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The Hourglass Top

Once you are investing for the right reasons, to achieve your personal and family goals, are there questions you should answer before you begin investing. For example:

  • Is there a priority to paying your bills? Do you consider some bills more important than others? What are those bills?
  • Are there certain products or services that you feel you should never do without? What about health and life insurance? Should health and life insurance be in place before you begin investing?
  • Is there a better use for your money than investing? For example, are there bills or debts that should be paid first before beginning your investment program? What should you do about high-interest items such as credit cards and consumer loans? Does it really make sense to earn 8 percent annually on an investment when you are paying 24 percent annually for credit cards and other forms of debt?
  • Is there a purpose to investing? How does investing fit in with your personal goals and budget? Do you have a plan for investing—a road map for helping you invest successfully?

As I have worked with families and students, I have developed a framework for teaching investing that I find helpful. I call this framework “the investment hourglass.” This is a tool for teaching about investing that helps relate priorities and risks to the goals you want to accomplish.

The investment hourglass is divided into two areas: the top of the hourglass, which represents questions you should consider before you invest, and the bottom of the hourglass, which represents how you should invest.


Chart 1. Top of the Investment Hourglass—Before You Invest


The top of the investment hourglass relates to questions you should consider before you start to invest. The hourglass is designed to help you prioritize your responsibilities. Since investing is a means to an end and not an end in itself, you should base your investments on your priorities and personal goals. If you can agree with each of the statements listed in the top of the hourglass, you are ready to invest (see Chart 1). If you cannot agree with these statements, there are more important steps you must take before you begin investing.

Your first and most important priority is being square with the Lord. Before you even think about investing, you should pay your bills. Your most important bill is paid to the Lord, who is your most important creditor. Before you invest, ask yourself if you have paid your tithing, a generous fast offering, and other contributions as you feel inclined. The Lord should be first.

Your second priority is your family. Make sure you have adequate life insurance and health insurance in place before you begin investing. If something were to go wrong with your health, or if you were to pass away, who would take care of your family? Disability or death is not an excuse to stop providing for the needs of your family.

Your third priority is yourself. Personal responsibility has two parts: the first part of personal responsibility involves getting out of credit card and consumer debt. It does not make sense to pay 24 percent interest on credit cards when there is no guarantee that you will make a return on your investments in the stock market. The second part of personal responsibility involves living by your budget, knowing your personal and family goals, and having an investment plan. Figuratively speaking, before you drive to a new location, you must understand where you are, where you want to be, and how to get there. Your budget represents where you are, your goals represent where you want to be, and your investment plan represents how to get there.

If you can agree with each of the statements from the top of the investment hourglass, you are ready to invest. This hourglass can help you keep your priorities in order: Heavenly Father first, family second, and personal responsibility third.


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