Ed Lambert is one of Birch Run Financial‘s co-founders, a company that builds financial plans designed to stay in sync with life’s evolution. He began his career in the capital markets in 2001 with Morgan Stanley. Ed also co-authored Mastering the Money Mind: A New Way of Thinking About Personal Finance, a book that can help investors make smarter financial decisions.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in a middle-class family in the suburbs of Philadelphia. My Dad owned a construction business. Both of my grandfathers owned businesses, as well. Coming from a family of small business owners made me want to get into an entrepreneurial type of occupation, also.
As a freshman in college, I became very interested in investing and the stock market. I realized by talking to my Dad about investing that there were a lot of successful people who could use my help. By the time I was 19 years old, I decided that I wanted to be a financial advisor, despite the fact that I had never met one and didn’t really understand what the business entails. All I knew was that I loved investing and could help people in that area.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
I wish that I had learned earlier in life to enjoy the ride. Life is short and passes us by quickly. For the first 15 years or so of my career, I had trouble disconnecting mentally from work. I’ve since learned that it’s important to have complete mental breaks from work to enjoy life and rejuvenate. Being well-rested and centered allows you to not only be happier but also to be more effective in your career.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Like everyone in my industry, there are certain types of investments that I prefer over others. We all have our opinions about what strategies we believe to be most efficient.
One thing that does particularly bother me is when market prognosticators make bold predictions that often scare average investors into making mistakes. I believe wholeheartedly that short-term market movements are unpredictable and that most people who try to time the markets by making large moves usually end up hurting themselves.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
Without a doubt, the fall of 2008 was a very dark period for me. The financial crisis created a lot of uncertainty about the solvency of many of our financial institutions. The more that you understood, the scarier it became. When Lehman Brothers collapsed in September, there were legitimate concerns that there could be a wave of bankruptcies that could cause things to spiral out of control. For many who worked in finance, this was a period of 24/7 stress and fear.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
I attribute the success that I’ve had in my career to consistency. Jokingly, Alex sometimes calls me “Steady Eddie”. This nickname is actually quite appropriate. Every day, I go to work and try to give a good effort. There is a compound effect created by doing the right things day in and day out, regardless of your talent level or intelligence.
What is your morning routine?
I’m an early bird. I wake up at 5 am each day, make a coffee and eat an apple. Then I meditate for 10 minutes. By 5:30, I’m off to the gym. With a young family, I’ve found that I need to work out first thing in the day to be able to stay consistent.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Going to the gym and meditating before work each day. By the time I get to work in the morning, I feel completely energized. By doing these two things to start the day, I create momentum that carries over into the work day.
The reality is that all of us are going to have both good and bad days. By taking care of your physical and mental health, you tip the odds in favor of having a good day. You also tend to bounce back from adversity more quickly when you are taking care of yourself.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I am extremely structured with my time. Most of my day is pre-planned and scheduled in advance. It is vital to plan your work and work your plan.
Periodically, it’s also a good idea to schedule a time to evaluate whether you are doing the most important things or not. People often end up wasting their time doing “busy work” that is either unimportant or could be done by someone else. Make sure that you are spending your time doing the highest leverage activities possible.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. I’ve read this book at least 5 times over the past twenty years. Stanley and Danko did a wonderful job of shattering the image of how wealthy people truly live. People who actually have a lot of money tend to be understated in their financial habits. That, of course, is why they have money. Remember, income does not equal wealth. Often, the hyper consumers who spend the most money are one or two paychecks from insolvency.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Albert Einstein once said that “Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it earns it. He who doesn’t pay it.” While debatable whether Einstein actually said this, wealth accumulation truly comes down to how well to take advantage of the compounding effect of money over time. Starting investing early to give your money more time to grow makes all the difference in the world.
In today’s world, most of us will live into the traditional retirement age. Those who made good financial decisions in their 20s and 30s will have options when they are older because of the power of compound interest. Those who don’t will always be scrambling to catch up.