The Financial Imagineer is a personal finance aficionado who has reached financial independence before hitting 40.
He did his first side-hustles before entering teenagehood and started saving and investing. By age 16 he became an equity investor. His net-worth crossed six figures at 21 and has been growing further ever since, ultimately reaching financial independence before 40.
He loves spending time with his family, travelling, brewing beer and writing on his blog to share his biggest passion: Financial Imagineering. Building and managing wealth – making money work for you so you can unlock and spend more of your most precious resource on this planet – self-determined time – in order to pursue your dreams and passions.
How Travel Hacking Itself got Hacked – and what we can learn from it.
Many airline passengers whose trips got cancelled some months ago are still waiting for their ticket refunds as carriers and travel agencies are running low on liquidity. As of August 2020, airlines are withholding billions in refunds – that’s Billions with a capital B!!!
The current corona pandemic leaves airlines stretched.
They are suffering liquidity shortages. While this may seem historic for most, it’s for sure not the first time airlines are struggling. Let’s take a walk down history lane to see what we can learn from the past: This has happened before!
We shall get back to 2020 and the Covid pandemic towards the end of this post!
First let us travel back to 1981.
In that particular year American Airlines was in deep sh*t.
After the oil crisis of the 1970’s, in 1978 the US enforced the Airline Deregulation Act to deregulate the airlines industry. Just a few months later in the early 1980s the economy was in a period of sky-high interest rates and roaring inflation. In 1980 AA posted a $76 million loss while facing new competition, lower ticket prices and high borrowing costs and fuel prices.
It was a tough time and AA was in urgent need for cash. Due to exorbitant interest rates borrowing was not an option to consider.
Therefore AA came up what later got coined as the one of the most epic marketing failures ever: They started offering the best deal frequent travelers could ever lay their hands on – ever!
For a hefty $250,000 the AAirpass offered nothing less than:
UNLIMITED FIRST CLASS TRAVEL FOR LIFE!
Can. You. Actually. Imagine. That!?
FYI: $250,000 would be $700,000 inflation adjusted to 2020
Over the course of the years, AA sold about 65 unlimited lifetime first class passes until they stopped selling them in 1994. Apparently, Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban said that it was “one of the best purchases he’s ever made – it opened the world to him: He could go anywhere anytime he wanted to – first class! Other notable customers included Michael Dell and Willie Mays.
And hey, it doesn’t stop here!
For some extra cash, you could also get yourself a companion pass.
Originally the idea was to offer this product exclusively to existing frequent business travelers…
However, some travel hackers did their math correctly and this was how a certain Mr. Rothstein purchased his own AAirpass plus the companion pass for $383,000.
Mr. Steve Rothstein was a Chicago based investment banker and he loved the idea: “Instead of getting interest paid from a bond, you could redeem your returns in air travel.” A very fair deal in his view: “They need cash and they can pay me in miles.” Why not! Right?
Travel Hacking Itself Got Hacked
Soon American Airlines had to learn the airfare market is not comparable with, let’s say an “all-you-can-eat” buffet or “all-inclusive” vacations where customers would have natural limitations of how much they were able to consume.
When it comes to first class tickets just imagine how many folks are literally ready to go “the extra mile” to profit from such an offer.
Starting from 1987 Mr. Rothstein went many many extra miles with his AAirpass, he booked more than 10,000 flights to anywhere. Sometimes he simply flew somewhere to grab his favorite sandwich. He also frequently just took complete strangers along into first with his companion pass.
He basically used the airlines’ network like a bus…
From Chicago, he reportedly flew:
1,000 times to New York City
500 times to San Francisco
500 times to Los Angeles
500 times to London
120 times to Tokyo
80 times to Paris
80 times to Sydney
50 times to Hong Kong
Another gentleman, Mr. Vroom from Texas, even took out a loan (!) to finance (!!) the $400k (!!!) – by the time he bought – AAirpass fee.
He flew well above 2 million miles per year thereafter. Mr. Vroom sometimes simply flew to Paris to have lunch and would return shortly thereafter.
The next time AA got into financial trouble was in 2007. Once again, they went through their books just to figure this time the AAirpass program was costing the company too much. What a surprise. American calculated the two top-clients Mr. Rothstein and Mr. Vroom cost them well above $1 million in taxes, fees and lost ticket sales – per year!
What an amazing return on investment for the two of them!
They were miles ahead!!!
The Revenue Integrity Team Steps In
Unfortunately, good things seldom last. The story ended bitter for our unlimited lifetime loyal frequent flyers! Once the airlines’ “revenue integrity team” (what a name…) started to get active, their AAirpasses got revoked.
The airline claimed the reason being “fraudulent activities”. Both clients got stripped of their passes and were told they would never be able to fly on the airline again. Ever.
Nowadays, the American Airlines Airpass is merely known as an all-inclusive membership program that offers elite status, flight discounts, and other rewards. It now comes with an annual fee.
This is all history, so why do I write about the above story at the current point in time?
Well, due to the current pandemic, we have arrived at a similar “situation” once again. Airlines are short on cash! And as before, in 2020 airlines are reaching out to their largest customers and are offering to sell miles directly to them – to secure liquidity.
History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.
While in the early 1980’s the largest clients where direct business travelers, the largest clients in 2020 are – yes – you guessed it: Credit card companies with reward systems such as American Express, Chase and others! These large corporations are currently winning big and can purchase points at deep discounts – just to offer them to you later.
American Airlines and United Airlines also ventured out to conduct more innovative financial engineering recently. They are mortgaging (!) their mileage programs with financial institutions to borrow against and “monetize it”. Due to this new way of “banking points” both airlines have recently disclosed valuations of their mileage programs.
The numbers are in the tens of billions of dollars!
Why is this scary? Imagine that both, American Airlines and United would be worth a negative valuation after discounting the value of their points programs…
Here some numbers:
Just the U.S. portion of the AAdvantage program is currently valued around $19.5 billion (subtract that from it’s market capitalization of $5.6 billion…).
Uniteds’ MileagePlus program got valued at $21.9 billion (now compare this with it’s market capitalization of $10.1 billion…).
This is how valuable the reward systems have become and how crucial they are for the industry.
While I don’t believe the airlines will disappear just yet and like that, there’s a certain risk also on the respective banks’ books now. Hope they know what they’re doing. But the main point I’d like to convey today is another one.
Travel Hacking in 2020
Since Mr. Rothstein got his AAirpass, airline loyalty programs have transformed from a way to simply increase customer loyalty to a massive profit center.
The above example of how American Airlines and United are even empowered by the system to “mortgage” these hugely valuable assets – to unlock billions of dollars in bank loans to help survive the pandemic – shows the world the true size and value of their programs.
According to my opinion the most recent developments may lead to the following potential outcomes.
Here my considerations for travel hacking in 2020:
There will be some sort of “inflation” in point values coming up – your points today are more valuable than your points tomorrow. In other words: The earlier you book your flight, the better deal you can get. Airlines are happy at the current moment for miles holders to redeem points!
With inflation and more points being “monetized”, the rewards, in terms of points – not in actual value – will move up in the near future. Look out for a changing landscape of reward systems and re-position yourself if needed.
Buying extra miles could be a true bargain during this period of time. Try to take advantage of it strategically. AA has launched a new offer allowing frequent flyers to purchase miles with up to 100% bonus through Aug. 31, 2020. This offer brings the cost per mile down to as low as 1.71 cents.
Be sure to understand the involved risks such as prolonged insecurity regarding flight plans, countries having closed their borders, airlines getting stretched, potential airline bankruptcies and still yes: getting exposed to the virus itself.
If you hold a substantial amount of travel points and miles (like me), make sure you keep them with the right “bank” – or airlines. Some airlines might go bankrupt depending on how long this pandemic will continue. Nobody knows. If your points are with them, you may lose them. One way to secure points is to keep them with the credit card company or bank first and only convert them to miles once you’re about to redeem a flight. Buy points now and buy yourself time!
Maybe as of 2020 we can’t just buy a first class for life pass quite yet, but I’m looking forward to learn more about improving deals coming our way to stay miles ahead.
We are all kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven. Baking yourself rich is not some half-baked idea but a simple proven way to up your creative skills, increase the quality of your bread and lower your expenses sustainably – so you can bake your world a better place without cutting back too much in life.
We are baking our own bread for many years already. It all started one fine day when my Singapore neighbour Jason knocked on the door. In his hands, he held a freshly baked bread – as a gift for us – thanks again Jason for sharing!!!
Jason’s bread came straight from the oven, it was still warm. The smell was irresistible. Therefore, we did the only thing reasonable human beings would do: We sat down together, got some olive oil and salt, and started to devour this loaf of goodness – on the spot.
It was a snaccident.
Imagine the crispiness, the cracking of the crust, then the fine vapor escaping the warm, moist and soft inside of this wonderful bread.
Yes, getting good bread in Asia is difficult – and I was starved.
I wanted to try to bake it myself.
Baking bread is no rocket science doesn’t take a lot of time. Hey I could do it and I’m a trained economist and banker… how hard can it be!? It’s just some flour and water mixed and baked.
Click on the above links – just some recommendations: You can use similar tools as well of course.
Step 1: Mix it! Put all ingredients together and mix them for about 5 minutes.
Step 2: Let the dough rise for at least 8 hours. Cover the dough with a towel! We prefer to let this happen overnight in order to have warm bread for breakfast. Spend around 5 mins before going to bed and leave it till the next day.
Step 3: Baking: Put additional flour into your dutch-oven to avoid the bread to stick later on, add the cover and bake for about 30 minutes. Then take cover off and keep baking for about 5 minuts or until crust is brown.
Step 4: Done! Let it cool down somewhat and enjoy!
The necessary ingredients are cheap, in average it cost me less than $1 to bake one loaf following the above recipe. Depending where you live and what flour and yeast you use, there will be different costs.
Try to experiment.
For us, each bread baked results in savings of about $2-3 in Europe and even more if we are in Asia.
If you’d like to check out how small but regular savings can compound into a substantial amount of money, please also make sure to check out my recent post “Million Dollar Haircut” to save more.
For bread, money is not the main reason for us to bake.
It’s the combination of having fresh quality bread – we simply LOVE this bread over the stuff we could buy – and second convenience: Once you do it a few times, your active “working time” required is less than 10 minutes per loaf.
Freshly baked bread right out the oven is just so much better than buying from the store. Baking your own bread is no rocket-science. It also saves you money and you can explore more fancy alternatives if you like.
Nothing says home like the smell of of baking.
Now, don’t be procrastibaking and get started. Be sure to at least try it once.
The speed at which our world turns is accelerating: Ongoing technological disruption, tumultuous politics and a workplace that is “always-on” are leaving many of us out of breath. The coronavirus is adding further fuel into this rapidly changing field.
Let’s stay optimistic though: Change usually comes with opportunity. Humanity has gone through multiple shifts in culture, economic systems and politics in the past. If you look back, it’s clear that change is the only constant in history. We’re still at the beginning of a new decade.
Upcoming changes and trends will impact many aspects of our lives. No matter where you live. No matter what you do. No matter who you are. Use the current pandemic situation to slow down, lean back, reflect, and try to look forward – through the smoke and noise.
Less than a year ago, we could never have imagined how a pandemic could impact our work environment. While office workers are currently enjoying an increase of time flexibility due to covid, there are more forces on the move behind the scenes.
During the corona lockdowns we could observe across our Linkedin, Facebook and other social media channels how the new found location and time freedom got celebrated. No more wasted time in commutes, traffic-jams, boring meetings and in general a higher quality of daily life.
More work has been done from home and less physical time spent around your office.
Productivity actually increased during that time! People feel more empowered, contribute more and as performance is monitored in terms of achieving your goals and co-workers that used to score high on working long hours are suddenly no longer relevant.
This is a double-edged sword in many ways.
Going forward, even, and especially after corona, I’d say that flexible work will no longer just be an extra perk offered to a few selected employees. It’ll be the one big demand from the workforce in this new decade.
Even before the pandemic, there have been experiments with reduced working hours such as a four-day workweek in Japan and by Microsoft. The surprising findings confirmed what we observed most recently: Reduced worktime doesn’t hurt results. Quite the opposite is the case as management can focus more to understand who delivers what.
Increased time and location flexibility is on the rise.
This is the good news.
The other side of the story is striking once you change your perspective: Since you don’t need to be in the office, your work, your job can be done by anyone with the necessary skills – from anywhere! This is not true for all, but for many fields. Why would management continue to pay a high cost worker in a high cost of living country if the same job can get done by someone abroad – virtually?
The world is flat.
In other words, a vast amount of work can be outsourced and “jobs” in high cost areas will be at risk the most. Your added value counts more than ever. Beware of your bottom line contribution. It got so much easier to track results and contribution. Companies will focus even more on increasing “productivity per worker” or “productivity per dollar spent” going forward.
Be worth your money.
In a first round, work-to-be-done will be outsource to the increasing skilled workforce in more cost-efficient locations. The second round will conclude by having work streamlined even more and supported by better tools, systems, artificial intelligence and ultimately executed by robots.
This trend has started already during the last decade, but my best guess is that the recent pandemic situation will accelerate it manifold.
The challenge or opportunity to thrive here to manage this well and make the best out of it.
Since the current pandemic made not having to go to the office the new normal, your presence time or time in the office no longer counts. All what truly counts are your contributions, results and THAT you got your work done in time. Beware on which parts you ADD VALUE. Focus on the part of work that is not easily outsourced. Increase your skills in the relevant niche.
New competition is on the rise: Get ready to fight for your job – or work!
People who are good at “working independently”, who know how to add value and who are worth their money. IT savvy people who are freelancing and already know how to sell themselves online. Bloggers or people with a visibility on social media channels. It no longer matters to live nearby your company or close to your customers. You may as well be selling your services from Bali, Iceland or New Zealand. As long as you deliver: You will get paid. Geographic arbitrage opportunity at its finest!
Workers that simply focus on selling “their time” or “office politics” can be easily replaced by remote workers from other (cheaper) countries. As less people commute, office space rentals and linked businesses will get hurt. This trend will ultimately also affect the current tax revenue pool of cities and countries with a high-income population and the residential real estate they currently occupy.
Are you sometimes mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook or Twitter feed? Do you sometimes forget how you got there in the first place? You’ve been caught – and: You’re not alone! Social media, the internet and in general businesses have gotten so good in “catching your attention”.
As consumer, YOU are now the product. Eyeballs and audience is the new currency of the 21st century.
The habit of wasting away at least one hour of your day on social media is costing you your true potential! You’re pulled away from focusing, be it at work, at home or in your family. If you figure out how to focus despite all the ongoing distractions, you’ve won half the battle already on this trend!
Likewise to social media, the most challenged field is how we watch TV.
Honestly, even during covid, how many hours of TV can you possibly watch? Well, eventually not enough! 2020 was scheduled to be the year more money would be spent on original scripted TV than was spent in the whole decade of the 1990’s.
If you believe the TV-age is the past, you might be wrong.
This year Apple and Disney launched their services to compete and catch-up with established streaming players such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. More, such as HBO Max, Peacock (NBC) and Quibi are to follow in 2020. Netflix used to be the “only game in town” and now, suddenly, we’re hosting the streaming Olympics!
It’s contenders are the most creative, well-resourced companies on this planet and they have one thing in common: They all want your eyeballs (!) and a chunk of this growing business.
While Netflix still has first-mover advantage – our own family TV does have a Netflix button on the remote control – Apple, Amazon and Disney are catching-up and they’ve created a whole ecosystem where streaming is just one potential contact point for clients.
Your attention can be sold in many ways!
These giants are boosting monetization opportunities such as amusement parks, action figures, iPhones or Amazon Prime deliveries. Smaller players on the other hand will have to pay the big guys a toll to reach the end-clients’ attention – and devices.
Your eyeballs and attention are the new currency of the 21st century. There’s just THAT much attention to be sold. The streaming wars are about to get bloody. There will be casualties. During the first few month of the Corona-pandemic most tech companies have grown over proportionately. Beware how regulators could become increasingly critical in this field.
People who learned how to retain their focus and know how to control their tech. The cash-flow-rich strong social media and streaming corporations that are well prepared to “milk” the market going forward. People with a unique skill to capture the attention of masses online.
Individuals with a more passive approach to life. The more traditional TV and content channels. Newspapers without online strategy.
3. Lifelong Learning: AI, Technology and Reskilling the Workforce
There are many predictions about how robots and AI are about to take over our jobs. We don’t seem to spend sufficient time thinking about how people will thrive in this new reality and what kind of skills can’t be replaced by the new “threats”. The best answer so far was usually UBI – universal base income.
My view is that you need to level-up your skills and prepare yourself to be flexible. Did you know that 6 out of 10 students will be doing jobs that don’t exist yet today? How then can schools and universities prepare the next generation workforce to match the bill? How much will your degree, your MBA still be worth in the future?
My best answer: YOU got to learn – how to learn!
Simple as that.
Independent lifelong learning will have to become ingrained in our society. We will have to remain flexible and adapt to a faster changing environment. The best way to do this is to make learning fun and part of everyday life.
It’s actually amazing that we have the internet! You can access our combined global knowledge online. Anytime. From anywhere. It’s up to each one of us what to do with such remarkable power at our fingertips. Don’t let it go to waste and learn how to use it well.
There are countless online resources you can tap into – for lifelong learning. Countless blogs, podcasts, youtube channels to online courses are offered – we are being overwhelmed by an increasing offer of “knowledge” trying to get our attention.
It also doesn’t matter anymore where you grew up or currently live as this knowledge is available across borders and languages. Knowledge is being democratized. Again: The world is flat.
This can sound scary but it’s an amazing fact of early 21st century life.
For us as society there seem to be three ways to go about the issue:
1. leave education and upskilling it to the individual – the good ones will take care of it, empower themselves, get contracted and can earn something,
2. leave it to companies and hope for them to invest in keeping their talent on the payroll and up to date – expensive and what if talent leaves? Isn’t it more expensive if they don’t invest in their talent and they stay? Hmmm… or
3. let governments take care of it.
My conclusion here – and good news for people – as a resource – is: People are the most flexible in the above equation. They can cross borders and companies. Companies can also cross borders – to find talent, opportunity, or a better ecosystem but people might not necessarily follow. Last but not least, countries will be left behind. Hence, the pressure is on them – the countries – to prepare for this challenge. If they don’t, an increasingly globalized workforce and ever stronger large corporations will abandon them if not attractive enough. Countries must focus on keeping their laws competitive, their location attractive and their borders open for good companies and skilled labour.
The challenge or opportunity for you as individual is to stay relevant and potentially start to market yourself online. No joke that I call websites “21st century real estate”. You can build your online presence through a blog, a podcast, youtube, social media or many other ways. My friend Pete even built a whole business servicing people looking to catch-up with the respective new skills, it’s called Do You Even Blog/ Online Impact.
The winners will be the flexible people, eager to learn, grow and adapt to the new realities. Keep building your knowledge and skillset as worker. If you look at it from the business side, anything that you can teach to the world becomes marketable. With that, services that help people acquire new skills to thrive in the new digital economy (e.g. Do You Even Blog). Large international corporations are also profiting by being able to tap into a larger pool of global talent at reducing costs. Universities with a strong, maybe even global reputation, will be able to profit from this trend as they can leverage their online resources to an increasing number of students. The winner takes it all.
Countries that embrace these challenges and offer the best possible ecosystem might be able to attract flexible individuals and corporations.
The first ones to lose will be traditional suppliers of education that are not adapting fast enough or can’t compete with global education brands pushing through into new markets. People who are not curious or eager to keep building their knowledge and skills will be left behind quickly.
Countries, or “national states” that are going down the road of protectionism instead of embracing change by improving their ecosystem to attract more global talent and companies.
4. Climate Change and Real Estate
The whole corona situation seems to delay this issue – for now. Just last year, Greta Thunberg has been made person of the year by the TIME magazine, alongside her efforts, public pressure around the climate crisis ratcheted up in a way very few people anticipated.
Now, the countdown for 2030 begins. In this decade, 184 countries – all of us – must make good on the emission reduction commitments in order to maintain global temperature rise below 2°C. As the original pledges are not being met, activists are asking for a target reduction on paper to 1.5°C in order to correct the trajectory.
In a way, I do hope that one day we can look back at this time – the onset of a new decade – where we’ve decided to fight the threat of climate change and achieved to avoid it. We have done it before with the ozone layer, current forecasts project the layer might be fully healed by 2060. For me, the healing of the ozone layer is proof that we must listen to science, implement some rules and act before it’s too late.
The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it. We don’t have a “planet B” quite yet, don’t we? Elon Musk is working on it though! Space exploration will be another beneficiary of this trend.
Covid seems to have put the climate change movement on hold for the time being. There’s hope some of the issues can be resolved by the pandemic itself – such as lesser flights, less traffic, more frugality in general. It remains to be seen how this shall turn out once we figured how to live with/ or get rid of covid.
Climate change will have lasting impact on exposed locations or countries. Mass migrations could happen again. Real estate and insurance premiums will be affected. Increased risks for storms, floods, fire or shifting economic centers will be the driver. Keep the insurance and re-insurance business in view here, they might be significantly overexposed and under covered especially in these times of low interest rates.
Companies that produce more sustainable products and services. Potentially electric vehicles, more eco-friendly planes, sustainable energy, just to name a few. Countries that are less affected by potential global warming impacts (think Iceland, New Zealand). Location independent people.
Companies that will not adjust their strategy to the new situation and changing demands fast enough. Countries that are more affected by climate change. People who are not able or flexible to move if necessary.
5. The Asian Century will Dawn
In 2020, Asian economies will be larger than the “rest of the world combined” for the first time since the 19th century. Further, Asia is now home for more than half of the worlds middle class. The worlds economic center of gravity has been on the move for a few years already. Most recently it moved from the middle of the Atlantic slowly eastwards and should be ending up somewhere in Southern China a few years down the road.
Of course the transition and “uprise” will not be a quiet and stable one, tensions in the Far East and protests could slow down this trend. However, from an economic and demographic perspective, it’s bound to turn out this way: Asia will be the focus of the next decade.
China and India had stellar growth and managed to pull out as many people from poverty as never been seen in human history before. China alone moved more than 800 million people (!) out of poverty – right into middle class. Once this transformation is completed, the question will be: What’s next?
It remains to be seen what exactly the turnout will be on this one. Politics will be key driver here. See the trade wars that have started already.
Corporations and businesses focusing on a growing middle-class in Asia.
Corporations that keep focusing on their current slice of the market and don’t spend any time or effort to grow alongside this growing economic cake.
6. Meat Alternatives will go Big
Meat alternatives are growing into the hearts of consumers. The Impossible Whopper, Beyond Meat (now on Pizzas, in spaghetti sauce and in burgers as well) and more new contenders will be forming a whole new category of food in direct competition to traditional meat farming.
In my family we recently tested pure “Angus Beef Burgers” versus “Beyond Burger” in a blind testing set-up. My kids preferred Beyond. Most likely their burger was made to smell, taste or feel better than a burger by design. So, yes, meat alternatives won in our home-own blind tasting!
While the target market is growing fast – some consumers want to enjoy their protein and believe to do good to switch to ecologically and ethical better solution – the agricultural industry is on the move and plans to impose new laws restricting the use of words such as meat, burger, milk or animal products. Proposals of that kind have been pushed before the U.S. Congress and the European Commission already.
The market at stake is huge: an annual USD 140 billion by the end of the decade!
The game-changer for the next 10 years will be the arrival of cultured, slaughterless meat. Beef, pork, chicken and more that grows in labs from animal cells. Everyone in this business is watching closely for breakthroughs. Key for success will be the labelling and selling it the right way.
To succeed, alternative producers want and need their products to be found in – or near the meat aisles, the meat counters, and the respective restaurants. The target client is no longer the vegan or vegetarian but everyone, including and especially the meat eater. If the most convinced meat eater moves his consumption their way, they’ve won.
This trend has started and can be compared to what happened with banning smoking from restaurants, public spaces and offices in the past 20-30 years, imagine what could happen if eating/ consuming (real) meat could get publicly shamed.
Let’s see. I have tried Beyond but still prefer a good steak, burger and sausage myself.
Producers of healthy, tasty and affordable [meat] alternatives.
Companies that ignore this trend.
7. Capitalism – Quo vadis?
Capitalism as we know it will be contested. Ray Dalio, a hedge fund manager and US billionaire sees this as the biggest threat in the 2020’s, he says “the world is approaching a big paradigm shift”. The historic money printing that came with Corona is actually speeding up this potential shift.
Capitalism is and will remain the one system to guide economic activity on our planet that works best. However, it seems recently more voices are sending the message that pure capitalism does not work anymore for everyone. The true problems come from targeting never-ending growth, increasing inequality and new technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics could actually even be a catalyst to speed-up inequalities. Corona helped further.
In late 2020 the IMF will hold again its SDR basket rebalancing meeting, a meeting that is held just every 5 years and decides how much weight our largest global currencies will get for the subsequent 5 years. The last IMF SDR meeting was held in 2015, China was the big winner at the expense of the EU, Japan and the UK. Back in 2015 the US could protect its USD very well.
Capitalism and the system have never been “cast in stone”. It has evolved further through history. It will be interesting to anticipate the next moves, the 2020’s sure look like there’s huge potential for larger shifts in this field once again. Economists are currently concerned that traditional stimulative tools, such as interest rate cuts, bond-buying programs, more quantitative easing, will be less capable of spurring investment during this current Covid-recession.
If you’re planning for your future and or consider retirement, take care of these points. There could well be a retirement crisis coming up. Plan differently this time.
Currencies of economies with lower quantitative easing, lower inflation, and lower debt levels. Potentially replacements for a global reserve currency, maybe new central bank issued digital currency. Equities with stable inflation protected businesses. Real assets such as real estate, gold, silver, and the respective miners. People with a sound retirement plan not just relying on governments help, cash or savings.
Bond holders, currencies affected by the global power shift, currencies of countries that don’t adapt to the new global order fast. People that solely rely on government supports for everyday life or retirement needs.
8. Living, Breathing FIRE
As the new decade has started, the FIRE (Financial Independence/ Retire Early – or Retire to Entrepreneurship – or Recreational Employment) movement is still growing strong despite the Corona pandemic impact.
In fact, questioning the values of working and consuming evermore in search of happiness has never been more popular than now.
This trend is global.
In Europe, working hours are still being reduced. FIRE keeps spreading in the US. Even in the more work-obsessed cultures in Asia people started rebelling against the 9-9-6 model (working 9am to 9pm 6 days a week).
The more productive we become, the more we value time as scarcest resource of our life.
“Hunger” has always been a healthy component for progress and growth. Wouldn’t it be self-limiting for humanity if that part would be neutralized completely? On one side an absence of hunger may be caused by us attaining the well-deserved fruit of abundance while on the other side deeper concerns about capitalism itself are spreading.
The urge for change is usually the highest in direct relation with pain and uncertainty about the future. A good thing also that most of us have more time to think deep.
Getting aligned and making the best of what’s to come it to grow stronger is the way!
In my above attempt to filter through some trends the main question for you is:
“How do I future proof myself, or how do I even thrive through the 2020’s?”
My simple answer to this is to focus on your ikigai, work on skills instead of diplomas, keep learning, stay relevant by adding value, beware of new competition – and opportunities (the world is flat).
Start with self-branding, move towards self-employment and surround yourself with people who remind you more of your future than your past.
Regardless of what people think or try to tell you, the easiest and most common way to get wealthy is to build multiple streams of income.
Did you know the average millionaire has seven flows of income?
Yes, it’s possible to get reasonably wealthy with a good job. Yes, you can strike it rich with equities. Yes, you can focus all your efforts into your job or business. However, if you are too concentrated on one single source of income, you limit your growth and remain at risk.
Having added additional income streams for myself allowed me to take more risks, to quit my 9-5, to venture out exploring and growing into an entrepreneur – improving the quality of my life.
Don’t solely rely on one stream of income: Grow and diversify your streams of income.
Diversified growth is a most natural phenomenon. Look at how trees also don’t rely to grow on a single root or branch. As trees grow, its roots and branches start to spread. By reaching out, they are attempting to tap into uncontested soil while branches try to maximize sunlight intake. If a tree fails to obtain sufficient nutrition from either side, unable to support itself, it will die and give way to other trees.
The question about streams of income is somehow a chicken and egg dilemma. It’s not clear if additional income streams make millionaires in the first place – or – if it’s millionaires that simply understand the rules of the game and keep more income streams flowing to them.
Either way, one thing is clear:
Multiple income streams are a crucial part of the wealth creation formula. Increasing your income [streams] counts as the most secure path to financial freedom and abundance.
The starting-point is where you are now. How many streams of income do you currently have? How many of those are you aware (!) of? Which stream is working the best for you? Which stream has the highest potential to improve going forward?
Learn how to optimize existing flows and add additional ones.
“If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.”
In other words: Don’t stay in bed unless you’ve learned how to make money – from bed. The goal is to sleep rich and wake up richer.
Primary Stream of Income
Most people are getting started with their money-life earning income through a job. A job is selling your skills and time against money. Jobs can provide security, comfort, and to a certain extend satisfaction. Employed people usually get paid regularly at the end of the month. While different jobs pay different amounts of money – some less, some more – they all pay.
Keep your job and find ways to optimize it. You could start working your way upwards [the corporate ladder] by aiming for a promotion. You could target a salary rise by analyzing your value contribution. Another approach could be to negotiate for part-time work, maintaining your baseline contribution [and maybe even your salary] freeing up yourself more time to work on additional streams of income.
Figure out how much is your real – actual – dollar earned per unit of time you need to sacrifice in order to maintain the job. Your real dollar earned is your salary, less deductions, less taxes, less your costs of maintaining your job (e.g. your commute, expensive clothing, socializing etc.). Deduct the final $$$ amount and divide by your total time effort and you might be surprised how little you actually earn – per hour of your life.
Still, priority one should be to keep optimizing your main stream of income until there are no further improvements possible.
This is where to get started.
Secondary Stream of Income
For this second point, let’s assume you’ve got a partner that is equally engaged in the workforce. This may or may not be the case. If your partner is earning [a stream of] income independently from yours, you can engage in teamwork and optimize for two instead just one main stream of income.
Considerations: If both of you work in the same company or industry you might still have to think of concentration risk in the potential case your industry gets hit or the company lays-off staff.
Diversification is not a must, but could be a meaningful consideration here.
Your partners’ salary might allow one of you to let go of the job in order for the other one to work on building additional income streams or explore entrepreneurship.
Whenever someone needs additional income, the stereotypical suggestion offered is to “get a part-time job.” This could be a solution. But it’s not good advice. Mostly. What if you don’t have the time or energy to put in extra hours? Going down the path of part time jobs may still count as “trading time for money”.
There are some exception to where selling more of your time makes sense.
Leverage on stuff you have to “do anyways”. Let me explain. If you consider working as UBER driver, try to only drive UBER on a route you got to drive anyways: E.g. your daily commute. This way, you don’t spend more time or do something you wouldn’t do in the first place, unlock your time-potential and “activate” an additional income stream without changing your daily life or habits or selling more of your prescious time.
Other examples are to pool laundry (charge others for helping them doing theirs), babysit (“kid-pooling”), cook bigger portions of meals and sell the surplus, or anything else you do anyways and think you could “share” out to get paid.
Adding more streams of income will take an effort. Nothing comes for free. Expanding your income potential usually “cost” either a monetary amount or a time investment. Whatever you have in mind, get your focus away from just selling your time.
Your time is your most valuable resource.
When I was younger I’ve read books like “Rich Dad Poor Dad” and “4 Hour Work Week”, they lightened the FIRE in me to become extremely interested in building streams of passive income.
You see, selling your time is considered “active income”, but earning money without selling your time is called “passive income”. If you solely focus on “active income” you cap yourself at 24 hours per day and will not unlock potential additional income.
Try to find ways to open up additional income streams that are not directly linked to you selling (more of) your time. Build systems. Little currents, becoming bigger, growing to streams, streams of income.
Small things you can do right away are filling surveys online, monetizing your beautiful photos online, hey, in todays world you can even sell your online behaviour. Yes, you’re the product if you want to be. Some apps actually pay YOU for having them installed on your phone. Having a spy installed may not be the most preferred way to earn money for some, to others this might be perfectly legit.
In my case counting my credit card reward points as a flow of passive income makes totally sense. Those reward points allow me to circle the world in business or first/ suites class at least once a year without spending additional money. Just figure out which credit cards are most rewarding and channel your expenses accordingly.
Unlock hidden potential. Otherwise you let it go to waste.
Simply selling your time is limiting your full income potential and it’s not leverageable.
Did you make more than you spent today? Awesome! Do you need that extra money for expenses tomorrow? Save it! Do you have more than you need for tomorrow? Invest it!
This wealth creation formula is simple: It’s like holding back your earned money and send it – not YOU – back to work – FOR you – to boost future streams of income higher again.
The most common and easiest additional streams of passive income are investments in capital markets. Invest and earn either interest from bonds, dividends from equity holdings or – depending how you want to look at it – generating capital growth through increasing asset prices over time.
A portfolio of securitized assets that provides sufficient income to cover your expenses is the cornerstone element for most people working on financial independence.
Diversify Your Streams of Income
The capital markets are fluctuating and while it’s the easiest option to build true passive income, you may also diversify into additional income streams that have nothing to do with your investment portfolio.
The second most common is real estate.
If you’re serious to build wealth, please refrain saying you’ll never have enough money, time or expertise to get into this one. You can start small and learn by doing while growing into becoming a landlord.
One of my friends started out representing his company in another town. For sending him there the company offered him a housing allowance. He optimized that offer in a smart way. Instead of renting a place, he purchased a small two-bedroom apartment with almost no cash down and used his company’s housing allowance to serve the mortgage on it. At the same time he rented out his second bedroom and received passive income from his first tenant. Ten years later, his flat increased in value, the mortgage has shrunken, and my friend kept investing the difference into equities all along. This is how to build wealth from scratch. Beautiful.
In a later stage in life, many are looking to start a family and desire to level up their homes. If you purchase a bigger apartment did you ever consider renting out one room to a tenant? If you choose the right and suitable tenant it could be a great solution. We have done this successfully in the past and enjoyed good times co-living with our tenants.
We also have friends that offer their extra bedroom(s) on AirBnB like a hotel and charge by night. They get to know a lot of interesting people and have extended their network tremendously! Doing AirBnB is a very flexible way to “activate” existing capital and let it work for you. You’re the boss of your AirBnB and may “close shop” if one day you’re no longer in the mood.
You may happen to own extra parking lots: Try to rent it out.
With parking lots you don’t have to fix the toilets or invest in a renovation budget. Depending on the yield you may earn, it may be even the better choice as compared to rent residentials. It may make sense to invest in parking lots and simply focus on this for passive income generation.
Tax Advantages and Credit
In most jurisdictions real estate comes with tax advantages – something that investing in stocks and bonds usually don’t have (except for retirement accounts) – and can boost your credit lines with banks which can be used again to further optimize your bank platform set-up. Speaking about optimizing: IF you have existing mortgages, please check now if it would be a good idea to refinance as interest rates are rock-bottom.
It’s not “the bigger, the better”. Sometimes a few small passive streams of income together may work better than one big one.
Starting a business might not be a goal for everyone. It requires more time and effort as compared to holding a job and building more passive flows of income. However, if you go about it the right way it can be most rewarding in many ways.
Start it as a side-hustle to test the waters. Offer a service or create product you can sell. Think selling your expertise as consultant, digital products, courses or writing a blog or book.
Hesitating because you’re not sure you got value?
Know that you’re better than 99% of all people at doing something.
Find this something, your core competence, your “ikigai”. Most people that are as good, or even better than you, are simply too lazy to do something with it. This is your chance.
Entrepreneurship is taking control of your own life. You have all the power. But as the saying goes “with great power comes great responsibility”. When you’re an employee and things go wrong, you can blame it on the economy, the company, your co-workers or the boss. When you take charge and become the boss its 100% on you. No excuses.
The upside however is that IF you do it right, all the benefits are yours as well.
It’s simple arithmetic: Your income can grow only to the extent that you do.
T. Harv Eker
The benefits of performing well as entrepreneur are naturally much greater as compared to outperforming on your 9-5 job as you don’t have to pay your company shareholders, your bosses, your service departments such as HR, the office rent, marketing and so forth. However, you’ll also have to do all those things yourself. It’s a give and take.
Entrepreneurship is a wide topic. Once you have built sufficient income streams to sustain a comfortable lifestyle it’s the next logic step for most. You don’t have to build an empire, build a lifestyle business. Owning a company comes with even more tax benefits as compared to real estate.
Building an online business is the most fashinoable way to go. But don’t limit yourself to that thought. There are so many ways you can untap additional streams of income as long as your focus on adding value serving your clients.
If you’re working a very high paid profession and are happy at your job, shouldn’t you be focusing more time on your vocation instead of venturing into building other streams of income?
My thought on this is simple: Yes! Do focus on what you’re passionate, good at and can get paid for.
However, you don’t have to keep selling your time and skills to an employer.
The only difference between a rich person and a poor person is how they use their time.
The more you rely on one stream of income – as high or good it may be – the riskier. Imagine getting laid off tomorrow.
Congratulations if you have a well paid job, it’s actually easier [to get started] as you can re-channel more of your excess cash into assets, trying experiments and you can afford to make more mistakes on your journey.
Simply put, more streams of income equal more security.
Work on becoming your own boss – cut the middleman – and get paid by your clients directly. This is also beneficial to reduce potential conflicts of interest as you can serve your client better if you do so without having to satisfy your employer as well.
Focus to master and bring a first additional stream of income it to fruition, stabilize it, only then move your focus to the next one and repeat. Over time you will build an optimized system of well diversified passive and active income streams that is aligned to your ikigai, lifestyle, dreams and ultimately let you forget when its payday.
Coming from a banking background, my own major streams of income are business (consulting, advising, managing money for others), capital growth, dividends and rentals.
Selling more of your time is not scalable. It might also not be sustainable nor enjoyable. Go for additional income streams that are aligned with your envisioned lifestyle and that are mostly flexible and as passive as can be.
Increasing and diversifying your income is simple – but not easy.
It’s definitively worth it.
If you don’t get started, you will always just be one paycheck away from being on the street.
Don’t downgrade your dream to match your reality, upgrade your faith to match your destiny!
How many streams of income do you have and which ones are you currently working on?
Have you ever wondered what advice you would give to your younger self? Or similarly, have you ever thought about how your future self would show up and how it would want to guide you today?
Since we haven’t built a real flux-compensator [yet], wouldn’t it be easier to simply start asking those older and smarter than you to share their most valuable lessons?
I’ve spent some time to gather some nuggets of wisdom from people I’m surrounded with and decided to sort them systematically. Maybe first and foremost, one of the key lessons that I’ve learned is that’s it worth it to pursue what your longing for, especially if it’s difficult.
The most valuable things in life are often hardest to obtain.
This rule of thumb is valid for experience, wisdom, skills, technical talent and of course wealth. At the same time, the most valuable lessons of life are often the ones you try to avoid, resist, or simply miss for years – as you’re following your current routine indefinitely.
If you are willing to do only what’s easy, life will be hard.
But if you are willing to do what’s hard, life will be easy.
Life is simple. But not easy!
In this post, I’ll try to summarize all the thoughts and ideas about what I’d be telling my younger self.
Dream big – if your goals don’t scare you, set bigger goals!
Your true potential is only limited by your passion and imagination. Imagination is the workshop of your mind, capable of turning mind energy into accomplishment and wealth. What the mind can conceive and believe, it shall receive.
Work on making your dreams come true by finding your true ikigai. This planet needs more people that dare to dream – learn to dream with eyes wide open. Keep in mind that if it doesn’t challenge you, it most likely also doesn’t change you.
“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
The biggest risk in life is actually to play it too safe. You might end up with regrets for not having tried. We all just have one life. Use your time wisely. Time is the only wealth we’re given.
The biggest obstacle to get started is fear. People are afraid to think big, of trying new things and of making mistakes. However, if you think too small, you’ll only achieve small things.
Some of my friends confirmed they achieved the greatest advances in life in moments where they stayed calm and did it anyways. This is true for your career, for love and for making new experiences!
I would tell my younger self: “Trust me. The best things in life are on the other side of fear!”
“The problem human beings face is not that we aim too high and fail, but that we aim too low and succeed.”
Find your true north, your direction, your why.
Then stick to who you are and keep building on it.
Do not try to impress parents, partners, the other gender, friends and bosses. In doing so, you would only head in directions that are at odds with who you really are or could become.
Yes, you will make mistakes.
Yes, you will have to learn more on your journey.
But all this is worth your while as long as you keep an open mindset and stay open to possibilities and chances.
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
Some say, the best time to get started was twenty years ago. The second-best time of course is today, not tomorrow. Don’t wait for the perfect time – it will never be perfect. Forget about waiting until you know everything – you never will. Start now.
The actual root of procrastination is doubt. Find a way to increase your belief and you will increase your activity. Of course you will be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t even try.
Keep in mind that people who never try are failing already.
For all you know, no one else knows what they’re doing either. Everyone feels insecure sometimes (some even a lot of the time).
Simple truth of life is: Those who keep going, keep winning.
Keep in mind: Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. Take risks while you’re young and while you can.
“Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.”
In case you don’t like where you are now, move. You are not a tree.
Move towards your goals starting now. Other than your partner and family (teamwork!) don’t wait for someone to give you permission – they won’t.
Just start now!
Stay Curious: Keep Learning
Unless you are completely retired, earning money is still the best form of building and preserving wealth. Anything that you learn will somehow become your wealth, a wealth that cannot be taken away from you anymore.
Invest in yourself so that you’ll never have to worry about earning an income whether it be from a full time job, side-hustle, or business.
There are many ways to learn new things: Reading books, attending classes or through experience. I’m a strong advocate of learning desirable skills and my favourite way to go about it is through exposure: Experience is king.
Experience are the raw form of learning and will put you in a situation which pure (book-) knowledge cannot give. Life greatest lessons come from experiences.
Get started with learning “how to money”. Use this key-skill to buy more of your time and expose yourself to learning more: New languages, new technical skills, how to write, give public speeches, how to start a business and so on.
Make your brain faster, smarter, more confident and more savvy!
Stay curious and keep learning!
Move the Needles
How to money?
The very first step to building wealth is to spend less than you make.
Simply put, focus on increasing the gap between income and expenses.
The bigger the difference, the more “free cash flow” you have flowing and the faster you cruise towards your (monetary) goals – be it net-worth or cash-flow.
The higher your monthly income and the lower your monthly expenses, the more you can save and invest. The more you invest, the faster the third curve, the monthly investment income, will move higher up. Once the “passive income” reaches your expenses, you’ve reached the crossover point. Congratulations, you are now financially free!
Reduce your expenses by listing them all up and question them one by one. You will be surprised how much potential most people are able to unlock doing this exercise. Focus on ongoing savings, not on one-offs. Explore saving more money by going for the “Million Dollar Haircut” or work on similar new habits. A budget might help.
On the other side, work on increasing your income either by adding more value to this world either on your job or with your business or by investing more into cash-flowing assets.
Move the needles [income and expenses] into the right direction over time.
Pay yourself first!
Don’t save what’s left after spending, spend what’s left after saving.
Start Investing Now
Very often people tell me they don’t have enough money to get started with investing. Well, how much is enough? I’d say, if you found a way to have your basic needs covered, anything above that is fair game.
No amount is too small, so start NOW!
Know the power of compounding in investing in financial assets as well as other areas in life. Whatever it is you like to get started investing: Start your compounding journey with your first paycheck and keep going from there.
By setting-up automatic bi-weekly investment contributions to a stock market index fund as soon as you open a bank account you’ll most likely be well served. Try not to look at it until you’re much older.
“Compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.”
Buy Assets instead of Liabilities
Learn the difference between assets and liabilities.
Assets are anything that puts money into your pockets.
Liabilities are anything that takes money out of your pockets.
Simple as that!
Following this definition your car, expensive toys, boats or even your oversized home most likely qualify as liabilities (!) while investing into your education, equities or your business will be assets.
Never finance depreciating “assets” and be careful with financing liabilities even more. Better to purchase second-hand cars or wait until you have sufficient free cash-flow to indulge purchasing “fun-items” – if must be.
Most people can afford NOT to be a great investor, but probably can’t afford to be a bad one. Invest early in Index funds: You’ll worry less and earn more. Index and chill.
Once your assets are accumulating capital understand that capital is that part of wealth which is devoted to obtaining further wealth. This can be human capital (yourself) and/ or financial capital.
Keep accumulating capital.
Understand Your Taxes
The average person will view taxes as something inevitable and therefore not spend too much time understanding the “tax-code”. Each tax jurisdiction has different rules and loopholes. Understand the rules of the game before you start playing.
For most tax-codes the advice is similar: Maximize your retirement-account contributions, untap others such as health savings accounts, know how to optimize mortgages, debt, and real estate. Figure out how capital growth and dividends are taxed. Implement more tools if and when needed as your net-worth grows.
At a certain point in time you should consider starting your own business for employing yourself and/ or holding assets. From eight digits upwards the topics could be your personalized fund vehicle or to collateralize your assets within or establishing foundations and trusts with insurance shields to prepare for handing over your wealth to the next generation.
Beware, the rules keep changing.
Keep yourself updated.
Socialize with intention
You’ll become the average of the five people you spend the most time with!
Choose your friends wisely.
Who you hang out with determines what you dream about and what you collide with. And the collisions and the dreams lead to your changes. And the changes are what you become. Change the outcome by changing your circle.
Take people for who they really are and not for who you want them to be. They show you everyday just look. Make sure you don’t confuse looking rich, (buying fancy toys and big houses), with being wealthy. The people we think are rich are often deep in debt.
Stay away from people that think you’re lucky if you succeed or that you’re greedy if you acquire wealth. Pay no attention to them. They simply doesn’t understand. Avoid people that don’t understand.
Choose your tribe. Surround yourself with energetic people that like to discuss their ideas instead of talking about other people. Engage in some #JacuzziBeerstorming for getting more creative with your social circle. Wealth flows from energy and ideas.
It is the product of man’s capacity to think.
Build your relationships, your network is your networth.
Fuck the Joneses
Avoid keeping up with the Joneses.
Avoid herd-mentality and most money problems will avoid you throughout your life. Instead of spending too much time with what the average Joe on your street does, says or thinks of you, focus on what you can control.
What other people think of you is none of your business. Don’t be in a race with your social media neighbours. No one is so miserable as the poor person who maintains the appearance of wealth. Be content with enough and stay clear of lifestyle creep.
“I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money”
Never ever, ever, ever give up! Ever!
Be patient and be prepared for set-backs.
Life is not a sprint, it’s rather a marathon. The greatest of all works have not been performed by strength but by perseverance.
Be more tough!
You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.
Every journey starts with a first step. Get started and then focus on daily progress. Take small steps if needed. But steps into the right direction. Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success. Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all.
Aim high, be unrelenting in your pursuit of your goal, but flexible in your approach of it. Stay true to your values and don’t compare yours with anyone else’s journey. Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.
„When the going gets tough, the tough get going.“
Sometimes when you think back you will realize in your life there are certain important decisions that have led you to where you are today. It could drive you mad if you keep thinking in “what ifs” all the time.
Imagine, back in 2004 I got accepted to work for Google through an AIESEC traineeship, said no and decided for the more adventurous challenge of working in Taiwan. Was this a stupid decision? You could argue so. However, I chose to venture out to Taipei instead and got to know my wife. There are many such crossroads in anyone’s life.
My advice here: Once you’re at that crossroads, listen to your heart, your passion. Choose wisely. Make a decision. Go for it. The path you take will define and form you. In the end, it doesn’t matter which path you take, as long as you move forward. And have no regrets.
Seriously, it doesn’t matter too much what others think.
Regrets don’t help.
Take Care of Yourself so You can take Care of Others
When you fly on an airplane, the flight crew instructs you clearly to “put your oxygen mask on first,” especially before helping others, including your own children!
Why is this such an important rule? It’s a rule to ensure a higher rate of survival. If you run out of oxygen, you wouldn’t be able to help anyone else with their oxygen mask anymore. Put more simply: if you die, you can’t help anyone else.
Again, the life advice here is not to push forward at any price. You got to know how to take care of yourself. Especially when to take a rest. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can experience burnout, stress, fatigue, reduced mental effectiveness, health problems, anxiety, frustration, inability to sleep, and more.
Keep in mind, whatever you try to attain here: You’re doing this to improve your life! Money is not the end goal. It’s a means, a tool, a way to have options to build the life of your dreams but not worth anything in its own right. Don’t lose sight of what really matters. Happiness over being “rich”. The journey should be as remarkable as the destination. While wealth is the ability to fully experience life please ensure to enjoy the ride: Life is about being and becoming, not having and getting.
Remember: You only live once!
What advice would you give to your younger self if you could?
Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life.
In Japan, people have learned to live longer, healthier, and happier lives. That’s because they are aligned with their ikigai! Let’s explore what is behind this ikigai and see what we can learn to improve our lives as well.
The Japanese island of Okinawa happens to have one of the largest population of centenarians. They have accomplished an extraordinary longevity. Even for Japanese standards. Researchers found the reason behind this amazing achievement was due to people living their ikigai.
Happiness is not a destination, it’s a way of life.
The Okinawans don’t have a word for retirement. Instead, they keep using ikigai or “the reason for getting up” to define their purpose of life. You can do the same by adjusting your mindset. Free yourself from having your purpose of life just linked to either your work or your ability to earn money. Your life wouldn’t stop being “of purpose” once you stop working.
Have you ever realized that when you get to meet new people it’s very common to get introduced from an angle of profession or job. There are studies suggesting (early-) retirement may be a cause for an earlier death.
Inhabitants of blue zones usually share a specific concept of “how to live life” which is the reason they indeed do enjoy longer than average lives.
The concept of ikigai is the most impactful of them.
You can replicate it for your life as well!
What is Ikigai?
Please see the below diagram to illustrate “Ikigai”. Ikigai is the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing on one side – this can also be called your “passion” – and of what the world needs and what you can be paid for on the other side.
How do you usually spend your time if it’s not for money? What activities do you enjoy the most? Does time just fly by when you are usually engaged in these activities? Most people know the answers to these questions. It’s easy to know what you enjoy.
Step 1: Write down a list of activities that you enjoy doing.
Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.
2. What does the world need?
Start thinking from a problem perspective. What problems in this world need to be solved? Try to think from an angle of identifying problems that interest you and tickle your passion again. The bigger the problem, the more opportunities you might find going after.
Step 2: Make a list of problems in this world you care for.
People don’t pay you for following your passion, they pay you to satisfy a need.
These first two questions are the core of finding Ikigai: Match what you love with what is needed. They build the foundation for the next two questions.
3. What are you good at?
If you ask your friends and family how would they reply to this question on your behalf? What are you especially good at? What can you do better than others?
Everyone has some skills they excel at. Get to know your strengths and weaknesses. While it’s easier to work with existing talents, don’t despair: With putting in time and effort you can acquire many skills these days.
Step 3: List up your talents, ask your friends and family for help if needed!
The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.
4. What can you be paid for?
Depending on what you could offer, it’s possible to get paid for pretty much anything. Promoting and getting paid for services, products or work has never been easier. With the internet, social media and other tools finding customers that are willing to spend money is the key step here.
While this sounds easier, it might be the most difficult step. Be creative and keep trying. People promoting their passion services and products have a clear and sustainable advantage over businesses and others out there!
People don’t buy from companies; they buy from people.
Wealth, like happiness, is never attained when sought after directly. It comes as a by-product of providing a useful service.
5. Final Step
The final step of this exercise is to put the above findings together in a meaningful way and come to a conclusion. Going through the above four steps and line of thoughts you should get more clarity towards which direction you might want to be heading.
The intersection of all four areas is where you achieve Ikigai.
Should you have problems going through the above exercise I’d highly recommend you some Jacuzzi Beerstorming to up your creativity and imagination.
Your [Ikigai] Life
Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
If you don’t design your life [plan], chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan instead. Should you have a partner, I highly recommend to get aligned.
Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.
Living your ikigai is not something easily achieved. It takes time. The key part is to get the process started and keep moving into the right direction. You will learn a lot on the way, keep learning.
Once you stop learning, you start dying.
This world needs more people that have become truly alive. The problem with the large majority of people is that at one point in time they stop being curious. They no longer care about new ideas, experiences and solutions as they assume responsibilities. Then they build and get stuck in their daily routines. Don’t be like them.
Stay curious and creative.
You will grow and can finetune and adjust your path on the journey. Finding and living your Ikigai is difficult but so much worth it!
Dare to make time in your life for a satisfying occupation, a meaningful contribution to society, make time for your family and hobbies.
“My future starts when I wake up every morning… Every day I find something creative to do with my life.”
Most people might not enjoy the process of going to a hair salon. In the past I loved to go to the same hair salon repeatedly. My hairdresser knew how to cut my hair and over time we became friends. However, hairdressers do change jobs. That’s when the pain starts. You must explain your hairstyle preference to a new person from scratch. There is a high chance you will not like the “new” haircut – but you have to pay for it anyways.
Money – and time – that you could save and invest otherwise instead. For instance by cutting your own hair. Yes, learn how to cut it yourself. It’s not that hard. It saves time and money. In itself this new habit can be worth a million dollars. Read on!
For myself, going to the hairdresser was usually a series of activities wasting my time: First, make a phone call to reserve a time slot, then by commute to the hair salon, followed by more waiting time – despite the previous arrangement – as the customer before you takes somewhat longer than planned. A simple hair salon visit could easily take up more than one hour of [my] time, all actions combined.
Time is my most valuable asset and I love any hacks to optimize and reduce time spent.
Haircuts are available at discount or at super high prices. They all have one thing in common? You will pay money to someone else – repeatedly – to get the job done.
Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.
A simple haircut in Taiwan sets you back about $4, in Singapore around $10 and in Switzerland $40. Some people might even spend more than just for their regular trim! Repeatedly.
Let’s assume you could get this job done yourself. You could actually save $40 per month perpetually going forward, isn’t it? Now, that’s where the magic starts…
While $40 does not sound like a lot, saving it persistently WILL amount to a lot – over time. In my case, if I keep cutting my hair until the end of my days – expecting I can live to a 100 years – and keep investing (!) the savings at 10% annual returns – keeping a 2% inflation in mind – we are talking:
1 MILLION DOLLARS!
Assumptions: $40 per haircut, 12 trims a year, invested at 10% instead. Haircuts increase in price by 2% per year due to inflation and proceeds are accumulated and compounded:
1 MILLION DOLLARS (!) by age 92, and THEN ANOTHER ONE MILLION by age 100.
The true power of compounding!
How To Cut My Own Hair?
Chances are you have never cut hair. Not your own, and not other peoples’ hair. Do NOT despair. In the age of the almighty internet there are plenty of free resources available for getting yourself ready for the task.
You might want to prepare yourself by watching as many YouTube videos as you need to get comfortable before getting started.
Give it a Try!
Not sure if you can do it?
You think DIY haircuts are more a guys thing and nothing for ladies to try?
If you truly like to “try before you buy”: Maybe one of your friends might have a trimmer. Ask if you can borrow first.
Keep in mind: During times of Corona, a self-cut head will still look much better than letting your hair grow wild.
Worst come to worst: Just still go to a hair salon and have your hair fixed there.
I’m an economist by training. That’s why I have the habit of justifying the way I spend my time very systematically. Hence, you might also be asking: “Why should I spend time on cutting hair if I could delegate to someone else instead? Wouldn’t I preferably be generating more value focusing on my vocation?”
My conclusion on this one is simple:
Cutting your own hair is a relatively “easy-to-acquire” skill. Similar with cooking your own food, it doesn’t cost you much time or money to “skill-up”. Indeed, over the past two years my hair cutting skills have improved. Not only did I get faster but also better at it. This will make you increasingly competitive vs. outsourcing.
Opportunity costs represent the benefits you miss out on when choosing one alternative over another. Because – by definition – they are unseen, opportunity costs can be easily overlooked if one is not careful. Understanding the potential missed opportunities foregone by choosing one way to spend your money or time over another allows for better decision-making.
To sum it up: Yes, I prefer cutting my own hair multifold over going to any hair salon. Opportunity cost-wise it’s not an either or, it actually does save me both: Money AND time!
If you invest the little money (for a trimmer) and time required to learn the skill, cutting your own hair is as awesome as can be. It’s a creative new skill that adds freedom and independence to your life. No more scheduling, no more waiting at hair salons, no commute, no hassle, you can cut your hair whenever and wherever needed. You may even experiment with new hair styles – up to going bold to cover up mistakes!
You will usually be done within 5-10 minutes (yes!) and most importantly you do not have to pay someone else and can save the proceeds!
That’s how your own
haircut is a “Million Dollar Haircut”!
If one million is not sufficient: Your ROI can be multiplied if you – like me – start cutting your kids hair! During Corona lock-down some friends where asking me questions about my hair as it was usually finely trimmed while some others let it “grow wild”. That’s where I figured this skill might potentially even be marketable. However, cutting other people’s hair – outside of my family – is surely not my goal.
Dipping in hot water has been an enjoyable activity for humans over centuries. No wonder jacuzzies have become such a popular backyard feature. Tons of research show how hot water therapy can positively affect you physically, mentally, and spiritually. There’s even more to it. Financially. Read on!
Regular hot tubbing can sustainably improve your life. It can help you become better at generating creative ideas, focusing your thoughts, getting clarity about your goals, and building your network while doing this together with likeminded people. It can make you happier and richer.
My grandfather used to say: There’s nothing better than something good together with something good. Jacuzzi Beerstorming is just like that. It’s one of my favorite habits. It combines even THREE of my favorite ways to spend time: Bouncing ideas with friends, sipping a cool beer and dipping the jacuzzi.
The basic concept is to bring people together into a situation where they are forced to disconnect, relax, rest their minds and can focus on bonding. The warm water and bubbles are helping with the relaxation part. Good beer enables to open up minds, unblocks certain boundaries and lets unlimited creativity flow.
Jacuzzi Beerstorming [ʤəˈkuːzi bɪəˈstɔːmɪŋ]: The activity of brainstorming with likeminded individuals while sipping beer in a jacuzzi.
Disclaimer: Stay hydrated and do not drink too much alcohol while hot tubbing
In our Singapore condo “The Waterina” we have established an awesome group called “The Jacuzzi Mates”. When in Singapore, we usually meet several times a week in the early evening hours to relax and exchange ideas together. After a few “Jacuzzi Mates” sessions we were surprised by the usually very positive thinking and creative idea sharing without any boundaries.
Following these sessions, careers have changed. Businesses have started and investments in real estate and others have been made. In retrospect, “Jacuzzi Beerstorming” sessions where the incubator for many things.
Giving Birth to Ideas
The essence of Jacuzzi Beerstorming is to create the right atmosphere combining the informal (bathsuits, super relaxing activity) with being away from anything that smells like work or unnecessary distractions (meetings rooms, offices, Starbucks) and simply add good beer to it! While it works best with groups, introverts please feel free to “fly solo” to keep your mind on creative mode. Jacuzzi Beerstorming is very comparable with meditating. It usually gives me the best ideas.
Try to think back in your life: Think about that one time when your most brilliant insight struck you. Chances are you weren’t actually focused on anything. Right? Fact is: The best ideas usually come unexpected and especially when we allow space for them.
Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.
William S. Burroughs
After having studied the brains’ default modes, the author of the book Hyperfocus: How to Manage Your Attention in a World of Distraction coined the term “scatterfocus” to describe the act of purposefully letting the mind wander. If you’re like most ambitious people out there, there’s a high chance you resemble more a time-management and productivity expert and simply can’t accept the concept of “actively doing nothing”. You might have trouble getting into “scatterfocused” stage.
The actual key is to build (or to schedule if that’s what it takes) sufficient idle moments into your life – while accepting that idleness and getting stuff done aren’t in opposition! Idleness IS getting stuff done as an idle mind is not necessarily a lazy mind.
Imagination Requires An Idle Mind
“Idle” and “lazy” are two very different concepts, with very little overlap. “Think of it this way — a fisherman is often idle while still at work,” says Celeste Headlee, author of the new book Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving. “The same is true for a toll booth operator or security guard. Idleness means inactivity, while laziness means reluctance to work.
Can a person be idle because they’re lazy? Of course! But a person can be working while idle and active while not working.”
Imagination requires space and time to stew and simmer, to explore and to emerge; imagination dies in the crucible of intense competition (of ideas). It is ironic that humanity created tuition classes for imagination driven by a spirit of competitiveness in schools.
Jacuzzi Beerstorming is the habit that works best for me – and eventually might also work for you. It’s my secret sauce to “Imagineering” my life. It’s just about enough activity to stimulate my brain while my ideas do not have to compete with distraction or conflicting thoughts. With the right friends around plus beer, neurons will be firing on all cylinders and new, creative, and motivating ideas will be born!
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.”
How Billionaires Use Hot Tubs
As Tim Ferriss shared in his excellent book Tools of Titans, Chris Sacca, a Silicon-Valley early-stage investor in dozens of companies such as Twitter, Uber, Instagram, Kickstarter or Twilio, took a very out-of-the-box approach to get started focusing more on his business back in 2007. He started by buying a cabin in rural Truckee, Tahoe’s less-expensive neighbour. That’s where he moved to, away from the Valley, with a super convincing rationale:
to go on offense. I wanted to have the time to focus, to learn the things I
wanted to learn, to build what I wanted to build, and to really invest in
relationships that I wanted to grow, rather than just doing a day of coffee
after coffee after coffee.”
Now he had
the perfect excuse to escape the Valley’s “busy-ness”, he no longer attended
meetings he didn’t want to, no day-in-day-out coffee dates or late night
socializing. Chris turned his life around and started to invite founders and
people he liked to get closer to for a day or two to his cabin.
Billionaire Tech Investor Uses Hot Tub Endurance Test To Pick Winners, Because Science
his fanciful and successful investments, Chris considers the cabin the best
investment he’s ever made. “Everyone loves coming to
the mountains. Over the years, that’s helped me build lasting friendships. Some
of those have been the catalysts for my investments in Uber, Twitter and
Over the years, Sacca has perfected his “due
diligence” in order to avoid bad deals. Besides hot tubbing, he observes the
new entrepreneurs at his cabin to see how they act over a series of home-cooked
meals, hikes and ski trips. While the Andreessens and Thiels are taking their
chances in a boardroom, Sacca wants to see what money-hungry nerds will do out
in the nowhere. This way he will gain insight on how well they are prepared to navigate the crazy world
of the tech biz.
If you really want to get cash from Chris Sacca, then you better get yourself ready for an epic “tub session”. Travis Kalanick, chief executive officer of Uber, impressed Sacca through his hot tub resilience: “Travis can spend eight to 10 hours in a hot tub,” Sacca said. “I’ve never seen a human with that kind of staying power in a hot tub.” – Chris Sacca invested in Uber!
How long can you stay in a hot tub?
Sir Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson, another Billionaire, has refined “bonding events” with entrepreneur even more. You can actually “buy time” with him directly here. If you attend the event, you “might” get to meet him on his own island, Necker Island, located in the British Virgin Islands.
To enjoy a hot relaxing bubble bath, you don’t have to be a billionaire. Depending where you live, you may have natural hot-springs around or can find facilitated hot tubs in public pools. You can also find them in hotels, gyms (wellness section, Spa area) or your friends and neighbors might own one.
Only in 2020 did I realize owning a hot-tub is significantly cheaper than I previously thought. As this year we can’t travel as freely as in earlier years, we have redirected parts of our travel budget and bought an inflatable Intex SPA hot tub for our garden. It reminds me a lot of our condo jacuzzi in Singapore where many friendships were made, and ideas were born. Similar products are available on Amazon.
Hot Spring Culture Around the World
Did you know that across the world dipping hot water is widely enjoyed, cultivated, and respected?
Most often bathing in hot water is done for health benefits: The heat widens blood vessels, which sends nutrient-rich blood throughout your body. Warm water also brings down swelling and loosens tight muscles. And the water’s buoyancy takes weight off painful joints. A dip in the hot tub might also help your mental state, lets you relax and sleep better!
If you happen to travel, please do take your time to enjoy the local bathing culture in different locations. We have dipped hot-waters in Taiwan (“Wenquan”: Yangminshan, Beitou, Wulai, Taroko Gorge hot springs), Japan (“Onsen”), New Zealand (Hanmer Springs) and Iceland (Blue Lagoon!). Each place has a different feeling and background story.
Thanks for reading this far. Chances are, you might be someone enjoying hot water and/ or beer a fair bit! What was your best experience dipping a hot spring, jacuzzi, onsen, wenquan or hammam??? Do you also like to sip a good beer along? I’m sure we’d all be more than curious to find out. Not just location wise, but also if you’ve had some great ideas, met interesting people or something else happened while dipping!
Happy Jacuzzi Beerstorming to You!
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Disclaimer: Please be made aware that the some of the links used above may be affiliate links for which Financial Imagineer could receive a compensation.
It’s this time of the year once again, all corporates are out to get some of your hard-earned money and you’re eager to provide for a nice Christmas experience for your loved ones. While it’s beginning to cost a lot like Christmas, why not invest into gifting the key to more freedom, happiness and financial health to your loved ones?
something empowering such as the building
blocks of financial literacy. Inspire and
provide your kids with the tools and power
so they might ultimately be in a position to create the best versions
of themselves in the future.
Financial Intelligence is knowing that if you spend your life energy on stuff that brings only passing fulfillment and doesn’t support your values, you end up with less life.
This is the Financial Imagineers Giftmas List, version 2.0 – a Christmas Gift list with ideas for FI people, family and friends! Have fun exploring.
How to be a hero of your own life? What’s the secret to “extraordinary?”
Being stuck in
mediocrity sucks. It’s easy to identify the symptoms of this disease
in your life: are you chronically bored? Do you wake up knowing today
is going to suck? Are you constantly fighting off feelings of
emptiness, exhaustion, and knowing you’re wasting your life?
Well, eff that!
Every moment of every day, you can choose to be extraordinary. You
can choose to become someone you’re incredibly proud to be, who
accomplishes amazing goals and achieves greatness. “What
Extraordinary People Know” guides you through how to be free of
the mediocrity trap: starting with the inspiration, tools, and kick
in the ass you need to get your life going in high gear-from
behavioral change and personal growth expert Anthony Moore. As
someone who took his own life from ordinary to extraordinary, Moore
has created a three-step path to breaking free of Mediocrity and
becoming the hero of your own life.
Chris Camillo is not a stockbroker, financial analyst, or hedge fund manager. And yet in early 2007, in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, he invested $20,000 in the stock market, and grew it to just over $2 million in only three years.
How did he do it? By
observing the world around him.
Along with his own
keen observations, Chris leverages family, friends, coworkers, and
online networks like Facebook and LinkedIn to create what he calls
“trend-spotting networks.” These networks – and not the
bigwigs of Wall Street – help Chris identify market trends that
lead to winning investments. You have a powerful network, too, as
well as an innate advantage over those on Wall Street – you just
don’t know it yet.
entertaining, story-driven, and jargon-free book, Chris proves that
you don’t need large sums of money, fancy market data, or endless
hours to achieve extraordinary wealth. He shows how the average
consumer with zero financial education can outsmart Wall Street’s
brightest by learning to identify game-changing information hidden in
everyday life while watching TV, reading tabloids, working at the
office, shopping at the mall, eating out at restaurants, or driving
the carpool to soccer practice. You just need to pay attention to the
interests and trends in your own life. It doesn’t matter whether you
have $100 or $100,000 to invest – you can become a successful
investor and create a secure future for you and your family.
inspirational approach to creating wealth shows that you know more
than the suits on Wall Street ―and that knowledge can make you
This is not your
standard investment book and it will not cover what most other books
do, and that’s exactly why I love it. It’s refreshingly different and
a good read for people who have read the common investment books
Gift a refreshing
approach to finding the right investment ideas!
Personal finance expert Ramit Sethi has been called a “wealth wizard” by Forbes and the “new guru on the block” by Fortune. Now he’s updated and expanded his modern money classic for a new age, delivering a simple, powerful, no-BS 6-week program that just works.
The book will start with ideas and ways about how to crush your debt
and student loans, continue to teach how to set up above average high
yield accounts and then slowly goes into how to automate your
finances to gear your for success.
Opposing the many frugalists and people suggesting to cut down on
your wants, Ramit is more a supporter of earning more in order live a
richer life. Instead of the usual cut your daily latte or skip on
avocado toast, he’ll teach you how to make your money reach
In the later part of the book he’ll explore how to set a dead
simple investment strategy that is buit to last, how to handle big
ticket purchases such as a car or a house, covering a wedding or
having children – stress free.
Also, since this is the 10th year anniversary edition, it features
over 80 new pages including new tools, new insights on money and
psychology and some amazing stories of how previous readers used the
book to create their richer lives.
Michelle Hung is the founder of The Sassy Investor. An advocate for financial literacy, she is on a mission to spread the word on the importance of financial independence and how to achieve it.
A beginner’s guide
to step-by-step investing for all the sassy females who’ve ever
wanted to take control of their finances! From penny-pinchers to
free-(spirited!) spenders, this fun and engaging activity workbook
allows women from all educational backgrounds to learn more about
money and how to build a secure financial future.
Too often, women
rely on others to manage their finances. Whether it is their spouse
or financial advisors, many find themselves in a complacent spot with
their money. Worse, when money is sitting on the sidelines not
earning anything, women are short-changing themselves on the
potential to earn thousands over a lifetime.
From education to
execution, this colourful activity workbook takes women of all ages
and life stages through the necessary steps to financial literacy and
independence. It is meant to put the power back in the hands of all
hardworking women, inspiring all to take a more active role in
managing and saving their money.
through education. Investing does not have to be intimidating.
Stock Market Pie: Grandma Helps Emily Make A Million is a great starter book for anyone interested in learning basic saving and investment concepts.
The story line
features young Emily who receives a gift of stock from her
grandmother. Emily learns to appreciate the value of the gift as she
discusses saving and investing with her grandmother while they two
Emily develops a
clever pie-making metaphor to illustrate investment concepts.
Stock Market Pie
features detailed informational sidebars and glossary, making it a
great reference book. This well-researched and colorfully illustrated
book is a great learning tool for anyone interested in getting a
“piece of the stock market pie.”
Entrepreneur Extraordinaire begins with Emily being disappointed when her favorite cookies were sold out…again.
When Emily shows an entrepreneurial spark, Grandpa enters the picture
to help turn her idea and energy into a cookie business. Entrepreneur
Extraordinaire is an entertaining story packed with tasty morsels to
bring out the entrepreneur in everyone.
This book explains the entrepreneurial thought process behind a
business venture. It s a great resource for any budding entrepreneur.
Ample sidebar explanations, detailed appendix and glossary make it a
must-have reference book.
This is a book tailored to young readers that describes opportunities
in entrepreneurship in a fun, thorough and understandable way.
Parents and kids alike will enjoy learning how to identify their
entrepreneurial skills and utilize them to get busy about creating
their own paychecks!
Making mistakes and learning from them to grow stronger is the essence
of life. Let your kids experience undesirable outcomes, mistakes and set-backs.
They are the best lessons life has to offer. Expose them to small doses of discomfort
and failure earlier in life and allow them to grow into bigger, better,
stronger and most importantly independent, happier adults.
Isn’t it funny how humanity is wired: Babies don’t read a book or attend a classroom course to learn how to walk. No, they try and fail, fail more, fail harder, and then all of a sudden: Wow, look my baby knows how to walk!
The moment your little one starts taking off independently is probably
one of the biggest moments for a parent. The parent didn’t “teach” the baby how
to walk, it just happens and we are so damn proud seeing our offspring standing
on their own feet!
The same procedure happens again when your little ones learn how to
speak. The first time they open their mouths, it’s usually just random babbling
until one day they say: “Mama” or “Papa”! Then, before you know it, they’ll be
able to say things like “I don’t like vegetables!”. Kids are amazing, they don’t
need extrinsic motivation. They figure out how to build their skills
independently. Isn’t it amazing to see a young human being soak up all those
skills by them self?
If it’s so simple, how come some adults seem to forget how to do exactly that??? Shouldn’t we as adults have become better at “learn by doing” with all the accumulated experience from our life?
So, what happens here? Once kids grow older, they tend to become more
and more “socialized” and adapt to their environment. As a parent, you are [and
have the power to remain] the most important influence on how they continue to
learn, grow and “become” more. Though, some parents suddenly start to forbid
their kids to play certain games: “you could get yourself hurt!” and become
increasingly protective while others keep increasing the freedom their kids may
enjoy as they grow older.
There might be a fine line on how much freedom is good or sufficient
and it certainly depends on your child as well. Ultimately, while I’m not a
trained teacher as such, I strongly believe there’s a correlation about how the
kids who got more exposure to freedom will be able to grow up to become more
self-sufficient human beings.
The good news: Humans are naturally curious and designed as life-long
“The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
– Mark Zuckerberg
What’s Your Job as Parent?
As parents, your job number one is to “raise independent adults” who
should be able to navigate life and its full spectrum of ups and downs autonomously.
That’s your job, your responsibility, your KPI so to say. Hence, in order to achieve
this goal, shouldn’t we try to find ways to enable our kids to become
comfortable with trying and failing, learning by themselves and discomfort in
general. If we constantly protect our offspring from all the “bad things” then
there’s a very high chance we’ll not be ending up with strong [enough], happy adults
at the end.
“As your dad, I’m supposed to give you two things… roots and wings. Roots which is knowing that you have the security of a family who loves you and wings, which is the confidence to do whatever you want.”
How to do it?
Building tolerance for discomfort and encouraging curiosity to try,
fail, learn and succeed are most likely worth much more than hours of additional
cram school exposure for kids. The older we get in life, the more discomfort
we’re probably exposed to: rejection by a potential partner, accidents, being
passed over for a promotion, traffic jams, delayed trains and flights, you name
Some of us have experienced people who where brilliantly successful at
school but failed to amount to something later on in life as once they’ve left
the protected environment they got “crushed by real life” so to say. In order
to prepare your kids for life, help them build up resilience, gain confidence
in their capabilities, plant the hunger for continuous trying no matter what
and let them know that they can survive even big “mistakes” and learn from
1. Let them get a bad grade
Is getting a bad grade a good or a bad thing? Is losing money at the
stock market a bad thing? Hmmm… it depends! It depends on what you learn from
achieving lower results than expected. If a kid only gets good grades because
the parents are constantly behind everything, then I would argue getting good
grades all the time is a bad thing! Some parents force their offspring to
study, check their work, over-edit their writing and by doing so, we take away
the whole experience for the kid. Just imagine one day you may not be here
anymore and can’t help, how will your junior do? Better to let them get a taste
of doing worse now, then help them improving from there from the side lines. If
we interfere too much, they won’t know how to manage situations of hardship in
the future. If they learnt that lesson, they will also be able to adjust their
behaviour in order to eventually earn money at the stock market (as well as
other things) later on in life.
“When you fail, learn from it. There’s nothing wrong with trying again.”
2. Let them forget their homework, their stuff for gym class, their snack box
If you bail your children out whenever they forget something, they will
not be properly incentivized to build their own systems of checking and
ensuring if they’ve got everything, they need for school today, and for life
later on. The more we help, the more we actually teach them that they can’t
manage without parental supervision. This is not encouraging. Hands off from
3. Let them run out of money …or even offer them a loan
Teaching your kids financial literacy should start way before they get
their first pay-check. It must start with lessons on their own. Give your kids
allowances with increasing intervals, start with weekly, then go bi-weekly,
then monthly. Also, assist them with setting up a budget so they can plan and
learn how to keep hold of some money themselves instead of spending it right
away. If their budget includes eating out, simply offer them to pack lunch from
home instead of giving in and bailing out.
Eventually your child runs out of money and keeps nagging and asking
you for an immediate exceptional cash injection, there’s something incredibly
powerful you can do: Offer a loan! Yes, a bloody loan. For my part, I was
offered a loan by my father when I was just 8 years old. There was this toy I
wanted so badly but I was short around $50. My father offered me an interest
free loan. I had to promise to pay it back over time. While still remembering
how excited I was to purchase my toy, I can never forget how it felt to pay off
$2 weekly for the next six months while my sister kept receiving her weekly
allowance. As a result, I started to dislike that toy and I never took out
another loan until we purchased a home much later in life.
“Obstacles force you to grow. Smooth seas create weak sailors.”
4. Let them be late
As with money, time needs to be budgeted as well. Later in life, no one will wake them up and ensure they’re on time. If they can, let them wake up themselves – you can help by buying a nice alarm clock or radio for them for that purpose. Discuss with them what they’re supposed to do, how to manage it and then watch them try and figure it out. If appropriate, let them handle their way to school themselves. In case they’re late, make sure they have to pay for the taxi from their own money if required or ask a series of chores to pay you back in case you need to drive them to school.
5. Let them miss an important deadline
If there’s something of great importance to them: Don’t keep reminding
them over and over of an approaching deadline. Let your child miss certain
small things and learn the consequences. Imagine they’ll only figure that one
out as a young adult. I’m sure most of you have missed a deadline somewhen in
your own journey. How did this make you feel? Most likely it made you angry and
motivated you in some way to set-up certain systems to prevent it from
Make sure your kids have the same opportunity as you to learn this
6. Let them use public transportation and eventually let them get lost and experience the pride of accomplishment when they don’t
This part is more or less applicable depending on where you live.
Certain places have wonderfully safe and reliable systems of public transport.
Others don’t. If you are comfortable with the public transport system and the
respective age of your children: Let them venture out! Maybe ride with them the
first time they try, but as their companion, not their parent. Let them tell
you how to pay for the ride, where to get off and how to read the maps, test
also to go to a place you haven’t been before together. Also try this in
foreign cities while on vacation. Later, let them go on their own. There’s a
huge sense of independence from navigating around the city for the kid and if
they should ever get lost, they will learn even more from that.
As I approached six years, I was informed that kids below six are still
allowed to ride the whole city for free. My take away from this snipped of
information: Very soon I’ll have to pay! Hence, I wanted to take advantage of
still being able to ride for free. Together with my little sister and my best
friend we took off for an afternoon city exploration tour by bus. Somehow, we
failed to inform our parents though. Our parents where so worried and oh-so
relieved as we returned. To this day, we still hold precious and proud memories
of that excursion.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
7. Let them wear smelly clothes if they’ve missed the laundry basket or they didn’t do the laundry
The purpose behind this lesson is we want our kids to be
self-sufficient when they leave home. At one point in time they’ve got to do
their own laundry anyways, so why not have them help you with this chore. You’d
be amazed how many young adults don’t know how to do this job themselves! Being
able to do this, will not just let them appreciate this part of household work
more if you do it but also let them grow into better room mates as a student
and later on better partners in life.
“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone.”
8. Let them be ashamed of themselves for doing something that was unkind or untruthful
Instead of rushing to console your child immediately after something
bad happened, allow them some time to digest the situation. Also, let them go
through the whole emotional firework inside of them, they should develop the
skill to read their emotions and understand the full consequence of their
actions or inactions. You can help by acknowledging your kids’ feelings but
don’t let them get off the hook for what they did too fast. Help them reflect
how their actions have caused the situation and how it makes them feel. Ask
them how they plan to avoid a similar situation from happening again going
9. Let them leave unfinished homework
Yes, that’s something you may consider doing. Your kid may look bad in
school, but again, this is the whole point. I would argue that letting them
miss homework for one time will be a much more valuable lesson than having the
homework finished on that one particular day. Ensure they will feel the
consequences at school for not having done their part. It might have been the
last time you had to worry about their homework.
If the kids require internet access or other resources in order to
finish their homework, and if you have set a cap on daily internet use, don’t
bail them again by allowing more internet in case they’ve used it up already to
surf for their private indulgences. This will teach them to use their resources
more efficiently and they would have to tell that part to their teacher as
well. Which would be embarrassing and therefore another lesson worth to go for.
10. Let them set a goal for themselves and don’t intervene if they aren’t’ going to achieve it
If your child has a big dream, help them break it down into smaller
steps and show them what needs to be achieved first in order to make their
dream come true. This could be anything such as learning a new skill, saving up
to afford something bigger, achieving a certain grade in a subject, or getting
into a certain sports class or team. You as parent can help them through a plan
but let them try execute themselves.
When I was almost 14 years young, I wanted a TV in my own bedroom so
badly. My dad quickly turned the situation around and told me if I could earn
the money for the TV then he’d be fine for me to have it. Two weeks later I was
distributing newspapers to 400 households two times a week, no matter if
raining, sunshine or snowy weather, it had to be done. After three months of
hustling I could finally buy my TV set. And yes, you may guess it already, a
few months later there was buyer’s remorse as I felt how all those hours
working went into that one thing there. I’m so grateful having learnt that
lesson so early in life indeed.
“Goals are simply dreams with a deadline.”
Instead of telling the kids how to live their life, let them life
theirs and coach them on the journey. Let them see. Let them do, try, fail and
learn. Then, let them know how their actions or inactions have amounted to the
final outcome of each and every situation. Praise the good stuff and also
highlight room for improvement. Reflect on the bad stuff and encourage them to
try again. Tell them how proud you are about their progress so far. Share with
them your own experiences after they’ve had theirs [not before]. Tell them how
proud you are to see them trying and not giving up on their dreams. In essence:
Be your children’s coach, not their nanny!
“Imagination is the workshop of your mind, capable of turning mind energy into accomplishment and wealth.”
With that I’ll leave you to try yourself! Would be happy to read your own
experiences as a child, a parent, teacher, advisor or coach on how you learned
and grew bigger, better, stronger! Learning is a lifelong thing and I even
believe the above lessons are not just applicable for children.
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