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'Life to the fullest' is his bottom line

When it comes to financial planning, David Hartzell of Cornell Capital Management is conservative. From his home office in Clarence Center, he counsels clients to be consistent in their spending and saving. On the other hand, he a husband and father of three grown children -- loves a good adventure. A fan of Bob Marley, W.C. Fields and surfing, Hartzell has held some quirky jobs during his 53 years.

>People Talk: You were a circus fire-swallower?

David Hartzell: Swallowing fire is one of easiest acts to do in the circus. I could train you to do it in five minutes. As long as you keep the fire torch away from your lips and gums, you won't get burned. Between you and me, it's a no-talent thing. It's not like walking the wire or juggling or riding a unicycle.

>PT: What was your first paying job?

DH: Selling vegetables and popcorn on Sunday during football games door to door. My dad wanted me to be a salesman.

>PT: How did you get your start in finance?

DH: My dad started me trading stocks in high school. He was a trader, and I gave him money across the breakfast table to go and buy me stocks. I started trading little, a couple of shares. At one time, I was making more money trading than working for [General Electric] as a manager.

>PT: I have the post-holiday spending blues. What do I do?

DH: If you overspent your budget already this year, it's too late. The horse is out of the barn. Next year, start to set up -- I tell people this all the time and no one ever does it -- get a spread sheet, list all your expenses and how much you make. Every month you should know how much you've saved or bled. Also, think about how much you want to spend and open a Christmas account. When December 1st rolls around, the money will be there.

>PT: What percentage of your salary should be spent on entertainment?

DH: I think you should enjoy your life. I'm a big W.C. Fields fan. "Why save money for a rainy day?," he said. "What happens if it doesn't rain?" Think of money as an integral part of your life, but you should spend it and not hoard it.

>PT: Will you be leaving your children money?

DH: I had to make all my money. I received nothing from my parents other than they helped me with my education, which was good. But you shouldn't spoil your kids to the point where they don't work. Should you leave your kids money? Yes, but that should be structured so they get that money when they're in their 40s or 50s, after they've gone to college, worked hard, established themselves. Money at that point in their lives maybe will allow them to retire, travel, make the film they've always wanted to make. But it doesn't ruin them like I think it would if they got it in their 20s.

>PT: What is a common mistake people make with money?

DH: Not planning. People have a rough idea of how much they make, how much they spend. They put away a little bit, but there's no plan. That always amazes me, because when you take a trip, the better you plan that trip, the better it winds up. If you get to your early 60s and you don't have any money, you're just screwed. In the United States, being poor is difficult.

>PT: Would you describe yourself as frugal?

DH: On some things. I don't spend a lot of money on clothes. I have three really nice suits -- three $1,000 suits that I rotate. I buy books. I eat very simply. I'm happy with a hamburger. The other night I was at UB and they had a drawing for an iPod at $20 a ticket, and your odds were one in 50. I'm a poker player. I don't play when the odds are one to eight against me. I can't buy a ticket for one in 50.

>PT: What do you spend money on?

DH: I love to go out and eat with my kids and my wife. In a family, a lot of quality time is sitting, eating, talking to each other -- especially when you have kids in college. Travel can be expensive, but I think you grow whenever you travel.

>PT: Personally, what would you be willing to take a risk at?

DH: Taking a risk makes your life that much better. My son Ryan and I ran with the bulls two years ago in Pamplona. This year we're going to Turkey. Next year, we're going down the Amazon, and the year after we're going to climb to the second base camp of Mount Everest.

>PT: Who is your role model?

DH: George Plimpton. I read all his stuff and I met him one time in college. He's an adventurer and a writer, two things I love. From a financial standpoint, I love how Warren Buffett makes money in different ways. He's made money in options, in buying and selling companies. The only thing I don't like is if he doesn't understand something, he doesn't take the time to read it and study it. The technology boom of the '90s? He did very little with tech stocks. Tech stocks were what bought me this house.

>PT: Money aside, what would you be doing?

DH: I'd like to make movies. If my wife would agree, I would go to Hollywood. On my bucket list is to take a movie to Sundance. I have the film. I have the financing. I have a director. I need a script. I need a great little story for a 20-minute film.

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