Money is a mind game for Harry Houdinis.
It’s a great illusion. How do we get it? How do we keep it? How does it grow? How is it taken away? How do we work out the value of money?
Most people learn the important lessons about money when it’s too late. My grandparents taught me to die with $0 in the bank. That’s how you know you’ve lived. But money lessons aren’t always what they seem. There are many paradoxes in the finance world. Let’s explore.
Money can’t replace many things
Today I switched on a hearing aid, and switched off my former life.
I told you I was a 35-year-old grandpa and my hearing aid proves it. What was that sonny Jim? Just joking. I can hear you, sorta, over the high-pitched noises created by my hearing loss.
The new hearing aid has an odd setting. It’s called Zen. The Zen setting plays quiet fractal sounds (sounds like a wind chime) to my ears all day. The patented technology from the manufacturer is supposed to use neuroplasticity to reprogram my brain not to hear the high-pitched sounds caused by my tinnitus. Who knows if it will work. But I live in hope.
No amount of money can rebuild my hearing. You get one set of ears and if you stuff them up like I did, with loud music played through headphones all day, then you’ve got to face this reality that money can’t replace.
There’s another thing money can’t replace.
No amount of money can buy back missed time with your parents — Lawrence King
That’s why I take time off my side hustles and social media to see mine. When you move out of your parent’s home as a young adult, most of the time you’ll spend with your parents before they die has expired. Think about that fact next time you ditch them for a stupid work meeting about nothing.
Money determines which games you have to play
Independence is the best financial goal. Control your schedule, don’t have to play anyone else’s games.
— Morgan Housel
I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Lambos and mansions. If my tiny tinpot business ever makes me the big bucks, a Lambo isn’t making it into the car space of my student apartment. The game of luxury isn’t one I want to play.
Life is full of games. There’s the get-an-education game. There’s the corporate rat race game I played. There are the mind games your boss forces you to play. There’s your family’s game that comes from tradition — those with Chinese families, for example, like me, will know what I mean.
The goal with money should be to avoid these games. If you learn to be smart financially, you can simply opt-out of these games. Or you can head down the minimalist path and buy less stuff to get there, too.
Luxury enslaves us. Financial independence sets us free.
The Million Dollar Question from Japan
Financial freedom is rarely reached. There are plenty of things we can do to get there if we choose. Why don’t we? Blogger Sebastian Marshall says it comes down to the million dollar question.
On a trip to Japan Sebastian took the train and got off at the wrong station. He found himself stuck in the middle of suburbia, observing the way everyday people went about their lives.
He wondered why many of them caught the train and gave up so much time to be at work. The million dollar question is why don’t people take the large opportunities in front of them? Why don’t they allow their dreams to become realities?
We don’t succeed or live our dreams because then we escape ‘normal’ and people think we’re weird. We want to be accepted. We want to be social. We want to be understood. So we stay trapped to fit in.
This insight caused him to burst into tears when he discovered it.“The further ahead you go (financially), the less people understand you.”
To be understood by everybody, you must stay in mediocrity. Let that sink in. It’s not too late to change.
The doomsdayers never correctly predict recessions
The fanboys and fangirls love Robert Kiyosaki. They think his book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” is the bible. Not me. The guy is a virus that eats away at our financial health. Here’s proof.
See what I’m saying? Guys like Robert make a living off of selling financial fear. Youtube is full of them — Mike Maloney, Peter Schiff, Harry Dent. They all have one thing in common: a love of gold.
They spread financial doomsday scenarios so that we will buy gold, ideally through their firm. Even if we don’t decide to haul a chunk of metal around with us like a ball and chain, out of fear, they still win. If people buy gold the price goes up and they get rich.
It’s never too late to understand that nobody has any idea when the financial markets will crash. Doomsday predictions and pessimism is a highly profitable business. Look at incentives before accepting opinions. Invest money based on solid research — not whether or not a recession is about to happen.
There’s a financial ladder we all have to climb
Level 1: Judging
Level 2: Gossiping
Level 3: Giving feedback
Level 4: Giving deep feedback
Level 5: Collaborating
Level 6: Driving
Level 7: Owning
Angel investor Julie Zhuo calls it the ladder of ownership. This ladder determines a lot of financial success. Many people get stuck on level one and two. It’s easy to throw stones and take zero action, of course. As you move up the ladder you start to influence outcomes.
Ownership is the highest level. It’s where you go from complaining about a problem to owning it.
Owning a problem is where you become action-focused to solve it. When you do, you unlock all the value. That value gets shared with you. Took me years to learn nobody gives a damn about our sob story. Own your story and all its problems, and enough money will enter your life.
A $150 umbrella isn’t necessarily as cyclone-proof as a $10 one
On day one of my first ever call center job, I walked 40 minutes from a car space in the outer city to the office. I had a see-through plastic bag in one hand with a 99 cent can of soup and a fork from home.
My colleagues thought I was nuts to walk all that way during the middle of winter. They were right. Cyclone winds and heavy rain were common. By day three I had to take an umbrella. The only one I had cost $10. Within minutes of opening the umbrella, a gust of wind tore the top of it.
That night I bought another one. The next day the same thing happened. The cycle of destroyed umbrellas continued, so I decided to get creative. I went and blew $150 on a cyclone-proof umbrella. The Youtube Ads were incredible. This bad boy was supposed to be indestructible even when standing next to a jumbo jet.
It came by courier. I carried it for a few minutes in the rain. Take that umbrella gods! Minutes later another gust of wind ripped through and started a fistfight with my umbrella.
It was so strong the umbrella didn’t just turn upside down. No, the strong metal pole in the middle snapped in half. I took it back to the manufacturer. The lady who served me became skeptical of my story.
“We have Uber drivers on scooters who carry these umbrellas at 80 mph when it rains to stay dry. Theirs have never broken like this. How come yours did?” The story seems far-fetched. How do you ride a scooter and hold an umbrella? Perhaps they had an umbrella stand but I doubt it. With great hesitation she gave me a full refund.
More expensive isn’t always better.
The meaning of retirement needs to change
The plan isn’t to retire. It’s to retire from working for other people — Finance Hipster
My friends think I live some sexy laptop life. Hardly. They joke that I’m a retired, 35-year-old grandpa ready for the nursing home (a hearing aid doesn’t help my cause). But I’m not retired. I’m just retired from working for adult babies and cleaning up their poop … daily.
Maybe work without a boss to report to should be the real retirement goal. It doesn’t have to be sexy entrepreneurship either. Freelancing and consulting is an underrated way to retire from the grind and live before it’s too late.
The pursuit of money has taught me a lot. Most of what we think matters, doesn’t. And what we easily forget — our family, our gift of a body — matter more than we realize while we’re out there hustling our face off for the man.
Stick it to the man.
Reengineer your life to think about money differently, so you don’t have to play somebody else’s games. That’s what a basic financial education you can’t get from books on Amazon can teach you before it’s too late.
This article is for informational purposes only, it should not be considered financial, tax or legal advice. Consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.