Investing regularly will beat a hot car or pinkie ring over the long haul

The Leckey File

Your Money

July 25, 2004

Fascination with wealth and the display of wealth - priceless.

The ancient Egyptians are proof of the maxim that "you can't take it with you." The riches in their pyramids only got as far as the hands of greedy tomb robbers, not the afterlife as originally intended.

Even now, some folks seek to control their wealth from the grave by setting up wills with endless stipulations to ensure that surviving relatives live in the manner and on the timetable that their benefactor wished. Results on these are mixed.

It may surprise you that press baron William Randolph Hearst, renowned for such opulence as his Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif., where the grounds were stocked with jungle animals, wasn't among the 10 richest Americans in the first half of the last century.

He was just the flashiest rich guy of his time.

Today's ultrarich who crave attention purchase professional sports teams to signal to the world that they've really arrived. However, this doesn't necessarily translate into success on the field of play. It must be deflating to shell out all those millions just to get booed by angry fans.

Here are some modern maxims about wealth:

1. Financial planners or brokers wearing enormous gold cufflinks and sparkling diamond rings are not necessarily the tops in their field.

They want you to think they're rich and will make you the same.

2. The make and list price of a real estate agent's automobile bear no direct correlation to whether you're going to get a deal on buying or selling a house. An expensive car is an attempt to "wow" you and may simply indicate car leasing deals abound in your area.

3. People who make the most money in life aren't necessarily the ones who wind up with the most money.

If you're an average Joe or Jane but have expensive tastes, neighbors who earn less but invest regularly will end their years comfortably while you must either scrimp to make ends meet or work till you drop.

Andrew Leckey is a Tribune Media Services columnist. E-mail him at yourmoney@tribune.com.

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