“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Clare Booth Luce

Stop what you are doing. Sit down with a 4″x6″ index card and see if you can write down, as simply, as possible, your philosophy on savings, spending and investing. My guess is that for most it will be a difficult task.

A few years ago Harold Pollack published an index card filled with some simple rules that guide his financial life. Now Harold Pollack’s index card is the subject of a book by Pollack and Helaine Olen entitled The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to be Complicated. Olen earlier wrote Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry which I enjoyed as well. Little did Pollack know at the time but his exercise has spawned a cottage industry in index card finance.

Christine Benz of Morningstar jumped into this game as well. Ron Lieber at the New York Times asked a handful of fellow financial writers including Carl Richards, author of The One-Page Financial Plan, Jonathan Clements author of Money Guide 2016, cartoonist Scott Adams and others to contribute their index cards as well. Lieber does a nice job of summing up some of the lessons and finding some commonalities. Below you can see Richard’s card which, not surprisingly was done with a Sharpie.


Source: New York Times

One could argue as Felix Salmon does in this podcast with Harold Pollack that these types of rules really don’t need much more explanation like that found in the book. However Olen in a Huffington Post interview said that some readers wanted some more reasoning behind some of the rules and that is why they decided to flesh out these ideas further at book length, albeit short.

The challenge with all of these index cards is that they are all unique. They are all in fact a function of the outlook, disposition and experience of the writer. So read them with a keen eye. See where there are some commonalities. But in the end you will have to come up with your own “index card” because you are a unique individual. That and the fact that no one else cares about your money more than you.