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Getting Loaded: Make a Million...While You're Still Young Enough to Enjoy It
by Peter Bielagus
New American Library, 2003

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Of All The Places A Life Changing Event Could Occur

When I was younger someone once told me that "the little things make all the difference." That's one of those "sayings" that you don't pay any attention to until one of those "little things" actually happens to you. A few years back, two such "little things" happened to me that changed my life. They happened within 24 hours of each other, and the first one occurred simply because I was sitting in the one place where you'd least expect a life changing event to occur:

A bar.

I was enjoying a beer with a rather unique friend of mine. "Unique" because he's one of the few people who does exactly what he wants. He is a stubborn SOB, but I give him a lot of credit for the way he lives his life. On weekends, I would go to work and he would go wild. At a moment's notice he would drop everything to go live in Europe for six months. If it's last minute, this guy is in. He'll visit a friend for a weekend and stay the whole week. He'll start a business, have the whole thing blow up in his face, and not break a sweat. And while this guy's lifestyle isn't for everyone, I can't help but recognize the fact that he is truly happy.

As we were propped up on our bar stools, I asked him, "How do you do it? How do you live like you do? Why is society pushing and pulling everyone else in every direction but not you?"

As his empty beer glass hit the counter, he looked at me and said, "You got to live life on your own terms." With that, he left the bar and left me to reflect on what he had said. He really didn't give me much to go on. For a moment, I stared into my bottle of Budweiser as if it were some type of crystal ball, as if it was some sort of glass telescope that would let me peer into a universe of answers.

Then that little thing happened.

Now, I had known this friend a long time. But for the first time in my life, it hit me why this guy was able to live this lifestyle.

He's loaded.

The smell of crushed cigarette butts and the thumping techno music faded away. I couldn't stop thinking about my friend and his sense of freedom. And all because he was loaded. The thin line that separated this guy, who can pretty much do whatever he wants, from the rest of the us, who spend their lives being told what to do, was money.

It was money that was on my mind as I swished down the last of my beer and left the bar. In fact, money was on my mind all night and all the next morning, until stumbled upon another one of those "little things."

All this time I had been thinking about my friend, his money and his freedom, when I suddenly asked, "What about me? Am I loaded?" I decided to really look at my own finances. I had some stocks that I bought, some stocks that were given to me, a few bonds, even some gold coins. Not bad for a young guy. But what about the future? I asked a friend, whose Microsoft Excel skills put mine to shame, to create a spreadsheet to track how my investments would look ten, twenty, thirty, even forty years from today. We took their value today and projected what they would be worth if they just did nothing but earn interest-compounded.

"Sweet Moses in a basket of reeds," I think were my exact words.

I was stunned because the little things do make all the difference and I had just stumbled upon the mathematical formula to prove it. I had heard about the magic of something called compound interest before, but it wasn't until I saw it working there, line by line on that spreadsheet, my spreadsheet, that I fully appreciated this phenomenon. The concept that, "the little thing things make all the difference" was no longer some cheesy line to me.

Looking at that spreadsheet I realized that because of compound interest my investments would one day grow to a fortune. This wouldn't happen because I'm particularly smart, it would simply happen because I'm young, I could afford to give compound interest enough time to work its magic.

Instantly, and not because of my hangover, I began to see the world in a different light. I began to see life in the same way as my bankrolled buddy. For the first time, I wasn't worried about money. As long as I continued to save and invest, I could live life on my own terms. I was Getting Loaded.

That's what this book is all about. The other way to Get Loaded. Take a moment to think about how much you worry about money. And if you're still bankrolled by your parents, think about how much they worry about money. People spend so much time working for money. What else do you spend forty hours a week doing? (Okay maybe sleeping.) The quest for cash sucks up most of our time, second only to sleep. And many people sleep less so they can use that extra time to work more. The only break from such a stressful lifestyle is to get loaded at the bar.

My compound interest epiphany changed the way I thought. I started to think in terms of what they'd be worth in 30 years. Suppose I had saved the $3.50 I spent on that beer? What would it be worth in 30 years? The answer? $231.74. Sure that's not a fortune, but that's $231.74 for every beer. Now I'm not saying you should give up everything you enjoy just to save for the future. What fun is that? My point is that there are two ways to get loaded and hopefully this book will get you thinking about the other way. Somewhere, between the two, there's a balance. For me, I found that the more I learned about finance, the easier my life got.

And as things got easier, I wanted to learn more about my finances. What did I have? What should I have? I gathered every scrap of financial information I could find about myself, bank statements, stock accounts, everything. I found that I had more than I thought and also discovered areas where I was losing money unnecessarily. Soon my interest became an obsession. I wanted to use my youth to become wealthy. I began surfing the web for info. I began going to seminars. I read over three hundred books in the area of personal finance and investing. Some enjoyable, some horrifically dull. I interviewed accountants, stockbrokers, real estate agents, bankers, lawyers, cheapskates, insurance agents, car salespeople, and recruiters. When I left college I worked as a tax and real estate consultant, but my primary goal was to find out how someone could use their youth to become wealthy.

After five years of research, the seminars, the hundreds of books and websites, and over a thousand magazine articles, I felt I had enough information about the financial world to craft a life I could live on my own terms. Now it was time to share it. But I knew most people wouldn't take the time to do all the research I had done and I wouldn't wish it upon anyone anyway.

I wrote Getting Loaded because I want you to live life on your own terms too. Whether your dream is to backpack through Brazil, spend more time with your family or spend more time with your Sega, the way you live should be the way you want to live. We're young. Life shouldn't be about the money.

Money won't bring you happiness. But it will bring you the freedom to live your life the way you want to live it, both today and in the future, and that does bring happiness.

Excerpted from Getting Loaded by Peter Bielagus. Copyright © 2003 by Peter Bielagus. All rights reserved. Posted with permission of the publisher. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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