I had the honor and privilege of attending the White House’s first ever Personal Finance Online Summit on Wednesday afternoon. The event gave me and two dozen other financial journalists access to top Obama Administration officials – including a brief Q&A with the president himself.
I solicited questions for Obama’s team from InvestorPlace.com readers like you, and was thrilled to see so many suggested questions. You can read a full list of your fellow investors’ concerns here, and I promise I will post more on the event when I have a chance to dig into my notes.
But I wanted to share some general thoughts in my first piece from this summit… namely, lessons you can use as an investor trying to protect your retirement funds.
Much of the talk at the White House summit, as can be expected, focused on the debt ceiling, the housing crisis and the job market. But during the give-and-take with top White House officials on these issues, there were some nuggets of wisdom that clearly applied to everyday investors and regular folks planning their retirement.
Here are those 4 tips, from the president’s own lips and from his chief economic advisor:
“Don’t spend all your money”
Doug Harbrecht of Kiplinger asked the president for his best personal finance tip for regular Americans. Obama’s simple response: “Don’t spend all your money.”
The president went on to explain that doesn’t mean you pinch pennies – citing how he and First Lady Michelle Obama plunked down $125,000 for their educations, including Harvard law school. But that was money well spent.
“Some folks say that investment is just another term for spending,” the president said. “There’s an important distinction.” He stressed that being strategic with your debt and living within your means could be best things you do to secure a strong financial future.
Those are comments that apply to Obama’s personal spending choices, to the federal government and certainly to those planning for retirement.
Remember the Big Picture
Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors (for the time being, anyway), was quick to deflect fears of the job market after disappointing numbers in May showed unemployment tick back up to 9.1%.
“You cannot make too much out of any one jobs report,” he told reporters at Wednesday’s summit at the White House, and stressed that the bigger picture was that 1 million jobs have been added across the last six months. “You don’t want to overreact to one month’s numbers that are different from what has been the trend.”
We can — and should — have a separate conversation about what how to truly determine the long-term trend of the job market and the economy. Data can be slippery, and numbers often can tell many different stories. But the idea of tuning out the “noise” is an important one that Americans should embrace.
In this difficult market, there are a host of conflicting data points on economic issues and specific investments – not just on jobs but on bank stocks, the housing market, gold prices, and a plethora of others.
Unless you’re a trader looking for a short-term pop, don’t worry about short-term gyrations. Most Americans should simply keep a clear focus on long-term trends and recognize whether they align with their retirement goals and investing strategies.