What Fiorello! teaches you about setting realistic investment goals

Fiorello! was a 1959 musical based on the life of Fiorello La Guardia, the mayor of New York from 1934 to 1945. But what can it teach us about cutting out needless expenditure?

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Fiorello La Guardia: transforming politics

Fiorello! was a 1959 musical based on the life of Fiorello La Guardia, the mayor of New York from 1934 to 1945 (pictured). It tells the story of how he transformed New York politics, against the opposition of the corrupt Tammany Hall political machine and the indifference of fellow Republicans. It enjoyed several successful runs on Broadway, winning a Tony award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (something only eight other musicals have achieved in the 82 years it has been running).

The key moment

When La Guardia finally becomes mayor, he cracks down on corruption, and several officials are hauled before a judge to explain the huge discrepancy between their extravagant lifestyles and modest city salaries.

In the song Little Tin Box the officials claim that they can afford the difference by temporarily making modest sacrifices and saving the difference. For example, one says he was able to afford a private yacht by quitting smoking for "one month or two", while another contends that by putting aside the money from "takin' empty bottles to the grocer", he could afford a new Rolls-Royce.

The lesson for investors

Cutting out needless expenditure (especially unhealthy habits such as cigarettes) and investing the amount is always a good idea. Sadly, there are limits to what regular saving can achieve, especially if the amounts are relatively small or the time frame is very short. In the end, you need to be realistic about your investment goals. If you want to build up enough money for retirement, there is no getting away from the need to save significant sums of money consistently and take appropriate levels of risk.

Other financial wisdom

In the song The Bum Won, the Republican establishment members lament that, while La Guardia won, they are unlikely to benefit, either personally or politically, because they refused to support him during his campaign. Similarly, in investment it's not enough to find a good share you need to back it with significant amounts of money and resist the temptation to cash out of it prematurely. Of course, if you stay in a company too long, then you run the risk of losing the money you have gained, so it's a question of judgement.

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