The Index Card by Harold Pollack

If you get a chance, check out the Harold Pollack Index Card book. Mr. Pollack is a UC Chicago social scientist. Long story short, he boiled down “all” the financial tips you would need to be successful on a small index card. I love stuff like this because it brings personal finance back to where it always should have been. There is a billion dollar industry telling you how complicated this all has to be and only high paid “helpers” can guide us through the fog; and simple people like us could never figure it out: Wrong!

Almost anyone can be successful with personal finance and Mr. Pollack’s index card is proof. Here is the list:

1. Max out your 401k or equivalent employee contribution.

2. Buy inexpensive, well diversified index funds such as Vanguard Target 20XX.

3. Never buy or sell an individual security, the person on the other side of the table knows more than you about this stuff.

4. Save 10-20% of your money.

5. Pay your credit card balance in full every month. (He notes that research shows a dangerous allure of credit card points. They seem to make us spend more.)

6. Maximize tax advantaged savings vehicles like Roth’s, etc.

7. Pay attention to fees. Avoid actively managed funds. Make financial advisors commit to a fiduciary standard.

We have discussed the fiduciary standard here before when we did a book review on Tony Robbin’s Money book. A fiduciary is supposed to be loyal to the person they serve and have your best interests at heart. In simple terms they can’t just randomly sell you financial products if not in your best interests.

8. Promote social insurance programs to help people when things go wrong.

The point here is that one can do all the right things, then be struck with a debilitating disease or accident, therefore a safety net is important in a wealthy modern society.


I am going to keep reading these and try to implement as many as possible. One last thing that strikes me is that most of this actions can be fully automated. Once you set this up, there is nothing left to do but live your life!

What other ideas and financial tips could we put on an index card?



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