When you’re dreaming of getting rich, it’s easy to overlook the downsides of having money. One major risk of having a high net worth is that, once people know you’ve got money in the bank, they’ll try and take it from you. For this reason, wealth protection strategies are essential for anyone who is practicing systematic wealth building.
Are you wondering how to protect your wealth from lawsuits and predators? Are you concerned that once you finally “make it,” you won’t ever be able to relax and fully enjoy the fruits of your labor?
Don’t worry. It really is possible to be rich and have peace of mind. To do so, you’ll likely use a collection of wealth protection strategies to reduce the risk of being sued, having your income stream dry up, or otherwise having your assets dramatically drop in value.
At the end of the day, the more assets you have, the more strategic you’ll have to be to protect what is yours. Let’s dive in and take a look at what I’ve learned over the years about the best ways to protect wealth.
Asset protection refers to various strategies you can adopt to protect your wealth and property from creditors, lawsuits, and predators. You can practice asset protection strategies both at the individual level and for any business entities you operate.
If you’re new to the world of asset protection, the whole thing might sound paranoid to you. After all, who’s going to try and take your money?
Unfortunately, the more wealth you have, the more you can expect that others will try and get a piece of the action. Asset protection should be an essential tool in everyone’s financial planning. When you practice asset protection, you can enjoy the benefits of:
You might think that asset protection strategies are only for the mega-rich. Honestly, though, if you have any assets to your name and plan on building wealth over time, it’s never too soon to start protecting your wealth.
Before we get into the specifics of how to protect your wealth, let’s start with why your wealth is at risk in the first place. I want to mention first and foremost that you should not assume that you are safe from lawsuits and accusations against you because you do everything by the book and aren’t engaged in any shady business. The reality is that people can and do make frivolous, baseless lawsuits. Even if they won’t win, it can still cost you a lot in legal fees, time, bad press, and stress.
If you’re a business owner, you probably already know that there are potential pitfalls and risks just about everywhere you turn. That being said, let's take a look at some of the risks you face when you operate and own your company or work as a business professional:
Again, you don’t have to actually be at fault for predatory people to make these sorts of claims against you. If you don’t have your business and personal finances separated, you might find that your personal assets are at stake when someone comes after you professionally.
Even if you’re retired or generally not concerned about your professional liability, you’ll still want to consider the ways that your personal wealth is at risk:
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: the more money you have, the more likely it is that predatory people will try and take it from you. The scent of money can make people do strange things, and the apologetic person that was obviously at fault in a car accident might start to sing a different tune when they realize who you are or how rich you are. You can’t necessarily completely avoid these risks in life, but you can set yourself up with wealth protection strategies that make it so your money isn’t unguarded from opportunistic parties.
Now that we’ve looked at why you need to protect your wealth, let’s dig in to the how.
I'm a big believer in the fact that, while money is an incredibly powerful tool, it isn't the only thing that matters. Check out my complete guide to the different types of wealth you need for a meaningful and fulfilling life.
John D. Rockefeller once famously gave the advice that you should “Own nothing. Control everything.” This is an oft repeated quote in the world of asset protection and the offshore industry, promoting the idea that no one can take something from you if you don’t own it.
While it might make the purchasing process a bit more complicated, ensuring that none of your assets are owned in your name can provide serious wealth protection. You also might choose to retitle the assets you already own so that they can’t be taken from you in the case of a legal dispute. Some people also choose (in certain states where it’s advantageous to do so) to title their assets as tenants-by-the-entirety with a spouse.
Depending on the state you live in, your home equity might be safe from creditors through homestead protection. However, how much protection you really have is going to vary a great deal depending on which state you’re in.
There isn’t one go-to strategy for avoiding owning your assets outright in your own name. Here are some of the ways that wealthy people control their assets without technically owning them:
An additional benefit of avoiding owning anything in your own name is the anonymity it provides. If you purchase property with a trust or an LLC, (which, by the way, is definitely more complicated and involved than buying a house as an individual,) you don’t have to worry about the fact that your family’s home address is a part of the public record.
Are you an entrepreneur?
If so, you’ll definitely want to separate your personal assets from the assets, debts, and liabilities of your business sooner rather than later. LLCs are a popular method for a number of reasons, one of the primary of which is that creditors can’t go after an LLC owner’s personal assets in the event of the company going under or a lawsuit. Unless you act in a way that leaves a court feeling justified to pierce the corporate veil, the only assets at risk if your business is sued or creditors pursue it are those that are invested in the business itself.
Depending on the state you live in, you might be able to put some of your assets into a trust that creditors can’t access. However, this isn’t something you should try and start doing when you feel like a lawsuit is imminent. Creating trusts for your assets is something that you’ll want to do years in advance of any judgments or unpaid debts.
There are a lot of different types of trusts out there, and determining which ones are right for you should be a part of your larger estate planning efforts. Some of the types of trusts that might be applicable in your asset protection include:
In any case, I could go on. The short story is that trusts can be a valuable tool in your asset protection strategy, but they’re also pretty complicated and not something to mess around with lightly. It’s generally a good idea to work with a knowledgeable attorney who can make recommendations based on your specific circumstances.
When the name of the game is asset protection, your arsenal should be loaded with insurance, insurance, and more insurance. This is the first line of defense against liability, so this isn’t where you want to try and cut corners.
You should periodically make sure that your policy limits are in line with your current net worth and assets for insurance to serve as an effective method of asset protection. Depending on your situation, here are some of the types of insurance you might want to have protecting you at all times:
It’s also worth understanding deposit and securities insurance. For example, up to $250,000 per depositor, per bank, and per “ownership category” is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for member banks. Using this in your favor can ensure that your money in individual accounts, joint accounts, trust accounts, IRAs, and more is protected to the fullest extent.
No matter what you’re investing in, it’s never possible to completely avoid risk. After all, even if you hide your money under the mattress, it’s just going to get demolished by inflation over time.
That being said, there are ways you can significantly reduce your risk when investing. One of the common tactics used to help preserve your capital is by diversifying your investments.
The more diversified your investments are, the less impacted your portfolio will be by market anomalies. To protect your assets from unexpected events, some of the asset classes you might consider investing in (after thorough due diligence, of course,) include:
In short, you want to invest in several different asset classes and sectors that typically react differently to various types of events. If you’re not diversified, you might not even realize how much risk you’re taking on until something catastrophic wipes out your principal. For example, imagine if you were months away from retirement with all of your capital invested in tech stocks when the dot-com bubble burst. Ouch.
Another important step you can take to protect your wealth is to diversify your business income. As they say, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
If you have a stable, high-income W-2 job, you might think this doesn’t apply to you. However, diversifying your business income is just as important for 9-5 workers as it is for entrepreneurs.
When you have several different sources of income, it can act as a hedge against income loss, provide stability, and help you systematically build wealth. In these arguably uncertain economic times, having several different irons in the fire can also help to keep you financially agile.
If something catastrophic happens, diversifying your income can mean you don’t have to go down with the ship. If everything continues chugging along as planned, having several sources of income can have a huge impact on your ability to build wealth and fund your retirement.
Diversifying your income is an important strategy that keeps the long-game in mind. Even the most successful companies can lose relevancy and go under, and even the healthiest income streams can dry up over time.
Lastly, having a number of different sources of income can help keep life interesting! It can keep you on your toes, keep you engaged, and help avoid the all-to-common disease of complacency.
Related to the need to diversify your business income, diversifying your skills can also go a long way in protecting your wealth.
In Stoic philosophy, one of the main principles is that some things in life are in your control and some things aren’t. Your main task is to distinguish the difference between these two camps. Once you’ve done that, you can work to accept the things you can’t control and focus your energy towards the things that you can control.
Unless you are one of the elite group of people in the world that have the power to directly affect change at a global scale, you likely can’t control what happens economically, politically, or geopolitically. You don’t have the power to start wars or end wars and you don’t have the power to impact the housing market in a meaningful way.
What you can control, though, is what you do. You can control the skills you choose to master.
When you have a diversity of skills, it means that you are all the more able to pivot in the face of unexpected life events or global occurrences. Mastering a variety of skills doesn’t just mean you might have the right skills to call upon in the face of a crisis, but it also means you’ll be more equipped to gain new skills when necessary. If you are constantly pushing yourself to travel beyond your comfort zone and learn new things, you’ll be able to hop back on your horse a lot faster when you get knocked off.
If you’re not convinced yet, let me also just say that building a diversity of skills also helps to keep you engaged and fully alive. It’s easy to go to your 9-5 everyday and let the days slip by without ever pushing yourself to become more. When you invest in your skills, you’ll find it helps to produce a zest for life you might have thought automatically disappears once you reach adulthood.
As you start building your net worth, one thing you’ll want to understand is that the odds of getting hit with lawsuits starts increasing exponentially the more money you have. If it’s common knowledge that you’re doing well financially, the sad reality is that there’s a good chance people will start coming out of the woodwork to try and get a piece of the action.
Don’t assume that you can avoid this outcome by obsessively doing everything by the books, being incredibly charitable with your wealth, and never uttering a harsh word to another soul. It is not beyond predatory people to make frivolous, baseless lawsuits against someone they know has some money in the bank.
For this reason, you’ll want to build an aggressive team that you can call upon at any time to vigorously defend your interests. If someone files a lawsuit against you, no matter how vulnerable you are in reality, you should never be afraid to bristle when someone threatens legal action against you.
In fact, the more vulnerable you are, the more you should fight to look less vulnerable. When someone is threatening to sue you, they are declaring war. In these instances, you’ll want to follow the advice outlined in one of the most influential strategy texts of all time, the Art of War:
“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” - Sun Tzu
This isn’t the time to play nice– the more aggressive you are against legal attacks, the clearer you make it that you’re willing to put up a fight. Lawsuits are expensive, and when you start beating your chest like a silverback (metaphorically, of course), it makes it clear that it’s going to be costly to try and take you down.
The goal here is to never appear vulnerable. Asset protection can go a long way in creating that appearance. If you have bombproof asset protection strategies in place (like utilizing management companies to keep your holding companies cash free, avoiding owning anything in your name, and being willing to contest every tiny legal detail,) lawyers will see that the legal battle likely isn’t worth fighting. Through aggressive asset protection and an even more aggressive legal stance, you can swat away anyone that even thinks about opportunistically taking your money.
It would be nice if we lived in a world where you could run around making verbal contracts and assume everything will work out alright. In reality, approaching life, business, and other people that way is probably going to burn you pretty quick.
If you’re constantly saying “I’ll take your word for it,” you’ll learn this the hard way. If you’d like to avoid this, always act from the assumption that it’s best to get everything in writing.
You likely understand the importance of contracts when it comes to business deals, real estate deals, and legal matters. (If you don’t, now is the time to start.) But getting everything in writing can also refer to things that you might not think are that important. Creating a paper trail helps to provide certainty in just about every situation for everyone involved, even if you’re not worried about there being any malicious intent.
Prenups often get a bad rap, but they are an absolutely essential tool for anyone that wants to protect their wealth. When you and your soon-to-be spouse create a thoughtful prenup together, it can help to protect both of your interests in the case of separation, divorce, or death.
However, a prenup really isn’t just a laundry list of who gets what if the marriage doesn’t work out. It can also be a way for you and your fiance to create a financial plan for married life that will actually help to avoid arguments over money and finances down the road. On top of that, it can be an important exercise before marriage to make sure that the two of you are fundamentally on the same page when it comes to wealth building and protection.
In the event that you and your spouse get divorced or one of you passes away, a prenup is a document that lets the two of you stay in control of what happens to your assets. This can save a lot of headache, drama, and stress down the road. In general, you’ll be in a much better position to make level-headed decisions about asset distribution when you aren’t actively embroiled in a divorce or grieving the death of a spouse.
You might not like this one, but the reality is that one of the best ways you can protect your wealth is by building more. Though it’s not the cheeriest news, the truth is that the more you earn, the more you can afford to pay for safety. This is an inherent part of living in a scarce-resource universe– resources allow you to have more options and more security, regardless of whether you’re talking about financial, personal, or political resources.
The more wealth you have, the more peace of mind you can buy. If you’ve ever stressed about money– and let’s be real, we all have– you know just how priceless the ability to relax really is.
On top of that, building more wealth is the most reliable path to having the freedom over what you do. The more money you have, the more ability you have to protect the most valuable asset to your name: your time.
The point of getting rich isn’t so you can spend your days cackling and counting your cash. The point is to allow you to engage with life in meaningful, purpose-driven ways. If you’ve ever lived paycheck to paycheck, you know just how impossible it can be to pursue your life goals when you’re scraping together pennies to fix your car or pay your rent.
What’s one of the best ways that you can protect your wealth from lawsuits and predators? Easy. Don’t let anyone know you’re rich.
For an in depth look at the concept of keeping your wealth a secret, check out my article on stealth wealth here. There are a lot of benefits to practicing a stealth wealth lifestyle, one of which is helping you avoid frivolous, baseless lawsuits from people who have nothing better to do than try and take your money.
When you don’t advertise that you’re wealthy through your home, car, clothes, and Instagram account, opportunistic predators will look right past you. Similarly, you can avoid the whole uncomfortable experience of second-cousins-once-removed and friends from the second grade calling up out of the blue to see if they can squeeze you for some cash.
While researching and putting in place asset protection strategies might not be everyone's idea of a good time, it’s absolutely essential to hedging against future financial disaster. On top of that, you’ll find that once you know your wealth is protected, you sleep a lot better at night.
If you’re as passionate about wealth building as I am, you’re likely also passionate about protecting your wealth from lawsuits, predators, and unexpected events of any kind.
If you crack open the dictionary to the word wealth, you’ll find definitions along the lines of “an abundance of valuable possessions or money.” Most of us strive to build material wealth, but, in reality, you need more than money to be fulfilled in life. There are a lot of different types of wealth, and only focusing on financial success can leave you lopsided, unhappy, and unhealthy.
Just to make myself clear: I believe that everyone would benefit from systematic wealth building. At the same time, I absolutely despise the culture of debt-fueled consumerism.
If you’re able to break free from the societally-sanctioned expectations of mindless purchasing and lifestyle creep, building wealth can be an incredible tool that allows you to live a productive and meaningful life.
So, what does it really mean to be wealthy? What does it look like to live an abundant life without getting caught in the endless cycle of consumerism? What types of wealth exist beyond monetary and material accumulation?
In this article, I’m going to break down my view of the necessary ingredients to live a comfortable, healthy, sustainable, and fulfilling life. If you find that you might be lacking in some of these areas, don’t despair. Every single one of these types of wealth is completely attainable if you are willing to commit some time every day to personal growth and development.
In this article, we're going to review the different types of wealth:
When you think about being wealthy, there’s a good chance the first thing that comes to mind is material wealth. This might conjure images of Lambos, elaborate mansions, and luxury vacations, but being materially wealthy does not necessarily need to mean that you are making extravagant purchases or even living a particularly glamorous lifestyle.
It can be tempting to try and “get rich quick,” and there are plenty of people out there that will gladly sell you their info products with the promise that they will tell you how to do so. While some people might get lucky, your best bet is to become increasingly financially literate and have the right mental framework. Money management is an essential tool in being financially wealthy, but an equally important part of building wealth is recognizing that consumerism is the ultimate scam.
Being rich does not have to be about indulging in every last tech gadget or spending your evenings dining at overpriced trendy restaurants. Consumerism is arguably the number one most societally acceptable addiction, and buying stuff will simply never fill the empty space in your soul.
What will fill your soul, you ask? Being productive. Engaging in meaningful activities. Identifying your purpose in life and pursuing it. Spending time with the people you love.
So why bother building material wealth if you aren’t going to spend it on all that fun new stuff? What’s the point of being rich if you can’t use it to show everyone how successful you are?
Because money is a tool that gives you access to one of the most valuable assets you have: time. What if you created stable passive income streams for yourself that allowed you to go to your kid’s soccer games, spend time with your spouse, and take the weekend to go camping and immerse yourself in nature?
What if you were financially wealthy enough to write a book that you think will help other people improve their lives? What if, instead of being caught in an endless wheel of money-in, money-out, you were able to give back to society in a productive way that really did make a difference in the world?
Sure, there are many well-known figures through history that rejected wealth and possessions and gave their lives to a cause greater than themselves. However, for most of us, being poor is the ultimate thief of time.
If you’ve ever lived paycheck to paycheck, you know that when you aren’t working, your time isn’t really even yours to enjoy. If you aren’t busy trying to figure out how to scrape together some extra dollars for that surprisingly high utility bill, you’re frequently burning your time and energy being worried about money in general.
In my view, material wealth is not in itself a goal. Instead, it is a powerful tool that can allow you to pursue a meaningful and productive life.
One of the most precious types of wealth we can possess as humans is health wealth. Even if you were naturally physically fit and healthy as a teenager despite being inactive and eating poorly, you’ll soon learn (if you haven’t already) that this is typically not a gift that keeps on giving.
Anyone who knows me knows that I try to lift weights and spend some time doing boxing and MMA training every morning. I work closely with a personal trainer and we lift together for 1.5 hours in my home gym. It completely sets the tone for the rest of the day, helps me emotionally, and gives me clarity of thought and focus for my time working on my businesses.
Later on, we’ll talk about emotional health, which is equally important as physical health. In this section, though, we’ll discuss how important it is to keep your body in good shape in order to live a wealthy life. Just like Emerson said, “the first wealth is health.”
If you aren’t taking care of yourself physically, though, you are going to struggle to build any of the other types of wealth on our list.
This is a foundational type of wealth, and we all know that you should build your house on stone, not sand.
So what does it mean to have health wealth rather than health poverty?
Health wealth means that you treat your physical body with compassion and respect. You get regular exercise, you eat nourishing food, you drink plenty of water, and you don’t deprive yourself of sleep. You get outside in nature and let the sunlight hit your skin rather than spending all of your time in some dark nook staring at a computer screen. You understand how important it is to maintain a healthy posture, particularly if you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk. Ultimately, creating a fortune in regards to your health means that you understand that your physical body is the vessel that will help you fulfill your purposes in life, and the better shape you’re in, the better able you’ll be to reach your goals.
Of course, it’s worth noting that sometimes our health is out of our hands. You can certainly do everything you’re supposed to do and still end up stunned in a doctor’s office after receiving news of cancer or some other terrible disease.
In general, though, treating your body well can help to reduce the risk of disease, improve your cognitive health and mood, reduce your stress levels, keep you feeling fit, and ultimately make life feel a whole lot easier.
Taking care of your health and building health wealth isn’t something that you can create overnight, much like the other types of wealth on our list. You create health wealth little by little, every day. It doesn’t come with becoming addicted to exercise or obsessing over never eating an ounce of fat, nor does it come from complete gluttony and over-indulgence. Becoming rich in health is a balance you work to obtain every day that stems from self-respect and the desire to lead your best life.
If you’re like a lot of Americans, you probably think that spiritual wealth is an oxymoron. For fairly understandable reasons, we seem to have a cultural conception that you can be spiritual and poor or materialistic and rich, but you definitely can’t be a spiritual and rich person.
Luckily, this simply isn’t true. You can be both spiritually wealthy and financially wealthy. In fact, the two different forms of wealth can have an intricately intertwined relationship where they support one another.
According to one study from Baylor University, entrepreneurs are more likely to believe that God is personally responsive to them. They also pray more frequently than non-entrepreneurs.
This is a classic example of people having spiritual wealth that directly impacts their financial wealth. After all, when you believe in something larger than you, it’s a lot easier to connect with the notion of having a purpose in life and working towards it.
Having a spiritual fortune inside you doesn’t mean you have to live in a cave carved into the side of a mountain with only a lantern, a knife, and a small clay pot to your name. In fact, if you can manage to build financial wealth without falling prey to the temptation of consumerism, being rich can help give you the headspace and time to really focus on your spiritual growth.
Spirituality is one of those words that’s gotten a little slippery over the years, and it’s definitely going to mean different things to different people. If you’re a materialist, (in the philosophical sense,) perhaps this all sounds like a bunch of hogwash to you. It seems clear to me, though, that there is something deeper going on in life than just “wake up, eat, work, sleep, repeat” that is worth connecting with.
Whether or not you believe in God or deities of any kind, there is a lot to be gained from building your spiritual wealth. This might include:
There are countless potential benefits to incorporating a spiritual perspective into your daily life. Studies have found that people who are spiritual or religious tend to live longer, have stronger immune systems, experience better emotional states, and have a reduced risk of disease. It also often comes along with a strong social support system as well as improved fitness and self-confidence.
In short, spiritual wealth can contribute to your health wealth, emotional wealth, and friendship wealth. When you’re spiritually impoverished, it can mean that you’re making nihilistic life choices, not treating yourself and others with the compassion you deserve, and ultimately not viewing life from a perspective of abundance.
Time is money. Time wealth is one of the original reasons I became an entrepreneur in my teenage years. I wanted the freedom to travel, to explore new hobbies, to learn every day at my own pace - I wanted freedom. And time is freedom.
One of the most often overlooked types of wealth is time wealth. Remember, you can always make more money, but you can’t ever make more time.
When you are time rich, you have the freedom to choose how you spend your time and where you spend your time. There are a lot of people that focus primarily on material wealth and fail to recognize just how valuable it is to have ownership over your time. After all, is it really that great to be making $500k a year if it means you’re regularly working 80+ hours a week and otherwise always thinking about your work when you’re not there? Is it really worth it to build up a fatty investment account if it comes at the cost of being able to do what you want when you want?
You need more than money. You need time, too. In fact, you should look for ways to trade any extra money you have for more time.
Of course, I’m not saying that you should never do anything productive and spend all of your time at the beach working on your tan. The point is that one of the greatest potentials of material wealth is that you can afford to choose which tasks you take on yourself and which tasks you delegate to others. Additionally, when you avoid the trap of consumerism and lifestyle creep, you have a lot more power over what you do with your finite time. After all, owning tons of material possessions or living in an extravagant home aren’t just things that cost you money, but they also secretly cost you a lot of time.
It is all too common for people to sacrifice their time in the present in order to build wealth that they expect to spend decades down the road in retirement. However, if you only focus on building material wealth and don’t allow yourself to engage in meaningful activities in the present, a horrible thing can happen.
It can destroy your soul.
The problem with the strategy of sacrificing all of your time in order to make money for the future is that what you do with your life makes you who you are. If you are putting your dreams and purposes on hold until some future date, you might find that you don’t have access to the wealth of potential you believed so strongly in when you started your wealth-building journey.
Time wealth is also something you want to consider when making purchases. There’s nothing wrong with spending money, but you’ll always want to think about whether a purchase frees up your time or takes your time. Consider whether what you’re buying requires a time sacrifice that you think is worth it, and whether the purchase enhances the time that you get to spend with those you love or on projects that are meaningful to you.
Do you know anyone that seems to have it all, but is ultimately missing one of the most important aspects of life? Bouncing around the globe and posting pictures of your excursions on Instagram might seem like an incredible life experience, but what if that means you end up being 40 and fundamentally alone, without a spouse and estranged from the family you were born into?
When you’re younger, you might think that you’re happy to be a bachelor (or ette) forever. It’s important to understand, though, that it’s possible (and likely) that your priorities will change as time passes. Old friends fade into the ether and you realize you don’t have anyone to call when you’ve got exciting news to share or when you’re lonely. Maybe you’re healthy, happy, and rich, but there will likely come a point when you wish you had found someone to share your experiences and life with.
On the other hand, maybe you have been putting your nose to the grindstone for years now to make a living for your family. Your kids have everything they need, your wife gets to be a stay-at-home mom, and you’ve been building up your retirement account so you can escape to Tulum someday once your hair is gray.
At the same time, you hardly get to spend time with your family. You leave on business trips and come back to find that your kids seem a bit older in a way you can’t put your finger on. Your wife resents you for not being around but also seems inconvenienced when you’re home. You are putting everything into financially supporting the family, but you ultimately don’t have a rich relationship with the people closest to you.
Are you sacrificing camping trips with your kids or evening walks with your spouse because you haven’t left any time for this essential aspect of life? Are you missing out on father-daughter dances, baseball games, piano recitals, and s’mores out at the fire pit?
Having a healthy and happy family is a very important part of living a rich life. Maybe it’s just you and your partner and a few dogs or maybe you have ten kids, but either way, it’s important to recognize that it’s very common for people at the end of their life to regret not spending enough time with their family. On the flip side, people rarely regret having spent too much time with those they love.
As one final note, I do want to mention that sometimes the family you’re born into can be abusive, neglectful, and all-around unsupportive of the pursuit of your greatest potential. While this warrants an article all on its own, it’s worth mentioning that family wealth isn’t a one-way street. Even though it’s ultimately ideal to have healthy and rich relationships with your immediate family, in some instances, it’s likely better to separate yourself from abusive and controlling family members.
Just like health wealth, emotional wealth is foundational to achieving any of the other types of wealth in a sustainable way. When you lack emotional wealth (or, as one could say, are emotionally impoverished,) it might manifest itself in the form of:
On the other hand, a person who is filled to the brim with emotional health will have healthy relationships, work-life satisfaction, a sense of purpose in their lives, emotional intelligence, and, often, financial wealth. Emotionally healthy people show themselves love and compassion and have a maturity that emotionally impoverished people simply do not.
When you’re wealthy emotionally, you don’t have to put on a persona to convince other people that you’re worthy of their love or to receive their affirmation.
Rather than running around trying to please everyone, you have a sense of an internal compass that you trust to guide you through life. You believe in yourself, you resist distraction, and you believe in the abundance of your own future.
Sadly, many Americans would fall into the category of emotionally poor. There are likely a lot of reasons that this is the case, and lots of people don’t even realize that they are lacking this type of wealth. In our materialistic, consumeristic society, it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the cycle of thinking that you need more, more, and more, only to be left financially worse off and riddled with uncomfortable feelings of guilt, anxiety, and emptiness.
Additionally, many careerist paths basically demand that you turn yourself into some kind of robot. When you’re climbing the corporate ladder, you’re simply not supposed to have feelings. You’re not supposed to have bad days, you’re not supposed to let your personal life affect your work, and you’re certainly never supposed to express yourself in a way that could make others uncomfortable or, God forbid, make you seem weird.
There’s a common misconception that being emotionally healthy means that you never feel anger, sadness, or any of those other bummer feelings. In reality, though, the healthiest way to deal with emotions is to acknowledge that they are there and let yourself feel them. If you’re new to the world of not suppressing your emotions, this can feel clunky at first, but, over time, you will find that you reach a level of emotional stability and wellness that you never imagined was possible.
You shouldn’t let your emotions control you, but you also shouldn’t pretend you’re made out of stone.
Deceiving yourself to think that you are free from human emotions will not be a costless endeavor. If your father dies, let yourself cry, for Pete’s sake. If you feel anger, find a quiet place where you can hoot and holler and punch a pillow.
Being emotionally healthy (and wealthy) is about having so much compassion for yourself that you’re able to accept the fact that you have emotions. When you reach that point of self-awareness, your emotions no longer have to control you. Emotions are a part of the human experience, and with a healthy outlook on life and often a lot of self-work, it’s possible to get to a point where your cup is running over with emotional well-being.
Without emotional wealth, you will struggle to succeed in building any of the other types of wealth. Even if you do have an incredible morning day-trading on the stock market, you’ll likely let greed or fear get a hold of you soon enough. Even if you’re in decent physical shape currently, emotional poverty can lead to deteriorating health when you don’t have a supportive, loving view of yourself.
If you can identify yourself as being emotionally poor, all is not lost. Not in the slightest! Though overcoming negative and destructive habits and mindsets can take a lot of hard work and time, it is entirely possible to transform your life by changing your attitude. When you cultivate a deep sense of love for yourself, purpose in the world, and an optimistic forward-looking outlook, you’ll be on the path to building all of the essential types of wealth.
According to a study published by “The Survey Center on American Life,” Americans are lonelier now than they were just thirty years ago. About half of all Americans said that they have less than three close friends, and 12% of people say that they don’t have one single friend.
There are probably a lot of reasons why this is the case– people increasingly socializing on the internet instead of IRL, careerist types bouncing from city to city in order to climb the ladder, etc.
If you want to be wealthy, truly wealthy, though, it’s important to understand just how vital social relationships are to our health. If you need scientific proof of this notion, this study examines how the quantity and quality of a person’s social relationships impact their mental health, physical health, health behavior, and even their mortality risk.
When you have friends, it can help you increase your sense of both purpose and belonging, reduce your stress, make you happier, and encourage you to pick up healthy lifestyle habits. If you experience a rough spot in your life, whether it’s an illness, the loss of a job, a divorce, or the death of someone you love, friends are an essential tool in your arsenal.
That being said, it’s arguably better to have no friends at all than it is to have friends that don’t support your best interests. There are, sadly, plenty of people out there that ultimately don’t want the best for you, and it can be easy to get wrapped up in “friendships” with people that take way more than they give, lie, steal, play manipulative games, or want to keep you engaged in a behavior that is unhealthy for you because it benefits them.
If you’ve made it to adulthood with some quality friends still by your side, that’s great news. Be sure to not let those friendships peter out over time, though, because making friends typically gets more difficult as you get older.
That being said, don’t fret if most of your old friends have fallen by the wayside. While the study I referenced above talks about the importance of quantity and quality, I’d definitely suggest focusing more on the latter. Even having a small handful of people that you feel comfortable being yourself around can be life-changing, and, over time, you’ll find that the relationships get deeper and richer.
In our culture, it seems like there is an all-or-nothing attitude when it comes to wealth. On the one hand, you have people that pursue material wealth in order to support their consumeristic lifestyle and to impress others with their success. On the other hand, there is definitely a faction of people that see the destructive nature of consumerism but are unable to separate that from financial success. They believe that rich people are inherently greedy and evil, and they tend to see the world from the perspective of being the victim in their life story rather than the hero.
I started this blog because I know that it’s possible to build wealth without becoming a mindless consumer. Being rich doesn’t have to mean that you’re materialistic or selfish. On the contrary, it can allow you to have the headspace and time to pursue your purposes.
If you feel like there are problems in society that you can help solve, wealth and maintaining a healthy mindset are key weapons you’ll want to have in your arsenal. If you feel like you have something meaningful to contribute to the world, systematic wealth-building can help you coax your ideas and dreams over the threshold into physical reality.
So, why am I telling you all this? I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way in my journey to wealth and I want to help others recognize the different types of wealth that they should cultivate and nurture in their own lives. If you’re curious, you can learn more about me and my projects here.
If you’re able to build a foundation of emotional, spiritual, social, and health wealth, you are on the right track to living a purpose-driven life. Over time, it becomes easier and easier to see that material wealth is not an end in itself, but rather an incredibly powerful tool that you can use to live a productive, meaningful, and fulfilling life.
If you’re like most people, the idea of being rich automatically conjures images of infinity pools with incredible ocean views, full-time house staff, elaborate estates, and private jets. Some wealthy people, though, actually keep their fortune a secret from everyone around them. The concept of living below your means even though you’ve got some serious assets to your name is known as stealth wealth.
When I made my first million at 25, I didn’t run out the door and buy a Ferrari. Actually, I didn’t even move out of my tiny, affordable apartment for another two years. When I finally did move, I ended up just moving into a cheap, blue-collar neighborhood. I've talked a bit about my background on the bio page.
You might wonder what the point of amassing a fortune is if you aren’t going to blow through it, but there are actually tons of benefits to living a stealth wealth lifestyle.
I’m not here to brag about the fact that I’ve been financially successful. In fact, I’m actually pretty uncomfortable coming out as “rich.” That being said, I think that taking a stealth wealth approach to life is something that we should normalize in our culture, and I want to help others learn how to gain financial freedom without falling prey to the normal traps that come along with increasing net worth.
So what is stealth wealth, exactly, and how do you spot it? In this post, I’ll explore everything you need to know about rich people who purposefully live below their means.
"Stealth wealth" is a term used to describe when someone doesn't outwardly express the fact that they have a high net worth. They keep it on the down-low. It's not that they aren't rich; it's that they are secretly wealthy because they don't want to drive too much attention or focus on their money.
Let's say you're a wealthy person. Rather than taking your wealth and purchasing status symbols like extravagant homes, expensive cars, and designer clothes, stealth wealth means you keep your wealth under wraps. Some people even go so far as to keep the fact that they’re rich from their family members and closest friends.
Ok, before you google “stealth wealth meaning,” here’s the simplest definition: stealth wealth is when you’re rich but you don’t act rich. You fly under the radar, not drawing any attention to the fact that you’ve secretly been amassing a fortune. Some people take stealth wealth to the extreme, where even their closest friends and family don’t know that they’ve become rich or that they’ve managed to retire early.
People who practice stealth wealth might look like completely average people from the outside. They drive regular-looking cars, don’t have flashy clothes or jewelry, and generally don’t engage in the culture of overconsumption. Rather than living in a multi-million dollar ocean-front mansion that they could technically afford, the stealthily wealthy opt for homes that are modest and unassuming.
If you’ve never heard of stealth wealth before, you might wonder why someone that had amassed a fortune in their life would go to the trouble of hiding their wealth from the people around them.
However, there are actually a lot of good reasons to practice stealth wealth. While living a luxurious lifestyle and enjoying your extreme wealth can certainly be pleasurable, these are usually short-lived benefits. When you are rich and you let everyone know it, you’ll soon learn that there are some serious downsides to advertising your wealth.
People might choose to practice stealth wealth for a number of reasons. One of these is that it helps to avoid the reality where other people will expect things from you because they assume you have more spending power than they do. If you let others know that you’re rich, you’ll soon find that some of the people around you start expecting you to pick up the tab at a restaurant for a group of 20, loaning them money when they fall on hard times, and more.
Of course, the point of being wealthy isn’t hoarding your money stingily without ever spreading the love. The point, though, is that others don’t always understand that you still have to manage your money and make smart financial decisions even when you have a high net worth.
When you practice stealth wealth, it can also help you avoid some of the judgment that comes along with being rich. If you start flaunting your deep pockets, you’ll soon learn that lots of people have opinions about rich people and they won’t think twice about judging you for your wealth. These people might think that having money means that you are inherently greedy or exploitative, that you amassed your fortune simply through privilege, or they might simply resent you for having what they want but don’t have. Even if the people around you don’t have a negative perspective on wealth, you’ll likely find that the more money people know you have, the more they seem to know exactly what you should be doing with it.
If you’re curious to know if someone secretly has more wealth than they let on, there are some common stealth wealth signs you can keep an eye out for. People who practice stealth wealth won’t be showing off their riches in an obvious way, but if you pay close attention you can notice some indications that they are very comfortable financially.
Someone that has worked to become wealthy is typically very goal-oriented. They understand how much attention and focus it takes to build up wealth over time. These individuals aren’t likely to just go with the whims of the crowd– instead, they have a sense of where they want to go and they stay on their path.
While people who are secretly wealthy might not flaunt it, they also understand at a deep level just how valuable time is. Someone who is rich might realize that they know how to make more money, but you can’t make more time. However, you can choose how you spend your time, and a stealthily wealthy person is going to be much more inclined to pay others to do time-consuming activities like dealing with a plumbing problem, mowing their lawn, or clearing snow from their driveway.
When a person is financially secure, they often have unique confidence in themselves. They have worked hard to get to where they are. They believe in themselves and the path they have chosen in life, and they are proud of what they have accomplished. At the same time, they are not falling prey to the ego boost that comes from flaunting one's wealth, which is another signifier that they are secure in themselves and don’t need the approval of others to believe in themselves.
If you have a neighbor that seems to live modestly but really doesn’t seem to sweat the small stuff, they might be secretly wealthy. When there are issues that need to be dealt with, whether they can be fixed with money or not, people who practice stealth wealth are often able to stay calm under pressure and keep problems that crop up in perspective.
While people who have stealth wealth don’t show off their riches by definition, there are a few material signs of someone’s secret fortune. You might know someone who wears simple, unbranded clothes, but they seem to fit them incredibly well and be made of high-quality materials.
Rich people that don’t feel the need to flaunt their wealth often do recognize the importance of comfort and quality when it comes to clothing. While they feel no need to plaster brands all over their body like a walking billboard, they definitely understand that high-quality clothes can help you feel your best and will last longer than your average Walmart t-shirt.
Another stealth wealth sign is when a person’s house and car, even when they are very modest, are always impeccably maintained. This is because people who have amassed wealth and keep it to themselves often understand the value of the investments they make. Not only can they afford to maintain their house and their car, but they also understand that it is more affordable in the long term to stay on top of maintenance rather than deferring it and eventually having to make pricey repairs.
While this isn’t always the case, there is a tendency for people with stealth wealth to be loners. These people have led very focused lives, and they are protective of their wealth, their time, and their personal lives. To those outside of their close family and friends, it might appear that they prefer to keep to themselves.
People who practice stealth wealth also tend to value activities with more depth rather than those that produce immediate gratification. You likely won’t find them spending big bucks at the bar or partying on a yacht. Rather than having a huge social group, these people tend to have a small circle of close friends and family with whom they feel they can genuinely relate.
If you don’t have money stacked up, there’s a good chance you have to think about a short time frame just to make it through each day. When problems crop up, they have to take priority. You are driven by your immediate needs rather than your long-term goals.
People with stealth wealth, though, can afford to think on a longer timeline. In fact, being able to perceive their lives in this way is exactly how they managed to amass wealth in the first place.
A person that is secretly wealthy isn’t eager to brag about how much money they made this year or how successful their investment portfolio has been. They have a sense of confidence and self-assuredness which means they don’t need affirmation from other people. This means that you won’t find them dropping hints about their wealth or trying to get pats on the back from other people for their accomplishments.
What does a stealthy wealthy lifestyle include?
Being secretly wealthy doesn’t have to mean that you live in a dangerous neighborhood in a run-down, rat-infested house. You aren’t necessarily trying to convince people that you’re poor. You just don’t want them to know that you’re rich.
Basically, this means masquerading as someone who’s somewhere around the middle class.
You can have a nice house, a nice car, and nice clothes, but just not too nice.
When it comes to cars, you want to choose something that is practical, not too flashy, reliable, and offers a good value for the money. Warren Buffett famously drives a Cadillac XTS, which is a car that retailed at the time of purchase at around $45,000. Mark Zuckerberg is often seen driving the $30,000 Acura TSX, and the wealthiest woman in the world, Alice Walton, drives a 2006 Ford F-150 King Ranch which retails for about $40,000.
When I made my first million in 2014, I didn’t trade my tiny apartment for a luxury penthouse. Instead, I stayed in that little apartment for another two years before “upgrading” to a home in a small working-class neighborhood in Arkansas. Even though I reached a point where I had a seven-figure income, I chose to maintain a modest lifestyle because I didn’t see money as a part of my identity.
Though it can be tempting to buy an MTV-Cribs-style house when you strike it rich, there are a lot of secret costs to living that type of lifestyle. On top of the downsides of having others know that you are wealthy, living in a 10,000+ square foot home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It can feel like you’re living in a magazine instead of a home, it costs a lot to maintain, and you’ll likely find you need to manage a full staff to keep the place in good working order. Ultimately, it’s rarely worth it.
When it comes to family, there are some major benefits to practicing a stealth wealth lifestyle. Rather than letting your sweet children grow up with a bad case of affluenza, you can pass on all of the valuable lessons you’ve learned about building wealth in a smart, healthy way. This way, when it comes time to pass on your wealth to your children, you know that it will benefit them rather than destroy them.
Rich people know that a key principle to getting wealthy and staying wealthy is having your money work for you. Rather than “investing” your money in flashy cars and obscenely expensive dinners, people with stealth wealth invest their assets in a healthily diversified portfolio. This can mean some combination of real estate, mutual funds, stocks, bonds, precious metals, small businesses, futures, options, and more. When you take your hard-earned money and invest it rather than living a lifestyle focused on consumption, you can increase your wealth and buy yourself the most valuable asset of all: time.
People hide their wealth through a number of different avenues. You can keep your wealth a secret from the people around you by living in a modest home, driving a regular car, and avoiding dressing in luxury-brand clothing. You don’t splurge on eating out at trendy restaurants or advertise your opulent vacation on Instagram. In the same way that many people who aren’t wealthy are able to curate an image of being rich, you can curate an image of being average.
Rich entrepreneurs might choose to create anonymous LLCs for their businesses to help separate their personal information from their successful businesses. There are also a number of tax-avoidant strategies that can be used to help reduce your tax burden, but, for obvious reasons, you should be sure to work with a CPA to ensure that everything you’re doing is above board.
When we think of wealth, we often think of mega-celebrities that are constantly in the public conversation. People like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Tom Cruise, Oprah, and Warren Buffett are the types of people that typically come to mind first.
However, there are plenty of people that are very wealthy that fly under the radar. If you are pursuing a career that puts you in the public eye, though, it becomes much more difficult.
While your income and ability to invest can have a big impact on your ability to build wealth, you don’t have to make a seven-figure income to get rich over time. Some tactics secretly wealthy people have used to build their net worth include:
Lots of people think that getting rich is just a matter of luck, but that’s usually not the case. Even if someone seems like an overnight success, there’s likely at least a decade's worth of hard work lurking in the background. Becoming secretly wealthy is definitely within reach, but it takes dedication, focus, drive, and a solid plan. There are a lot of different ways to make money, but the most important thing to recognize is that loud consumption doesn’t make people wealthy. What makes people rich is economic productivity.
In lieu of fancy cars and opulent houses, what does one gain from their wealth when they don’t flaunt it? For many people, the benefits of stealth wealth far outweigh the short-term gains of being openly rich.
When you live below your means, you can step outside of the rat race and work on the things that are truly meaningful to you. Whether you retire early or you keep your day job, you have more freedom to decide how you spend your time.
One of the craziest things that can happen to wealthy people is that they often still feel a sense of insecurity that drives them to make more money, even when they already have plenty. One of the reasons for this is lifestyle creep. Basically, for some people, the more money they have the more they will spend. As their net worth increases, so do their expenses.
When you practice stealth wealth, you can keep more of what you make. Rather than continuously trading in your perfectly suitable house for something that screams “I’m rich!”, you choose to purposefully live below your means. This allows you to have the comfort of knowing that you have a huge financial cushion if you were to fall on hard times, and you also aren’t taking on huge monthly expenses that could leave you bankrupt if the tides turn against you.
If you are open about how much money you have, people will start to expect you to pick up the bill. When you keep your wealth to yourself, you can avoid these expectations.
Unfortunately, some people see the wealthy as an opportunity to get more than their fair share of a job. Whether it’s a contractor, an auto mechanic, or another quote-based profession, being clearly wealthy is likely going to have some people charging you more than usual for a job because they think you won’t notice or bat an eye. When you keep your wealth on the down low, you’re less likely to get ripped off in this type of scenario.
When you’re rich and people know it, you’ll find you have plenty of friends. However, how do you know they really like you for you and don’t just want a taste of that opulent lifestyle?
You can avoid this entirely by keeping your riches under wraps. You’ll know that the friends you make just want to be around you because they like you, not because they’re hoping you’ll loan them money or buy them something shiny.
Rich people are constantly being solicited for donations, loans, and gifts. When people don’t have wealth, they often don’t understand that it isn’t an infinite pool of money. You have to be selective about where you spend money in order to stay wealthy.
In fact, if it becomes publicly known that you’re rich, you’ll be surprised by who pops up out of the woodwork. Relatives and acquaintances that you haven’t heard from in years will all of a sudden call “just to see how you’re doing.” Soon enough, it will become clear that they’re actually looking for a handout or even just the ego boost of being in touch with someone wealthy.
At the end of the day, the fewer people know that you have deep pockets, the less you’ll be put in a position where you have to say no.
One of the biggest dangers of wealth is letting it get to your head. It can reinforce some negative traits because you have more options. There are good and bad sides to everything, including having wealth and living luxuriously. When you live an opulent lifestyle, you’re increasingly surrounded by people who are just telling you what you want to hear. You can lose touch with the rest of your society and you can lose touch with who you really are underneath it all.
When you practice stealth wealth, it reminds you to stay humble. You are reminded to be grateful for what you have accomplished and what you have gained. You remember what it was like to have less and you want to help others succeed rather than fear being tossed from your golden throne.
Through this practice, you are building up a cushion that will catch you if the tides turn against you. Rather than spending all your money as if you’ve tapped into an infinite stream, you keep a good head on your shoulders and remember to value all of the best things in life– the things that money simply can’t buy.
“It is neither wealth nor splendor, but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness.”
“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.”
-Henry David Thoreau
“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.”
“If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.”
“…Not doing what we love in the name of greed is very poor management of our lives.”
“Too many people spend money they earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people that they don’t like.”
“He is the richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.”
“Wealth is a tool of freedom, but the pursuit of wealth is the way to slavery.”
I’m a huge proponent of the stealth wealth lifestyle. So, if you’re asking me “should I practice stealth wealth?” I’m probably going to answer yes.
There really are very few downsides to this lifestyle. Sure, you don’t get all of the affirmation and ego-boosts that come along with flaunting your wealth, but deep down you know those are superficial gains anyway. While there are plenty of benefits of stealth wealth, one of the biggest pros for me is that I know that accruing money isn’t what makes me me. Being economically productive is meaningful to me, and that’s why I do it.
Our culture is one that largely centers around consumerism. In lieu of more meaningful things, we often look to material objects and signifiers of wealth in pursuit of some kind of satisfaction. Ultimately, though, we all know at some level that these things typically produce more emptiness rather than taking it away.
The point of wealth doesn’t have to be to consume, consume, and then consume some more. What if at the end of your life you produced more than you consume? What if your time on earth was a net gain rather than a net loss for your society?
When you build wealth, it gives you the opportunity to climb up the hierarchy of needs and participate in work you truly find meaningful. Whether that means building wells for Pygmies in the Congo or offering the best darn landscaping services in all of Oklahoma, stealth wealth lets you focus on your true purposes without getting weighed down by all of the potential distractions of being rich.
So there you have it– a thorough dive into the world of the secretly wealthy. As you now know, there are tons of benefits of stealth wealth that allow you to live the life you want without getting dragged down by all of the negative aspects of being known as a rich guy. When you live the stealth wealth lifestyle, it means you can focus on the things that really matter to you and live the life you want without falling prey to lifestyle creep or other unfortunate side effects of being wealthy.
I’m only talking publicly about my path to wealth and my choice to live as a secretly wealthy person because I think it would be a genuinely good thing for our culture and our society. Being rich doesn’t have to mean that you’ve just graduated to a higher rung of the rat race. If more people chose the stealth wealth lifestyle, it could mean that more people have the time and headspace to meaningfully contribute to society.
A bill banning catalog and internet sales of tobacco - including premium cigars - just passed subcommittee in the House of Representatives. The bill also raises the smoking age to 21 for everyone, including military members.
That this even passed the subcommittee shows just how deranged and pathetic the do-gooder, nanny-state weaklings in congress really are.
We've become a nation of whining children, incapable of dealing with the fact that liberty means having the option to splurge on ourselves when we decide.
Sometimes that means fried foods, sometimes that means desserts, sometimes that means a large sugary drink at the theater, and sometimes that means some premium tobacco.
That premium cigars are included in this anti-smoking garbage means it's NOT about health.
Premium cigars are created from 100% tobacco leaves, hand-crafted following centuries of tradition, and are generally used to mark moments of celebration, to bond with friends, or just to live the good life.
Unlike cigarettes, premium cigars aren't inhaled, aren't chain smoked, and in moderation have little-to-no negative impact on one's health.
In fact, most life insurance companies explicitly protect the right of the insured to smoke an occasional cigar - some even allow multiple smokes per month.
Again, it's not about health. But even if it was, we still shouldn't care because we're adults and should have the right to make adult decisions - like how much we eat, how much we drink, and how we live our lives in general.
That this bill also raises the smoking age for MILITARY MEMBERS to the age of 21 is beyond asinine. If you're old enough to die in Afghanistan, then you're old enough to smoke a Davidoff with me before you're shipped out.
This is just another step in the never-ending march of a decaying society towards permanent adolescence. I don't want any part.
I’m a buyer of gold and silver, but I take a different approach than most metals investors.
I don’t predict soaring gold prices - even while I buy more gold and silver every single week.
In fact, while I was acquiring large quantities of precious metals, I wrote a much-ridiculed article expressing caution over gold prices - at the peak of the gold bull market.
While everyone else was drunk on perpetually increasing gold prices, I wrote that gold was ‘expensive’ and would ‘likely’ drop ‘dramatically’ in price. Even more provocatively, I published the article on a popular Austrian economics website, which was rabidly pro-gold.
But I got the last laugh, not because I’m some kind of Nostradamus, but because following cautious, conservative principles works, over time.
Whenever you see someone who makes radical predictions be on the lookout.
Radical predictions are a byproduct of radicalism, and radicalism does not work. Just ask the people who lost their savings with bitcoin, the tech bubble of the late 1990s, real estate in 2007, and pretty much every other bubble in history.
The universe rewards conservatives, both politically and economically.
Conservatism is more than just a partisan buzzword. It’s a strategic philosophy that emphasizes caution, skepticism, realism, and historical patterns. Conservative investors are nearly always going to outperform penny stock investors, bitcoin speculators, and pretty much anyone else who is trying to get rich by gambling on a dramatic prediction.
In 2011, when gold prices peaked, I wrote an article for the Mises Institute of Canada, explaining that gold was expensive and that it was likely that the market would “dramatically overcorrect, meaning gold will essentially become cheap again.”
The price of gold peaked… that week. And it’s been dropping pretty much ever since.
If you look at the comments on the article, you’ll see a collection of people who were confused. They let their oversimplified libertarian radicalism cloud their ability to understand gold - and they believed that the only possible direction for gold prices was up.
That said, I did NOT predict the crash with any kind of time frame. I also didn’t say it was inevitable - just that it was “more likely” that it would “probably dramatically overcorrect.”
The reason I emphasize this is that while I’ve made a lot of money in my life being right about niches and markets, I never assume that something must happen. Predictions are for suckers.
The future is largely unpredictable, at least at any level beyond vague trends. This means that finding opportunity means more than looking for the most obvious play.
Just because we can identify major trends doesn’t mean we can translate that knowledge into actionable specifics. Life isn’t that simple.
As John Maynard Keynes once wrote, “The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.”
Conservatism isn’t about fearing radicalism. It’s simply recognizing that the universe is a fuzzy, difficult-to-understand place. Good strategy requires a healthy dose of humility and realism.
When it comes to building wealth and taking part in long-term trends, here’s how to do it:
How does gold fit in to this? Gold shouldn’t really be seen as an investment. It should be seen as an insurance policy that, if everything goes well, will lose money over time. It’s like buying a life insurance policy on a family member - you don’t win if you make money. It means something horrific occured. If gold becomes the best asset I own, it means that hell has been unleashed.
Bonus: Follow the clipper-ship strategy. I’ll be writing more about this in the future. It’s one of the most powerful ways to make money in nearly any market. Rather than trying to strike gold during a gold rush, you sell shovels to the miners.
Conservative strategy is good strategy.
When you make the right decisions, you don’t have to look for radical predictions to gamble on - you don't need the gamble at all. Cautious, skeptical, humble strategies always win out over time.
Because I use dollar-cost averaging and have a diversified portfolio and a high rate of savings, I’m unlikely to find myself in the desperate position of being close to retirement age and gambling on penny stocks because I didn’t save enough and am looking for a big payout to make up for lost time.
Legendary corporate strategist Michael Porter wrote: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
But how do you make the right choices? Ultimately, it’s all about your mental framework. Making caution an important part of your investing strategy focuses your attention on what not to do.
That makes all the difference.
Consumerism is the ultimate scam: it never delivers on the implied promise of emotional fulfillment. It's an extremely contagious, nearly incurable cultural disease - the more you expect, the more you try to achieve that expectation, then the higher your consumption standards become. Achieving your consumption goals feel like a failure.
It's the philosophy of moving targets, trading real life for a never-ending, moving target that cannot be achieved, quenched, or fulfilled - by nature.
Consumerism isn't wanting a new phone - it's always wanting a newer phone.
Falling for consumerism begins innocently: wanting to keep up with one's social peers. Eventually, you'll find yourself risking the lives of real families so you can text-and-drive to save 5 seconds, pissed off at the high-school kid because you have mustard instead of ketchup on your sandwich, giving up spending time loving your wife because you feel she wants a bigger house more than your precious time.
This is one reason, among many, that I choose to be part of the stealthy wealthy, which is a movement of people who don't just blow their money on consumerism once they earn it.
Almost everyone rejects consumerism in theory, but in application, it's killing us socially, financially, culturally, and emotionally.
Consumerism is the orphan maker, leading to generations of children growing up with new toys but absent, distracted parents.
Consumerism is the financial annihilator, leading to financial decisions being based on spending money rather than achieving personal, family, and social goals.
Consumerism is the great culture killer, obliterating authentic cultural identity with a mindless, vague existence based on what one consumes rather than who one is.
Consumerism is the emotional executioner, directly and completely robbing people of any sense of being able to enjoy "now." We trade fulfillment for the gnawing desire for more petty consumption as a lifestyle.
Being emotionally tied to unachievable goals leads to perpetual feelings of anxiety, gnawing-but-vague regret, and an uncanny feeling that one is wasting one's life. Consumerism isn't just unhealthy - it's evil.
I've never seen a consumption-obsessed person finally hit the lifestyle that allows them to relax. Because it's not about any material, set goal. It's about the cultural obsession with more, the perpetually moving target itself.
If anything, the more one 'wins' at consumerism, the more devastating the consequences. There aren't enough fancy new coffee shops in the world to make up for a thirsty soul that can't be quenched. And no, this isn't a swipe against fancy coffee shops.
Don't confuse consumerism with markets or capitalism. Capital is important, and markets are vital, but consumerism is a different animal. Consumerism is the idea that you behave only for a transactional gain - that life is a series of accounting decisions.
If you focus on consumption, then business success won't help you - it'll destroy you. It'll lock you into a new lifestyle like a slave shackled to a luxury galley ship. That lifestyle isn't success - it's your comfy hell on earth.
I think people know something is wrong. The Internet is speeding up our strengths and weaknesses - which includes consumerism going off the rails in new life-ruining speed.
There are plenty of competing potential alternatives to consumption as a religion. I won't go into much detail here, but the simplest I've found could be seen as character-based producerism: I only consume what I need and what I symbolically appreciate because of its reflection of my values.
If I have a nice cigar in my smoking room, it's not because I always need a new, better cigar. It's because I am rewarding myself to make a symbolic statement about my own production in other areas. It's about who I am as a person. That means even if the cigar ends up being too dry or poorly constructed, it won't be upsetting - the symbolism will work.
When I bought my Cadillac CTS-V, it wasn't because I always need the latest and greatest new car. It was because I knew what it stood for: hard work, innovation, and finally achieving a set financial goal. A few months ago, it was accidentally scratched - it didn't bother me because the car wasn't the goal. Being a good man was. The distinction is one most will always miss.
Perspective - focusing on who one is and what things mean - is the simplest antidote for consumerism of which I'm aware.
Garry Kasparov, the most successful chess player in history, is a fierce opponent of Vladimir Putin. After a failed run for president of Russia in 2008, Kasparov is often seen as the lead opposition voice against Putin in the West.
In this short video for The Economist, Kasparov explains that Putin doesn't behave like a chess player, so the often-overused chess bromide doesn't quite work here. Instead, Kasparov suggests Putin's style is more similar to another popular game.
Here's the full video:
It's tempting to see a major drop in the stock market and believe that you have enough information to make a fast profit.
Right before I started writing this article, the stock market dropped well over 4%, leading to social media exploding with small-time investors saying things like, "Buy the dip!"
It sounds like sound advice. If anything, it almost sounds obvious.
After all, if you buy when stocks dip, that should, if you're guesstimating things correctly, mean that you're getting stocks just like normal over time - but at a slightly better deal.
This makes you more money, right? If stocks were a good investment yesterday, and today they're 4% cheaper, then you're just grabbing a 4% better deal, right?
In fact, this tempting approach is statistically more likely to cost you than earn extra. In fact, since investors started saying "buy the dip", stocks are down another 4% - and we could be on the verge of a substantial correction.
Fundamentally, "buy the dip" is a bad strategy based on an economic illusion.
As they say, "If it's too good to be true..."
"Buy the dip" has a lot of built-in assumptions that you can't statistically assume over time without getting seriously burned.
Let's break them down:
The ideas discussed immediately above are the basic assumptions of the "buy the dip" strategy. They might seem innocent but they can literally wipe out decades of savings because of several extremely important economic principles.
Let's look at the main principle that shatters these bad assumptions: the efficient market hypothesis.
Even if you find this to be mind-numbingly boring (most people would agree that it is), if you have any desire to save for retirement or find almost any level of financial independence, it's an idea you need to understand as much as possible.
This is the kind of financial and economic concept that every high-school student and college student should be deeply familiar with before they graduate. As I've written before, teaching financial concepts like this would change society completely. Unfortunately, the ideas are largely ignored.
Think of articles like this as the broccoli of self-help content. They're not fun to consume but you'll be better off if you do.
So grab a cup of coffee or tea, read the article, and feel free to contact me to discuss it further - or browse around the Internet to read some more. It's important and about way more than just "buy the dip" analysis.
Let's back up a bit.
To understand why you can't beat the market with tactics like the ones discussed above, we need to understand a concept called the "efficient market hypothesis (EMH)."
Effectively, the efficient market hypothesis (EMH) is the idea that asset prices fully "account" for all "known" information.
Without getting lost in the weeds, the hypothesis claims that, roughly, the market is already accounting for everything we know about the market.
In other words, if you think a downturn is coming, the market is already priced for what it believes is the likelihood of one - so gambling on a future bear market will probably not make money, because the market has already accounted for that prediction as well.
There's a reason Google is priced higher than a failing grocery store chain. The market is already pricing in the gamble that Google has better long-term growth likelihood than the failing grocery chain, to put it simply.
This notion of the market already pricing predictions is confusing to people.
Most tend to think that investing is about picking winners more often than picking losers. This isn't remotely true.
In fact, this isn't true any more than the idea that sports gambling is about just picking winners - if you pick winners of football matches 75% of the time, you will probably still lose money because a bunch of other gamblers made those same predictions - meaning the odds aren't always going to be 50-50. If anything, after fees, you're effectively going to almost always lose money gambling over time.
The same thing goes for stocks. You think Coca-Cola is a good bet? So do billions and billions of investor dollars. You think Google is a good bet? So do billions and billions of investor dollars.
Market prices reflect market predictions, effectively. So whenever you are gambling on the basis of a prediction you are making, so are all of the other people buying, selling, holding - or considering those things - that asset.
It's not enough to get a prediction right. There's a lot more going on. That simplistic "good prediction" understanding of investing is tempting and destructive.
No one person or organization decides what something is priced in the market. The stock market, in particular, is just a large collection of people buying and selling identical assets to other investors via bidding.
This means that prices simply reflect whatever supply and demand for the priced asset reflect at the time - if people suddenly stop selling, prices might go up - assuming there's the same number of people trying to buy with the same intensity as before.
This means that prices go up and down for individual assets on the basis of the investors trying to buy, hold, or sell the assets. So the prices reflect the desires being acted upon by the investors - market prices respond to what all of the investors think they are worth.
This understanding that markets reflect the beliefs of huge number of investors is important. Markets don't reflect random people or the average investor - they reflect the applied beliefs of investors with the most money being gambled on the asset, as well. The more exposure to the asset one has, the more one's acted-upon beliefs impact its price.
Market prices reflect what investors know about the market. Information being released impacts prices. Prices reflect known information - not just information, but known information. Or, more technically (and philosophically accurate, for lack of better word), prices reflect believed information.
This makes markets brutal, powerful, and very fast responders to events, analysis, and the learned experience of the most powerful investors. In other words, markets are elaborate social pricing machines based on known information about the assets in question.
Put simply, prices are the market's reflection of the known information about the asset at that particular time. This is important. If anything, understanding this is key to understanding everything else discussed on this page.
As information continues to spread faster and faster with innovations like the Internet, being able to have an "information edge" becomes increasingly difficult to the point of being impossible.
It would have been easier to outperform the stock market in 1940 than it is in 2018. Information simply spreads too fast and is too widely available to beat everyone else. Having an information advantage is difficult when insider trading is illegal and Indonesian street vendors have more information than the Library of Alexandria in their pocket computers.
Even Benjamin Graham, the father of value investing, (which Warren Buffet based his life work on), eventually came to concede to the efficiency of public markets. He wrote in 1976, literally 42 years ago and well before the Internet made things worse:
“I am no longer an advocate of elaborate techniques of security analysis in order to find superior value opportunities. This was a rewarding activity, say, 40 years ago, when our textbook "Graham and Dodd" was first published; but the situation has changed a great deal since then. In the old days any well-trained security analyst could do a good professional job of selecting undervalued issues through detailed studies; but in the light of the enormous amount of research now being carried on, I doubt whether in most cases such extensive efforts will generate sufficiently superior selections to justify their cost. To that very limited extent I'm on the side of the "efficient market" school of thought now generally accepted by the professors.”
If Graham thought it was tough then, he would have been a vigorous supporter of the efficient market hypothesis now. As everyone should be.
Understanding markets as nothing more than an incredibly massive, incredibly comprehensive series of pricing mechanisms is the first step towards financial humility.
People who misunderstand the EMH almost always misunderstand the first step: the market is just a big pricing machine accounting for nearly all known information. So unless you have some massive, massive information advantage (like insider trading, or some kind of elaborate expertise in a particular industry mixed with the ability to understand utterly in-depth financial valuations), you won't outperform the market. Period.
So you won't do better if you buy the dip than if you don't. You won't do better if you refuse to invest during a dip. You won't do better no matter what you do - not risk-adjusted.
This doesn't mean you're helpless. Make sure to read the end of this article if you'd like to skip to the more optimistic interpretation of these concepts.
You and I aren't nearly as smart as we'd like to be. Our comically tiny ability to comprehend the Universe pales in comparison to countless investors using countless unique angles coming together in the total capital markets - with almost everyone looking for the slightest advantage.
You can't beat the stock market, risk-adjusted.
Even if you predict all kinds of things correctly, that's not the point - you'll eventually get a couple wrong and those will ruin your numbers - putting you back where you started, or worse. If you do get lucky, you didn't get lucky on a risk-adjusted level - meaning, well, you were lucky, not better informed than the market at large.
And getting lucky isn't the same thing as having a superior strategy.
This bleak conclusion makes sense - after all, the market is nothing more than a pricing machine, so the more efficient (ie, the more informed the market is - which during the Information Age is going to be pretty damned informed) the market, the less likely you are to beat it.
For anyone keeping score on how well information spreads these days, you have effectively no chance of beating the market, risk-adjusted. Period. Sorry. End of story.
'Buy the dip' sounds good, but like I wrote earlier, it's based on some assumptions that don't make risk-adjusted sense. The biggest one is that you're assuming the dip isn't the beginning of a crash. Imagine if instead of "buy the dip" we said, "buy the stocks right before the bear market wipes you out for about 10 years." Doesn't sounds as clever, does it?
Of course, almost never will the dip end up a bear market. Nine times out of ten, you'll avoid that. But it's that one out of ten that wipes out your statistical advantage. That's the part that confuses people. You're not trying to usually beat the market - you're trying to beat the market on a risk-adjusted level - which is economically impossible.
The same concept applies to the other assumption: the notion that if you can "buy the dip" then you're buying it with resources that supposedly you had access to beforehand, otherwise you would just say "buy" and not "buy the dip." The reference to taking advantage of a specific opportunity in the market and not just buying consistently suggests you've been sitting on the money.
If you sit on money you want to invest in public markets at some point because you want to outperform it, you're missing the economic point - you're never going to perform better sitting on the sides. Think about how many people thought the market was "too" expensive a couple of years ago - they've lost an incredible amount of wealth because of that view.
I spent a lot of time writing about these concepts, but i want to make sure what I'm saying isn't misunderstood as another set of arguments. Here's a quick clarification. I'm not saying anything bolded in the section below:
Avoiding mistakes is 99% of investing. But enough about the bad news. Let's look at some interesting applications of these ideas that will make you money.
Now here's the cool part. You can invest better than almost every financial genius on earth in a couple of surprisingly simple steps.
You can invest better than the billionaires, the stock-market gurus, the bankers, the college endowment investment managers, the financial planners - you can outperform almost all of them over time.
The way is simple. They're all trying to outperform the market. This, on average, causes nearly every last blasted one of them to dramatically underperform the market for the reasons explained above.
So if you just hook up your portfolio to track the market as cheaply and as consistently as possible, you'll outperform the experts - by default.
All you have to do:
Do this and you'll outperform almost every mutual fund on earth over time. You'll outperform almost every equity hedge fund. You'll outperform almost every individual investor.
And you'll do it because of your humility.
Vanguard is an organization that exists so that any 'profits' get passed back to the funds themselves, meaning they are as low fee as is legally and economically possible - in general. Their index funds just try to not beat the market - they're based on the assumption that the market is essentially always priced the best possible way based on all known info.
And it works. Vanguard slaughters the competition easily. It's almost embarrassing for the experts. I'll be writing about this more down the road. Make sure to sign up for my newsletter if you'd like to read more. It's boring, but it's powerful because it's true.
Don't try to buy the dip. Don't try to make financial gambles on the basis of your market predictions. Build a simple portfolio like the one described above. Don't fight the market - let it carry you itself.
Buy the market regularly regardless of the news. Sometimes, you'll buy while the market is rising. Sometimes, you'll buy while the market is falling. Sometimes, you'll buy while the market is flat. Regardless, over time, your portfolio will get better, and your returns stronger.
Most importantly, perhaps: use economic literacy to avoid big mistakes that you'll regret for the rest of your life.
If you're looking for a legitimate excuse on which to blame everything going wrong in your life, I've got some great news: there's definitely a legitimate excuse for your situation.
In fact, I've never met a person yet who didn't have at least a few major external reasons they weren't wherever they wanted to be with their finances, health, fitness, and/or relationships.
I'm serious. Almost everyone I know has perpetual, legitimate excuses on hand useful for rationalizing every missed goal, every dropped ball, and every small flaw in their life. Excuses on tap.
Almost everyone has major areas outside of their control which consumes their time, energy, and mental bandwidth on such a level that using those areas as excuses would be honest, understandable, and even respectable. Let's review a few common ones.
Here are some extremely common excuses that you might have access to right now:
These are just the major excuses. Smaller ones are even more plentiful and just as legitimate.
Late for something? There was someone in front of you going too slowly. Miss a morning deadline? Your computer was giving you problems for a full 20 minutes. Ignoring the emotional needs of your significant other? They were rude earlier, and it's drastically easier to just give them the silent treatment like you were raised. Going into debt every month? Eating out a few times a week is not unreasonable.
If you have a somewhat normal life, then you're probably going to have a couple of mental health issues, a couple of kids, an emotionally needy spouse, and a lack of money. These are major excuses that, if you use them, nobody will blame you for the problems they will cause. If anything, your friends will bring them up to help you rationalize things whenever life goes south.
Heck, if you called me right now and told me your situation, I'd probably even go along with the excuses. They're legit. You have tons of them. Everyone will agree.
This is why the whole social justice movement is growing so quickly with young people. Because they're right about the oppression, kind of. This is true even on the smaller level we're talking about. In almost every negative situation, something else - outside of your direct control - is causing the problem on a major, fundamental level.
In fact, the general narrative behind excuses is all wrong. Most people believe that the default is things going correctly and that when something bad happens, that's the unknown variable that caused things to go south - that's why it's the excuse. Excuses are seen as exceptional events outside of one's control.
The truth is the opposite. In the same way, some people see "privilege" everywhere, the other side of that coin is to see legitimate excuses everywhere. Bad things happen to you constantly for legitimate reasons outside of your control.
That said, the purpose of this article isn't what it might look like right now. In fact, the real lesson is the opposite of how most people take these lessons.
Obstacles are inevitable, but excuses aren't.
When something goes poorly and you have the choice to blame the external cause or find some flaw or area of potential improvement with yourself, err on the side of choosing yourself - while also learning about the external source as well.
This puts you in a perpetual position of learning from failure rather than a cycle of repeating failure.
There is no strategic value in excuses - even legitimate excuses. There is a strategic value in understanding your disadvantages. Understanding your disadvantages is good, but an excuse is when you reject understanding the disadvantage in favor of surrendering your personal narrative to the disadvantage.
That distinction is the difference between an obstacle being a problem you overcome or the defining characteristic of your ruined, wasted life.
Think of your daily life like a general who surveys a potential battlefield: only a fool would ignore the terrain, but only a bad general would see the terrain as either good or bad without considering his options for navigating said terrain. You're the general of your life. So act like it.
An excuse is when someone surrenders their entire identity of being a strong, independent, strategic human being in exchange for telling their boss someone was driving slightly slower than normal in front of them. Excuses are pathetic, strategically useless, and are, ironically, a major personal flaw that causes major life harm.
This bears emphasis: excuses - surrendering to legitimate obstacles - is a reflection of your flaw. That means that the wrong mentality takes the understandable blame and shifts it from that external cause and points it right back at you: the foolish general.
It's important to understand the obstacles you face, yes. But that's not the same as surrendering to them and believing that those obstacles are the unmovable, unchangeable catalysts of the inevitable undesired outcome.
Scroll up and look at that list of excuses. Now, look at it as a list of possible disadvantages that one can overcome. Now one's entire outlook on life shifts drastically. You become more powerful when you realize you have the power in the first place.
The point of this article isn't to somehow suggest that you should ignore when you are, in fact, being oppressed. The concepts described don't mean you shouldn't care about things like unequal pay, abusive parents, or any other situations where you truly are being victimized. That's not the point at all.
It's also not the point of this article to shame you for not "overcoming" every situation. I wouldn't have been as successful if I'd grown up as a black female in 1930s Alabama. Some things are beyond our control. That's just a fact.
It's not a mental "trick" to suggest people should blame themselves over situations for which they aren't responsible. Sometimes structural, and macro changes are necessary.
"Victim blaming" and "blame yourself first" aren't remotely connected.
In "victim-blaming", you blame the innocent person for the actions of the guilty - and entrench the problem.
In "blame yourself first", you seek to understand the catalysts of the unwanted final result, and then act to minimize the unwanted final result as much as possible - and prevent it from happening again.
That's why it's "blame yourself first" and not "blame yourself only."
If you're only partly to blame, focus on what can be done on your end to change the outcome. But don't ignore the problems caused by external sources - and don't accept blame for what is not within your control.
Of course, if you aren't to blame at all, then don't blame yourself at all. Sometimes, there's nothing we can do and we can't fix a broken situation. These ideas are about empowering you, not enslaving you to unjust blame.
Let's look at a real-world example.
If you're the CEO of a company and someone running a department makes a series of horrible decisions that severely damages their department, then you should immediately figure out what you could have done to prevent the problem, what you did to cause the problem - if anything - and what you can do to minimize the current damage.
You begin by asking yourself the following questions:
That might mean realizing that you made a mistake in hiring for the position. It might mean you didn't put the right processes in place. It might mean you should have communicated better with the department head. It might mean many things.
What it shouldn't mean is that you should just blame the department head and ignore all culpability - direct or indirect. Blame yourself first weaponizes the fact that you can only, in the end, control your own decisions - and that's where the brunt of your analysis should be for fixing problems.
Even when someone else is to blame, "blame yourself first" results in a more comprehensive, total awareness of what occurred and how to minimize the damage.
In business, this really is an effective "hack" for almost every situation.
An excuse is when someone driving slow made you late for work. An obstacle is when someone drove slow in front of you - but your day was so organized that you still made the deadline because you (almost) always have the ability to arrive a little early through good planning.
In plain English: just because there's an external cause for something negative in your life, that doesn't mean that you don't have options for getting around that cause - even if the solution might seem "extreme" to others.
Just because you're poor doesn't mean you have to stay poor. Just because you're poor doesn't mean you can't compete against wealthier people. Just because you're poor doesn't mean you can't use that experience as a leverage point when dealing with others.
Just because you didn't have a father doesn't mean you have to have the "daddy issues" of someone who didn't have a father - sometimes, those who were fatherless become the best fathers because they trained themselves to use that pain and emotional vacuum as an energy source.
Sometimes, your biggest disadvantages and obstacles can become your biggest advantages and strengths. But you have to blame yourself first in order to rule over your life well. This is the beginning of a good personal strategy.
With a good personal strategy, even our weaknesses become untraditional advantages.
A fundamental part of a high-school education in America should involve understanding personal finance, the true cost of credit, and how delaying consumption for a few years can be the difference between financial hardship and an early retirement.
I don't mean a class or two of textbook information about how credit works. I mean actually teaching the principles of financial discipline.
We need a producer society focused on creating value - not a consumer society focused on taking as much as possible. Think: thrift and productivity as a culture.
Consumerism has become one of the most destructive quasi-religious elements of modern culture. People identify themselves on the basis of what they consume - not what they do or who they are.
That's why the following should be taught as a comprehensive part of high-school - and heck, college - education. Not just a single class, but as a fundamental approach to finance whenever it comes up, referenced throughout curriculum, branding, and materials.
For example, here are some thoughts that could be developed either through in-depth explanations or specific tutorials and hands-on guidance:
Building a culture of thrift is possible, but it requires focusing on just that - culture. Finance isn't just about math. People have to begin, as early as possible, to understand that not all consumption is "reasonable." We should view consumption with suspicion.
I say this as someone who was a millionaire for years before I bought a new vehicle. I live in a small house that I renovated. My biggest luxury is an occasional $15 cigar. This doesn't mean I don't live well - I live like a king. I just don't mindlessly consume.
The crazy thing is that basic personal finance teaches us to reject consumerism and ironically helps us achieve a much better lifestyle. Rather than spending money on things we don't need, we find freedom - and more money down the road to spend on experiences and a good life.
Good personal finance turns money around so that rather than us being enslaved by the economic system, we're using the economic system to maximize our own options, happiness, and legacy. It's incredibly powerful.
Consumerism is one of the most destructive forces in modern society. It takes potentially free people and enslaves them to empty consumption, constantly increasing their standards for what they believe "normal" people should be able to consume. The end result is an impoverished society... surrounded by material wealth.
Good finance is critical to a good life. That's why so many philosophies - from the book of Proverbs to Stoic thought - emphasize contentment, self-control as something to practice like any other skill, and a lifestyle of discipline.
What better place to develop a strong culture than educational institutions? What use is an educational institution that doesn't educate on the fundamental ideas, concepts, and identities that are key to every other part of society's prosperity?
Imagine every high school student becoming intimately familiar with these concepts. It would transform the world.
Mark Zuckerberg has announced that he wants to shift Facebook away from "passive" content to more active, "engaging" content. In other words, your Facebook newsfeed will soon replace the content that you might merely click on with content that you and your friends are more likely to engage with.
In other words, the pages that post 30 times per day hoping they can monopolize the newsfeeds of their "readers" will be penalized. Facebook traffic is going to shift heavily to brands that are dramatically more engaging.
Of course, this transformation has led to instant backlash from a wide variety of internet publishers -- probably because they don't really understand what Mark was saying, why he said it, or what the consequences of Facebook's easy-to-manipulate passive content ecosystem have been so far.
I founded one of the most popular political websites in the world. It began with an important mission: speaking truth to power by giving a voice to the forgotten middle class.
In the past, I wrote headlines for articles that reached over 15,000,000 users on Facebook. From a single posting. On a single page.
I've written articles that have been read by millions and millions of people from Facebook. No, I don't mean "seen" by millions of people. I mean millions of people clicked on the actual link and read the message crafted to influence their political interpretation of the world.
My site's style focused on the sizzling elements of stories that the Wall Street Journal and even Fox News didn’t want to cover. It was a perfect marriage with Facebook's algorithm because it ignored branding and focused on whether users would click on stories.
It was good storytelling. It was fun. And it worked frighteningly well.
Realistically, my personal headlines and articles had drastically more reach than the entire "Russian interference" scandal covered by mainstream outlets like the New York Times. So when it comes to the algorithm change and the implications, I'm speaking from the position of someone who has utilized this algorithm more than almost anyone on earth.
Still, the ecosystem that allowed what I was able to do is now mostly gone - and that's a good thing.
Visionless people look for consistency regardless of context. Some want the ecosystem that existed 4-5 years ago to be all that exists going forward. That's disturbingly short-sighted.
In the past, alternative media needed a huge boost to shake up the narrative. Now we're in a weird place where those same alternative media brands acquired too much power, and we need to change things again.
I now run the Conservative Institute, a very different project. It seeks to provide reliable, trustworthy news for conservatives in an era where dishonesty has become a fundamental pillar of the right-wing media ecosystem. The goal of CI content is not to "go viral" - it's to simply tell the truth. Accuracy is the primary goal, come what may.
We don't defend Trump when he's wrong. We don't attack liberals when they're right. We only report what we believe to be important stories that should circulate on the right wing - and everywhere. A typical article will link to sources like the New York Times, federal agencies, and PDFs of actual studies.
Now, Facebook seems to be responding to the same basic issues that CI was built to combat: a social media ecosystem that replaced high-quality, investigative journalism with shallow "passive" content mostly ripped quickly from other - often just as shallow - sources.
To better understand what's happening, let's look at the following basic concepts that provide context for the Facebook change.
Never in the history of the world was it so easy to reach so many people with a message.
I know people who had no experience in marketing, journalism, research, or much of anything else, reach thousands of people with low-quality stories mostly lifted from other sources.
In fact, ripping off my projects was a pretty easy way for someone with no talent or instincts to make a healthy six-figure income. It happened frequently.
That entire system was incredibly powerful for shaking things up. Now, we're in a different situation - the balance has shifted from the Associated Press, NBC, and local newspapers to an army of smaller sites that often spread misinformation, nasty accusations, or outright lies. Another way to describe it? Fake news.
The algorithms that decided how many people would see content didn't account for "accuracy" at all. Who cares if a fake story goes viral? It was getting the clicks and shares it needed to get more and more traffic on Facebook. That's a massive design flaw, especially when alternative media became so powerful.
This was a temporary hiccup in world history. "Alternative" and "mainstream" media aren't the future - quality media is, regardless of where on the political spectrum it may fall.
Everyone has an ignorant family member known for accidentally sharing fake news stories they didn't verify. The idea that a global media distribution system should give that person just as much power as someone who isn't as gullible is absurd.
I don't mean this in a condescending manner at all. I'm ignorant of many things just like you are. But many people simply don't have the time or expertise in media and geopolitics to know what source should be considered "trustworthy" and what source is taking them for a ride.
If anything, this system isn’t even fair to the person falling for the fake news - the distribution system should minimize the lies that show up in that person's newsfeed as well.
Some will huff and puff over what I just said, pretending they deeply care about ignorant people having the right to easy access to fake and misleading news. The problem is that this is mostly bad-faith virtue signaling.
Let me be blunt: passive-content farms/publishers don't respect their audiences. They often laugh at them. It’s easy to get rich off of people who don’t know any better.
Those market incentives are largely gone, and that's a wonderful thing.
"Passive" content is content that requires no investment from the reader. You don't have to have any kind of relationship with the brand or the content. It's content that happens to be in your feed, and you just may find it interesting enough to click on and read without comment - or not. Most of the content in your newsfeed is like this.
You probably have no emotional connection to the brand and if you click on the story, you may skim it or watch some video, and then exit out and never think about it again. No comments, no shares, no personal connection - nothing. It's passive content.
"Passive content" is where fake news comes from. It's the ecosystem that allows fake news to flourish. It's the system built on a series of economic incentives that allow bad faith publishers to make money manipulating you for fun and profit.
There are a few brands that manage to engage me with almost all of their content; Tim Ferris, Ryan Holiday, Bloomberg, The Art of Manliness, etc. I engage with their community, share their links to my personal page, and have a connection to the brands themselves. They don't just happen to show up on my feed and trick me into clicking.
I have a deep appreciation of the personalities behind the content. That's vital. That's good. And that's the future.
If your business model is based on easy traffic from one website, that's your problem, not Facebook's problem.
"Facebook is a public company that controls its own decisions... Publishers should do the same damn thing."
This isn't new. Copyblogger, (a resource any content marketer should see as kind of like a regularly updated Bible), wrote years ago:
"If you're relying on Facebook or Google to bring in all of your new customers, you're sharecropping. You’re hoping the landlord will continue to like you and support your business, but the fact is, the landlord has no idea who you are and doesn’t actually care."
The future will still have plenty of content. The future will still have plenty of news. But it won't be low-quality content lifted from other sources without any attempt at providing extra value like additional context, additional sources, or additional facts.
The future belongs to quality publishers with strong brands and vibrant communities. This is the way it's been for centuries - and this is the way it will continue to be for centuries more.
If Facebook's change is going to harm your business, then discover higher-quality, more long-term oriented workarounds. Build an online "TV" show. Launch a podcast. Write a book. Go to other platforms. But don't blame Facebook for not allowing you cheap access to a gravy train.
The Clipper Ship Strategy: to make money during a gold rush, focus on supplying a secondary demand created by a primary boom. Chances are, it'll have drastically less competition while being just as lucrative.
Cryptocurrencies have a similar situation unfolding. Everyone is trying to get rich buying the 'coins' in order to sell them to someone else later. This is extremely risky, and just as many people will get wiped out as will make money. It's one thing to buy bitcoins if you're worried about a paradigm shift (like I described in my 2013 article on Seeking Alpha). But it's another thing to buy Bitcoins hoping it's your personal gold rush.
Trying to strike gold - or its digital equivalence - is for suckers or extremely skilled speculators. Chances are, you're not one of the latter.
Here's the real way people are making money with cryptos:
Either way, whenever you see a gold rush, don't fall for the trap. Don't go for the bait. Don't become a miner. Find a way to build wealth by looking for the second opportunity - it's probably being overlooked by others and there's more room to grow and profit.
When Caesar ordered that statues in honor of Pompey be restored after they'd been torn down, Cicero wisely informed him, "You have restored Pompey's statues, but you have made your own secure."
In other words, because Caesar acknowledged that his enemy still deserved his statues to be established, he wasn't weakening his position or legacy at all. If anything, it was a step towards ensuring that even his enemies would acknowledge him for well-earned accolades.
In the same way, if a certain president made a comment about a controversial topic that I agreed with, I would intentionally make it clear that I understood his point and agreed with it. Not because I am now in agreement with everything he says, but because such an approach pays dividends in the opposite direction should the shoe be on the other foot, in other words.
A collapse in good faith when it comes to appreciating goodness even in our enemies will lead to extreme political division and eventual massive fallout. For example, just take a look around the world now. Radicalism and pettiness go together.
Check out the new design. I've been wanting to fix the site for a long time and finally had the free time to knock it out.
The site should load in well under 1 second for most US users. The design was created to emphasize content for future essays and long-form blog posts.
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No analysis here, I just really enjoyed this video from the country super group. I'll be creating a category for these types of media posts so I can visit them later.
The Highwaymen were a country super group comprising of "outlaw country" pioneers Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson. The music speaks for itself.
Facebook's "trending" news section currently includes a statement by Alibaba founder and CEO Jack Ma. The soundbite is going viral.
Ma suggested, much to the dismay of business leaders around the planet, that fake goods from China are actually better than the real products.
Most are laughing at Ma, but I think he's making a great point and it's part of a multi-trillion dollar disruption going on in manufacturing and physical product marketing.
What Jack Ma Actually Said
Jack Ma was being questioned about all of the endless fake and counterfeit and "knock off" products that are for sale in bulk on Alibaba.com, a website that is essentially an Amazon.com for people looking to buy products to sell through repackaging.
Here's what Ma actually said:
"The problem is that the fake products today, they make better quality, better prices than the real products, the real names. It's not the fake products that destroy them, it's the new business models."
This isn't nearly as bad as it's being made out to be. It's also not wrong, in many cases. Let's do a quick review of some facts most people don't understand.
2 Facts to Keep in Mind
Jack Ma has a front-seat view of some massive economic shifts going on right now. He understands two very important facts:
If you buy a knock off watch, there's a fairly good chance it's made at the same factory as the big name brands - it just doesn't have the same brand.
This is especially true for easy to make products. Private labeling as an industry is changing how people view products.
That's why some companies, like the app Wish, are based on getting cheap private labeled products into the hands of consumers - they can be just a fraction of the cost, but have the same qualities as the name brand.
The above point touches on something that is difficult to wrap one's mind around at first: branding is largely an illusion.
If a small firm makes a product with identical quality as Apple, most people will think the apple product is higher quality because they believe in the illusion of the brand.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It can make decision making simpler and more efficient. But if you're spending more for a same-quality brand, then you might be missing the point.
This illusion is starting to crumble. It probably won't fully go away, but people are deconstructing what "name brand" means in the first place. This is incredibly interesting, and a sign of things to come, especially in ecommerce.
The Future of Manufacturing and Branding
As things progress, we're going to see more and more "same quality" products that will rival top brands.
Amazon recently started launching more of their own "branded" products that just slap on the Amazon label to a high-quality no-brand (previously, at least) product. This is making huge changes for all sorts of industries, especially in fitness and tech.
This trend is only going to get stronger. If you sell a fairly benign product and make money from your brand value, you'll still have many options for huge profits - but you'll want to make sure you pick the right product.
Generic products like "lase mouse" or "keyboard" are going to run into problems. Specific products like "gaming mouse" and "programmer keyboard" will likely be more promising, but we'll see how it plays out.
This article is going to be a little weird because it will reflect a very, very different mindset than one which is extremely common. Writing this article was weird for me as well, because it's difficult for me to sometimes understand other paradigms - and financial decisions is an area where I generally operate in my own little world.
For example, I delayed marriage and children for financial reasons. I didn't buy a new car until I had enough to literally retire. Right now, I'm reading the same books that I hope my financial planners had to read to become financial planners, because I want to know about every aspect of my financial situation and future.
To read more about my thoughts on careers and developing strategically sound income streams, keep researching this website.
No, I've Never Had a Job
I've never had a full-time job. I've had some freelance relationships as a writer, copywriter, and funnel builder for some financial companies. But I've never actually had a salary or anything along those lines.
It just never materialized. I started learning marketable skills while in high school. In fact, I started my business while in high school. I was doing consulting during my very brief moment at college before I dropped out to work on growing my business.
Yes, I'm a Millionaire
I mention this a lot for a few reasons. First, I don't care to be polite. It's not polite to bring it up a lot. But it's relevant, so I'll do it anyway. Second, as I just said, it's relevant. I'll talk more about this below, but suffice it to say