As a successful investor and all around nice guy, Munger often shares his investing wisdom with those who care to listen. Paying attention to what he says and acting upon his best advice should help you make yourself financially comfortable -- maybe even rich.
With that in mind, here are some of his most pertinent words of wisdom for those who want to invest.
1. The No-Brainer Secret to Getting Rich
If you're looking to do more with your money than just stick it in a CD or savings account, perhaps the most important Munger quote of all time is this one:
"Spend less than you make; always be saving something. Put it into a tax-deferred account. Over time, it will begin to amount to something. This is such a no-brainer."
Because you need to spend less than you earn in order to properly invest, and because investing defers your ability to spend money from today to sometime in the future, even lousy investing beats not investing at all.
Following Munger's advice throughout your career is just about the closest thing you'll find to a guaranteed way for you to wind up financially comfortable during your retirement.
2. The Key Financial Lesson for Those Not Yet Able to Invest
For those not yet able to regularly sock away cash for their futures, Munger has these words of wisdom:
"Once you get into debt, it's hell to get out. Don't let credit card debt carry over. You can't get ahead paying 18 percent."
Once again, Munger is absolutely correct. He and his partner Buffett may be among a handful of investors in the world with a legitimate chance of outrunning credit card debt with investment earnings. We mere mortals don't have a prayer.
The long-run returns from investing in stocks is somewhere around the 8 percent to 10 percent annualized range -- and even that isn't guaranteed. When compared to the 13 percent or more interest rates that typical credit cards charge, the importance of always paying off that credit card bill -- and the futility of trying to beat that rate investing -- becomes abundantly clear.
The most important instructions for those who do invest
Finally, for those who are ready to invest, Munger has two critically important pieces of advice. The first:
"The number one idea is to view a stock as an ownership of the business and to judge the staying quality of the business in terms of its competitive advantage. Look for more value in terms of discounted future cash-flow than you are paying for. Move only when you have an advantage."
And Munger's second key piece of investing advice:
"There are worse situations than drowning in cash and sitting, sitting, sitting. I remember when I wasn't awash in cash -- and I don't want to go back."
Taken together, they form the foundation of the value-investing strategy that made Munger and his partner Buffett two of the richest people on the planet. In essence, Munger's advice boils down to:
- Figure out why a company has a right to win (its staying quality/competitive advantage)
- Determine what that company is worth (the discounted future cash flow)
- Pay less than that amount to buy it, and
- It's a better idea to hold on to cash than to invest your money poorly.
These Words of Wisdom Work in Good Times and Bad
Those straightforward bits of timeless advice from Charlie Munger contain the keys that will let anyone able to follow them throughout a career wind up comfortable, if not downright rich. Yet while his advice can work wonders, life does have a way of throwing us curve balls. Jobs get lost, health is not always with us, cars get wrecked, and roofs leak.
Don't let those curve balls dissuade you: Following Munger's advice gets you in a better position to hit them when they come flying past. For instance, it's a lot easier to deal with the costs of a wrecked car if you've got a pile of cash awaiting investment than if you're already in a hole from carrying credit card debt.
Even if you're not yet ready to invest, structuring your financial life around Munger's advice can set you up for success once you're able to get started.
Chuck Saletta is a Motley Fool contributing writer. For investing ideas, try any of our newsletter services free for 30 days.