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Yogi Berra: The greatest financial planner ever?

America lost a beloved iconic figure a few months ago when baseball legend Yogi Berra passed away at age 90.

I can't imagine there is anyone who hasn't heard of him — not only as a fantastic baseball player but also as a warmhearted personality famous for brilliantly awkward sayings that will live forever. The world could use a lot more Yogi Berra-isms.

Yogi Berra
Getty Images
Yogi Berra

Enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, Yogi had a legendary baseball career, with a .285 lifetime batting average, 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in. He was a catcher for both the New York Yankees and the Mets and also managed and coached both teams at various times. Yogi appeared in 21 World Series as player, coach or manager — and won 13 of them.

But Yogi was also one of the greatest financial planners of all time. He left us many pearls of wisdom on just about every aspect of personal finance — from investing and insurance to teaching kids about money. He just had his own unique way of phrasing the financial advice he gave.


Please allow me to translate some of Yogi's best-known aphorisms so you can better understand what he was really saying.

"It's ain't over till it's over." You're invested for the long term, so don't focus on the stock market's recent performance. Stay focused on your destination — such as retirement.

"It's déjà vu all over again." The fact that stock prices have been down much of this year isn't unusual. We've seen declines before, and we'll see them again.

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it." You don't need to choose between owning stocks or bonds. You should own both.

"I usually take a two-hour nap from 1 till 4." If you're wondering if this is the time to get out of the market, just sleep on it.

"I never answer an anonymous letter." Ignore the advice and predictions you hear from pundits and other strangers — people who don't know you. Rely instead on your own personal financial advisor, who knows you well and knows what you need. Never let media headlines scare you.

"I didn't really say everything I did." Don't be so sure you heard me correctly on the radio. You're busy driving, texting, vacuuming or chatting (hopefully you're not doing all four at once) and you might have misunderstood what you think I said. Before acting on anything you hear on my radio show, call to confirm.

"We made too many wrong mistakes." Too many people repeatedly buy high and sell low. Knock it off.

"You can observe a lot by watching." Look beyond your own personal experiences. Consider history instead. I met a fellow who bought a mutual fund in 1999, only to have it fall 50 percent in 2000.

"I'll never buy a mutual fund again," he said. Instead of focusing on his experience, he should consider the experience of the tens of millions of investors who have invested in mutual funds since 1924. Yogi was right: You can observe a lot by watching.

"'Pair up in threes.' You should rely on a financial planner, a tax advisor and an estate attorney."

"The future ain't what it used to be." Exponential technologies are going to change every aspect of our lives — just as I explain on my radio and TV shows and in my monthly newsletter.

"It gets late early out here." If you haven't yet started saving for retirement, start now.

"If the world were perfect, it wouldn't be." You don't have to be 100 percent correct with every single financial decision. No one ever is. Warren Buffett said, "It's better to be approximately right than precisely wrong."

"Pair up in threes." You should rely on a financial planner, a tax advisor and an estate attorney.

"Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel." Don't skimp on buying the right kind and amount of life, disability and long-term care insurance merely because you don't think you'll need it. The cost of these policies is nothing compared to the value you'll derive when you need to file a claim.

"I'm not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia; let them walk to school like I did." Don't make life too easy on your kids — because their college professors, employers and spouse won't. Prepare them for life instead of letting them think they'll be able to coast through it.

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"Thank you for making this day necessary." You're going to reach retirement one day. Make sure you'll be ready financially.

And I will bet you thought Yogi Berra only excelled at baseball.

— By Ric Edelman, chairman and CEO of Edelman Financial Services