Barron’s – December 9, 2020

Your 20s: Now Is the Time to Work Hard

As you get older, your responsibilities grow exponentially.

Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO, JPMorgan Asset & Wealth Management

My first real job was during the summer when I was in college. I worked in the computer room of Stein Roe & Farnham back in Chicago with two middle-aged men who had been doing it forever—or at least it seemed so in my eyes. Our job was to peel off the individual portfolio printouts and deliver them to the portfolio managers, basically a 9-to-5 job.

It didn’t take me long to notice that one of the guys arrived every morning at 8:59 a.m. and left at 5:01 p.m. The other seemingly never left. Halfway through the first month, I asked the long-hours guy: “Do you ever leave?”

“Oh yeah,” he said, “but I want to work extra hours.” Why, I wondered. “Because you get time and a half.”

“So everyone gets time and a half for extra hours?”


“OK. I’ll be here at 6 in the morning.”

That was one of my early formational insights into the connection between hard work and money, and that it was something I could control. Whatever job you have, you get out of it what you put into it.

Working hard is easy when you’re young, 20s and 30s. In many ways, it’s all about you. You’re doing your thing: learning, connecting with people, moving up. Then you start to have children and somewhere in your 40s, two things happen. First, you realize you are grooming young ones who need to understand that they are going to live a long life, and they need to plan for it. And second, you watch as the generation that came before begins to retire. What happened when your parents stopped working? Did they have to completely change their lifestyle or had they planned ahead so they are enjoying that part of their lives? It’s not about some big massive plan, it’s about a little bit every day.

You want to teach your kids that it’s important to start saving and investing early, but it is especially important for you to focus on your investments as you get into your 40s and 50s. Why? Because to stay the course you need to have had the experience of the good and the bad in the markets. You have to have lost money and made money, you have to have asked questions.

When it comes to financial matters, the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask. You hire financial-service providers to answer those questions, not to speak in jargon that is so confusing you just say, OK, do what you want. If you don’t understand the product, if you don’t fully understand the risks, don’t invest in it. Now’s the time to make sure if you’ve worked hard, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
—As told to Nancy F. Smith

By Nancy F. Smith.

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