For a hot second in late July, a new—albeit still quite familiar—name took over the top spot on the Bloomberg Billionaire Index. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos rode a surge in his company's stock price to surpass Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates as the wealthiest man in the world. Well, until a few hours later, when Amazon’s stock price went down and Gates regained the first position. Ouch.
Despite the brevity of his reign, Bezos has plenty to teach us non-billionaires as do others on the billionaires list. Here, we’ve rounded up the best money and career advice from the top five men. (The first woman on the list, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, shows up at number 15.)
“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose.” — Bill Gates
In his book, “The Road Ahead,” Gates explains that you have to be humble when you're winning because loss is inevitable. He may not have been talking about investing specifically, but the advice certainly applies.
Overconfidence can be a big problem for investors, and the market is quick to give a dose of humility. Even if you're on a hot streak, remember that investing comes with risks and you never know what may happen next—which is why trying to time the market is usually a losing proposition and diversification is so important. When one sector or investment in your portfolio is down, another is likely to be up. If you’re well-diversified, you'll have your bases covered.
“Think about the fundamentals of the business and not the daily fluctuations in the stock price. There’s no information in that.” — Jeff Bezos
Bezos shared this nugget when explaining what he tells employees, whose compensation includes company stock.
But non-employees can also benefit from Bezos’s advice to ignore the noise when investing for the long term. Short-term market movements are often tied to the news of the day and may have no real bearing on how a company will perform over time.
The simplest strategy? Stick with low-cost funds, which easily and affordably spread your portfolio across hundreds of investments, so there’s no need to worry about how one business is doing day to day.
“We cannot limit ourselves to continuing on the path we have already opened.” — Amancio Ortega
Ortega—an 81-year old Spanish citizen and founder of Inditex, the world’s largest clothing retailer and parent company of Zara—made the statement in an annual report when discussing future company plans.
When it comes to your own career, heeding this dictum can pay off, too. Changing jobs can boost your income 1 percent more each year than staying put, according to a recent analysis. Over the course of your career, that can really add up. These days, it’s common to consider changing careers as well—especially as different industries expand and contract—or taking on side gigs to explore passions, which also helps to diversify your income streams. The point is not to limit yourself to a single, familiar path.
“Both large and small investors should stick with low-cost index funds.” — Warren Buffett
Even a wealthy guru like Buffett recommends taking a simple approach to build your own fortune. In a recent letter to shareholders, the Oracle of Omaha decried the rampant fees being charged by many investment professionals and explained how such high costs eat into your returns. He noted that it is the rare individual who can actually succeed in beating the market (a.k.a. hand-picking investments in an effort to get greater returns than the S&P 500 index) consistently and making extra expenses worthwhile.
That’s why he also recommends low-cost index funds, and credits Vanguard founder John Bogle for his effort to promote this investing style. “In his early years, Jack was frequently mocked by the investment-management industry,” Buffett writes. “Today, however, he has the satisfaction of knowing that he helped millions of investors realize far better returns on their savings than they otherwise would have earned. He is a hero to them and to me.”
“Ideas don't come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started.” — Mark Zuckerberg
The Facebook founder famously dropped out of Harvard to start his social media empire, but returned to deliver the 2017 commencement speech. “In our society, we often don't do big things because we're so afraid of making mistakes that we ignore all the things wrong today if we do nothing,” he told new graduates. “The reality is, anything we do will have issues in the future. But that can't keep us from starting.”
When it comes to your career—and even saving and investing—the same tenets hold. You shouldn’t wait until you feel like you know everything before you begin some endeavor, whether it's applying for a better job, building your investment portfolio or launching a business. You're never going to know everything. You have to just get started and learn along the way.