Thanking our hamster Speedy for the financial lessons learned - opinion

Mistakes happen to everyone; the goal should be to learn from these mistakes and try not to repeat them again and again.

Calculating taxes (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Calculating taxes
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.–  J. K. Rowling

Last week, towards the end of Passover, our dear hamster Speedy passed away. He was almost two years old, which is a long life for a hamster. He was very active to the end. The last few days of his life, he started climbing on top of his house, slipping off and falling on his head and then repeating it all over again.

Although the coroner didn’t provide a cause of death, continued blows to head couldn’t have helped him much. While some of the kids were happy because they thought he smelled and in the words of one daughter, “he looks like a rat, get him out of my room,” the rest of us were quite sad over his passing. He was cute, performed some tricks and never talked back to us. It was pretty clear that some of the kids were less enamored with him, and were perhaps a wee bit jealous, too. He lived the life. Slept most of the day, got up to drink and eat, checked his email and Whatsapp (that’s a joke!) and went right back to sleep. Sort of like a teenager’s dream!

Last year, in celebration of his first birthday, I wrote, “Yuval Shemla may be the current Israeli Ninja champ, but our little Speedy is going to give him a run for his money. This week, he started holding on to the top of his wheel and then grabbing onto the top of his cage and swinging from bar to bar of his cage, like someone would do with monkey bars. As he started his new trick, more than once he fell and came crashing down, landing hard on his back. But he got right back up, scratched himself for a minute and tried again, finally mastering the apparatus. Just like Speedy learned from his gymnastics mistakes, we too can learn from our financial mistakes in order to make better decisions in the future.”

Mistakes happen to everyone; the goal should be to learn from these mistakes and try not to repeat them again and again.

A hamster is seen in Vienna. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)A hamster is seen in Vienna. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

When it comes to investing, almost all investors will make some bad investments and lose money. A few days ago, I had a call with someone that I used to financially advise 19 years ago. I had no communication since I left that position, and, out of the blue, he called me. He said he has been holding a lot of money in cash that he doesn’t need for his retirement, because he has plenty of pension money to live on. He said the money is intended for his grandchildren after his death. He then told me that he lost a lot of money back in 1983, during the Israeli bank stock scandal. 

Since then, almost 40 years later, he hasn’t owned a single stock. He realized what a mistake that was, and he said, “I can’t even imagine how much money I would have today if I had kept on investing.”  The point is to not get nervous from losing some money and swear off investing forever. The best way to have a secure financial future is by investing. Whether investing in the stock market or in real estate, own good assets and hold them. Sure, occasionally you may lose money, but, over time, you should do well. 

Before Purim, I had a meeting with a young couple, married for about two years with a baby; the couple were both students and living on a very limited income, barely scraping by. They wanted my advice. The husband told me that, a few years ago, he took the money he received after finishing the army, and decided to invest in penny stocks. Needless to say, it didn’t end well, and he lost everything. 

Now, they were back in a dire financial situation trying to get rich quick. They had received money from the birth of their baby, and had the brilliant idea of once again investing in penny stocks because they got emails saying how much they could make on a particular stock. I begged them to learn from history, and not repeat their mistake. Well, you can guess how it turned out.

We are all human and, as such, make mistakes all the time. Just as in other aspects in life, we grow as individuals if we learn from those mistakes. When it comes to finance, we can grow our assets by not repeating mistakes of the past. 

RIP Speedy, we will miss you.

The information contained in this article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. or its affiliates. 

Aaron Katsman is the author of Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing.; [email protected]