A Few Simple Rules...

September 2, 2010
Michael Sheehan

Would you take investment advice from a cartoon character? How about the man who created him? Scott Adams, creator of cube-dweller Dilbert, has an economics degree and an MBA, and believes the average investor needs to take a simpler investing approach.

Would you take investment advice from a cartoon character? Or from the man who created him? Scott Adams, the one-time financial analyst who turned cartoonist and created Dilbert, the luckless, cubicle-bound corporate underling, uses his comic strip to toss zingers at a wide array of corporate stupidities. And he doesn’t spare the investment world.

For example, Dogbert, the strip’s scam-loving canine, launches a mutual fund staffed by monkeys because, he says, studies show that monkeys are better stock pickers than most professionals. And because he hires only the best, Dogbert says, his outrageously high fees are actually reasonable.

Adams, who has a degree in economics and an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley, believes that the average investor doesn’t have the tools to navigate complex financial markets successfully. A simpler approach is the best way to go, according to Adams, who spent several months doing research with the idea of putting his ideas into a personal finance book.

The result was somewhat less than a book’s worth of material. In fact, it boiled down to nine rules that Adams calls “Everything You Need to Know about Personal Investing.” Actually, the first three rules have little to do with investing and some of the others are only loosely related to investment strategies. Here’s the list:

  1. Make a will
  2. Pay off your credit cards
  3. Get term life insurance if you have a family to support
  4. Fund your 401k to the maximum
  5. Fund your IRA to the maximum
  6. Buy a house if you want to live in a house and can afford it
  7. Put six months worth of expenses in a money-market account
  8. Take whatever money is left over and invest 70% in a stock index fund and 30% in a bond fund through any discount broker and never touch it until retirement.