Andrew Tobias lives and breathes money. He’s the author of The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need, the well-known manual that puts in plain words how to hold on to money and make more of it. As treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, he’s the DNC’s highest-ranking openly gay official. These days, he’s one busy guy and yet, he took precious time to talk money with us. Of course, we think that makes him The Best Little Boy in the World. Read on and learn more about this personal finance rock star.
1. You turned sixty not too long ago. How will you define retirement?
It will be synonymous with either senility or cremation, both of which I hope to avoid.
2. If you had to boil down how to build a “vast fortune” into a few simple tips, what would they be?
Start with the tongue-in-cheek quotation marks around “vast fortune,” so it’s actually within grasp, and then: (a) always live beneath your means, saving/investing as much as you can; (b) keep your transaction costs low; (c) read my book. (To save money, get it at the library.)
3. What money lessons did you learn from your parents, both directly and indirectly?
Waste not, want not. Give to those less fortunate than you. Putting kids through college is very, very expensive.
4. How did being gay play into your career pursuits?
Out of business school in 1972, I was offered a job with “the” consulting firm at the time, but I couldn’t imagine how I would ever fit in or be able to keep up the ruse. How would I socialize with the clients and their wives?
What would I say when people tried to fix me up? All those horrible things that used to so debilitate us in those days. I felt somewhat the same way about an offer to write for FORTUNE Magazine, although obviously that would have been less stressful. But in the end I decided to write for NEW YORK Magazine, which had already been very good to me, and when — quaking — I told my boss before accepting that I was gay and might want to write occasional stories related to that (albeit, presumably under a pen name). Best choice I ever made — and unbelievably fortunate to have had it to make.
5. What is your most significant memory about money?
Failing to buy 10 shares of Berkshire Hathaway at $300 a share after writing a glowing story about Warren Buffett for FORTUNE, but concluding it had “gotten a little ahead of itself” and I’d wait til it fell back. (Last I checked, it was $127,000 a share.)
6. How often do you give your partner, Charles Nolan, financial advice?
Hah. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
7. As DNC Treasurer, do you see money doing anything good when it comes to the political process?
Sure. Politics is tacky and all the awful things it is — but you can’t have democracy without politics, and politics requires money. That said, it’s wonderful how the balance of power is shifting away from the $500,000 and $5 million contributions (now illegal) — and even the $28,500 contributions (the current annual max to a federal political party like the DNC) — to the potential for millions of $10 and 25 and $100 and $250 contributions over the Internet.
8. Why do you think Suze Orman waited until her fifties to come out?
She did it when she was ready — and she and her partner, Kathy, have both maxed out to the DNC to be among the co-chairs of our June 26 DNC Gay & Lesbian Leadership Council dinner in New York.
So better late than never, and bully for her.
9. In an interview about ten years ago, you encouraged readers to live light on the land. How has your footstep lightened up over the last decade?
I used to have at least 1,000 watts burning most of the time. Now, with CFL’s and generally having the lights on only in the room I’m in, it’s more like 40 watts. I still have a shamelessly large footprint compared to most inhabitants of the planet; but quite modest for someone with even a tongue-in-cheek “vast fortune.”
10. What major mistake do you see young people most often making with money?
Not doing the basics: setting a goal and making a budget to reach the goal. In other words, letting life “happen” to them instead of taking control of their finances. Young people really should rush to the library and read THE ONLY INVESTMENT GUIDE YOU’LL EVER NEED. The leverage to be had from getting this perspective and starting when you’re young is *enormous.* It’s a huge mistake not to learn the basics, which are really very, very simple.
More about Andrew Tobias
Andrew Tobias, treasurer of the Democratic National Committee since 1999, is the author of THE ONLY INVESTMENT GUIDE YOU’LL EVER NEED and THE BEST LITTLE BOY IN THE WORLD, among several other books.
Over the years he has been a frequent contributor to NEW YORK, ESQUIRE, WORTH, TIME and PARADE, among others. His computer software, MANAGING YOUR MONEY, helped thousands of people take control of their finances in the early days of personal computing. In the past decade, he has posted 2,961 daily comments at andrewtobias.com. (“About fifty of them are really good,” he says, “but I forgot to flag them, so they’re hard to find.”)
Tobias is a graduate of Harvard College, where he ran the student business enterprise, and Harvard Business School. He lives in Miami and New York with his partner Charles Nolan, the designer.
Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.