Friday, May 15, 2015

Yes! The Game is Crooked.

Canada Bill Jones was a notorious Wild West card sharp and con artist. Once one of his victims complained that he was running a crooked game, Canada Bill replied, “Yea, the game is crooked but it is the only game in town.”

If one of his marks’ protests became excessively heated, Canada Bill had another famous quote up his sleeve. “No son, you lose. ‘Cause this is a Smith & Wesson I’m holdin’ here.”

Yes, the game is crooked and yes, it is the only game in town. The powers that be want debt slaves and tax donkeys. Worldwide, during 2014, in just one year, $545.40 Billion was spent on advertising. You are in the gun sights of an incredibly sophisticated big green marketing machine operated to make you desire and consume more than you can possibly afford. Politicians, bureaucrats, corporations, banks, and self proclaimed leaders of every sort (including religious leaders) are working overtime to separate you from your money or looking for new ways to limit your freedom.

Even most members of that dastardly 1% can legitimately claim to be victims of the system. If they are self employed over 50% of their income is consumed in taxes. Although I never reached that level, it only takes $300,000 a year to make it into the 1%. It isn’t until you reach the top one hundredth of one percent (0.01%) that you can no longer claim that you are a victim of taxation without representation. At that level it is likely that your contributions and lobbyists assure you that your elected representatives are the best that money can buy.

Has it ever been any different? We live in one of the most corruption free countries on the planet. Although I believe it was better during the Eisenhower years and could be better again, money has always been the mother’s milk of politics. Power controls money. Money buys control of power. This was true in the days of the Roman Empire, during the Middle Ages, and even during the mythical days of the founding fathers of our nation.

In spite of all the obstacles we Americans face, there are people who find their way to financial freedom without the kind of advantages that have given Chelsea Clinton a net worth in excess of $15 Million while still in her early thirties. Roughly 80% of American millionaires are first generation, self made men and women. Many billionaires including Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Howard Schultz, and Mark Cuban came from working class or middle class families.

It can be done, but not if you let them trick you into playing the game they want you to play by their rules. If you don’t want to be a victim or a parasite, you have three options.

1) You can play their game by their rules and win. Many powerful CEOs of fortune 500 companies and extremely successful professionals were born without a silver spoon in their mouth. Intelligence, talent, hard work, and psychological sophistication propelled them to the top of their fields. Don’t tell me it isn’t possible. Look at our current president.

2) You can play their game, but not by their rules. Exploring pathways to financial freedom for more average folks is the purpose of this blog. If you work hard, heck, if you just show up you are ahead of most of your competition; if you pursue opportunities to make yourself a more valuable member of society; if you avoid debt like the plague; if you consistently live on less than you make; if you make systematic disciplined investments in a boring age appropriate portfolio; there is a high probability that you will find your way to financial freedom even if your income is in one of the middle quintiles.

It isn’t impossible. About 9.6 million American households have a net worth in excess of $1,000,000. That is a lot of millionaires. There are roughly 115.2 million households in this country. According to my calculator 8.4% of American households are millionaires.

3) You can play your own game by your own rules. I know people who are actively finding ways to become more self sufficient. Their goal is complete freedom from the system. They grow their own crops and raise their own animals. They trade with their neighbors and sell their surplus to like minded individuals in their area. They are taking greater responsibility for their own health through lifestyle changes and personal explorations into the world of alternative medicine. Some of them are even looking into developing their own alternative energy sources that will allow them to move completely off the grid.

It’s up to you. It isn’t just about luck. Poker is not a game of chance. It is a discipline that involves the use of probability theory, logic and psychology; strategic thinking, bluffing, and reading the opponent. Yes, even the best players can’t win if they don’t get the cards, but the same faces seem to have a way of appearing over and over again at final tables of the big tournaments. One of my former coworkers is a serious poker player. He visits nearby casinos and he wins. He is a licensed professional engineer. He understands the math behind the game. He studies. He keeps a logbook detailing every game he ever played. He records what he did, why he did it, and how it worked out.

You are not responsible for the hand the dealer gave you, but you are 100% responsible for how you choose to play your cards. The game isn’t fair. No doubt, the guy across the table from you has the edge, but you can win. It isn’t as easy today as it was in the years immediately after World War II when we had the only intact industrial infrastructure in the world, but people are still finding their way to financial freedom.

You can do it too.

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