Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Art of War

In the Art of War, Sun Tzu observes:

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.

You are in danger. The big green machine has you squarely in its sights. You face the combined efforts of some of the most creative minds on the planet backed by billions of dollars, scientific research, and probably more computer power than the NSA. Who are these people? Many of them are your friends and neighbors. Some of them are employed in marketing products and creating advertisements. Some of them earn their living as commission salespeople. Some work at your local bank, especially if it is a branch of one of the big four. Loan companies, the issuers of credit cards, even the retailer that is tracking your behavior with loyalty cards are all planning how to put you to sleep, how to separate you from your money.

Self awareness is the first step towards financial freedom. You must know what you are doing with your money, but you also must be aware of what is being done to you. There is no need to be paranoid. They are just doing their jobs. However, I would encourage you to be a little more conscious when you are doing your weekly shopping. Think about what you are doing and why you are doing it. When you see those coupons and special offers on the back of register tapes, ask why did they do that? When a credit card company offers you a discount on an airline ticket to anywhere in the country a month after you pay off last year’s vacation, ask why did they do that? When your bank offers you anything, be very careful. Overdraft fees are the worst. Forbes reports those fees are running at $32 Billion a year. How banks calculate monthly minimums is mine field for the unwary. You think you have the minimum balance in that checking account, but you don’t calculate that number the same way the bank calculates that number. Now there are even fees for closing your account. Be sure and get a list of all your credit card fees. Understand how they are triggered. Otherwise be prepared to lose a few fingers.

Treat these people with the respect they deserve. They want your money and they know how to get it.

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