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My name is Mark Ford.
I turned 60 years old a few months ago.
For most of my life—since I was in my mid-20s—I dedicated myself almost entirely to making money.
I started with service businesses—roofing, carpentry, pool building, and house painting.
I graduated to retail operations—restaurants, bars, a health club, a martial arts dojo, two travel agencies, and two art galleries. I started two P.R. firms and a rare coin business.
Next, I got into direct marketing. I owned and ran businesses in just about every field you can imagine. We sold watches, jewelry, televisions, grandfather clocks, tomatoes, sunglasses, magazines, perfumes, and cosmetics—just to name a few.
Then I got into something I really cared about—the publishing business. I owned or ran dozens of publishing companies. We sold books, magazines, and newsletters about travel, health, business, real estate, and investing.
I developed a large vacation resort on the Pacific Ocean in Central America. And I started several adult education programs.
One thing I’m proud of: With a few exceptions, I never relied on contracts to keep me safe. I always based my deals on the trust I had in my partners and the knowledge I had in business and investing.
Many of these businesses were profitable. Some of them soared. One of the businesses I took an interest in, for example, is worth around a billion dollars today.
But it wasn’t all strawberries and cream. Some of the businesses I got involved in were big flops. (Like the record-of-the-month club I started in the mid-1980s. It lost me about $750,000, as I recall.)
Two of my partners screwed me. And I’ve had to fire some of my best friends. About 20 years ago the U.S. government sued me. That resulted in some terrible press in local newspapers.
When success is your only driver, you can make bad decisions. I made mine and I’ve learned from them. They made me a wiser and more confident businessperson today.
I invested my profits very conservatively. I was a big buyer of real estate, both commercial and residential. I got in at the right time and exited in 2005. I’ve made a ton of money investing in “earth.”
I was also a big buyer of quality municipal bonds. I restructured my portfolio years before the mainstream press realized the dangers there. And I bought gold—lots and lots of gold—when it was trading at $400 per ounce. I wasn’t lucky. I just used common sense.
There were times when I speculated in stocks as an individual investor. But I’ve also been an insider, starting and promoting several public companies. I learned about stocks from the inside out. This made me even more conservative. And it kept me out of the stock market during the three major fallouts that have occurred during my investing career.
And when I was growing rich, I bought loads of life insurance and annuity policies. I soon figured out what a scam most of these policies are. This is knowledge I cherish today.
Then I Had an Epiphany
I remember the day it struck me. My wife and I were walking over a bridge in Rome. She was enjoying the scenery. I was thinking about all the businesses and investments that needed my attention.
Standing on that bridge, looking at the Tiber River, I realized there was no need for me to keep working. I had more money than I could use in three lifetimes. It was time for a change.
I turned to my wife and I apologized for being a money-driven maniac for 30 years. I promised that I would never again devote my life to making money.
And I kept that promise.
I thank my lucky stars every day she put up with me for all that time. And I’m immensely grateful for our three boys. They are now trying to make their own ways in the world.
These days, I consider myself “semi-retired.”
We live in a $5 million home overlooking the ocean in Palm Beach County. And we have more real estate, gold, art, and cash than I can keep track of.
I take six to eight weeks off each year to live with my wife in some wonder destination. We like cities. We pick a different one each summer. We’ve become “citizens” of Paris, London, Madrid, Aix en Provence, Chicago, and our favorite, New York City. (Two of our sons live there.)
Sometimes we rent apartments or villas. Other times we stay in beautiful little boutique hotels she discovers from her reading.
Every six to eight weeks, I travel to our second home overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Nicaragua. There I spend time writing fiction and poetry, reading books, and enjoying fine wine and cigars.
I've made my health a top priority. I work out twice every day and compete at an expert level in Jiu Jitsu tournaments with men half my age.
But the biggest change I’ve made is how I think about money. It is no longer a top priority for me. In fact, it isn’t a consideration at all.
I continue to consult with a few businesses—but only businesses I like and respect. And I limit my consulting to what I enjoy—teaching and writing.
Teaching is in my blood. (My father and mother were both teachers, as was my grandmother and her mother before her.) Teaching other people what I’ve learned about business and wealth building is now my top professional goal.
Over the last decade, I've written more than a dozen books on entrepreneurship, building wealth, and personal productivity—some of which were Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestsellers. I've also spent time mentoring young entrepreneurs. Many of them have become millionaires.
I did occasionally think about writing my own investment newsletter over the years. But I never thought there would be a market for simple, common sense investment advice that really works.
But then, last year, a former protégé and colleague of mine suggested that I write my own newsletter. He said he believe there was a need for the kind of investment advice I’d been giving to my friends in these letters.
He told me that the beating investors have been taking in the markets these past years has changed many minds. He was confident I could write a newsletter that people would buy. Since he was (and is) one of the most successful investment publishers in the world, I thought, “Well, maybe I can.”
Maybe I can help teach regular investors what I’ve learned about investing. Maybe I can help them avoid the B.S. that passes for good ideas in the financial press every day.
(Even in The Wall Street Journal and Barron’s—half of the stuff you read is laughable.)
Maybe I can pass along the simple, common sense publishing ideas that have worked so well for me.
After all, when you've had all the good fortune I’ve had in business… when you’ve met (and even mentored) dozens of investment gurus… when you've made all the money you will ever need… it’s time to do something else.
Teaching and writing gives me pleasure I can’t get from making money any more.
So that's where I am right now in my life. And that’s why I’m writing for this investment letter.
My greatest hope is that my experience will pay off.
If it does, and if along the way you find that you enjoy the way I see the world, then maybe one day you will consider me a valuable friend.