Best Investment Advice

The Best Investment Advice I Ever Got

Terry Lieb God Finds, Healing Relationships, Judging Others 4 Comments

When I was a youngster just starting my own newspaper route, I got some advice from a friend of the family. “You need to open your own savings account and get into the habit of saving,” he told me. “If you pay yourself first and make those deposits on a regular basis, between your savings and the interest you’ll be totally surprised at how quickly it grows!”

Then, in what seemed like a throw-away statement, he added, “Actually most aspects of life are like that, especially relationships, whether it’s a friendship or a marriage. Those regular deposits really add up. Again, the key is regular deposits!”

I did open my own savings account as he suggested and began putting his financial advice into practice. But it was his “add on” statement that really got lodged deep in my gray matter.

Rita's Bible Study Group Now

Rita’s Bible Study Group Now

His words came flying back from my subconscious the other day as I sat with seven senior ladies under a pavilion in Bowers Park. Rita had invited me to speak to her “BS” group on the risks and rewards of investing in a long-term small group experience. This incredible group of women has been meeting weekly for nearly 40 years! It originally began as a traditional Bible study group but eventually evolved into a safe, non-judgmental place to explore one’s own faith journey.

This evolution occurred in part because of the diversity of the participants. The membership has changed over the years as people moved or passed away and new members are added, but it has at one time or another contained not only members of many mainline Christian traditions including Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and UCC, but everything from Old Order, horse-and-buggy Mennonite to “New Age” to some who are unaffiliated with any organized faith tradition. Equally interesting is the fact that their political views run the entire spectrum.

Although it might seem like this diversity would be a disadvantage, ensuring disagreement and preventing bonding, quite the opposite has proven true. As we talked about the blessings they received through being a member of the group, a solid thread ran through most of the women’s responses. Over and over again I heard some version of, “No matter how different I am or think or believe, I have never felt judged or made to feel in any way less as a person. In fact, beyond just being accepted, I’ve even felt celebrated and appreciated for my ‘uniqueness’ and what I bring as an individual!”

Please, just for a few moments imagine with me what the world might be like if each of us spent an hour or two a week being appreciated for who we are and learning to appreciate others for the same. Can you picture it?

Another powerful benefit that the members reported echoed the advice from my long-ago mentor: the amazing power of regular deposits compounding over time. Every week for nearly 40 years this group has been putting “deposits” in their relationship account. Over that time they have been through all the ups and downs of life together.

In addition to the births, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, and other joys, the group has also shared their sorrows. The amount of pain, struggle, disappointment and grief over those 40 years is impossible to summarize in a blog. There have been job losses, divorces, and serious accidents and illnesses; some have lost their spouses, two of the members lost young children and others adult children. Through it all, every Monday, they have had the group.

And the caring is not confined to the weekly meetings. When a member receives a diagnosis or loses a family member (including pets!) every member is notified quickly. Then, depending on the issue or concern, the prayers, phone calls, casseroles, or whatever else is needed get going.

Bible Study Group

The Bible Study Group circa 2014

Things became a bit emotional at times as the women shared their experiences. One woman who joined over 20 years ago said that after her husband and best friend died “I was totally devastated and not sure life was worth living. I was drowning and this group became my life preserver!” Again, this sentiment was repeated again and again by other members who had benefitted from the support of the group at a low point in their lives.

Once again please stop reading and take a few moments to imagine what life would be like if each of us had that kind of support system and caring response available to us.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had many remarkable experiences with small groups myself, often as a leader or facilitator. However, the most significant and life-changing one was a couples group that Rita and I joined soon after we wed as a spin-off from Marriage Encounter. The three other couples in this newly-formed group were at least 20 years older than us and each couple had six children. All good practicing Catholics! We were basically newlyweds and had no children at that point.

All eight of us invested heavily in that group, meeting monthly and sharing our “love letters” (a Marriage Encounter staple) which had been written that previous month on a topic we had selected at our last meeting. First we shared them with our spouse privately and then with three other couples. The topics ranged from death to sex and everything in between. In the 20+ years that we met, that’s over 200 topics we explored!

It was an incredible blessings for Rita and me to benefit from other couples’ experience with that many years together and each raising six children (and in our time together, one couple got a surprise seventh!). Despite our youth and inexperience, they always made Rita and me feel like we brought as much to the group as they did. At first I didn’t quite understand that, but now I realize that different perspectives, backgrounds, and personalities can be as valuable as years of experience.

As with Rita’s group, the many years of regular meetings in which we shared all the highs and lows of life allowed us to develop an incredible level of intimacy and trust, a shared history, and an anchor of continuity and stability in an ever-changing world. What a gift!

Although both of these groups were specifically designed for deep personal sharing, even groups that form around other activities can reap some of the same benefits. For instance, I was part of a men’s fly-fishing group for many, many years. Each trip, we’d relive memories from the past years and add “deposits” to our bank account of stories and inside jokes. Even though we only went once a year, “getting away from it all” allowed us to step back and take stock of our lives, often prompting some truly meaningful conversations.

From this experience and many others, I’ve found that virtually any group that meets regularly and has some space for personal sharing can develop deep relationships and support, and these activity-oriented groups can be a more appealing alternative for some folk—men, I’m looking at you!—who might not be as comfortable talking about their feelings directly.

So, if there are such profound benefits to being part of a small group, why aren’t more people doing it?

There are several possible obstacles. One is a fear of judgment or rejection. Folks may have even had painful experiences in the past where this has happened. Another possible concern is that what they share won’t be kept confidential.

Finding a safe, accepting group that celebrates diversity can take some work (and maybe even kissing some frogs!), but a group that is explicit in its belief that no one has the “correct” answer is more likely to fit the bill. As with all relationships, intimacy is best established over time. Open up gradually as the group proves itself worthy of your trust.

Another reason some people are hesitant to join groups can be because they think the relationships developed there are “artificial” or “inauthentic” compared to friendships that arise spontaneously and organically.

Terry and fly fishing buddies

Terry and fly fishing buddies

Speaking from personal experience, there is nothing “lesser” about the relationships I have formed in groups, even when the other members aren’t people I necessarily would have chosen as likely friends because we didn’t have a lot in common on the surface. Getting to know them on a deeper level often helped me see and appreciate aspects I would never have known about otherwise. The structure of the group is just a framework; what happens within the group is completely spontaneous and authentic.

Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles preventing people from joining a group is sheer busy-ness and the pace of modern life. I just had someone say to me, “Be realistic, Terry. How many people do you really believe have the kind of time to invest in a group like that on a regular basis?”

Thinking back on those couples who were in the midst of raising six-plus kids, I wondered how many of them had a lot of extra free time laying around. I knew the answer.

“I guess it would be the folks who saw the value in it and made it a priority and were willing to take some time out of their schedule to make it happen,” I told him.

“Touché!” he replied.

Finally, some people are enthusiastic about being in a group and even long for that kind of an experience, but say they don’t know of any groups they can join. To which I respond, “How hard have you looked? And if there truly aren’t any groups in your area, why not start one?”

There is an abundance of small group resources available that cover everything from recruiting members to setting group norms to discussion guides for every interest. There is no special expertise required; it just takes a willingness to try!

So there it is: the best investment advice I ever got. Harness the power of regular deposits and compounding interest—whether in a small group or any of your other relationships—and the dividends you will receive will be astonishing. It’s easily the safest investment you’ll ever make. And you can take that to the bank!



  1. Reflect on your own experiences with small groups. What was the best, and why? The worst, and why?
  2. Is what you get from being a part of a group different than one-on-one relationships? If so, can you articulate what the difference is?
  3. Are you currently part of any small groups? If not, is anything holding you back? Would you be willing to start your own group? Why or why not?
  4. Do you prefer groups in which most people are similar to you? Do you believe you would experience more growth in a group of similar-minded people or one with a diversity of perspectives?
  5. Where in your life have you experienced unconditional acceptance (in or out of a group)? How did that feel? If you have never experienced it, what do you imagine it would feel like?
  6. One of the great benefits of a group is the support you get. What experiences have you had with giving support to others? How did that make you feel?
  7. Looking at your own “investment plan,” are you happy with your current investment allocations? Are there any areas you would like to invest more or less?


Banner Photo by Visual Stories || Micheile

5 2 votes
Article Rating
Click your favorite social share option below!
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Phil Spohn
August 2, 2021 1:00 pm

We have an active weekly men’s group here. I will share this article with them. I know it will strike a cord, as I have heard the men say, numerous times, the men’s group was a lifeline during covid, even if it was on Zoom. thanks Terry

August 2, 2021 3:15 pm

You have some very thought provoking advice. Too many times I have been in groups who think alike. I learn so much more when I hear both sides of a critical topic.

Anthony Bifulco
Anthony Bifulco
August 2, 2021 9:28 pm

You did it again! Bonnie had just shared with me those very words her father told her to pay yourself first and many of those topics were within our conversation, tonight before I read this. Keep sharing those good ideas that can make us better people.
Tony Bifulco

Nancy Robertson
Nancy Robertson
August 4, 2021 8:19 pm

I seem to always learn something new about you and Rita, as well as about myself from your blogs. Freddy & I have been blessed by being part of some great small groups over the years, but none of the duration of yours! Amazing! Your insight and challenges are much appreciated and help us to stretch and grow. Thank You!