Mike Bergida


Mike Bergida 703-623-5566

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This is a new blog devoted to investing with a particular slant: investing in future generations' moral character and financial well-being.  I’ve coined this Legacy Investing.


As James W. Olsen, CFP says on his website: "…the most meaningful parts of our legacy include intangible qualities like values, traditions, ethics, morals and life’s lessons learned. We aim to assist you in transferring as much of those things as possible to your worthy recipients".


Legacy Investing is about providing funds for children and grandchildren, plus education, plus opportunity.  It’s not about control of their lives or putting them on private welfare.


In upcoming posts, we will delve into practical mechanics in each of these areas.  And the underlying principles that you will want to master and then hand on.  When you teach others, you also become a pupil.


As you align yourself with the principles of Legacy Investing, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that your hard-won victories will benefit those you love most.  They won’t have to start from square one.  Your contribution will become part of the greater contribution that your children and grandchildren can make to their families and communities because of you.


Let’s start with self-imposed discipline.


Why here?  I have seen any number of investors armed with knowledge and capital fail because their personal disciplines failed them.  Then they blamed their investment losses on the type of investment or their investment partners.


Fundamentally, they failed because of personal mismanagement.


Good discipline helps you take appropriate personal responsibility.  This is particularly important as you venture into investing for the first time.  Or, as a seasoned investor, seek to improve your returns or invest in new areas.


To be effective as an investor, you need self-mastery in these areas:

  • Thoughts
  • Actions you initiate
  • Habits
  • Character
  • Energy


We will explore thoughts in this blog and the next. In subsequent blog posts, we will discuss the other areas.



Your thought life is key to your emotions, energy, words and actions.  What is the rumble strip that your thoughts are driving you off the side of the road?


No peace.  Investments always have a degree of risk.  This has to be faced and embraced.  However, if you have no peace, if you are bombarded with anxious thoughts, then you need to back up a few steps and see if this is inherent to you or the investment situation.


  • You are beyond your comfort zone.  Part of knowing yourself is accepting that what may be tolerable risk for others is not tolerable for you.  Key here is not to project your feelings as the objective reality.  Rather, determine what is true for you.  At least at this time in your life.


Many years ago as a student in Italy, friends took me to the Dolomite Mountains.  The black diamond slopes were so sheer that you couldn’t see the side when you peered straight down.  Did I have fear?  You bet!  Did my friends who brought me?  Not in the least.  By analogy, what would have been a crashing investment for me had I tried this was very navigable for them.


In future installments, we will take up how to achieve success beyond your comfort zone.  The important realization here is not to equate your comfort zone with the objective world beyond yourself.


  • Anxious thoughts drop into your mind outside of context. Out of the blue, you have thoughts that have nothing to do with whatever activity you are engaged in or what is going on around you.  You click your mental dial.  Unbidden, the fearful thoughts come back.  With a vengeance.  It’s almost as if you experience push back as you try to keep these thoughts out.  Because of the mental static and the emotions they stir up, it’s almost impossible to focus on what is at hand.


This is a sign of spiritual activity invading your thought life.  The problem is that it masquerades as your thoughts and if you accept them, they will become your thoughts.  A good spiritual director can help you understand this dynamic and how to deal with these invasive concerns.


Unfounded Optimism.  The human mind has an uncanny ability to twist facts to fit what it wants to do.  We will gladly conform the facts of an investment opportunity to fit the glass slipper so we can go to the ball.


Here is the approach used by Benjamin Franklin to size up an opportunity.  It worked well for him and can work equally well for you.  He borrowed and adapted this technique from the French Jesuits: 


Ben Franklin’s Method of Making Important Decisions


First, write out the opportunity to be gained or the problem to solved.


Next, divide the paper into two columns.  In the plus column write down the reasons for moving ahead or the advantages to be gained.


At the same time, in the second column, jot down the reason for *not* moving ahead or the risks to be avoided.  Some people find this side flows much more easily than the other!


This process doesn’t have to begin and conclude at the first sitting.  There is merit to having this incubate over several days.  As your mind turns it over in the subconscious, you will have the benefit and confidence of sifting through your decision on a deeper level.


Sometimes an investor will tell an investment representative, I want to think it over.  In many cases, this is a smokescreen for procrastination.  They don’t really think it through at any deeper level than their initial exposure to the opportunity.


Recognizing this, some sales people employ a watered-down version called the Benjamin Franklin Close.  They’ll use it to assist an undecided prospect to commit to a favorable decision.  But, that is not the proper use of this technique.


Next, Franklin did something ingenious.  It was his own touch.  He would look at both columns and draw a line through the items that evened each other out.  For example, if two benefits cancelled out one liability, he would strike through these three items.


That way, he could reduce the field of this attention to the remaining critical few.


Finally, he would ask himself about the remaining items, What weighs more?  Do the advantages outweigh the perceived disadvantages?  Or, vice versa?


He would make his decision and stay by it. 


To conclude this post, I would like to add from my experience with this technique over the last 20 years:


  • Do the exercise on a software spreadsheet.  This will allow you to sort the different columns to better compare apples and apples.  Also, you can save the spreadsheet on your laptop for later review when you have a similar decision to make in the future.  Your stored spreadsheet will be harder to lose than a piece of paper!


  • If it is a group decision, have your spouse or children participate by adding their perspectives.  You can put initials by their observations or color code.  Even if some contributors aren’t part of making the final decision, you benefit from their input.  And they benefit from being authentically engaged in the process.  This can be the start of intergenerational education. 



Thanks for joining me.  Next time we will look at actions you initiate!  Please join us!