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Two books to sit back, read, enjoy and learn

Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM

Originally published: December 26, 2005

This will be a slow week in the financial markets, and in your personal life. There are many useful actions you could take, but who has the energy after that shopping spree and all that holiday food?

You could take these lazy days and organize your files to get everything ready for tax-time in April. You could make a plan to control spending in the coming year or review your investments. You could look over your estate plan or check to make sure you have adequate life insurance. But you know you won’t do those things.

This week is the time to relax. So while you’re relaxing I have two books for you to read. Neither will directly affect the state of your personal finances. Each could have a powerful impact on your life, and on your future. And since you don’t want to do anything particularly useful in the next few days, curling up with two very short, very enjoyable, and very fascinating books might be just the right activity to get you ready for the New Year.

Clem Stone redux

Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude by W. Clement Stone. At you can buy a copy of this legendary motivational best-seller for $7.99 in paperback. It costs less than a movie, and will keep you entertained far longer. It might even change your life.

Stone was the quintessential American success story. When he died at age 100 in 2002, he had created a billion-dollar fortune, starting as a 6-year-old selling newspapers on a street corner to help support his widowed mother.

He built Combined Insurance Co., later merged with Ryan Insurance to form Aon Corp.

But Stone’s financial success is only part of the legend. He developed a system for creating success, which he used to encourage those who sold his insurance policies. It was a methodology that spread far beyond product sales. Eventually, copies of his books taught generations of his followers that they could do or become anything they truly believed.

His motto: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve with PMA.” PMA stands for “positive mental attitude.” And if you read his book, you’ll learn how to create your own positive approach to life. Then it will be no surprise that good fortune seems to find you.

Another legendary billionaire, Chicago real estate tycoon Sam Zell, said almost the same thing to me last week. I asked about his outlook for 2006, and he responded with a wide grin, “I’m very optimistic, very positive.”

When I pointed out that there are so many global economic worries that threaten America, he calmly explained that none of that mattered as long as “America remains the only country where you can succeed based on your own talents. And where you can fail, and be allowed to start over.” He notes that other countries rarely give the second chances that Americans take as their birthright. It is this entrepreneurial encouragement that draws people from around the world to create businesses here.

For the year ahead, Zell says, American government should concentrate its efforts on the global protection of intellectual property. As long as people can expect to create new enterprises, and receive the rewards of their intellectual capital, Zell predicts America will flourish.

It was a strange coincidence to be writing this column and hear Zell’s words of optimism. These two self-made American billionaires are living proof that optimism -- and brains -- can work wonders.

Need to know

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart by Dr. Gordon Livingston.

America is full of books that purport to guide you to a life well-lived. I think this is one of the best. Subtitled Thirty Things You Need to Know Now, it is direct and almost shockingly pertinent to so many aspects of your life. The $18 cost, plus the time you spend to read -- and re-read -- it is worth many expensive hours in a psychiatrist’s chair.

This book is a national best-seller, and certainly doesn’t need my endorsement. But so frequently I receive e-mails about personal financial problems and I recognize that money isn’t really the issue. It’s just a symptom of what is wrong in many relationships between adults, or parents and children, or just the problems of individuals alone.

The few simple, but potent lessons of this book will change your life far more than adding zeros on your financial balance sheet. And that’s The Savage Truth.

Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser. Distributed by Creators Syndicate.

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