Free The Slaves: Escape From Debt, Save Your Future
The following is a guest post by Oded Gendler. Oded is an online marketer and entrepreneur from Israel. He is the brains and bravado behind the NO B.S.™ Moneymachinefactory.org blog. Follow him on twitter for a dose of ranting and philosophical yadayada @therealoded
From the moment you enter grade school, you are told and indoctrinated: study hard, get good grades, go to a good college or university. Plunge into debt of 50k-100k and spend the next 4 years (at least) in getting a degree. Then of course, comes the internship which you wont get paid for. But it’s all OK! After all that, the fun really begins, because, finally, it’s payback time for all your hard work! You get a job and start at a whopping annual salary of (drum roll please)… 50k, if you are lucky.
I hear people who tried affiliate marketing for 2 weeks invested $500 and decided there is NO WAY to make money from it. I use the term “invested” because even if you lost all your $500 and didn’t make a dime, it was an investment in your education of online marketing. An investment not much different than the tuition you paid for your college degree. The fact a bonafide professor didn’t force feed you rehashed material from the syllabus doesn’t mean your education process is worth less.
In reality, you actually applied yourself and your mind doing the fabulous act of auto-deduction. You learned by yourself! Isn’t that true learning, perhaps even more valuable then the more docile, passive act of being “taught”?
Let me go back to the prevailing status quo and paradigm of what a middle class person should go through. So you’ve got a job. Now it’s time to buy a house and own your first asset. How will you do that, with your past college debt, and a job that by now pays you around 70k per year? The answer? More debt of course. Debt which is of course owned and controlled by the ruling faction – as represented here by the banks.
You are actually bred and indoctrinated into slavery. Modern day slavery. In a modern person’s mind, slavery means black people picking cotton in the plantations. But in reality, modern slavery means “owning” debt (of course you don’t own the debt, the bank owns it, and thus the debt owns you). You actually enslave your future income and salary to the bank. Thus, although you are not whipped by the splintered whip of the taskmaster on a daily basis, you are whipped by the thorn of debt instead. Debt which you must accumulate in order to acquire assets.
Maybe one day you’ll think about quitting your job, wanting to finally realize your old dream of becoming an artist? Maybe you wont even have a choice and you’ll get sacked? Results – lose your house, lifestyle and maybe even your family (will your wife want to stay with a person who cannot provide for her and her children? I’m writing from a male perspective so for all you ladies reading it out there, do consider).
In the US alone there were almost 1.6 million bankruptcy filings in 2010, an increase of 7.4 percent from 2009. There were more people who filed for bankruptcy in 2011 than people diagnosed with cancer, suffering a heart attack or graduating from college. An interesting read regarding these findings is Elizabeth Warren’s book – “The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke”.
The situation isn’t much brighter in the UK either. The Guardian has just published a report by a leading thinktank group stating that middle class families are “unlikely to see their earnings return to pre-recession levels until at least 2020″… but it predicts that the income of the wealthy will continue to rise over the same period.
The odds are absurdly weighted against working class families and in favor of the wealthy. Mitt Romney’s recently published tax returns shows that the Republican candidate income between 2010 and 2011 was 42.6 million dollars. The tax rate Romney paid was 13.9% or 6.2 million dollars (recent Time’s article even states Romney overpaid his taxes by about 44k). How could that be? Yahoo finance explains “The GOP frontrunner acknowledged his federal tax rate is 15%, thanks to a loophole called “carried interest” that helps the GOP frontrunner pay a rate similar to a family earning $50,000”.
With the current trend of affairs, the state will not be able to take care of you when you are old and grey, when you have lost your ability to provide for yourself. What you have in your bank savings (or hiding under your bed mattress) is what you’ll have to maintain you for the rest of your natural life. It’s doubtful even if you’ll have a proper pension. And even if you do, it will most likely not be enough.
Sounds pretty grim right? NO! Your financial future and freedom depends on you. This entire article (as absurd as it may sound) was written in order to inspire you to take action, in order to make you understand reality.
In the past, the choices were much clearer, much simpler. They were black and white. By choosing the life of an employee with all its benefits and comfort, you would receive a monthly salary, paid vacation, dental or health insurance, steady hours and more. In other words stability.
The downside – you’ll never be able to buy that Bugatti, the 10 bedroom beach front house, or staying at the Ty Warner penthouse at the Four Seasons NY. On the contrary, you could have chosen the path of an entrepreneur, risk all you’ve got in terms of time and money. No steady income or insurance. Work 20 hours a day and still end the year broke. Invest years of your life and end with nothing or a mansion. I deliberately choose to portray the two options as extremes.
Today, I believe that, having that option or choice between an employee or an entrepreneur is slowly drawing to an end. Choosing to be an employee might cost you dearly when you reach the end of your working cycle. Your 401k savings will not be enough to maintain your standard of living. The world is slowly reverting to the days of the filthy rich and the filthy poor. The erosion of the middle class and social security is something we cannot deny.
Yes, the world might end by 2012, but just in case it wont. I suggest getting ready for the fact you might live until you are 80+ and perhaps start thinking about your financial status.
Finch: Definitely some very important points to consider. Personally, I don’t think employment and entrepreneurism have to be mutually exclusive. I think it’s possible to balance a job that you love, which may involve working for ‘The Man’, with good investments that take care of your future. Not every kid dreams of running his own business, but every kid should grow up with a solid education in how money works. Thanks for the post, Oded.
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9 CommentsLeave a comment
the article sounds allmost conspiracy but as you think about it more an more you realize its all true.
the rich is getting richer, we all need to get ourself to the other side asap.
Thank you for the post, Oded.
Some very good points indeed, but I do think it’s a bit over exaggerated.
I do think that entrepreneurs are born, not made. I don’t mean it’s just in the DNA, it’s also the circumstances presented: whether it’s financial hardship or social hardship. Most people cannot succeed as entrepreneurs. They would be unmotivated, directionless, and depressed after awhile. Entrepreneurship requires creativity, ingenuity, and pure work ethic, which vast majority of people lack no matter how hard you try to educate them. If we are talking about the masses, then this just isn’t for them.
On the issue of education, while I don’t think the classes itself teach you much directly, the caliber of school you attend acts as a signaling mechanism to highly sought after employers and the environment/resources of great schools really provide a place for one to mature, to incubate ideas, and to think outside the box, if the person so chooses to apply themselves in such ways. That’s why we see some of the greatest businesses born out of those who were in college, not during their subsequent working life.
To be the devil’s advocate, I do believe you can earn a great living working for companies if you truly applied yourself. From what I have seen in our industry, most successful affiliate marketers are certain smart enough to get an Ivy League education if they totally applied themselves. For those on that level of intelligence, and if they had worked towards it with earnest, the education opens a great many doors to high powered career paths in the fields of private equity, investment banking, real estate, consulting, and business development. These salaries are not $50k. The highly talented individuals typically earn $150k-250k 2-3 years out of college, and it can go up substantially from there. No, I’m not talking about the majority of the US population. However, the vast majority cannot earn a sustainable and substantial income from affiliate marketing either.
Despite all the constant ramblings and protests against the US, we seem to long forget that we live in one of the freest nations in the world, with the 4th highest per capita GDP, and a middle class that is the most substantial in a capitalistic society. You eat what you kill here, and everyone is given a chance.
PS, on carried interest, it’s not really a “loophole”. Carried interest is part of what he earns through the appreciation of assets, and it’s taxed at the capital gains rate of 15% instead of normal income tax. A lot of his income is from carried interest because he has a LOT of investments. How would you feel if you bought a house, it appreciated 50% one year, and when you sell the house you had to pay your normal income tax of 30% on it? You wouldn’t be too happy. Well, Mit Romney just has a lot more “houses”. Except his “houses” are shares in companies. The rationale that wealthy people get taxed less as a percentage (but way more in overall dollars) is most of their money goes into the economy as investment instead of consumption. Investment is what funds businesses and creates jobs. If the answer is to raise the capital gains tax rate, then that’s a different story, but I’m not arguing for one way or the other, just laying out facts.
And just an additional tidbit: if you saved $5k/year and only earned 5%/year (a well diversified international portfolio over a long time span should net more than that) and you did that for 40 years (age 21 to 61), you would be left with $600k at retirement. Not too shabby. Problem is most people think social security is the government’s way of providing you a living so they spend everything and even take on debt to buy nice clothes.
Thanks for the feedback. I agree with you completely that this article is over exaggerated, actually before posting I asked Finchy if he thinks it’s a bit too “inflammatory” :). Guess that’s my style. No doubt this post was written with an “extreme” tone.
All of the above was stated to shock, in order to move to action. I see so many people around me, friends and family who are simply displeased. Even though the main issue of the article was money, it was also about finding a level of satisfaction with what you do as well as providing a level of financial freedom. Not waking up every morning wishing death due to the fact another 9 to 5 nightmare is ahead of you.
Regarding education, the issue I was trying to hit here, is that a lot of people go get a degree not because they are passionate about a subject, but because mom and dad simply tell them they have to go to college or they themselves believe it’s the only way. So they go to class, do the minimum they have to do (due to the fact they are not inspired) and get a degree. The same kind of lack of inspiration persists in their work life later on (thus the 9 to 5 nightmare). I believe that if you are truly passionate about something you can make a good living out of it (maybe it’s an idealistic thought but I think so)
“To be the devil’s advocate” we don’t believe in the devil here, unless of course you are Obama who is a Muslim socialist who’s just here for your taxes and children – j/k :). Seriously, yes, Ivy league graduates do cough up a nice sum straight out of college more or less. However as you said most Americans do not earn those salaries and hence in the future most Americans wont (and many already can’t) survive in the future economy. The fact the middle class was the largest class was one of America’s greatest achievements and sadly that is slowly (or not so slowly) eroding. The highly skilled and hard workers will be fine.
Perhaps the word entrepreneur is not what I should have used. For me entrepreneur means someone who is not average. Someone who aspires to do something different and acts to do so. Someone who doesn’t just sheep his life (can I say that? Sheep his life?) Someone who doesn’t whine all day how much he wants to be a millionaire yet sits at home watching Jay Leno. Writing these lines I come to realize perhaps this entire article was written against mediocrity. It’s horrible so many people simply choose to be mediocre (and yes even if it’s unconscious I still think it’s a choice. Oh, I’m starting to sound Like Tony Robbins or one those others :). Oh well, it’s 5am, I guess my idealistic philosophical rants are about to start. Next think I’ll somehow connect it all to theology. Time to sleep.
Regarding the “carried interest” – I stand corrected. My understanding of the US tax code is quite lacking, so thanks for pointing that out. I must say I am a bit poisoned by the liberal media (hence Jon Stewart :))
Living in Israel, I can only salute America on many terms, especially the entrepreneurial spirit and the ease (in comparison to Israel) in opening and running a business.
Another complementary reading – http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/01/just_how_risky_is_entrepreneur.html
Yeah, the media is much stronger in the left than the right, and those who work for media on the right are really just pretty stupid in a lot of cases. Therefore, liberal media comes through much more predominantly, especially since it’s easier to preach the liberal principles when you can say look: you’re paying 30% while Mit Romney pays 16%, is that fair? [insert rhetoric with words freedom, liberty, hope]
I agree Tom. I’m sorry but every time I watch Fox News (Bill O’reilly and Sean Hannity) I just feel my brain shrinking and an unexplained sense of anger towards whatever something.
I think if I saw them on the street I would actually biatch slap them.
Great post Oded. I had to stop watching Fox News too. Bad for my health.
Great post, actually I DID find it inspirational. Great guest Finch.