All You Need to Know About Personal Finance Fits on One Index Card

tall stack of books

We could argue that the best advice generally comes in 10 words or less. After all, the classic cliches -- "Don't count your chickens before they hatch," "neither a borrower nor a lender be," "don't hit on a 16 in blackjack" -- manage to pack worlds of wisdom into just a few words.

But when it comes to financial wisdom, you need a lot more words, right? Like thousands of them, preferably contained in one of those bright yellow "Dummies" books. You need words like "collateral," "yellow sheet" and "debenture." The kinds of words that would make a banker sit up and take notice.

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Maybe not. Earlier this week, The Washington Post's Wonkblog took a shot at the financial brevity game when it highlighted the efforts of Harold Pollack, a University of Chicago social scientist who had a long conversation with a personal finance expert, then distilled the wisdom of the ages into 11 sentences that fit on one side of a 4 x 6 index card.

He claims that he could have fit everything on a 3 x 5 card, but didn't have one handy.

As you might have expected, most of Pollack's advice was pretty simple: he focused on saving money, being careful about transactions where you have insufficient information, and avoiding fees. Then again, unless you want to spend all your time managing your investments, most of your money moves will focus on simplifying -- and clarifying -- where your money goes and what it does.

If you want to look at Pollack's card (and, perhaps, print it out!), here's his website.

Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings editor. You can reach him by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.