Financial Independence & Financial Advisors

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An important aspect of achieving financial independence at an early age is making your money work for you by making prudent investment decisions. For many people, this means investing in the stock market, but with no shortage of investment options, you have probably asked yourself what should I invest in?  

As you ponder that question I want to make sure you are aware of an alarming hidden truth that exists in the investment world. When we think of professionals we think of people who spent years on their education, experience, and continuous improvement to be masters of their craft.  

This reasonable reasoning leads many to the assumption that investment managers for mutual funds or hedge funds can consistently beat the market on a risk adjusted basis.  This has been proven false by an overwhelming amount of data and evidence on historical fund performance.  

Approximately 95% of money managers fail to beat their benchmark.  That is truly astonishing.  The entire mutual fund & hedge fund industry is built on a false premise!  

It’s all built on the assumption that professional money managers can beat the stock market consistently over time. What’s even more damning about the 95% of money managers who underperform is that the 5% who do beat the market changes each year.  

We can estimate that over a 10 year time horizon less than 1% of money managers beat the stock market.  Remember the returns are further deteriorated by the exorbitant fees charged that is caused by churning (high trading volume).  Why take the risk of trying to choose the needle in the haystack when the risk return on such a decision is so negatively imbalanced?

Index funds such as those offered by Vanguard give you the exact performance of the underlying index less a minuscule fee, which is usually .05%.  The average Mutual Fund expense ratio is above 1%, but let’s compare two scenarios to understand the enormous impact of fees on your investment performance.

Beginning at the age of 25 two investors make $18,000 in annual contributions to their 401K and their employer contributes an additional $18,000.  For simplicity purposes, the contribution amounts do not change and their annualized return over the next 25 years is 8%.  The only difference is that Investor A chooses actively managed Mutual Funds, with a cumulative expense ratio of 1%, while the Investor B uses index funds with an expense ratio of .05%.  The effect of choosing the actively managed mutual funds is an ending portfolio value that is approximately 10% lower than the portfolio that utilized index funds.

Knowing the statistics of actively managed mutual funds and still choosing to invest in them is an act of self deception.  There are no data points you can point to that would give you a reasonable chance to choose money managers who outperform the stock market on a consistent basis.

The only group that benefits from actively managed mutual funds are the money managers themselves and the firms they work for.  It is a scam perpetuated by ignorance and unscrupulous incentives.

Have you ever spoken with a financial advisor?  I have and my experience was laughable.  I met a financial advisor through my personal network and being the curious type I agreed to a meeting to see what he could offer me.  I explained my financial situation and my goal of financial independence in my early thirties.  He was taken back that such a young person would even set such a goal, but he still made the same boilerplate actively managed mutual fund recommendations.   

Upton Sinclair once said:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.”  

This comes from an understanding of human nature and psychology and it applied perfectly to the financial advisor who was trying to push mutual funds on me because they were in his financial interest.  I tried explaining the facts, “95% of money managers don’t beat their benchmark, the outperforming managers change each year, and they charge 20x more in fees on average each year.”  

If he accepted the facts he’d probably need to find a new job.  This is why understanding the incentives and subtext of financial advisors is so critical to your long term financial health.  Since the same incentives and assumptions are being peddled by all financial advisors who earn a commission when you invest in actively managed mutual funds, it follows that everyone must arm themselves with the truth or risk being swindled by financial advisors whose job depends on client ignorance.  

That may be a hard pill to swallow, but the entire industry is built on deception, illusions, and ignorance and as someone who is striving to reach financial independence at a youthful age you must steer clear of this minefield.

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Small Advantages Become Transcedent

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Very small advantages can grow into massive advantages over time that can propel you to financial independence at a much earlier age than traditional retirement.  

Allow me to use myself as an example of how ostensibly benign advantages have proven to return extraordinary results.  My dad has his own accounting practice that has proven to be a successful business.  One day when I was 16 he asked if I’d want to do accounting work part time to make some money and learn accounting.  

I agreed and I started preparing bank reconciliations and write ups for small business clients.  Later that year I had a choice of taking a college accounting class in high school and the curiosity of learning more about a subject my dad was teaching and earning college credit motivated me to say yes.  

When class began we were learning accounting 101 and it was very simple accounting, but I mastered the subject matter a little quicker than my peers and with greater understanding because my dad was also teaching me at home when I worked for him.  

Then in my senior year of high school, I took college accounting 2 and once again the elementary accounting principles were not challenging and I received another A and 3 more college credits.  In addition to the 2 college accounting classes I took in high school, I also received college credit for AP World History, AP US History, and College Italian.  

This all allowed me to graduate high school with 15 college credits, basically a semester finished.  When college began I was always a semester ahead of my peers since I started college with credits.  This allowed me to take more advanced accounting classes earlier and since I was a student athlete and had accounting work experience with my dad I was more attractive to employers and landed 2 paid internships before my junior year.  

With the high grades, athletic experience, and now two internships I had a resume that landed me an internship with PricewaterhouseCoopers and was offered a full time job before I started graduate school.  Since I entered college with a semester done already I was able to graduate with my Master’s in Taxation a semester early which saved $10,000 and then gave me another advantage.  

In my last semester of graduate school I began studying for the Certified Public Accounting exam and passed the audit and business environment exams before graduating.  Since I graduated a semester early I had the time to focus 100% on passing the remaining two parts and was done just two months after graduating from college.  

I was 22, had a full time job lined up that started in 7 months, and learned what freedom felt like.  All of this began with working for my dad at 16 and continuously building on my foundation of knowledge.  The effects of this initial marginal advantage continued after graduating from college.  

Having worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers (which was made possible from two previous internships with smaller companies) I was able to land an accounting job that paid 50% more than if I had stayed at PwC.  

Even more than better pay was fewer hours, health insurance premiums covered 100%, 401k contributions matched 100%, and free breakfast and lunch.  I would’ve never predicted that taking advantage of such a small opportunity at 16 would reap such enormous and exponential rewards in my low twenties and beyond.

I share this story, not to boast, but to show the power of how small comparative advantages can reap enormous rewards down the road.  Reflect on this because there is something you can do that can fuel your quest to financial independence.  Something you do better than someone else due to skills, accumulated knowledge, contacts, or straight passion and willpower.  

Your comparative advantage may seem tiny and insignificant today, but over a long enough time horizon it can become a huge advantage and being able to deliver massive value to people who are willing to pay money for such value translates into financial freedom in the near future.  

It may take a while to find the best path to take to arrive at financial independence, but keep in mind how important the little advantages you possess can reap transcendent rewards.

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Hidden Costs of Working

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Being able to quit your day job and use your time in the way you consciously determine is extraordinary.  

Consider these set of facts. I commute 2 hours each way to work in Manhattan 5 days a week.  That adds up to about 1,000 hours per year spent unproductively commuting.  This is only temporary, but for the sake of exemplifying the power of financial freedom, it shows many of us, including myself, have two jobs.  

One is the 9 to 5 office job and the other is commuting.  I work about 50 hours per week, add on the 20 hours commuting, and my total time commitment is 70 hours per week or nearly 3,400 hours per year!  Given my writing speed, I could write over 1 million words in one year with the time I devote to working a traditional job.  The point is that many of us never consider the total time commitment we have to make to our jobs and what we could do with that time if we weren’t dependent on a paycheck to live. 

In addition to the wasted time commuting there is a dangerous health cost associated with a sedentary lifestyle that office jobs foster.  Office workers are devoid of any prolonged physical activity.  Even if you work out for an hour after sitting for 9 hours the negative effects are not negated.  This means you will likely be visiting the doctor more often than if you were financially independent and not working an office job. Financially, it means increased medical costs, potential hospital visits, and a drag on your financial life.  Financial independence means the freedom to live an active, healthy, vibrant lifestyle.

Another cost of working a 9-5 job is all the time spent away from your family.  Your kids are raised by babysitters, teachers, and friends.  Is there a dollar amount you can place on watching your kids grow up, being there when they have their first little league game, or just being there when they want someone to talk to?  

Let’s use a hypothetical family of 4 where both parents commute 2 hours each day to work (1 hour each way). Let’s also assume that the 2 children are in elementary school.  Waking hours for a typical child ages 5-10 are 7am-10pm.  The parents put their children on the bus at 8am and leave for work.  School ends at 3pm, but both parents are at work until 5pm so their children are enrolled in after school childcare from 3pm-6pm, which costs $500 per child per month.  The parents pick their children up and they have dinner together, do some homework, and then put the children to sleep at 10pm.  This is a very reasonable schedule for modern day Americans where both parents have been forced into the workforce.  

This is not the 60’s anymore, both parents work full time in nearly half of two parent households (Pew Research). In this example guess what percentage of time the parents spent with their children during the child’s up hours? Only one third and how much of that time was quality time?  We all know not much.  From Monday-Friday two-thirds of the children’s time awake was spent with teachers and after school caretakers.  That is the price of not owning your time.  Other people raise your kids.

If this wasn’t bad enough working in an office involves office politics where Machiavelli dons a suit and tie, smiles in your face, and then stabs you in the back with surgical precision.

Let’s summarize the cumulative economic, social, and health costs that working a 9-5 job forces you to pay over a 10 year time span.

Commuting 2 hours each day x 5 days x 50 weeks x 10 years x 2 (Mom & Dad) yields 10,000 wasted hours, which could be productively used to generate an income stream.  If those hours yielded just $10 per hour that’s $100,000 in lost income.

The sedentary lifestyle of working in an office does not come without a price on your health.  The present value of the increased health costs could easily cost you $2,000 more per year.  That’s an increase in expenses of $40,000.

Since you’re working all day and don’t want to become state property you spend $1,200 per month per child on day care for 5 years ($1,200 x 2 x 12 x 5 = $144,000).  When your children turn 6  you spend $500 per month per child on afterschool day care ($500 x 2 x 12 x 5 = $60,000).  Total day care costs from 1-10 = $204,000 (ignoring inflation).

We aren’t finished yet because you and your spouse had to buy 2 cars to commute to work since the home prices near both of your offices are too expensive.  You both take out two $25,000 car loans at 3% interest paid back over 5 years.  Your car payment is $449 for each car, but add in insurance of $150 per month, plus $50 in amortized monthly maintenance per month, $75 in gas per month, plus $10 per month in amortized parking & speeding tickets because you can’t be late to work.  Each car has an all in cost of $734 per month.  10 year cost of owning two cars = ($449 x 2 x 12 x 5) + ($285 x 2 x 12 x 10) = $122,280.

Just from the above costs that’s nearly $500k in costs incurred because you aren’t financially independent and did not have control over your time.   

How would you use your time if you were financially free and didn’t work at a job you despised?  How much traveling would you do?  Where would you travel to?  Would you volunteer in your community or start your own business?  

Start thinking about your ideal life made possible by financial freedom.  Millions of people never scratch the surface of their potential because their time is completely consumed by work.  You have unrealized potential just waiting to be activated.  It’s not a simple linear act to change your life, but with strategy, foresight, execution, and mental strength I’m confident you’ll get there.

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Symbol of the Slave

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A slave is someone whose will is subordinated to external circumstances.  

We learned in school that slaves wore visible chains and worked on plantations. We were taught about physical slavery, but there is another much more insidious and just as destructive form of slavery known as psychological slavery.  

Here again is where philosophy is a priceless guardian of your mind and dreams.  Deriving your self worth from the opinions of others, material objects, or from your physical beauty is cataclysmic to financial and personal freedom.  The reason is because each is outside of your control.  If you build your life upon a shifting and uncertain foundation it will certainly bring pain and distress. 

You can’t control what others think of you, the luster of material objects is fleeting, and physical beauty is extremely temporal.  My question to all people who indulge in vanity is: what will be left of you when those good looks depart? 

For most people, the answer is not much.  What’s the use of being beautiful if you lack virtue or wisdom?  Being corrupted by your own physical beauty is a shame.  

I am always disappointed by beautiful people who haven’t spent 5 minutes on becoming a decent human being.  There’s a saying that goes:

“There are two types of people who never hear the truth; powerful people and beautiful people.”  

Of course, the meaning is that everyone is courting powerful people and/or beautiful people and no one wants to fall out of their good graces by telling them the truth.  Ironically, withholding the truth degrades the person you are attempting to court favor with.  Not so ironic at all though, because gaining favor is about gaining some sort of power for yourself and has nothing to do with the welfare of the person with whom you are courting.

People who are married to these ways of gaining self esteem may attempt to prolong the illusion they’ve created with the use of their money.  This typically expresses itself by becoming a person everyone mooches off of because you can’t tell people no, becoming addicted to retail therapy to solve personal problems, and buying expensive plastic surgery to preserve the appearance of youth.  All three are fundamentally at odds with your own personal freedom as an autonomous human being and as someone seeking financial freedom.  

These modes of thinking are poisonous because if you don’t engage in self reflection you’ll never become aware of how you are screwing yourself and how your own actions are 100% responsible for your unhappiness.  

How dangerous it is that people can enslave themselves depending on the quality of their thoughts.  This again is why a constant pursuit of truth and a sober view of reality is priceless. Once again, this is why having a strong inquisitive philosophical mindset is crucial to creating and building wealth.  

You don’t have to be as philosophical as Socrates, but you do need to reflect on everything that flies through your head and ensure you remedy any poisonous thought patterns, which could lead to self destructive actions.

Speaking of poisonous thought patterns, what are they and where do they originate?  They are thoughts that contradict your ideals and life purpose.  Their origins are diverse, but they are expressed by the ego.  The part of our psyche that is unenlightened.  

These sort of thoughts more times than not originate in our external world.  I know this is hard to accept, but people who do not share your value system are poisonous to your wellbeing.  Fitting in with the crowd is too big of a price to pay to lose sight of who you truly are and what you truly desire.  

Being philosophical means confronting these uncomfortable and sometimes frightening realities and doing what is in your long term strategic interest.  Lies bring short term stability, but long term destruction.  Truth brings short term chaos and long term stability.  To associate with people who really do not share your values or dreams murders your essence.  You cannot hang around poor people and expect to become rich.  You cannot hang out with politicians and expect to become honest.  Likewise, you cannot succeed if you associate with people who contradict your mission in life.

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” – 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

Once again, a bit of wisdom that ostensibly seems completely unrelated to financial freedom is extremely beneficial to understand and wildly dangerous if you do not.

Don’t be so short sighted to think there aren’t any slaves in America today or anywhere else in the world.  Physical slavery has been greatly curtailed, but psychological slavery is alive and well.

What is the root cause of people enslaving themselves to those things in life that are fleeting and temporal?  It begins with values.  What do you prioritize?  What are your deepest desires?  What is your philosophy on life?  What do you want to accomplish before you die?  The answers to these types of questions form a filter for your experiences and thoughts.  

Someone with incorruptible convictions in an ideal, or a principle, or an end goal, will know their true north and act accordingly when life tries to compromise them.  

What is the master value, the value that precedes excellence and all other values?  That would be a love for truth.  This one value is extraordinary because it gives you a fierce desire to constantly challenge your own worldview, to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, and to advance towards your end goal in the most efficient and strategic manner.

If a love of truth deters psychological delusions then why are so many people ruled by illusions?  2,500 years ago in Athens men and women were ruled by the shadows and today nothing has changed because that is the natural consequence of rejecting the master value.  Even in 21st century America, with every opportunity to gain knowledge, we are swimming in a sea of ignorance because people are still living in Plato’s cave.  

They reside in the subterranean caverns of their mental potential because they said no to knowledge, wisdom, and truth.  You cannot afford to say no to the master value.  

Freedom demands a love of truth.

 

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How the Powerful Shaped You

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Knowledge is preferable to ignorance, wisdom over arrogance, and truth over illusions.  

With that said there is much value to be gained in understanding the country you live in, who exercises the most power over the average person, and what their intentions are.  One can surely take an eagle eye perspective of American life and ponder why is it that in one of the wealthiest nations in the world do we have so many people who aren’t financially free?  

Why in the 21st century are so many Americans ignorant?  I believe an understanding of the answer to this question is absolutely critical in your ascension to financial freedom.

Illegitimate power can only persist with the assistance of illusions, but what is illegitimate power in a nation with democratic heritage and ideals?  It’s the use of private power to subvert the public’s interest in favor of economic or political elites.  

To assert your will on a democratic nation without being elected and use your power for selfish ends can only be accomplished if the population is conditioned to either not understand power dynamics or to simply be apathetic towards political affairs altogether.  

A dictator could accomplish these ends by simply asserting force and violence on dissenting citizens, but in a nation like the United States, this is not a viable long term strategy to maintain power.  What is needed is propaganda or manipulative and deceptive information that forms opinions and a worldview that never threatens an illegitimate power structure.  

I will speak on the actions and the influence of elites in the United States, but within the context of achieving financial freedom the most important insight to have is that a free person who is not inhibited by a need to work 40 hours a week to live is dangerous to those who drive the direction of the nation.  

Dangerous for several reasons.  

First, you have time and you’re unpredictable on how you will use that time.  You could educate yourself and come to learn the truth and have the resources to spread the truth and potentially change the power structure of the nation.  

Elites understand that economic freedom is a potential threat to their power and measures were taken to ensure that a financially independent person is the exception and not the rule.  I will speak on several of these measures that have extraordinary influence over every American and are widely unknown.

The actions taken by the nation’s power brokers in the late 19th century were synergistic and wildly potent.  Consequently, they were also a major setback for the autonomy and freedom of the American people.  

If you want to understand the external influences that drive people toward financial servitude you must understand what occurred over 100 years ago in the halls of power.  

Ever since the dawn of civilization those in power were always interested in social engineering to protect themselves from an unruly population.  Being able to control your population makes it easier to rule.  It really is that simple.  

America’s rulers are no different in their thinking then the Medici’s during the Florentine Renaissance who ruled with the iron fist that Niccolo Machiavelli described in The Prince or the type of actions taken by Caesar when he dissolved the Roman Republic.  

Unenlightened rulers are not concerned with maximizing the potential of each human being, but rather solely interested in the raw and vain pursuit of naked power.  Understanding this will make it easier to understand the actions taken against the American people by the nation’s rulers in the late 19th century and early 20th century.  

High on the power bestowed upon them by the enormous fortunes made during the industrial revolution America’s industrial titans sought to create an education system that would complement their economic and political interests.  

The purpose of this education system would be the same purpose of nearly every government funded education system anywhere in the world, to advance the interests of those who control the government.  More specifically, the purpose was to create obedient, docile, and unthinking employees who would be conditioned for life in the factory where their freedom was stripped and their autonomy nonexistent.  

Ironically the education system was meant to ensure the citizenry was never truly educated and that they lived their entire lives believing the illusion of their rulers.  The propaganda disseminated by the elites is why millions of people are living in Plato’s cave of illusions.  

Such a state of mind is cultivated in the Trojan horse we know as public schools.  Ostensibly, public schools appear benign and even beneficial, but that is exactly the thoughts of the Trojans described by Virgil in the Latin epic poem/myth, Aeneid.   

After years of fruitless battling between the Greeks and Trojans, the Greeks devised a cunning strategy based in subversion.  They built a wooden horse large enough to hold dozens of Greek warriors and presented it as a gift to Troy.  

The Trojans wheeled the horse inside their city walls and their destruction became imminent as the Greeks climbed out of the wooden vessel, opened the gates of the city, and destroyed Troy.  

Public schools appeared to be a gift to the American people, just like the wooden horse appeared to be a gift to the Trojans, but its purpose was the same of the Trojan horse, to subvert an enemy.  The enemy public schools sought to destroy were freethinkers and those with high minded ideals such as truth, freedom, and justice.  To be even more refined the enemy were people who couldn’t be controlled by the tools used by social engineers.

In the mid 19th century Massachusetts was the first state to adopt compulsory public schooling.  Horace Mann led the reform movement citing his admiration for the Prussian education system first set up in 1819.  After the Prussians were defeated by Napoleon at the Battle of Jena, they sought to create a system of education that would instill its citizenry with unquestioning obedience to authority and prevent any future military defeats.

The American system of public education, championed by Horace Mann, followed the same ideal of obedience to authority.  In the first two decades of the 20th century, Andrew Carnegie and David Rockefeller provided more funding for public schools than the federal government.  Money was invented to buy things.  What did they buy and what was the educational philosophy of these financiers?  Did they ascribe to the Enlightenment ideal of education; that of kindling a flame or the command and control view that education was similar to filling an empty cup?

The first mission statement of David Rockefeller’s General Education Board outlined in Occasional Letter Number One makes it very clear:

“In our dreams…people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science…of whom we have ample supply (Gates, 1913).”

Note that a philosopher is someone who loves truth and wisdom and they had no use for such people.  What kind of people did they seek to cultivate?  A highly influential educator and prominent Harvard professor, Alexander James Inglis, tells us what the purpose of education is in his book, The Principles of Secondary Education, published in 1918.  

Inglis took Taylorism, the scientific management of employees, and applied this wartime efficiency to schools.  He set out 6 purposes that public schools were to carry out.  Take notice of who benefits and who is disadvantaged by the following purposes of public schools:

1)   The adjustive or adaptive function.  Inglis details the importance of inculcating children with ‘fixed habits of reaction.’  To what is ambiguous, but I think it becomes more clear with whom children should develop fixed habits of reaction towards.

2)   The integrating function – Schools are to make children as standardized as possible so their conformity makes them predictable.  Who can profit off of predictability?

3)   The diagnostic and directive function – Each child will be continuously graded and tested on standardized exams and their proper social role will depend on their performance.  The hell with cultivating potential.

4)   The differentiating function – Once each child is diagnosed with their proper social role they will be educated in so far as it is necessary for that specific role, no further.

5)   The Selective function – Social Darwinism through standardized testing. The dumb should be publically humiliated and their opportunities for procreation diminished by being publicly labeled dumb.

6)   The Propaedeutic function – Certain students will be chosen for further education based on their ability to parrot the commands of their school masters.  From this group, future leaders will be chosen.

What is the significance of all this?  Public school was built to carry out the will of wealthy business interests, i.e. the industrialists.  Think about what an ideal employee is to a corporation.  

First and foremost he is obedient; he follows orders, and conforms to the demands of management.  He is predictable using stick and carrot methods.  He is a resource no different than copper or wheat, to be used to maximize profit, and most egregious, he is to never dwell on the fact that he is not a free man.  

Of course, they had no use for philosophers or anyone who couldn’t be scientifically managed.  Such people are unpredictable and can’t be kept in servitude for long.  Public school teaches children to be blindly obedient to their teachers, to accept that truth comes from authority, to conform at every turn to established norms, all of which produces child like adults and perfect employees for corporations that view people as expendable resources.  

Is it any wonder why striving for financial independence and freedom is a huge middle finger to a system that would much rather you be a docile consumer conforming to the demands of corrupt power players?  We in America have been sold lies and illusions and were told it was heresy to question the myths in our midst.

In the pursuit of economic freedom you must work to purge from your psyche the attributes pushed on you to make you a brick in the wall.  These characteristics will not serve you, but serve those who want power over you.  

The most effective way to cleanse yourself of propaganda is to become a philosopher and search for truth in all areas of your life.  

Illusions and deception are everywhere, but we all must light our illusions on fire with the truth.  This is why I advocate for a holistic approach to achieving financial freedom.  If the finance world was more in tune with philosophy and the philosophical world more in tune with finance we would all make extraordinary gains.

One of the most persistent myths in America is that of freedom.  We are endlessly told that America is the citadel of freedom in the world, but do you feel free?  Do you feel in command of your time and your life?  

When we walk into our first full time job we sense in our bones something is wrong.  Our eyes see a cubicle, but our soul sees a prison.  Frederick Douglas expressed a very similar sentiment when he said:

“I didn’t know I was a slave until I found out I couldn’t do the things I wanted.”

It’s hard to articulate, but it feels as if an unseen force has robbed us of our autonomy.  We all put on our best looking masks to impress our bosses, but the mask changes nothing.  If you are an employee that is dependent on your job you aren’t much different than an indentured servant on a feudal plantation.  You are not free, now what are you going to do about it?  

We are trading time for money and money is needed to live, but without time what is life?  What is life when we spend most of it in a place that takes our energy and diverts us from our true purpose?  How can we call ourselves free if we do not control the use of our time?  We wake up at 5:30am, we get home at 8pm, we commute 2 hours each way not because we want to, but because we are not free, period.  No matter how steep the ascent to freedom, no matter the cost to be paid to be a free human being, that cost must be paid because life is too damn valuable to be wasted.

With a more sober view of American society and an understanding of the undercurrents of corrupt power, I want to stress that although America is far from perfect if you have the determination, the will, and the ability to execute on your dreams then nothing will stop you.  I bring up the darker aspects of America to paint a more realistic picture of why so many people live in ignorance of forces that have enormous influence on their lives.  Once again, ignorance does not work in our favor.  

If you want freedom you need truth.

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Financial Independence Can Save America

Ancient Roman initialism: Senātus Populusque Rōmānus – “The Senate and the People of Rome.”

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The degree of betrayal that has besieged America is symptomatic of a crumbling empire.  Institutions responsible for protecting the public’s interest have turned into vehicles for personal power and fame.  

Leaders are more concerned with their own glory than the quality of life of those they’ve sworn to fight for.  We are looking more and more like the Roman Empire in its twilight years instead of the nation our founding fathers bequeathed us.

We were once a nation that produced things, we defeated fascism, and we learned from our transgressions and outlawed slavery.  We have never been a perfect nation, but every generation has done their part to make this nation better for their children, but this continuous improvement seems to be stalling. 

The average American is just a shell of the frontiersman of the 19th century or the men who fought in Western Europe and the Pacific to liberate the world. These were people who strived forward in the face of adversity, uninspiring odds and an unknown outcome.  They had courage though and that made all the difference.  

America was born under the toughest circumstances.  Its first citizens were rural folks who were self sufficient and distrustful of authority. Their lives were not easy, but they had more freedom calling themselves Americans rather than Englishmen.  With success came material progress and Americans became consumers instead of producers.  Thesis gave rise to an antithesis.  A hard working people gave rise to a population proud to consume and proud to show off status symbols.

It was an evolution propelled by product propaganda and post war prosperity.   Ironically enough, our success after World War II helped create the gluttonous consumer society we know today.

If success makes you fat and lazy, if it makes you forget what made you successful, then how long can you expect to be successful?  Americans forgot why we accomplished so much.  

They indulged on new found prosperity and were shocked by the austerity of the 2008 financial crisis, but that crisis was caused in part by Americans living in a delusional state of mind going into insane amounts of debt to sustain a mirage of a lifestyle.  

Too many people just couldn’t come to grips with the fact that they couldn’t afford 3 cars, 1 vacation home, and 2 mortgages.  The 2008 financial crisis was reality asserting itself on the stupidity of American society from the blue collar worker who went into debt to finance an illusion or the Wall St executive who risked the entire American economy for the vanity of a bonus check.  

People’s lives were irreparably altered forever for the worse and this sort of mindless and destructive consumerism could very well be more dangerous to American posterity than any other enemy we have.

Each time an American sees the trap of consumerism and decides to become financially independent we as a nation are better for it.  The reason is that you’re producing more for the economy than you’re taking.  You’re self sufficient and that means not depending on the government just to live.

Once again, in simple mathematical terms, you’re a net positive value creator.  Imagine if 15, 25, or even 50 million Americans were financially independent.  What would be some economic, social, and political effects of such a national achievement?

First off this would amount to an economic revolution.  With fewer people in the traditional workforce, there would be upward pressure on certain well paying jobs depending on the industries early retirees were previously working in.

There are numerous jobs that support the minimum income requirements needed to become financially independent.  These would be jobs ranging from software engineers to actuaries and many blue collar jobs.   Some would say it wouldn’t be good for society if too many nurses or doctors, for example, prematurely left their profession, but in the long term, the job market would self correct.

Assuming demand stays relatively stable, more people leaving any profession translates into a lower supply thus driving the price of those services upwards.  With compensation increasing the incentive for young people to enter the field would increase and the supply of candidates for temporarily low supply jobs would also increase over time thus mitigating the risk of losing too many socially vital professionals.

On the social end of the spectrum, widespread financial independence would be one of the best long term remedies to social plagues like substance abuse, alienation, and divorce.

Presumably, parents would be able to spend more time with their children, which would solve many problems that governments are incapable of solving, such as unhealthy personal relationships which lead to destructive behavior.  Some of societies worst problems are created by bad parenting.

Financial independence would provide the ability for people to spend less time working and commuting and more time raising their children to be self sufficient and productive adults.

Politically, widespread financial independence would be one of the best things to happen to our Republic since George Washington.  Financial independence means leisure time, more leisure time means more awareness of the world you live in through reading, writing, talking with others, traveling, and just becoming a more well rounded human being.  This increased awareness begins to dissipate more and more ignorance especially political ignorance.

Here’s why: financial independence inevitably leads to an increase in general awareness regarding human affairs.  Once again, this is an effect of free time and curiosity.  With increased understanding of the political process, more people would become enraged by the machinations of corrupt politicians.  With this increased awareness and righteous indignation financially free people could do one of several things:

1) Run for office themselves since they don’t have to worry about losing their job.  Raising enough money to win is a huge obstacle though, which leads to #2.

2) Organize politically and search for candidates.  This could include recruiting wealthy people with integrity to run for office themselves and helping them win.  Another political game changer would require a long term focus and upfront investment. Financially independent people could actively seek out meritorious young people who prove they can handle power, possess empathy, and have leadership qualities and mentor them for a future political run.

3) Financially free people who are not indentured servants are exponentially more likely to speak truth to power, be more willing to shed light on injustices, and overall more courageous since there isn’t an economic ax above their head.  With the fear of losing their job gone forever, they are a force to be reckoned with.

In conclusion, free time is a beautiful thing, which allows people to change the world they live in for the better.  We are plagued by poor leaders, an apathetic public, and no shortage of social problems.  These plagues can be remedied if more people just have enough time to take care of themselves, raise their children, and make a contribution to the public good.

Financial independence creates that precious time.

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Noblesse Oblige: The Obligation of Nobles

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What do the French and American revolutionaries have in common with those seeking early retirement and financial freedom?  They are all revolutionaries.

Think for a second how American society would change in a revolutionary manner if consumer culture took its last breath and financial freedom became the new spirit of the age.  

Think of all the people on the hamster wheel whose only free time is eating and sleeping.  These poor souls have no opportunity to develop their passions or talents, but what if the millions of people living semi-conscious lives and whose hope has been crushed by the grind and struggle of daily life, what if they tasted freedom?  What could they achieve?  What could we as a nation achieve?  

Freedom is a prerequisite for growth, growth is needed for achievement, achievement needed for progress, and progress is needed to advance Mankind.  Those seeking to ‘retire’ at 30, 35, or pick any ‘abnormally’ young age by societal expectations, are basically telling those that chose a conventional lifestyle there’s another way to live life that gives you control of your time and the freedom all people crave.

There are many ways to analyze the root cause of the flaws that exist in western society.  Those flaws include general apathy towards political affairs, an indulgence in consumer culture, and a political system that exclusively serves the powerful.  The most important part of any society is the power structure.  It’s the sufficient condition for all other major societal phenomenon.

The power structure determines what type of education the masses will receive, who the government will serve, who the justice system will serve, who the economy will serve, it affects the psychology of each person through ownership of mass communication companies, and it influences the opinions and tastes of the masses through propaganda.  

In short, the power structure determines the direction of society and the overall quality of the citizenry.  The one defining quality of those who exercise enormous power over society is their vast wealth.  Wealth is amoral.  Money is not the root of all evil and being wealthy doesn’t make you selfish, callous, or an enemy of Mankind.  Rather wealth is an amplifier.  It amplifies your flaws, strengths, values, and priorities.

If the human race is to fulfill its full potential then it’s imperative that the wealthy become enlightened or the enlightened become wealthy. 

Enlightened can be a subjective term unless nailed down with a reasonable definition.  Here is what I mean by enlightened: living life according to higher ideals including a love of truth, justice, and freedom, while transcending the primal desire to be selfish and acting to advance human welfare.

The human race is greatly influenced and guided by the wealthy.  To enlighten the wealthy or to enlighten those on the road to building wealth is to indirectly enlighten humanity.  This is simple cause and effect.  

Those with wealth have power and those with power have influence over the masses.  If a society is guided by self interested elites then the average person will suffer the consequences, but if a society is guided by benevolent elites who use their wealth to advance their fellow Man then the world as we know it takes a sharp turn for the better.

There is a French phrase that embodies the ethos of the enlightened wealthy: “Noblesse oblige,” or nobility brings responsibility. In every generation, there are wealthy people who embody this ethos and there are those who embody the unenlightened ethos of “Gain wealth forget all, but self.”

One person who exemplified the actions and principles of a member of the enlightened wealthy was President Theodore Roosevelt.  The youngest President in history was born into one of America’s wealthiest 19th-century families.  

With every advantage available to support him he entered public service becoming the youngest member of the New York State Assembly at age 23.  Three years later his first child was born and two days after that his wife and mother would die on the same day.  

Did he retreat into a life of ease supported by the privilege of being a Roosevelt?  Not even close.  

From 1889 to 1895 he served as US Civil Service Commissioner, then served as NYC Police Commissioner from 1895-1897 and was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President McKinsey in 1897.  

In the Summer of 1898, he resigned from his post at the Department of the Navy to fight in the Spanish-American war in Cuba.  When he returned he was nominated and elected Governor of New York in November 1898.  The meteoric rise continued.  In 1900 he was chosen to be Vice President under President McKinsey and in 1901 he became the youngest President in US history at age 43 after President McKinsey was assassinated.  

Roosevelt was devoted to the ‘strenuous life’, a life of contribution where privilege was used for benevolent purposes.

The future of the human race literally hinges on the battle between these two ways of thinking between the wealthiest citizens in our society.  It is my sincere hope that you will choose the enlightened side and use the power of being financially free to help people of modest means live up to their potential.

This is enlightened self interest.  The more people you help the more people will want to help you.  Humanity is as interconnected and interdependent as it’s ever been.  No one can escape this truth.  

The most basic thing we all have in common is our mortality.  How do you know that the boy or girl living in the gritty streets of any ghetto in America doesn’t have the cure for cancer in them?  No one knows, but everyone deserves the utmost opportunity to cultivate their potential.  With a new spirit of the age based on enlightened thinking, Mankind has the greatest chance to thrive in the coming century.  

Who would’ve thought that a counter culture could have the potential to inspire people to break free from their daily trance and focus on achieving freedom?  This community has the potential to inspire a nation one person at a time. 

Remember that in the process of lifting yourself out of your current circumstances you have the extraordinary power to place a ladder for those below you.  

Exercise that power.

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What is Your Life Code?

‘The Meeting of Leo the Great and Attila’ by Italian Renaissance painter, Raphael.

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What’s your code?  Does your code have a price?  Is it conditional or non-negotiable?  The motto of the French Revolution was Liberté, Egalité, Fraternite.

What’s your code?  Is it money, sex, power?  Is it vanity, manipulation, ignorance?  Or is it a much more enlightened code?  Life gets so hectic that we overlook the most important of matters like what are my highest ideals and what values would I be proud to live by?

You must be the Michelangelo of your life, sculpting, with utmost perfection, every aspect of your life.  From Da Vinci to Raphael the Renaissance gave birth to some of the most impressive people the world has known and I believe financial freedom can be an accelerator of excellence and greatness in the world, allowing people to pursue their passions and talents irrespective of monetary concerns.  The more people who are financially free the more the human race will achieve and progress forward.

I’m willing to go through hell and back to stand up for my ideals and spread truth, justice, and knowledge so that people are empowered and live up to their highest potential.  This is the central reason for creating this site; to spread empowering financial information with a philosophical lens so that people can achieve financial freedom and contribute to advancing the human race.

I value growth over comfort, knowledge over ignorance, and freedom over status.   When meeting friends and potential lovers if these values are not complimentary to their values then I move on.  

It’s imperative to decipher the values of people you let into your life.  If you value growth, but your lover values comfort that’s a relationship destined to end prematurely and is a waste of your time.  You’ll be less likely to waste your time if you know your values.  

State them, proclaim them, and live by them.  You will undoubtedly attract people who have similar values.  Having people around you that live by the same code will supercharge your life.

I want to be remembered as someone who stood up for what was right, fought the good fights, and made a meaningful contribution to build a more enlightened world.

Life is too short not to be financially free.  Life is too valuable to live below your potential.  Arm yourself with the intellectual weapons a personal life code provides and conquer the challenges coming your way on the road to financial freedom.

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Revolution or Evolution?

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I don’t believe in revolutions. A revolution is a misunderstood evolution.  

In 1789, after centuries of aristocratic rule, the French people shocked the world and began a revolt that would change the course of World history.  Almost as fast as a passing wind the French people reached the point of no return and put a nail in the coffin of aristocratic rule.  

King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette were guillotined for treason.  Not long after the leaders of the Revolution, Robespierre and Saint-Just, were also guillotined.  

Were these thunderous events caused by a spark never before ignited or did a political revolution occur because of numerous factors over a long period of time that finally coalesced to form the visible spark the world saw as violent rebellion?  

Of course, such complicated events do not occur in vacuums and their eventual fruition is the result of many factors occurring over time, but not widely noticed.

The same applies when someone revolts against their lifestyle or dramatically changes their life in a relatively short time period.  The high school kid who was deathly afraid of public speaking becomes a renowned motivational speaker before 30 or in the opposite direction the straight A student in high school and captain of the football team who is in and out of drug rehab by 25.  

Did these revolutions happen in one day?  Does someone gain the confidence and skills to master public speaking in one day?  Do we lose people to drugs because of one bad decision on one day?  No, but ostensibly it appears an unfathomable event has occurred and we attribute this to some unexplained revolution.  

The truth is that revolutions are just well disguised evolutions.  Just because you can’t observe with your eyes the changes in someone’s life or the life of a nation does not mean nothing is changing.  

There are very powerful undercurrents that course through the veins of each of us.  These are the undercurrents created by our values, virtues, and actions.  

You may know at an intellectual level that justice is an ideal, but it doesn’t become a value until it’s practiced on a consistent basis in your everyday life.  If you have extreme discipline and focus you are already a force to be reckoned with.  Discipline and focus give you enormous power.  The most transformative power of all is the power to reshape your life.

If you are seeking financial independence a personal revolution seems awfully seductive.  A rapid change to discard the parts of your life you loathe is extremely attractive.  

I understand this, but there is no such thing as a revolution.  All large scale changes are the result of an evolution of consistently improving yourself each day for a sustained amount of time.  The outward revolution comes after the internal revolution.  This is crucial to understanding the human condition and how you can radically change your life.

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Preparing for Power

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Wealth is power and we all know power is a dangerous thing to possess to the uninitiated.  

Imagine that our world was secretly controlled by extraterrestrial beings outside of physical human perception.  This knowledge would be powerful, but would it be good for everyone to possess?  If this were announced on the BBC or CNN everyone would go nuts and modern civilization would cease to exist.

You don’t put power into the hands of someone who isn’t prepared for power.  That would destroy them.  Likewise, financial freedom is power and you better be prepared for it.

Ever wonder what motivates a bullied teenager to grab a 9mm Glock and shoot their classmates?  

Power.  

The instant they hold that gun they feel they have taken their power back.  They are overtaken by the adrenaline rush of finally feeling powerful and they commit an unforgivable act.

Within this context what makes someone prepared for the power of being financially free?  How can they ensure their new found power will not lead to their own self destruction?  

Your greatest enemy is making power your end and this can only be done by allowing your consciousness to be corrupted by primitive thoughts and making decisions based on intense egotism.  

You must starve the ego by cultivating your noble purpose and life mission.  Having a noble purpose in life bigger than you ironically makes you more powerful.  It gives you the extra push, motivation, willingness to suffer that those without a noble purpose do not have at their disposal.  

Most importantly it starves the primitive ego that is concerned with instant gratification, devotion to self interest, comfort, and power over others.

The second way to prepare yourself for the power of financial freedom is to cultivate a value system congruent with Enlightenment ideals. Enlightenment ideals include freedom, truth, knowledge, wisdom, and the application of reason.  If you live by these ideals you will gain power over the vicissitudes of life and you will undoubtedly transcend your circumstances.  These are ideals expressed all throughout the universe and they do not fail those that commit to them.

The third important piece of work to lay down is ensuring you do not allow your ego into the cockpit of your life.  You are just as complex as an F-18 fighter jet.  

The US military does not allow undisciplined and untrained pilots to command a $50 million piece of equipment.  When you make important life decisions out of the consciousness of egotism it’s just as dangerous as hopping into a fighter jet with no prior training or experience.  If you manage to take off tragedy awaits you.

The person who seeks wealth without the counsel of a noble purpose is the teenager with the handgun.  They have no clue how power can destroy them and the people they love.  Their ignorance is their most dangerous enemy just as Plato illustrates in the Republic. They commit the most unforgivable act by living a life worshiping callous self interest and holding the accumulation of wealth as their divine purpose.

In the end, financial freedom is power and power is dangerous.  In order to combat the pitfalls of power, you must starve your ego by having a noble purpose, an enlightened value system, and never make power your end goal.  It’s easier said then done, but if you can do these three things then the power of financial freedom will be a servant of your life mission.

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