete with the S&P and to compete with the ten and hopefully keep people in the process longer.

You guys have dreams. I have dreams. You sit down with a new client, and you’re talking with them. I know what that dream is. We want to know who you are so that we can tell you what we think you should do, and we want you to do it for the next 50 years. You know the problem. The rest of Wall Street and the industry wants them to do something else. The more complicated that you do, and by the way, the more out of sync with what they expect of you, the harder it is to keep them in the process. It drives me nuts, because you can’t even see your competition. You can’t even stay on top of what they’re telling people, but you know intuitively most of what they’re getting is not good for them.

I want to touch on the simple versus complex question from a slightly different angle. You’ve been working with and providing information to do-it-yourself investors for years, including the ten fund portfolio and the more complex sliced up portfolios like that. Are there any… The reason I’m asking this, just for context, is that a lot of our listeners are do-it-yourself investors who do have complex portfolios, because they really like the evidence, and they want to optimize.

Are there any costs that people might not think about until it happens to having a more complex portfolio? I’m thinking about mental overhead or errors on implementation? You’ve touched on some of those, but I’d love to hear more about that.

Well, no. If I could recommend one book here today that I think if people really… I’ve read it probably six times. You guys have probably read it at least once, and that’s Your Money and Your Brain by Jason Zweig. The problem is not with strategy. Strategies are a time a dozen, and I mean strategies that are good. The White Coat Investor has a piece that he does. I think it’s 150 strategies or portfolios better than yours. They are just a bunch of portfolios like we would develop or you might develop for a do-it-yourselfer. They all do okay.

What gets in the way of success in this industry is not the strategies. It’s the investor’s emotions. Often times we forget, and we should always, as advisors, when I was an advisor, I would always remind myself that when it comes to sex, food, and money, this is not an intellectual decision-making process. It’s almost all emotional. How we feel about the results, whether it’s sex, food, or money, is also an emotional response.

We might even think because we picked a stock and it went up, that somehow we’re in tune with things and we understand the market. Of course, in most cases, we don’t. I don’t understand the market. I’ve told people for years I never made a client a penny. The market made our clients money. I didn’t. So I can’t take any credit, except maybe to keep them on course. That is the problem, because it is so easy for a do-it-yourselfer to get off course.

When you have an advisor, this is where they earn their keep. When you have an advisor, somebody is there to remind you, “No wait a minute, we had a discussion about the return you needed about the risk you were willing to take. Now you’re coming to me. The market is down 15%, let’s say. You said you were willing to lose 30% in order to meet your long-term objective, and now all of a sudden you’re changing. We got to talk about this, because whatever you do next, and I would always say you want to go out and do it on your own? Go out and do it on your own, but do the right thing.

The minute that they start responding to short-term information, which our industry is so good at making available in order to get people all stirred up, then they’re likely to do something bad. In a way, I’m embarrassed, but I’m going to tell you the truth, I have an advisor. I don’t do my own work. I know how I feel about money. There’s things about money that I get worried about and stressful about. At 77, I’ve got enough money, there’s no reason for me to be involved in it. There are people who know the taxes, the estate planning, and all that stuff. I don’t need to do it. I don’t want to do it, because I would do more harm than good.

People are so optimistic about their abilities to do all these things. None of us control the market, and yet we talk about it like we know what’s going to happen. Market’s going to go up. It’s overpriced. Interest rates are going up. People have been telling me interest rates are going up for a decade. If I’d listened to them, then we wouldn’t have done as well as we did on the fixed income part of the portfolio.

All right. Now on that line of thinking, on that line of thinking of thinking we know what’s going to happen, one of the things that comes up within our little podcast community bubble is this idea of, okay, we see what the evidence says about small cap value as the example I’m going to use. Why would we not just take that evidence and make the most concentrated possible portfolio out of only small cap value? Forget about the market. Forget about everything else.

I think that one of your Glide Path portfolios does something similar to this. Do you think it’s sensible, or how do you think investors should think about this idea of only owning small cap value?

Well, I would guess there are very few people who will stay the course doing that. I’ll take it just a slightly tilted a little bit, but approach the same all or nothing kind of a decision. I’m working on an article that’ll come out in a couple of months about having your money in equities your whole life, all equities, all the time, until you retire and until you die. What are the implications of that, in terms of the trip you’re going to be on, the risks you’re going to take if we look backward, which of course is not enough, and there’s no risk in the pass, so we always know what we should have done. So that’s always a question we have about optimizing the pass somehow.

But I think there’s a case that could be made for an all-equity portfolio all of your life. I actually know a lot of my friends that have done that. I was chicken. I always considered myself an aggressive chicken. I was always afraid. I always thought right around the corner, a catastrophic event is going to happen. You have to work for people like that, I’m sure, and they’re hard clients, because their stories they make up in their head about the catastrophe seldom come true. They seldom came true in my particular case.

But should it be small cap value? Well, I can give you one case where I think it could be, but it’s only because, in a sense, you want to roll the dice for the big time. Newborn child. I don’t know how many kids you guys have, but if you do, something we could do with every newborn child as a parent, if we can afford it, it put away $365 a year. You put that away until, let’s say, they’re 21. I would put it in small cap value, no question. I’m very comfortable with that, because… There’s a study that… Have you seen our telltale chart on small cap value versus the S&P 500? Well, I’ll get back to that in a minute, because I think it’s an important thing to understand about small cap value. But during that period of time, and I don’t know the tax laws in Canada, but if that child works when they’re 16 years old, you can max that, if you want, and put it into an IRA or the RSSP or something you have, okay?

Would I recommend that somebody put away $365 a year, put it into small cap value, transition it into a… DO you have similar to a Roth IRA in Canada?

TFSA, yeah.

Wow, think of that. If you could put away $365 for 21 years and get that over into the Roth product as soon as possible, just let it go. Just let it be. I started a company in 1983 with $15,000. That’s all the money I ever personally put into it, in terms of equity. That company, I let it ride. That 15,000 I could have cashed out along the way and made money on the company, but I continued to take the risk until I finally got to the point where I felt it was time to pass the baton of risk to younger people, even though I knew that I’ll never duplicate what I would be able to do with a private company like that.

So in a sense, I’ve done that. I’ve put a little bit of money in, but that wasn’t the only money I had invested in the world. But the 15,000 was allowed to grow untouched for 30 years. I think you could do the same and have every bit as good a company in the long run. If you look at small cap value and what it will do with a turn… It’s going to turn over. There will be lots of companies you never even heard of that will… As a matter of fact, as a mater of fact, small cap value owns, or did own, as far as I know, a DFA, Trade Stop.

GameStop.

Oh, GameStop. GameStop. Excuse me.

That’s how far I’m out of it, but anyway, I own GameStop. So you don’t know what you’re going to have in there, but I’ll bet you anything of all the little companies that get started in the next 20 years, that that small cap value company you started with 365 a year over 21 years will be one of the best producing companies of all.

Is there anything, Paul, that could go wrong? Or what? Of course there are things. What do you think could go wrong with an all small cap value strategy?

Oh, thank you for… That’s what I wanted to talk about a few minutes ago. I can make a guarantee. I only have a few guarantees I know I can make, and I don’t have to answer to a compliance officer like you do, thank God. I can guarantee that if you follow my advice, you will lose money. I can guarantee that the… Then they go to the guarantee about small cap value. I can guarantee you will go a very long period of time with under-performance that is totally unacceptable, but it’s the way it really is. I will send you the tell tale chart. You may decide if you can add it to whatever you distribute, but here is what it shows. It shows the cumulative return of the S&P 500 versus small cap value starting in 1930. Then immediately what happens is small cap value falls out of bed. So does the S&P 500, but not as fast.

So for the early years, you start at the value of one. In the early years, the S&P 500 is ahead. They’re both down, but the S&P 500 is doing better. Then the market turns around and you head up. After, I think, a total of about 13 years, you finally get the small cap value to where its total cumulative value is more than the S&P 500. Then it takes off like a rocket. It does that for about seven years, and then it goes into another holding pattern where you’re better off to just have the S&P 500. That goes maybe for 13 years. The one we’re in right now has gone on for about 14 or 15 years.

So that’s the way it’s going to be if the future is going to be like the past. I trust that that is probably the way it’s going to be. How many people are going to be able to stay the course when, for 13 years, their neighbor is bragging about how much money they’re making in the S&P 500. That is what they’re going to have to put up with. That is very, very difficult, particularly if you’re studying the market and you’re listening to what people are recommending, where big money is going to be made. I think of all the cryptocurrency stuff I read about. How can we deny people win lotteries? If you tell somebody who just won the lottery, “That’s stupid. That’s stupid to buy a lottery ticket.” “Oh right, Merriman.” They pat me on the head and send me away.

So I think people need to be very realistic. This is why we produce the fine-tuning table. It’s been doing it for 25 years, and what it shows for the S&P 500 for all value, for the four funds US, the four funds globally, for all small cap value, we look at the returns from 1970 through 2000. Every year, how did those strategies do? Not just how did the strategy do. Let’s put it together with some fixed income.

So we look at all bonds, 10% equity, 20% equity, all the way over to 100% equity. So then you get to see what a wild ride all of these different strategies would have gone through, but more importantly, at the bottom of the page, we show you the worst three months, the worst six months, the worst 12 months, 36 months, and 60 months so you’ll know it ain’t going to be pretty. So you’re ready for it.

I got criticized for years, because I would go back to the late 1920s and show how bad the market was from ’29 to ’30, and people will say, “That’s not fair. That’s never going to happen again.” Well, it did happen again. When it did happen again, it was actually worse than what happened from ’29 to ’38. My followers, theoretically, were ready for it. They didn’t want it, but it’s not like nobody ever warned them that it was going to happen. We did warn them, and it did. That’s not good, but it did.

What would you say, Paul, to someone who heard you say this message 14 years ago, and they thought they were ready for the small cap value ride, and now it’s 14 years in and the premium’s not there, and it’s coming up on year 15, and they’re thinking that they’re going to bail and go back to market or large cap or something like that? What would you tell them today?

Well, in a way, it’s not so dissimilar from what Dr. Fama told someone who asked him legitimately, “I understand this. You tell us that small cap has a premium over large cap. For the last 30 years, it hasn’t.” Fama’s response was, “Well, you’re not very patient, are you?” This is the problem. This is why massive diversification is the right thing to do. Hide the misery amongst the hopeful, positive response of the other asset classes, because the minute we see something with too much of our money in it and it’s just terrible… And by the way, just because small cap value doesn’t make as much as the S&P 500, doesn’t mean it was a bad investment.

I was in the business, and fortunately you guys weren’t, because it was five of the toughest years I had, and it wasn’t during the bad times. It was during the good times. From 1995 to ’99, the S&P 500 compounds at 28 and a half percent. My brilliantly built portfolios, with the help of the genius of Dr. Fama and Dr. French, compounded at 11. You can imagine the kind of hand-holding that we had to do to keep people in the process.

I even wrote an article January of 2000 that this is not a new era. Now how do I know it’s not a new era? I didn’t know, but I couldn’t conclude that it was a new era, because if it in fact was a new era and people actually at that point believe the next decade, that the return on the S&P 500 compounded would be between 20 and 30%. But where was the evidence that that should happen ever again maybe for five years? I had no idea. But my belief was we’re better off in the broadly diversified portfolio.

For the next decade, while the S&P 500 loses money, the more broadly diversified portfolio made money and sufficient that somebody, if they were taking money out of the portfolio, would have met the needs they needed if they were taking distributions of three or four or 5%.

Yeah, I was in the business back then with you, Paul, and your assessment is absolutely accurate. That’s exactly our experience that we had. So you’ve been educating people about sensible investing for decades. I’m curious what, in your mind, has been the most difficult message to get across to people?

Creating reasonable expectations. That is because of all the emotional needs that we have. We tried to separate people by getting them to tell us what really was important to them. By the way, I don’t know how long you spend with a first-time client, but back then, I spent an hour to an hour and a half. I needed everything I thought that I needed to know, and they either hired me… I never called them back. I never even… Because I was having fun. I wasn’t trying to build a business.

But the fact is, you need to know a lot more than what you learn in an hour to an hour and a half. Now they had spent three to six hours with me in a class, so it’s not like they didn’t know what I believed. The problem is if you don’t understand the innards of people, then it’s hard to know how to keep them in line, on course.

I used to ask something very simple. Is your primary objective, because I know I need to help you get that above all, to beat the market, to get the highest return you can within your risk tolerance, or to find the lowest risk way to achieve the rate of return that you need? If I could get them to identify that decision, then I could really drill down and make sure that everything that we’re focused on is about that, what the primary need is.

In some cases, it was just the need for safety. They really didn’t want to take any risk at all, but felt they had to. I even found that when I asked the people who said that their primary objective was to get the highest… I’m sorry, to beat the market, I would say, “Okay, now let me make sure I understand. If the market is down 50, and you’re down 40, you did it.” They said, “Well no, no, I wasn’t talking about wanting to lose 40%.”

So we would then move those people over into the category. We want to get the highest return we can within your risk tolerance. That’s what they wanted, instead of just to beat the market. They understood that they didn’t want to lose 40%.

So then I would say, “Okay, then let’s figure out how much you’re willing to lose.” Of course, they uncomfortable about that, but that in a sense, I’m willing to lose 20% of what I worked my whole life to save? Well, if you’re asking me to get you the highest return within your risk tolerance, I cannot work for you until you tell me how much you’re willing to lose.

So they would cough up something. Let’s say it was they’re willing to lose 20%. “So now let me tell you what I’ve got to do now. My job is, since you want to get the highest return you can and you’re willing to lose 20%, I’ve got to make sure you lose 20%, because unless I take you there, I’m not likely to get you the highest return.” “Oh, now wait a minute, I’m not sure that’s what I want either,” they would say.

You work and you work until you… By the way, many of them were looking for the lowest risk way to get the return they needed for the rest of their life. That’s a totally different portfolio. So that, I think, helped make us a successful investment advisory firm. We really worked hard to understand that client.

But where I am now, I’m just a lowly teacher. In fact, as you guys would know, I can’t even give investment advice. I can entertain. I can cajole, I can suggest. I will tell people who demand they talk to me, “All right, maybe for a couple of minutes, and I’ll give you a nudge in the right direction, but I can’t be your advisor.

How does anybody who’s doing an article, writes articles, does podcasts, and we even go so far as to recommend the right funds at Vanguard and Fidelity and Schwab and the best in class ETFs? We do a ton of stuff, but we can’t get involved in the decision you personally make. That’s tough, because without being able to get those answers, I can’t give good advice. You guys can. That’s the difference between following some online personality and actually having somebody understand your inner feelings. By the way, as you guys also know, in many cases, the inner feelings you never get in a relationship between a teacher and a student is the student is married to somebody who has an entirely different set of needs and desires and risk tolerance, which you guys are going to drill down into, and I haven’t got a chance to do that. That’s the reason the expectations are… It’s hard for me to help people establish realistic expectations, unless I really know them.

You implicitly answered the question that I’m going to ask next, but I still do want to ask the question. You’ve mentioned a couple of different things that answered this question throughout our conversation. One earlier you said that we give all this information away for free, but a lot of people just don’t want to do it themselves. Then just now you were talking about that relationship and having someone that fully understands your situation and where you want to go, being able to give you advice.

So the question that I want to ask explicitly now is given that we’re providing all of this information for free to help people make their own good decisions, where do you see or how do you explain the primary value of financial advice, of working with someone like us or what you used to be?

Well, I think first of all, the advisor can ask questions. If you go into an advisor and they spend the first hour talking about how great they are, that’s not an advisor for you. You want somebody who spends most of their time asking about who you are. So I think that is key.

Now as far as this education, I have got to believe that you believe in absolute full disclosure, tell the truth, don’t hide the warts. There are warts. You have them. I have them. The industry has them, because I think when I see your YouTube pieces you do, Ben, you’re standing up so straight and you’re so serious, and they have those nice cartoon graphics, I just think you do a fantastic job. When I watch, you’re getting the information. I would like to say the same thing as you say, but you say it better than I can say it, or you read it better than I can read it. I have no idea which it is, but I really respect what you’re doing.

When you educate people, you hopefully get a customer when they become a customer who now understands the process and are less likely to hurt themselves because you have educated them. Wall Street does not want to educate you. The kids that go to my high school class that I teach, they’re going to learn about index funds. They’re going to learn about not trusting Wall Street, by the way, because I don’t think Wall Street has their best interest at heart.

So the kind of teaching and do-it-yourself work that you’re doing, I think it’s, from how I feel about it and what I believe in, it’s perfect. Here’s the bonus that I’m sure you have felt. Do-it-yourselfers are often times amongst friends the go-to person, the person who they know is spending time going to workshops online that they’ll never do that. “So what do you think I should do, Joe?” “Well, I think you should go listen to Ben or go listen to Cameron, because they’re the ones that know what’s going on. You know something? I just don’t think…” Now they may not be this honest, “That you’re going to do this very well on your own. So you get a referral, and the best referral that you can, a referral from somebody who other people think really understands the market.”

So the payoff, I just think the payoff for a business, like you guys are building, is just huge, because it’s not just the payoff for you. It’s the payoff for the investor. Everybody in our industry that I’ve ever talked with believes the key to success for the long-term for an investor is getting on course and staying on course and don’t be somehow thrown off course.

Of course, the first thing they all try to do is to get that client away from somebody else and get them off course long enough to come over to their course. That’s the problem. Plus, I will tell you who I think like your work, at least if it’s anything like the work that we do, in terms of how it impacts people. It’s going to impact people who care about getting an education. The group that are most likely going to be getting that education are engineers and other people who understand numbers, understand the rule of 72, maybe. Once you can convince an engineer that you’ve got the right way and they’re not a do-it-yourselfer, it can take five or six years for an engineer to make a decision, because they like to study it for a long time. But once you get them as a client, it’s almost impossible to lose them, because they’re so committed to the education. I think it’s a big deal.

Speaking of a big deal, Paul, this past December, your latest book was released called We’re Talking Millions: 12 Simple Ways to Supercharge Your Retirement. I must say, it is an excellent book.

Thank you.

It’s an easy read. It gets the point across effectively, and it’s a fun read, quite frankly. The book starts out where you talk about small steps with big payoffs. Can you talk about some of the habits that you recommend individual investors practice?

Yes, I’m happy to. That We’re Talking Millions, I want to make sure that your listeners and viewers understand I really mean millions. I don’t mean one million. I mean each of those 12 steps is potentially a million-dollar payoff. It’s easy to make the case for each one of them, as far as I’m concerned. It is about habits. It is about beliefs. The habits, if we want to think in terms of what is the most important habit, is the habit of saving, because that starts the whole process. Without it, you get nowhere, unless you inherit it.

So what does that habit mean? Well, first of all, I do think that one of our best educators, in terms of good quotes, is Warren Buffett. Warren Buffett says that you don’t say what’s left over after spending. You spend what’s left over after saving. That is something that almost everybody that I have seen that has been successful as a young investor, they’ve come to that commitment, that they must give up spending.

Then I rush in and say, “You are not giving up spending. You are putting money away to spend later. This is not about Scrooge McDuck jumping around in a pile of money. This is about having the money to spend later and still spending.” It’s those types of habits, dollar cost averaging. What an amazing habit that we all know is likely to lead to greater returns than almost any other habit an investor might have about putting money aside, because it guarantees that you buy more shares when the price is down and fewer shares when the price is up, and it overcomes one of the biggest reasons people don’t want to invest. That is they don’t want to invest because they think the market’s going to go down.

Wait a minute, that’s what you want when you’re dollar cost averaging and you’re young. You want the market to go down. I know that’s counter intuitive to young people, but it’s a time to celebrate, not for sadness. Your parents and your grandparents, you can be sad for them, but you should be happy with a bear market. Maybe that will help people get in and do this stuff right.

Another habit, I’ll call it a habit even though I totally believe in market timing, I believe that maybe one out of 100 investors, maybe it’s only one out of 1,000 investors, should use market timing, because one way to lose half of what you make over a lifetime on your investments is to make one wrong market timing decision. People don’t make market timing decisions with automated systems or systematic formulas. No, they use what I call the ICSIA strategy. That’s the I Can’t Stand It Anymore.

That’s what happened to investors in the spring of 2008. They got out, and you talk to them. People still today trying to figure out, “How do I get back in?” Well, we can figure out a way to get you back in, of course, but in the meantime, you’ve just lost at least half of what you would have had in retirement, had you just stayed the course.” That means that a habit or a commitment to being truly a buy and holder.

But the other side of that formula about those 12 decisions, every time I can find a way to add a half of 1% to your return, that’s all I want is a half of 1% for somebody in their 20s means an extra million to a million and a half dollars over their lifetime. An extra half a percent. Could we get a half of a percent by investing in mutual funds with lower expenses? Yes. Could we pick up a half a percent in taxes if we took the right tax steps? Yes. Could we make an extra half a percent if we added some value to our portfolio? Yes. How about small cap? Yes.

Then the one that just blows me away is the target date fund. Forget about the fact that I want people to add 10% to their target date fund and small cap value or use the magic formula that Chris Pedersen created to make a lot more with your target date fund, but even if you just invest in the target date fund, according to a study, here’s those academics at work again, they looked at 1.2 million accounts at Vanguard. These were all 401K accounts. Some of those people had all their money in target date funds. Some of those people didn’t have any of their money in target date funds, because they knew better. They had a sense for what they should do with their money that was better than what the professionals would have done with it.

The difference in return for 13 years was 2.3% a year. 2.3% a year. Well, if a half a percent can be converted into an extra million or a million and a half, 2.3%? Well, that is earlier retirement. That is more money to spend in retirement. That is more money to leave to your kids and your charities., and you didn’t have to know anything to get it. You didn’t have to do anything. You only had to decide, and I don’t know that you have target date funds in Canada, so I may be talking about a subject that doesn’t matter, but it just shows how letting somebody else do it can make a really big difference.

That’s staggering data. The more commonly accessible product in Canada right now are fixed allocation funds, but it’s the same kind of idea, where it’s a fixed allocation that you don’t do anything to. That’s the more common product here. You’ve mentioned your passion for education a couple times, Paul. You talked about how well it can serve a business, which we agree with, and that’s one of the reasons that we also engage in all of the educational work that we do. But now you’re in a position where you’ve got a focus on education without the business on the other side of it. Can you talk about what you’re trying to accomplish with the Merriman Education Foundation?

Well, the first thing is I want to bring to people the kind of information that I brought to the people that we ended up working for for many years. I wanted to bring it with zero conflicts of interest. When I sold the business, I could have retained ownership. I’m sure they would have been happy if I retained ownership, because then people would know he owns part of that company. That’d be a place to do some business.

I didn’t. I didn’t want any conflict of interest. When I started the foundation, under the bylaws, I’m not allowed to take any income, nothing. Chris Pedersen, Daryl Bahls, nothing. These folks are all volunteer work. For people who know our work, the work they’ve done, I can’t take credit for it. I’m there for the conversations, and I love the conversations, but the bottom line is I want to be conflict of interest free. The only person I want to serve is the investor, the individual investor.

By the way, it may be that somebody gets an education following our work, and it makes them a better client for an advisor, or they’d be better served to determine whether an advisor is appropriate for them. I’ve got a book entitled Get Smart or Get Screwed: How to Select the Best and Get the Most Out of Your Investment Advisor.

So I do think that our job is to help everybody understand so they can make better decisions, and we do it from birth to death. I think we may be the only one that, in fact, is devoted to all stages of life. So when that baby is born, we want the parents and the grandparents to jump on them and get them investing as soon as possible. And for people who are in retirement, we have all sorts of information to help them know how much do I need to retire? How much can I take out? So we show them fixed and variable. We show them 3% distributed, four, five, and six. All these different, so they can make these huge decisions.

I think our responsibility is pretty simple. One is we want to help people identify the best equity asset classes. You have already done that. We want people to know from an overview viewpoint how much should be in each one of those equity asset classes. So we have portfolios. Then we want you to know how much you should have in fixed income. So we have tables that show you those portfolios with fixed income. Then we want you to be able to know how much you can take out in retirement. We show you all of those tables. I think we have 150 tables in total on the site.

Then finally, and we really haven’t done this one as well as we’re going to, we need to deal with the glide path. The target date fund has a glide path. Why shouldn’t every first-time investor have a glide path? I don’t know. For example, I am curious, in your work when you’re setting up new account, is part of that process that you develop a glide path for 10 years or 20 years or for a lifetime? How do you handle that?

At the moment, we don’t do that. Actually, there superintendent some research that came out of somebody else within our firm, PWL Capital, showing that the target date glide path is actually sub-optimal, relative to picking a fixed allocation.

Yes. Yes, I totally agree with that. Starting with the idea that anybody would put 10% fixed income in a 21-year-old’s portfolio. In fact, I wagged my finger at John Bogle when I had that conversation, because I said, “How can you do that to a young person? Every 10% more in equities leads to a half a percent return. There’s another half a percent. Just 10% more.”

The answer is revealing. We are not running target date funds to build great wealth. We are building these for people to have enough. He even wrote a book entitled Enough.

He said that the reason that 10% is there is to have then understand that over the next 40 or whatever number of years, we’re going to be adjusting to this fixed income in your portfolio. Now what they could have said, they could have said, “But we want you to understand you should not be defensive right now. In fact, if you were defensive with a little bit of fixed income, it means you’re not going to buy as much of the equities that are down when they’re down.”

So it’s actually contradictory to what is in your best interest. But they decided as an organization it is better to educate people that bonds are part of this process, and that we’re here to serve you for a lifetime, and all we’re suggesting, by the way, is, “Okay, John, but just take 10% and put it into small cap value. Put 90% into the target date fund, 10% into small cap value, probably add a half of 1%.”

Forgive me, Paul, while I reminisce, and my kids always roll their eyes when I reminisce, but I can remember back I’m sure it was the late ’90s, early 2000s where I discovered your website and it was like, “Oh my god,” you and your colleague at the time, Tom Cock, had this radio program program long before podcasting was a thing. I would tune in I think every Saturday, I would listen to your most recent episode and say, “Oh my gosh, there’s people who are doing the exact same thing that we are across North America.” I used to just love listening to it.

Now you were clearly ahead of your time. Can you talk about the impact you had, what it was like in that era? Because it was a unique thing that you were doing.

It couldn’t be any more fun. That’s the reality of it, Cameron. It was just a blast. Tom Cock, who now has his own investment advisory firm, has done very well. He left us some years ago. In fact, I was very supportive of him starting his own investment advisory firm. But he came to our firm, and he was working at a radio station, and he wanted to sell me advertising. See, one of the reasons I don’t want to manage my own money is I’m a sucker for a sales pitch. Tom got me, and we became friends, and he is now one of my dearest friends, and he’s almost like a son to me, even though he’s not a whole lot younger than I am, but I do, I just think he’s a great guy.

He got me into the radio business. He got me into the podcasts. We were rated the number one money podcast by Money Magazine in 2008. There weren’t that many podcasts around, but it wasn’t me that made it fun. I was the numbers guy. I was the guy with the answers to the investment problems. Tom was the one who really made the program interesting and fun. Then Don McDonald Joined us.

Don McDonald had a radio show nationally before we had a radio show. So Don and Tom have gone on very successful. They’re teaching like you guys are. They’re teaching like we did. So I’m really thrilled for them. But I look back, and this is true of every person. When I talk to young people, I make the point that we cannot tell what person we meet today that is going to change our future in a significant way. So we never know.

My mother always said, “Be nice to everybody you meet in life, because they may be the one that changes your life in a way that you can’t anticipate.” They did. By the way, John Bogle did it for you, and John Bogle did it for me, because we all serve the thinking that John Bogle, and I think we should not forget John Bogle, his success was largely due to luck. His luck was he starts a mutual fund that nobody believed in. Hardly. They were going to try to raise 150 million in that original offering. Dean Witter made the offer. They raised $11 million. The trustees almost decided to close it down. They were allowed to continue. For the next 25 years, actually starting in 1975, the S&P 500 compounds at 17.2%. How much intelligence does that take if what your portfolio does is emulate that index?

Had he started that at the beginning of 2000, now he could claim a 2% compound rate of return, and he wouldn’t have been as famous, I suspect. Luck is a big deal with investing. When we are born is a big deal, who our parents are is a big deal, and how we treat others.

Paul, in your years as an educator but also as a wealth manager, having those deep relationships with clients that you’ve talked about, and then also your own lived experience. I didn’t know until today that when you started your firm, you were already financially independent. So that alone is fascinating and makes your perspective on the question I want to ask even more interesting. What have you learned through out your life about the relationship between money and a life well lived?

Well, that’s a tough one. I’ll be as straight as I can without exposing too many of my flaws. I was raised in a household where it wasn’t particularly safe. I had a father who I was totally afraid of, I hated. That was a kid feeling hate. That was not an adult feeling hate. I thought was going to kill me. He never did, and probably never intended to, but it felt like it was on his mind.

It turned out, he was my stepfather. I was probably kind of an inconvenience for him and his life with my mother, who was absolutely amazing. By the way, I was very happy to find out he wasn’t my father, because it explained everything. But what came out of that with money was I did not trust my life. I started thinking that money was the salvation that would protect me from all things evil in my life at a fairly young age. I also, because of not wanting to be at home, found it most enjoyable to do other things in the world rather than be at home. So I joined everything that I could join, just because every one of those things required me to do something out of the house.

But I will tell you that money itself drove me for a long time. I’m not sure that was really helpful for my personal life. I think it caused me to be a terrible workaholic. Now my wife would say that I am still a workaholic, as I get up at 3:00 to 4:00 in the morning and break for lunch with her, and then break for dinner. She knows I love what I’m doing. She supports what I’m doing. There’s a lot that we do beyond just doing podcasts and writing articles.

But it took a long time for me to get to the point where I was at peace over my money. Like I mentioned earlier, I was always afraid. I was always afraid of the bad thing that would happen when I went around the next corner. That made me a very conservative investor, personally. It also made me a pretty conservative advisor, which probably wasn’t all bad, but it might have been good for my clients if I had been a little more aggressive, in hindsight, but it was what it was.

But I can tell you now that I feel like I have everything together, in terms of money and freedom. I’m a great believer in working, if you can and if you like it, beyond having enough. I purposefully worked until I had let’s say more than twice what I really needed. I don’t live a high life. Now I live a high enough life. I’m not complaining, but it’s not a life of a rich man. I still consider myself to be frugal. But the first day of each year, the business day, we take out 5% of the portfolio, and that’s what we get to spend for that year and give. I’m totally at peace with that. I have no fear of running out of money before I run out of life.

One of the problems, and you know this too from looking at people’s situations, when you retire too soon and you really don’t have enough except to meet the basics, if the world goes against you, then you can be put in a tough spot, not because you weren’t a good saver, not because you weren’t a good investor, but something totally unexpected happened.

Would that pandemic be an example? I didn’t have that in my business plan or my investment plan or anything. There were a lot of things. So here I am, held together by the medical profession in the United States. I’d probably be in better health in Canada, but that’s another discussion. But the bottom line is that I have the good fortune of being able to afford good healthcare, live in a good place, have an amazing wife, have grandchildren. None of them have had about with the COVID-19. How blessed can I be?

Then at the end of the day, I get to change people’s lives. I mean in a big way. I got on the phone with a 30-year-old kid starting with $40, got him to Schwab, got him to open a minimum-size account, which is zero at Schwab. He is off and running. He read the book, the We’re Talking Millions. He read the book. In fact, he just finished the book before I got on the phone with him, and that’s going to change his life.

I got to tell you, if somebody goes to the reviews at We’re Talking Millions at Amazon, what people have written, there’s one four-star review. The rest are five, and the things that people say about that book, and they also say about Chris Pedersen and Daryl Bahls and Rich Buck, other people who have worked with me, it just makes me feel like I am not just financially set, but I psychically have so much income right now, sometimes I don’t know what to do with it, because it just feels great.

I sense the path you two are on, you’re going to do something so… I really do think this. You’ll do something similar like this after you’ve made more money. Let me tell you, it is so much fun not to have to answer to compliance. I mentioned that earlier. Compliance, they used to listen to every one of our radio shows before it could go on the air and take out stuff. I’ve always felt like I’ve always told the truth, but if I couldn’t justify and I couldn’t prove and didn’t have the evidence, “Sorry, Mr. Merriman.” And that was somebody who worked for me was telling me what to do, but that’s what they’re allowed to do.

Anyway, you guys are great. I really do appreciate what you’re doing. I’m always here to help in any way that I can. I mean that, absolutely.

Well thank you, Paul, and thanks for sharing that story. One last quick question for you, which we have to ask. As someone who’s had a great life, great career, and clearly you’re not letting up any time soon, we’re really curious how you define success.

Well, I have a whole bunch of friends who I think are very successful. When I was in the business, I had a lot of clients who are very successful. I have old clients in their 90s that call and talk to me once or twice a year. Boy, are they doing well. It’s not about money. I think success is a lot about friends. I think we all agree that having a minimal amount of money, there is some amount, it’s gone up over the years. I think they now say that you need $95,000 a year. Beyond that, you don’t add any more happiness to your life.

But I believed when I was a kid and when I was trying to get out of the house, one of the places I ended up was in a church, the Episcopal church in Wenatchee, Washington. I think what came out of that time was that there’s this responsibility to do good. So a lot of my friends who are successful find their fun and their success in life playing golf and traveling and doing a lot of things that are not necessarily what ring my bell.

What rings my bell is helping people somehow improve their lives. I cannot fix anything in our house. I have to pay somebody to do everything but light bulbs. I am good for one thing, and that is I think to share investment knowledge with other people. So I’m going to work that to death until I do die. I have a hunch that might have been true, in many cases, about John Bogle. I found it interesting in talking with him, that never once did he talk about what Vanguard does for rich people. He talked only about what Vanguard did for people who, without help, would probably not have enough.

So I really feel blessed that I have the knowledge that I can share with others that makes me feel like I’m still adding some value. Even coming on… This is really a big thing to me to be able to talk to new people that I haven’t ever talked to before.

Well, Paul, this has been great to meet you, to learn more about your story. Again, I thank you for all your work over the years. It’s had an impact on us, and this has been a great time with you, so thank you very much.


Books From Today’s Episode:

We’re Talking Millions!: 12 Simple Ways to Supercharge Your Retirement on Amazon — https://amzn.to/2PqbGjm

Get Smart or Get Screwed: How to Select the Best and Get the Most Out of Your Investment Advisor on Amazon — https://amzn.to/3sImF5X

Money and Your Brain on Amazon — https://amzn.to/3rHC45p

Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life on Amazon — https://amzn.to/3sV6MJu

Links From Today’s Episode:

Paul Merriman — https://paulmerriman.com/

Paul Merriman on LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulmerrimandotcom/

Paul Merriman on Twitter — https://twitter.com/SavvyInvestorPM

Paul Merriman on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/PaulAMerriman/

The Merriman Financial Education Foundation — https://paulmerriman.com/the-merriman-financial-education-foundation/

Rational Reminder on iTunes — https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/the-rational-reminder-podcast/id1426530582.
Rational Reminder Website — https://rationalreminder.ca/
2 Funds for Life Strategy — https://paulmerriman.com/2-funds-for-life/

The White Coat Investor — https://www.whitecoatinvestor.com/