I simply mention these things in a general way. There are two branches in the study of riches—getting the money and keeping it from getting away. When a fellow has saved a thousand dollars, and every nickel represents a walk home, instead of a ride on a trolley; and every dollar stands for cigars he didn’t smoke and for shows he didn’t see—it naturally seems as if that money, when it’s invested, ought to declare dividends every thirty days. But almost any scheme which advertises that it will make small investors rich quick is like one of these Yellowstone geysers that spouts up straight from Hades with a boom and a roar—it’s bound to return to its native brimstone sooner or later, leaving nothing behind it but a little smoke, and a smell of burned money—your money.
If a fellow would stop to think, he would understand that when money comes in so hard, it isn’t reasonable to expect that it can go out and find more easy. But the great trouble is that a good many small investors don’t stop to think, or else let plausible strangers do their thinking for them. That’s why most young men have tucked away with their college diploma and the picture of their first girl, an impressive deed to a lot in Nowhere-on-the-Nothingness, or a beautiful certificate of stock in the Gushing Girlie Oil Well, that has never gushed anything but lies and promises, or a lovely receipt for money invested in one of these discretionary pools that are formed for the higher education of indiscreet fools. While I reckon that every fellow has one of these certificates of membership in The Great Society of Suckers, I had hoped that you would buy yours for a little less than the Highfaluting Lulu is going to cost you. Young men are told that the first thousand dollars comes hard and that after that it comes easier. So it does—just a thousand dollars plus interest easier; and easier through all the increased efficiency that self-denial and self-control have given you, and the larger salary they’ve made you worth.
It doesn’t seem like much when you take your savings’ bank book around at the end of the year and get a little thirty or forty dollars interest added, or when you cash in the coupon on the bond that you’ve bought; yet your bank book and your bond are still true to you. But if you’d had your thousand in one of these 50 per cent. bleached blonde schemes, it would have lit out long ago with a fellow whose ways were more coaxing, leaving you the laugh and a mighty small lock of peroxide gold hair. If you think that saving your first thousand dollars is hard, you’ll find that saving the second, after you’ve lost the first, is hell and repeat.
You can’t too soon make it a rule to invest only on your own know and never on somebody else’s say so. You may lose some profits by this policy, but you’re bound to miss a lot of losses. Often the best reason for keeping out of a thing is that everybody else is going into it. A crowd’s always dangerous; it first pushes prices up beyond reason and then down below common sense. The time to buy is before the crowd comes in or after it gets out. It’ll always come back to a good thing when it’s been pushed up again to the point where it’s a bad thing.