John Spooner and his grandchildren
by Susan Flynn
If you believe in the long-term approach to investing, financial adviser John Spooner has given his grandchildren a gift more valuable than shares of Apple.
Spooner is the author of No One Ever Told Us That (Business Plus; 2012), a series of letters to his four grandchildren that offer advice on everything from drafting an eye-catching resume, for marrying the right person and the value of a good suit.
Spooner, 74, has written fiction and nonfiction books and pens a regular column for the Improper Bostonian. People, particularly kids, may not like to listen to advice, he says. But they’ll listen to stories. He tells many in the book – about his demanding father, a failed business, and, as a fledgling writer, his pursuit of Ernest Hemingway down back alleyways in Spain.
We spoke with Spooner about his new book, which, incidentally, his grandchildren have given rave reviews. In fact, his 17-year-old grandson showed up at his office the other day in a blazer.
1 What advice do you wish someone gave you as a budding adult?
A: My father constantly said life is really hard, punctuated by moments of brilliance. He was right, but I don’t think I really paid attention to him back then. I wish somebody told me back then about the accidental nature of life. There are certain things you shouldn’t worry about because they are going to happen. But the key to good accidents happening is to be out there. Join bowling leagues, book clubs, softball teams, go to reunions – get out of the house.
2 Best financial advice for parents?
A: The best piece of financial advice I can give anyone, at any age, is to just remember that stock markets are influenced by emotions. So say the news is terrible and the markets seem to be very bad, the temptation is to say, ‘Let’s get out.’ Very often you should do the opposite, either buying more stocks or staying in there.
3 How can parents give advice that kids will listen to?
A: The truth is, at a certain point in adolescence, parents have no validity. A wise teacher or a coach can be a great role model. I was lucky to have one wise aunt. I thought she was so cool and I tended to take her advice
4 Why do you think your dad told you to ‘Marry funny’ instead of ‘Marry money’?
A: He kept underscoring that personality meant more than anything. What matters in a spouse is personality, an ability to bend and see the ridiculousness in life.
5 You write about frustration with today’s parenting styles. What needs to change?
A: I would like to see standards for the household and boundaries, and if you go over the boundaries, there is going to be a cause and an effect. With modern parenting, as I see it, parents say there is going to be a penalty for this transgression and seldom follow through because they can’t stand not to be best buddies with their kids. I am not saying this to be a curmudgeon; I am hearing this complaint from clients all over the country.
And, another thing, don’t get 6-year-old girls the parties where they get manicures and pedicures. It’s over the top and makes them too entitled. Take them to the zoo.
Susan Flynn is the associate editor of the Boston Parents Paper.