Most people would have heard of Mozart for his composing skills in music which is absolutely stunning as a child protégée, but let’s see Mozart’s not so impressive skill - Money.
Mozart was born in a middle class family in Rome and from age five showed exceptional ability and even performed before European royalty at that young age. He was a musician in Salzburg but was restless and travelled to Venice in search of better opportunities. He composed around 600 symphonies, concertos and operas and most of which are considered to be classics and he is considered to be one of the greatest classical composers of all time.
To get a perspective on Mozart’s skill, In 1769 Mozart then age 13 while in Rome heard Gregorio Allegri’s MISERERE performed once in Sistine chapel and wrote out the entire score from memory and only a few times returned to correct his mistakes which is absolutely stunning. Most people reading this would nod their heads with oh, the 10,000 hour rule, but nobody knew the hours of practice Mozart took. Also among this list includes many operas written by Mozart.
In mid 1780’s Mozart‘s Opera was very successful across Europe and he started receiving returns from his concerts and publishing and along with it came lavish lifestyle. He lived in lavish apartments of vienna and sent his son to an expensive boarding school, kept servants and also maintained a busy social life.In 1784 it was the most prolific year, he appeared in 22 concerts in a 5 week period including 5 he produced and performed as a soloist.
By mid 1780‘s Mozart’s lavish lifestyle took a toll, despite his vast and admired success Mozart was not able to keep up with his lifestyle and fell into serious financial trouble. By 1787 Mozart’s financial trouble was so serious he had to take a job as a part time composer for a low pay and to make matters worse his debt was accumulating that he had to move his family to a Suburb in Vienna to cut down on living expenses and even began to borrow money from his friends.
Mozart died at the age of 35 in 1791 due to military fever although the exact reason is unknown. At the time of his death Mozart was considered one of the greatest composers and his works have largely influenced many composers like Beethoven. Mozart was famous, highly talented and a child protégée but on the other side he wasn’t so talented with his money and his story did not end well, after his death his wife had to sell many of his unpublished manuscripts to clear the huge family debts and she had to live on pension.
What lessons we can draw from Mozart‘s life is important. Being the talented, famous and skillful, Mozart was not thrifty he had a very lavish lifestyle and a spending hand which caused him serious financial trouble throughout his career until his death. Regardless of your profession If you are constantly extending your lifestyle with leverage no matter the returns you generate at the end it will end in ruin and as an investor in order to Compound wealth the first skill is SURVIVAL.
To paraphrase Charlie Munger in his USC commencement speech about Mozart “ When the world’s best like Mozart couldn’t get away with it, you shouldn’t do it”. Most people take the wrong example from famous and the rich by envying their possessions rather their skills which makes them think famous people are good with money and happy. But the truth is no matter how famous or rich if we cannot control our finances and spending it leads to ruin.
More we save higher the margin of safety and freedom in decision making, Consider the person who has 1 year of emergency funds during the COVID he would be in peace and have the freedom to wait to make better choices even In case of a job loss, while without savings there would be no optionality and will expose him to serious risks. Higher savings has intangible benefits of optionality, freedom of choice and sereneness.
A few things to keep in mind,
Famous people need not be smart with their money, they have social and peer pressure to live upto which pushes them to live upto certain expectations. Ex : We see many of our film stars who are always spotted in fancy clothes and cars, but what’s invisible is their wealth, bank balance and debt which we don’t know the true position. So don’t take financial cues from famous and rich people.
Whatever the income level if we spend more than we earn it leads to leverage and that leads to disaster.
Invert and ask what will lead me to disastrous outcomes and avoid them.
In order to compound wealth Survival is a quintessential skill.
Warren Buffett says - If you buy things you don’t need, you will have to sell things you need. This is exactly what happened in Mozart’s life. Which would have been a good lesson for him if Buffett was born earlier in time ! !
No doubt Mozart was a genius with melody, but not with money. Choose your hero’s carefully.
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