Fear And Greed

Are you frightened when markets go crazy once again? Afraid of not making the rationally and scientifically proven right choices about investments and life? Suffering from keeping-up with the Joneses and chronic herding-fatigue?

Then you are more than ready to dive deeper into this post where we take apart the two most powerful human emotions that make our world go round:

Fear and Greed.

These emotions have the strongest impact on human behavior individually as well as on a collective level.

They impact your life and [financial] markets in a powerful way.

Read on if you like to understand and manage fear and greed to build a better, happier, and wealthier life.

Step 1: Understand what drives behavior

All free markets are driven by supply and demand. Hence, all transactions need at least three things:

A buyer, a seller and last: The first two need to agree on a price!

Imagine an increasing number of people chasing the same limited assets or resources. The more people like to buy and the less want to sell – the higher the price will climb for supply and demand to meet.

Usually if prices do climb higher, it attracts “more eyeballs” in society and even more people join the party. That’s how greed works and this is what makes financial bubbles grow.

On the other side, think of fear as when suddenly nobody wants to buy anymore but an increasing amount of people is eager to sell.

The price will drop until someone is eager to buy again. Price level will be defined by where sellers and buyers agree to transact.

Markets reflect nothing else than the aggregated sum of individual behaviors.

And yes: It does get messy!

Step 2: Understand how markets work

In most fearful markets, people irrationally sell stock while in greedy markets people are looking to buy.

The wise ones may try to go against the heard and do the opposite, and as the saying goes, “buy low and sell high.” not otherwise.

My father has a great saying:

Some people are wise.

Some are… otherwise.

My dad

Before we draw to conclusions about how to make understanding fear and greed work for you, let’s go get a deeper understanding of them.

What is Fear

Fear is a deeply intriguing component of life.

In our culture, people believe failure is what to be most afraid about. Let me say, they got it all wrong. It’s the fear itself that is the most detrimental to success no matter what you’d like to achieve in your life.

Fear…

It helped us with surviving.

Protected us from sabre tooth tigers.

But it holds us back.

It creates comfort zones.

It keeps us from pushing onwards.

However, in our modern society, fear is mostly the source of all that is wrong in the world:

Fear of failure: “I’m not good enough!”

Fear of embarrassment: “No one will care!”

Fear of starting: “What if I fail?”

Any of these sounding familiar?

Fear is the most sinister made up thing of all time and the guaranteed fastest way to live below your meaning and potential.

Action is the savior of dreams.

When was the last time you did something about it?

Use fear as a tool for growth and challenge yourself.

Learning how to push through fearful moments is most beneficial and shaping your character.

Afraid to try or go “do”?

Face your fears!

Ask yourself: What’s the worst thing that could happen?

You either win or you learn!

Keep learning until you win.

Find a way to the other side of fear because that’s where dreams become reality.

The other side of fear is where your world starts to change, if you just allow it to.

Fear can be so valuable, but at the same time so debilitating. It’s up to you to decide whether to use fear as a tool for growth or as a reason to settle in life. Whether we bravely overcome obstacles or hide away scared is up to you!

Fear can be the biggest killer of dreams.

The sole difference is the decision of either overcoming fear and grow – or to allow fear to limit the life you dream of!

Instead of having fear killing your dreams, kill your fears!

Most of the good things in life are on the other side of fear indeed.

If you’re happy to sit at your desk and not take any risk, you’ll be sitting at your desk for the next 20 years.     

David Rubenstein

Step 3: Kill your fears!

No fear!

What is Greed

Greed is a mostly uncontrolled longing to increase the acquisition or use: of material gain (food, money, land, any possessions) or social value (status, or power). During human history, greed has been identified as “undesirable” because it creates behavioral conflicts between personal and social goals.

Greed is a powerful thing.

In my view, it comes right after fear.

In terms of motivational power, it captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed can show itself in different forms. It was and still is the driving force pushing mankind forwards and upwards – through history.

That’s why in the 1987 movie “Wall Street”, Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko preached his words: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”

The problem: Greed comes with downsides. Every once in a while, greed causes asset bubbles where greedy investors keep buying and ignore all the flashing blinking warning signs of impending potential for a collapse.

The 2008 crisis was mainly caused by “sophisticated derivatives” constructs where the end product got abstracted by two to three dimensions from the underlying business case and due to broad diversification and lower transparence everything was made to look just fine.

Don’t get me wrong, being ambitious is good. Wanting to get somewhere in life is great. Wanting to learn, achieve or grow is nothing but natural. As a trained economist myself I studied how a healthy form of greed is behind microeconomic decision finding.

If free market forces are left to themselves [meaning no government interference], the “good qualities of greed” appear. Goods and services will be exchanged at the most optimal allocation for all parties involved. The equilibrium point has its corresponding equilibrium quantity and an equilibrium price which leads to the most efficient allocation of scarce resources.

Would Wall Street, the economy or our capitalistic system function without greed? I don’t think so. Economic activity depend on the profit motive. Greed as such has never been left completely on its own on a macro level. Governments across the globe kept influencing markets. However, on a personal level we know what greed can do.

For a single human being the big problem is always the question: How much is enough?

Greed is a good motivator to chase ambitious goals, but the trap is often such that goals are getting adjusted higher and higher. Too much is never enough anymore. People tend to lose control over themselves. Greed often takes over when it comes to money and power.

Step 4: Learn to control your greed.

Overconfidence, lifestyle inflation, taking too many risks and trying to play bigger and bigger will often cost a lot. It can cost love, friendships, trust, or simply some money.

Beware: Greed is frequently used to sell stuff. If it’s not for fear, marketing often appeals directly to [your] greed. People will listen and buy.

How to conquer greed?

The Stoic mindset is the antidote.

Control your greed!

Know what you have.

Appreciate it.

Avoid lifestyle inflation, don’t let hunger for increased pointless over-consumption run your mind. Forget keeping up with the Joneses. Avoid herd mentality.

That’s where it gets problematic.

Lead your life and remember: True leaders remain committed to what really matters!

You are the leader of your life.

You run your mind.

Shitting Your Pants in Real Time

In this third part of this post, we will combine the concepts of fear and greed.

The initial motivation for (or purpose of) fear and greed and actions associated with it are  the promotion of personal or family survival and safeguarding future opportunities. In our modern world, controlling fear and greed are still important as ever:

The hardest thing an investor ever must learn is to manage his emotions.

Fear, greed, overconfidence, impatience, desperation, panic… I’m certain if you read financial news every once in a while, you may have come across these concepts.

The key here is to avoid the mistake of letting fear OR greed paralyze and impact your investment decisions.

Watching CNBC on a perpetual loop will not make you a better investor. Following such news will simply give you either mental breakdowns or orgasms – depending on the “mood of the day”. Like a drug addict you’ll constantly be like “pheeewwww”, “oh gosh”, “aaah”, “yesss” or “noooo” and keep watching the garbage broadcast: Triggering you to take action when everyone else does!

You’d be shitting your pants in real time or suffer from orgasm exhaustion sooner or later.

You’d be riding the waves of fear and greed.

The wrong way.

Without control.

Yes, if you invest in stocks you will be exposed to volatility. Sometimes this volatility can become nerve wrecking. Once markets go deeply into the red, you will face the situation where you’d love to throw the towel and sell everything. On the other side when certain stocks grow through the roof up into the sky your greed will trigger the so called “fear of missing out” and you’ll join the ride at a rather stupid moment.

“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”

Warren Buffett

Now you’ll say: Okay, I get it Matt. Don’t do what the others are doing. But hey, how would you suggest dealing with stock market fluctuation then?

First, understand that volatility is part of the game. You and me, we can’t control it. Stocks will fluctuate today, tomorrow, next week. It doesn’t matter if you look – or not. Neither does it matter if you like it or not.

Sometimes people claim they prefer real-estate investing over stocks because of lower volatility. I’m also a great fan of real-estate investing by the way. But now, imagine you’d have a crazy neighbor. Imagine this neighbor would scream the actual real-time price of your home over the fence. Every. Fucking. Minute.

How would you feel about that?

I’d say you’ll probably get yourself earplugs.

You don’t check the real time value of your home.

So why would you do it with stocks then?

Ignore the Noise, off the media.

No worries, with time you will grow into this!

Step 5: If you can’t control it. Learn not to let it control you!

The stock market is a device to transfer money from the impatient to the patient.”

Warren Buffett

If you’re a well-diversified long-term investor, the only media I’d allow you to watch on a “red day” on Wall Street is this one here:

A Guided Meditation for When the Stock Market Is Dropping

By JL Collins

The Fear and Greed Index

In the last part of this post, we learn how understanding fear and greed can be useful whilst navigating the seven capitalistic seas.

Many traders use technical, fundamental, or other quantitative analysis. However, market swings are largely driven by human emotions. Hence, the sentimental one analysis is often overlooked.

The “Fear and Greed Index” can help you read the market sentiment. Please beware, you can never base your trading decisions just on this indicator alone. It should be used as a supplement to complement your initial strategy.

Understanding this indicator is relatively simple:

  • extreme fear indicates possible buying opportunities
  • extreme greed indicates a market correction could be expected

The key to making money in stocks is not to get scared out of them.

Peter Lynch

One simple way to apply this would be to rebalance your asset allocation based on certain readings of the index. If the index shows fear, you could reduce your bond or precious metal allocation and increase equity allocation. Or vice versa if the index shows greed.

This is the simple and easier way to make use of it.

Disclaimer: Beware – this is not direct investment advice but rather an introduction of concepts to help you expand your financial literacy. Execute and trade at own risk.

Having been a Wealth Manager and helping sophisticated investors with their money for most of my professional life, let me introduce to some more options here.

Greed Stage:

If markets are high and the Fear & Greed index is above 80 points, a correction of roughly 8% can be expected (data since 2011 till 2020). A high index reading usually also indicates low volatility and a good chance to reduce holdings.

Actions to consider:

  1. Sell covered call options on your holdings/ the index
  2. Use proceeds of 1. to buy put options on the same holdings to install a hedge

In short: Reduce exposure and hedge potential downsides.

Fear Stage:

If markets are fearful, volatility is generally high, and stocks are relatively cheaper. One thing is rather for sure, markets will not remain in fearful territory for very extended periods of time.

Actions to consider:

  1. Buy an inverse VIX ETN such as the SVXY – let go again once situation normalized
  2. If you plan to increase your equity allocation: Sell puts on your desired additions at desired strike price levels, collect premium and wait.

In short: Sell fear, sell volatility, potentially increase exposure.

If you’re as passionate about investing like me, learn to listen to the heartbeat of the market. Add the VIX and Fear and Greed index to your watch-list!

Step 6: Learn to listen to the heartbeat of the market.

Beware, the Fear & Greed Index is not an official index or tool, it’s a construct by CNN. Understand how it’s calculated and take note that CNN may change the way it’s calculated going forward without notification.

The wealthy know the short-term stock market is driven by emotions such as fear and greed.

The average think it’s solely driven by logic and strategy.

They fear when they should be buying.

… hope when they should be cautious

… get greedy when they should be selling

The wealthy have a powerful advantage over the average though:

They have maneuvered themselves in a position where they can allow themselves to take risks.

If your capability to take risks is not there yet, work on it!

Taking calculated risks and expanding your capacity to take on more risks, to build your assets and cash-flows is one of the best kept “millionaire’s secrets” there is!

Step 7: Put yourself in a position where you can allow yourself take risks.

Financial independence allows people to take more small, calculated risks – over and over again.

But remember: Pigs get slaughtered.

“Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered”

old Wall Street saying that warns investors against excessive greed

The more risks you can take, the less you will shit your pants the going gets tough and the more exposed to the upside you will be when the tide will turn once again!

Happy conquering your fears!

Matt

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Fast Track Podcast

Yasi Zhang recently started her podcast with the mission to help people accessing the “fast track” in life. I had the honour to be invited as guest on Yasi’s “Fast Track” Podcast.

The Fast Track Podcast is all about helping YOU get the most insightful tips and advice that you don’t learn from school. Cover topics are entrepreneurship, personal finance, career development, and more. Anything helping you launch your life on the fast track.

In the show we cover many topics linked to personal and financial growth. In essence: How to Financially Imagineer your dream life!!!

During the talk I promised to publish a spreadsheet to help you plot your numbers down. Once ready and visually appealing, it will be ready for you to download right here – if you don’t want to miss it please subscribe to Financial Imagineer by email on the right hand side or at the bottom of this page.

Please don’t shy back to reach out to me in case you feel I could help you achieve financial independence! I’m planning to structure templates, tools and more to support anyone on their journey not matter what stage you’re in and what level of expertise you have.

Feel free to reach out by email.

But now, to the show, without further ado:

Website: https://www.fasttrack.life/episodes/matthiasrichter

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/1ZEiQVy1WtpSQJRujYCDxI

Google Podcasts: https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8yYmQ1NDViNC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw==

Anchor: https://anchor.fm/fasttrackpodcast

Breaker: https://www.breaker.audio/fast-track

Overcast:https://overcast.fm/itunes1529991741/fast-track 

Pocket Casts: https://pca.st/uphwv2tq

RadioPublic: https://radiopublic.com/fast-track-WDLXkw

Money Lessons From My Father

Any man can become a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad! I was blessed with a wonderful childhood and could learn many financial lessons from my dad.

Since almost 10 years I’m now doing my best to be a dad myself. Being a dad is one of the most important jobs any man can have.

Becoming and being a dad got me thinking a lot about life and money lessons passed down to me so I can “pay it forward” to the next generation. Following one of my older posts about how to raise financially independent children and after quite some jacuzzi beerstorming, I’ve distilled the key lessons from my dad into 25 short but important lessons that lead to this blog post.

What Is The Job Of A Father?

First and foremost, kids should be prepared to stand on their own feet.

Beyond that, I believe good dads should try to give their kids both – roots and wings:

Roots to give them bearing and a sense of belonging.

Wings to help free them from constraints of any kind.

Thirdly, I appreciate that my father truly never told me how to live my life.

He simply lived his life and let me watch him do it.

Some parents worry that their children may not listen to them; I think they should rather worry that they’re always being watched instead!

As a great parent: You got to lead.

Live your life in an inspiring way.

This will set the bar for the next generation.

You’re the benchmark!

My Early Years

What is Money?

Since I can remember, money was always something mythical, powerful and highly interesting to me. As a young kid you watch your surroundings and learn from observing. It was interesting how this thing “money” could help my mum to buy so many groceries. It was interesting to see how we could get food at restaurants or fuel up the car with it.

Most transactions used this magical tool: Money.

To my 4 year old brain the message was crystal clear: I had to figure out how to get some of this magical stuff myself! One day, my dad and I went to the city. It was the early 1980’s and one of the first ATMs got installed. My father brought me there to withdraw cash while holding me on his arms.

All of a sudden, money started coming out of a wall! The bills kept coming one after another back in the days. Finally I figured out where money comes from, from the banks of course! I asked my dad if I could take the next bill. He agreed.

I truly believed it was THAT easy back then. My dad quickly informed me that this is actually just his own money that he deposited at the bank earlier on.

Lesson 1:

Money doesn’t grow on trees: You got to work for it!

Lot’s to learn I still had.

First time in my life with a stock guide.

After having understood this lesson, we – together with my sister and some neighbourhood children – started selling fruits and garden vegetables and more in our neighbourhood.

The level-up was to bring our old toys to flea markets and we started participating church sales as well.

Lesson 2:

Learn how to sell.

Make Money Visible

Have you ever heard a kid say: “I wish I could have a phone, so I could buy stuff.”

I’ve heard this in one form or another, and it triggered me deeply.

Spend money to buy something to spend more money?

Just think of it: Money today is mostly digital.

It’s a virtual thing.

Like coin points in Super Mario Brothers.

How can children learn lessons in this abstract world?

Many young people see money as limitless.

Money doesn’t seem to be really real for them anymore.

This is exactly why I let my kids see and feel money – and its consequences.

If kids are given financially relevant experiences in their life and someone is there to help them learn the lessons from those experiences, they have a higher likelihood of achieving financial success later in their life. They need to have them early and they need to have them often.

Mentor them.

It’s paramount to educate the next generation to make financial decisions. It will give them a head start in a world where money is largely a virtual illusion but has very, very real consequences.

As parents, we owe it to them to set them up for financial success.

How to?

Imagine, my dad once gave me a loan to satisfy my hunger for instant gratification. I was about 8 years young. I borrowed around $50 from my dad to buy a fluffy toy.

Oh boy, the sugar rush lasted less than a week.

We used to receive weekly allowances.

Every week my dad would take out a piece of paper where my negative position was mentioned. He would simply make it slightly “less negative” while my sister kept receiving her allowance.

It took me a few months to pay-off my fluffy-toy-loan.

The lesson stuck!

Lesson 3:

Give kids real money and life experiences. Let them feel the consequences of their decisions.

Papa-Bank

Now I’m the father and instead of allowances, I’m running Papa-Bank.

Papa-Bank

My kids can make deposits and each week they’ll receive a 1% payout.

This means for $100 in Papa-Bank the interest would be $1 per week. For $200 it’s $2 per week. Each week they can chose if they’d like to take the cash out or reinvest. I’ll hand the interest to them physically and let them decide.

Every. Single. Week.

Yes, it seems like I’m running a ponzi scheme here [potentially] as I can’t pay such high rates sustainably. But no worries, every once in a while, my kids will use some money to buy some things again.

That’s usually when they start to feel the impact of their decision as the weekly payouts shrink along as well. Sibling and rivalry with cousins is doing the rest.

Oh ya, before I forget:

Papa-Bank is only open for business with our family’s next generation blood relatives.

Papa-Bank also extended loans before. But instead of adding interest, I will take interest on that side. My son went through this experience already to until his nice elder cousin bailed him out.

Lesson 4:

Make money visible and talk about it openly.

Teenager Years

Nothing is Forever

In the early 1990’s Switzerland got hit by the real estate crisis. Suddenly home prices dropped 40-50% in value in just a few months. There where foreclosures and mortgage fallouts. Banks got hit. My dad lost his job during that time. Suddenly he was home. With us.

Lesson 5:

Life doesn’t always work out as planned.

When our dad started to be at home more, we initially got scared. I fondly remember how all of a sudden our family started discussing options to move to another city for work.

My sister and I didn’t like the idea of moving away from our home.

Lessons 6:

Include your kids in your life, discuss what you do, how you do it and why you do it.

Shortly thereafter, dad went hiking in the mountains for a few days.

By himself.

When he returned, he had a plan: He’s going independent!

It later turned out this was a blessing and the very best thing he could do – on so many fronts.

Lesson 7:

Take risks, never stop learning or trying new things.

From now on my dad wasn’t just at home in the early morning, late nights and weekend. He was there for us for most of our time. He was here to talk about life, school and more. He also started cooking for us.

Lesson 8:

The best gift and investment you can give your child is your time.

Zig Ziglar once said for kids “LOVE” is spelled T-I-M-E!

Kids will hopefully learn that having time with money is more valuable than having to go to work and spend your time earning money.

Introducing a Budget

We were like most teenagers and suddenly got a taste for fancy sneakers, expensive hoodies and other branded stuff. We were not told off. My sister and me each had a “clothes-envelope” at home.

Each month my father would pay around $50 into the envelope and keep a balance sheet. We were free to use the contents to purchase clothes, shoes or pay for haircuts.

This was our pre-paid necessities budget.

Lesson 9:

Have a budget.

Looking back it’s a great way to make money available and visible without imposing potential arbitrary invisible barriers as to what is good and what is bad to use it on. It was clear: If we saved-up we could purchase the more expensive things. But we had to be patient.

The decision, the marshmallow test and trade-off has all been delegated to us kids.

No more instant gratification.

We had to learn it ourselves.

Lesson 10:

Marshmallow test your kids frequently and in different ways.

Learning to Help Myself

As a 13-year-old, the greatest dream I had was to have my own TV. In my bedroom. When I first mentioned this idea to my parents, my mum was fully against it while my dad simply said: “Yes, why not – but you got to earn it yourself.”

I learned that from age 14 onwards it was possible for me to become a newspaper boy. I applied immediately and got a paper-route with 400 households to serve. When I turned 14 my days changed. No matter the weather, if sunshine, snow, rain, storm, heat or cold, I had to serve my 400 households or face losing my job.

That job earned me $500/ month.

A very decent pocket-money for a 14-year-old in the early 1990’s.

Lesson 11:

Understand your kids motivations and let them go after their dreams.

After three months, I had sufficient cash aside to buy the TV. Once I got paid I rushed to the shop and bought the largest 16:9 TV available back then. It was a monster. I couldn’t transport it back home. That’s why I called my dad and told him what I just bought.

He simply said: “Oh, you actually did it. Wait, I’ll be on my way.”

One of the first 16:9 TVs available in the mid 1990’s.

A few weeks later I was enjoying my TV a lot but started to realize my bank account was almost back to zero once again while my time invested distributing all those newspapers is gone forever.

This is what motivated me to get started saving ultimately.

When kids are given the opportunity to engage in strategically relevant experiences and given the ability to learn the lessons from these experiences, will have a higher likelihood of success in their life.

Lesson 12:

Don’t just “go” through life, grow through it!

First Investment Experiences

When I was 16 years old I got a special gift for Christmas: My dad prepared an investment account with one share inside for me. Again, instead of telling me what to do and what not to do, he simply said:

“Let me know when you have any questions.”

I was bloody excited and started reading up on investing instantly. It’s amazing how this motivated me to read. Soon thereafter one of my all-time favourite books came to the market: “Rich Dad. Poor Dad.” by Robert Kiyosaki. While it has nothing to do directly with investing in stocks, it kicked-off my money book library in 1997.

The markets where exciting. Soon the new economy boom started going into overdrive. Sure enough I put the largest amount of my portfolio in Dot.com shares. They were on FIRE. By 1999 my portfolio grew nicely. Also in 1999 everyone thought Warren Buffett is too old to still be relevant.

As the markets kept climbing higher, I sold some stocks and bought a fancy second-hand sports car.

I sold more stocks to finance an apartment where I moved in with my girlfriend at 19.

Lesson 13:

Avoid lifestyle inflation.

Soon thereafter the market crashed.

My portfolio was suddenly back to square one again.

In total, it took me 5 years before I took my dad’s offer and went back to him with my first questions!

He laughed and uttered:

“Wow, that took longer than I thought.”

Do I regret going to him earlier?

No. No regrets at all.

Lesson 14:

Making mistakes and learning your lessons early in life is more valuable than just reading books.

This lesson is one of the most valuable in my view.

You see, indirectly my dad encouraged me to take ownership and fail early.

Once I understood this lesson in retrospect, it changed my mindset completely. Failure is NOT the outcome of your immediate actions.

Failure is not even trying.

Failure is standing still.

The biggest failure is not learning your lessons and trying again.

In our schools you might still get punished to make mistakes. That’s why in our society we’re afraid of trying and failing. Hence, many don’t even try anything anymore!

In our family, I’d be disappointed if my kids are not trying and failing at something every once in a while.

Lesson 15:

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.

Young Adult

When we were in our teenage years, my dad kept telling us two things

1. He’d like us to move out before we reach 25 years of age.

2. We would always be welcome at home – in case we truly need help.

As written above, this motivated me to move out of my parents home at age 19 – I was a University freshman.

It also motivated me to hustle all kind of jobs. I worked part time as a bank teller on Saturdays, delivered pizza and later moved up to manage a pizza delivery business part-time as pizzajolo baking up to 200 pizzas per night regularly. It also brought me to work at the polling office of our community.

Due to all these activities I had a decent $1,500 – $2,000 per month salary as young student.

Lesson 16:

Learn how to stand on your own feet early.

Learn how to fish!

Thanks to my previous mistake of investing in high octane tech stocks only, I reconsidered my approach and started funding a monthly mutual fund savings plan. At first I fed it with about $300 per month but during some frugal months I managed to stash more then $1,000 per month as well.

Thanks to the lessons learnt, the pot started growing again.

Lesson 17:

Make a mistake once and it becomes a lesson. Make a mistake twice and it becomes a choice.

One evening in my most crazy side-hustling days back in 2001, I was watching “Who Want’s to be a Millionaire” on Swiss TV3. It was boring, none of the contestants seemed to make it past some simple questions.

This motivated me to write them a complaint letter.

Read here about how this has turned out for me.

Lesson 18:

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

With a six-figure bank account at 21 – I was free to explore the world.

I chose to invest in my skills, learned Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. Ultimately, I ended up in Taiwan where it got really adventurous: I lost my job and working permit in Taiwan due to signing up with the wrong company…

When I called my dad back in 2004 to report to him what happened he answered the phone and replied:

“Welcome to life.”

I enjoyed that reply so much.

We laughed.

It encouraged me to stay the course.

Lesson 19:

A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.

Together with my girlfriend’s – now wife – help we managed to find me a second job in Taiwan. More about this story and how we planned our future together can be found in my guest post for JD Roth’s Get Rich Slowly.

Lesson 20:

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Middle Age

It was the year 2015: On my 36th birthday, my dad gave me a very memorable phone call. In retrospect I could say this was probably the most valuable birthday gift I’ve ever gotten.

That’s why I’d like to share it here.

In 2015 my dad was 72 years old, I turned 36… he was exactly double my age!

I picked the phone.

My dad started: “Happy Birthday Son! You’re now already half my age!”

He went on: “You’re catching-up!”

And finished with: “Beware, the second half goes faster!”

This call stuck!

Three facts of life served up.

It got me thinking very, very deep in the days, weeks and months to come!

Lesson 21:

Time flies! Winter is Coming!

My thoughts where all about the value of time in life.

Read: Your Money or Your Life!

When you’re young, you got all the time in the world and it seems to be a reasonably fair thing to sell some of your time against some money to make a living. As you grow older, your reservoir of remaining “life-time” shrinks and in turn the remainder of your days keeps going higher in perceived value – to yourself and others. The older you get, the more it hurts if you still must sell your time for money…

Lesson 22:

Everything is about supply and demand. Everything!

During my career as Wealth Manager I was helping millionaires with their investments. Thanks to great guidance and working with inspiring people I’ve learned reasonably well how to invest and make money work for us by age 36. I’m so nerdy that I’ve actually kept a spreadsheet with all our assets, liabilities, income and expenses since the late 1990’s – it got a yearly update!

After listening to my dad’s voice about the speed of time, we started playing through some scenarios in my spreadsheet and identified two key areas for optimization:

  1. Generate passive income to cover our family expenses
  2. Activate “passive” assets and optimize our income/ expenses

Since our 5-year plan was due for discussion in 2016 I’ve added some new dream goals till 2021:

  1. Retire from my 9-5
  2. Start my own blog and business

Yes, one idea was to potentially let go of my job.

My dad used to say that each job is like a three-legged stool.

The three legs are:

  1. What you do
  2. What you get for it
  3. With whom you do it

As long as at least two of these legs are still working out for you. You’ll stay.

Also, everything is subjective. Priorities in life change.

We became parents and where looking for more time flexibility.

And maybe I was also looking for a new challenge.

Lesson 23:

You know that you’re on the right path whenever you feel things stop being easy.

This lesson is very close to my heart. Basically, it’s like if you think of playing Mario Kart on “easy”: You’ll always win. As you advance through life, also adjust the level of difficulty gradually.

After 2015 I started reading more into the FIRE concept and idea!

That’s when I suddenly read Mr. Money Mustache’s “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement“.

However, I’ve had some concerns about the “RE” (retire early) part:

  1. Don’t retire from something, retire TO something.
  2. Have something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to in life.
  3. Instead of being idle, try to find and live your “Ikigai”: Live a purposeful life.

It turned out my “RE” was more a “Retire to Entrepreneurship” – you could also name it “Recreational Employment” if you will.

Another deep concern was the kind of role-model I want to be for my kids.

  • concern of my kids not seeing me work anymore
  • live the life you want your kids to be inspired by

Whatever you plan in your life: Be a role-model for your kids.

Kids don’t quite “listen” and “follow your instructions” about living life – they rather watch how their rolemodels [hopefully their parents, make them chose YOU] live – and learn by watching!

To achieve this, be an inspirational role-model and ensure your lifestyle ticks all the boxes of lessons you want them to learn and absorb. Chase your dreams while they can watch and learn is the best starting point to set them for a happy and successful life.

Lesson 24:

Don’t tell your kids how to live their life, live yours, and let them watch!

Work is not just a 9-5-working-at-something, it can be anything – as long as you work hard towards achieving whatever goal you’ve set yourself.

Let your kids see you succeed AND fail.

This is YOUR chance not to raise “next-gen-rat-racers” or “trust fund babies” that will venture out to live an ordinary life – let them learn from you how to life an extraordinary life instead!

By mid-2017 we’ve set-up sufficient monthly recurring passive income streams from different sources and worked out a plan that allowed me to quit my 9-5.

We FIREd.

Lesson 25:

Live like a role model – work hard to chase your dreams to set an example for kids to inspire them to work hard on achieving their dreams later.

Invest in your dreams!

What advice would you give your younger self?

What lessons did you learn from your family?

“Life” is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after.

Make it a fantastic one.

Matt

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.

Time Bandits

Time is the most valuable asset you got. Do not let anything or anyone steal or ruin it. In our modern world, we’re surrounded by time bandits. Identify them. Sort them out. Live life by design.

No matter if you’re a beggar or a billionaire, we each got the same 24 hours per day. The difference between moving ahead or staying back is simply in how we make use of and invest our time.

Time Bandits – the Monty Python movie.

Time bandits didn’t make history – they stole it!

Make sure you keep them at a safe distance so they don’t steal your potential, to make history.

What are time bandits?

They are those things, activities or people that drain you of your energy and time to leave you back less productive, less focused, and in the end; less happy. For many, time bandits may be what holds us back from going out there and chasing our dreams.

Time bandits come in different forms. Some of them are hard to spot. Others have already taken over your habits. That’s why this post will go in details and attempts to show some ways to dispose of your time bandits in order to increase YOUR chance to financially Imagineering your dream life!

Media

Ever heard the word “media-junkie”? Well, these are people that are hooked up with their media outlets permanently and have trouble letting go. They’ve become addicted to consuming ever more content. Whether or not they do something with the things learned is the big question here.

Media time bandits could be:

  • Watching TV/ Netflix
  • Watching the news
  • Social Media
  • Youtube
  • Video Games

Don’t get me wrong, these things are all good and fun at times.

The problem comes with unintentional overconsumption. Rather than just letting your precious time float away while engaging in any of the above, use media with intention. Watch a certain show with a purpose or target. The goal can be to simply have fun. Engage on social media for staying in touch with people you care about. Watch Youtube to get inspired, entertained or learn something. Play video games to train (not drain) your brain.

Key is to not let any of the above become an unnecessary distractions on your path of life.

What you can do about it is to ignore notifications on social media, pre-define certain times you allow yourself to indulge in media consumption or actively use those channels to get inspired and learn how to create instead of consuming only.

Losing Focus

What is important to you? What would you like to achieve? Did you set yourself certain targets for this week? This month? This year? Your life? If not, go set yourself some goals. If yes, do you believe you’re on track? If not, what are your major obstacles? A key obstacle is not being focused enough.

Focus can be lost by saying YES too often. If you say YES to anyone. To anything. Every. Fucking. Time… then you’re indirectly saying NO to other stuff. Hence, beware of what you commit yourself to and ensure that those things do align with your goals.

You can do anything in life, but not everything.

Life is a trade-off.

You got to choose how you spend your time.

If it’s hard for you to say yes or no: Think of either saying FUCK YEAH or no.

Another way to lose focus is by doing too much multi-tasking. This one is especially terrible. It’s a clusterfuck of wasting time. It usually destroys productivity AND quality. Multi-tasking works for low attention activities or for consuming content such as layering time or listening podcasts.

By multi-tasking, you keep yourself busy. You do this, do that, but eventually nothing that actually matters gets done. Avoid multi-taking if possible. Stop half-assing your life.

The god of multitasking

Learn how to focus.

Perfectionism

The third time bandit is perfectionism. Perfectionism is often used to explain why some stuff hasn’t been done yet. Instead of aiming for perfectionism, aim for making steps into the right direction. Sometimes good enough is good enough. Build momentum. Not getting started or slowing down too much destroys growth and holds back failures that could lead to valuable lessons if learnt earlier on.

Learn how to get started. Keep moving. Keep advancing.

Settle for “good enough” first. If you want to learn how to throw darts, you won’t be reading a manual about it but start by throwing the first dart, then the next one, another one, until you perfectly know how to do it.

Don’t wait. Get started now. Learn by doing.

Procrastinating

Wait? For what? Why delay something if you can do it now? Many people have adopted a habit of doing something tomorrow. By doing so, you actually “allow” yourself validating to waste an entire day before you get started. The usual pattern will extend to this becoming a habit of simply “never getting started”.

At all.

Instead of dreaming, start doing. You will never regret doing something you want to do. Your dreams and thoughts are all nicely stored and comfortable in your head. But it helps nobody if they stay there. The least yourself.

Dreamcatcher

Whatever it is you are dreaming or thinking of, stop putting it off and get started now. Use baby steps if needed but start moving forward.

If you can’t fly, then run.

If you can’t run, then walk.

If you can’t walk, then crawl.

Whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.

Dr. Martin Luther King Junior

Not sure why you’re not taking any action? Write down your dreams and ideas. Do creative brainstorming sessions: (Jacuzzi) Beerstorming if needed – it works for me.

Take note and map out your thoughts. Once you get clearer, start plotting a way, a path and get on your way towards living the life of your dreams. This plan should be inspiring and motivating enough to get started on the spot instead of letting this time bandit rob you of your potential future.

Start living your dreams.

Say Goodbye to Procrastinating.

Negativity

In life you will come across people that carry a certain negativity with them. Some find a problem behind every solution.

Negative people love to complain: Yes, we all feel overwhelmed and not understood sometimes. But instead of falling into this trap, try to find other ways to blow-off steam, relax and digest your life.

Complaining is negative in itself. If you become a negative person you will scare off positive people and may miss out on what they have to offer.

Another form of negativity is worrying.

It’s one of the hardest to self-identify. Being cautious is nothing bad per se. However, worrying is unproductive and wastes your time and energy. Some “worriers” tend to blow imagined dangers completely out of proportion. Worrying and overthinking lead to stress and this in turn prevents action being taken. Stressed people don’t think clearly.

Worry less, don’t overplan.

Things change. So will you.

Instead of surrounding yourself with soul-draining energy vampires, build your own gang of likeminded individuals. Learn how to stay clear or walk away from negative individuals. Form a sanctuary of positivity.

Hard to do?

Read “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson – and become unfuckwithable.

Beware of Time Bandits

Time bandits WILL appear in your life. Identify them early. Allow them only temporarily and let them teach you permanent lessons. Sometimes it’s not about what time steals, but what it leaves behind.

Inhale the good shit. Exhale the bullshit.

Your time or “life energy” is your currency. Don’t let it go to waste or let others steal it. Understand you only live once – Winter is coming. Beware of time bandits. They feed on your energy.

Create an uplifting environment. Release the handbrakes. Time bandits are mostly some form of productivity hurdle. Switch your life into warp-drive. Start testing YOUR engine to its maximum potential.

Live life by design.

Don’t waste time.

Time is life.

Your life.

Don’t let yourself be the reason you don’t succeed in whatever you’re after.

Become a time bandit yourself and steal your own history!

Optimize your time and aim for your own “The 4-Hour Workweek“.

Control your attention and choose your life,

Matt

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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.

Winter is Coming

In this world, there’s nothing as stable as change. Spring adds new life and new beauty. Summer stands for sweet weather, sunshine and swimming in the sea. Then, all at once, summer collapses into fall and shortly thereafter:

Winter is coming!

While for “Game of Thrones” winter has already reached, in this post I refer to winter to that “thing” that happens to each and everyone of us – eventually. Winter, the seven bad years, disease, old age whatever we wish to call it: It’s coming to us all eventually!

You most likely have experienced or heard about some kind of seasonality in your life. Stories about changing times can be found plenty. The oldest stories are originating in the book of Genesis from the bible about seven good years followed by seven bad years.

Not much has changed ever since.

People as well as animals ought to build reserves during good times:

Winter is coming!

Just think of how certain animals are preparing themselves for tough times.

Squirrels prepare for winter by bulking up. Throughout fall, they maximize food consumption and body mass. In winter, when food is hard to come by, these reserves will help them survive. Groundhogs spend the warmer months eating as much as they can to build up their fat layers needed to survive winter in hibernation. There are many more examples alike.

We humans have this “alertness” embedded into our culture – depending on where we live and how much we’ve been exposed to seasonality ourselves. But more on that later.

First, let’s read a story about a businessman who goes see a fisherman:

Once upon a time, there was a businessman sitting by the beach in a small tropical village.

He was observing a local fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore, having caught quite some big fish. The businessman was impressed and went to ask the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”

The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”

“Why don’t you fish longer and catch even more?” The businessman asked.

“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman replied.

The businessman then wondered, “What do you do for the rest of the day?”

The fisherman said calmly, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman felt he better offered a suggestion to the fisherman.

“I’ve got a MBA and could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village to the big city, where you can set up your HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continued, “And after that?”

The businessman laughed heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”

Once again, the fisherman asked, “And after that?”

The businessman said, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”

The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”

You guessed it correctly: For the fisherman, winter is NOT coming.

You may probably have read this story in one form or another before.

I love the powerful lessons within:

1. Life is not linear and everyone has their own path. Some paths are safer and more frequently used. Other paths might be shortcuts or even detours.

2. Knowledge and wisdom are not the same – don’t let schooling interfer with education.

3.  Beware of the “deferred life plan” – money is renewable, time is not.

The main difference between the businessman and the fisherman is: Seasonality!

The businessman grew up with a different mindset and could not believe there is someone simply living day-by-day without worrying about the future and living a happy life.

When the businessman returns to his big city and fall arrives, the weather turns cold and the days get darker. This triggers a natural human instinct of preparing for winter.

Weather changes will activate our brains and concerns that we will not be having enough food or money to carry through a though winter.

As we all know, fear is one of the strongest motivators. Hence, we usually don’t get paralyzed by it but motivated to get busy preparing ourselves to pull through the dark times ahead. Bulk shopping before hurricanes, toilet paper shopping in 2020 and to preparing for a blizzard – winter is coming – is part of our DNA.

It’s our reptilian brain triggering the survival instincts.

In Europe we have countries high up north with very though, long, and dark winters. In the south we have places where winters are mild, and people are not that much bothered by seasonality. Coming from Switzerland I know that being landlocked and having survived two world wars without getting involved: We have our ways to prepare for bad times.

Like the squirrel, we are good in stashing resources.

I have met people from Scandinavia who strategically make use of winter to travel south for marketing purposes or recreational travelling when business comes to a halt at home.

Taking advantage and embracing winter to take actionable steps to move yourself forward are great ways to pass through tough times. Taking a well deserved break and flee the cold for tropical locations to “hibernate” are also legit reasons to do so.

Hence, there seems to be some sort of correlation between weather and the saving rate of whole countries depending on their exposure to seasonality. Just compare the northern with southern European nations to start with. In the north, people stash resources to empower them passing tougher times easier.

The one big exception with that regards that I’ve experienced myself is Singapore. Its founder Lee Kwan Yew [Singapore’s founding father] thought air conditioning was the secret to his country’s success!

When I started spending more time in Singapore, it was a new experience for me. Singapore is almost on the equator and weather doesn’t fluctuate too much; there’s no seasonality and most days have a similar amount of sunshine. Most days are mostly alike. Hence, less external stimulation is given and subjectively – time speeds up!

Personally, seasonality helps me put memories and events into relation with a timeline. I’ve got many memories from Singapore that I can’t assign a season or month anymore.

Sometimes it seems that just yesterday I was young and just about to embark the journey of my life. Luckily, I’ve made good use of the time given to me so far.

But still, I try to find ways to somehow “slow life down”.

How to?

You can do so by keeping life more “interesting”. Expose yourself to new things, experiences, learn a new language, new skills or do something you’ve never done before.

As for myself, I optimistically consider myself in very late spring or early summer – of my life.

Winter is not too close yet.

Readers in their early spring years have it the best. Instead of just saying: “Winter is coming” – get prepared. You know, time has a way of moving quickly, even speeding up somehow through life and ultimately catching you unaware of how fast its passing by. Build your nest-egg, start saving and investing now!

But if you’re not in your winter yet. Let me remind you: It will be here faster than you think.

When I turned 36, my dad (back then 72 y/o) called me and wished me a Happy Birthday, he said:

1. Congratulations son, you’re now already HALF my age!

2. You’re catching up!

3. The second half goes faster…

Whatever you would like to accomplish in your life, please do it timely. Plant your seeds now. Don’t put life on hold. Do what you can today. Nobody knows if you’re in your winter already or not.  “Waiting for better times” is a lot like waiting for spring to come early while shivering through winter.

Life is a gift.

The way you live your life serves as inspiration to the people around you. It is also a gift to those that come after you. Live it well, make it a fantastic one, make it count!

Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be again.

The rest of your life starts right now!

Winter is coming!

Matt

Plant Your Dream Seeds – How To Terraform Your Life.

During the Corona lockdown we have started gardening more than ever. It was so exciting to witness how little seeds grew into plants and start bearing fruits themselves – mostly in a truly short time.

Planting a goal or a dream is a lot like planting a seed.

First, you dream. Then you plot and plan. Next, you start implementing.

By making the first steps towards making your dream come true, you plant the seed!

If you take the right steps and measures, apply focus and nutrition, you may see your idea and hard work sprout and turn your dream into reality.

Beware: Sometimes the seed doesn’t sprout or grow despite your efforts!

This may be due to the wrong measures applied, too little focus, too much sunshine, too little water or other reasons? Try to find out why your dream didn’t sprout and then decide whether you’d like to give it a second chance – or give up.

Gardening, starting up a business or doing anything you may consider “your dream” may not be easy – at first.

That’s why you shouldn’t give up too early.

Learn to accept failure as a crucial factor – towards success.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.

Fail, fail early, fail forward.

Keep trying if your goal is worth your while. Like farmers, keep planting seeds and work on optimizing your methods.

Some will fail but more and more will grow.

It’s never the wrong time to start planting the seeds for your dream!

Mostly, the simple act of starting is what makes the conditions right.

Dreams don’t know any seasons.

Listen to your dreams.

We all have dreams.

Take pleasure in dreaming.

Take them seriously.

Listen to them.

This is YOU!

We all start small in life.

Important is that you learn how to plant your seeds early in life.

This doesn’t mean later in life you should stop planting though!

Plant many seeds if you can.

Don’t judge your young days by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.

All growth has humble beginnings.

Growth starts with a seed that is planted, watered, nurtured, and well taken care of.

Dreams like seeds might take a while to start growing and often sprout when you least expect it!

Keep taking care of your seeds and remain patient.

Don’t give up on your seeds too early.

Do the hard work necessary and enjoy the baby steps of your young dreams.

This is mostly the most defining moment of big dreams coming to fruition.

Once your dreams have taken an initial leap and grown to a certain size, make sure you give them the necessary space, focus and care to enable them growing into their next level.

Remember to remain patient.

Take the long-term view.

At a certain point in time your dreams should be able to “grow” legs and learn how to survive by themselves.

The phase of initial recurring, sometimes painful efforts is over for now.

This is what can also be called “habits have been formed”.

You have started to change and working on your dream has become a reality of your daily life.

Depending on how many dreams you’re chasing, in this phase it’ll get crucial to start optimizing your farming efforts.

Keep grooming your field of dreams further in a systematic way.

Keep pushing into the unknown.

Dream big and figure out how to best allocate your limited resources to face adversity and make your dreams take over previously uncontested or infertile territory.

Nurture your dreams from deep within.

This phase is usually expanding your established business further or going the extra mile once again even you may not have to.

Many people are once again afraid of pushing through this growth barrier.

Think: What go you here, won’t get you there!

Our society is primed to keep people well within their comfort zone.

If you have grown to this stage, others will start to take notice how your dreams have taken shape.

This is where people will notice your growing dream.

Don’t be average.

Stand out.

With your dreams slowly becoming your reality, you will come across naysayers, haters and potential enemies.

Haters – like weeds – grow where there is nutritious ground.

If you chase your dreams, it’s normal – I would even say a positive sign – to attract these voices to your life.

It means you’ve created something too large to ignore.

You’re no longer living your life on “average” mode…

Learn how to fight those weeds in a smart way.

Don’t let them pollute your dreams.

No matter what obstacles you may encounter on your path of growth, don’t you ever think of blaming your circumstances.

Find out where you can influence the situation and apply your focus there.

Take ownership!

Wherever you are or what you do, other people have found ways to let their seeds grow before you – in similar situations.

Learn from them if needed and stay creative.

Think outside of the box: Unbox yourself.

Instead of impossible, say: I’m possible!

If you keep this course, stay patient.

Keep observing how the landscape of your dream life slowly turns greener.

You’re on the right path.

See how your dreamlife grows and how it transforms the world surrounding you.

You’re on the way to sustainably “terraform” your life now!

One day your efforts will start to pay-off.

First small.

Then increasingly more.

This is compounding at work.

Compounding works with money, with habits, with skills and with more.

No matter what you’re working on, try to be 1% better than yesterday – each day. And never stop.

This is how you can’t lose over time!

Ultimately your garden of dreams will bear fruits far beyond your wildest imaginations.

You might not be able to enjoy ALL the fruits of your dreams and efforts by yourself anymore.

This is great!

When that happens, reach out and start sharing your insights, your lessons and your harvest – the fruits of your dreams – with family, friends and anyone interested in learning.

Inspire them to plant their own seeds!

You can’t just plant a garden of dreams and be done with it.

This would be like saying “I’m done growing as a person now, what’s next?”.

Going after your dream life is more about finding ways to make the garden of your dreams more interesting, fun or diverse.

You can always find a way to redesign, rearrange or optimize further to add value to all it serves.

This is how to plant, nurture and grow seeds for successfully making your dreams become reality and terraform your life.

Keep dreaming.

Like my two your kids that have so many dreams themselves.

Imagineer your life and inspire others to do the same!

How many seeds have you planted this week?

Matt

Miles Ahead

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!

First Class for LIFE!

The legendary AAirpass was born.

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.

First class is more fun if enjoyed together!

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.

In hindsight this offer was coined one of the worst marketing disasters in human history.

According to an American Airlines spokesman, there are still about 25 valid unlimited passes out there in use as of 2018. It seems therefore unclear if all the unlimited passes got cancelled…

Let me know if you are a passholder please, leave a comment below or shoot me an email, please!

If you want to improve your life with similar or other life-hacks and imagineer your life, please consider to follow me on Facebook or Twitter:

Miles Programs Used as Collateral for Bank Loans

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.

View from Singapore Airlines “old” Suite Class chair 3F on their A380-800s

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.

How do you travel hack in 2020?

Happy travel hacking!

Matt

Picture by Christophe Randy, Singapore Airlines A350 from Hong Kong to Singapore over the South China Sea

Bake Yourself Rich

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.

Give me your 5 minutes and I shall show you how.

How to Bake Awesome Bread

My friend Jason introduced this plain simple but perfect recipe (click here to download printable PDF) to bake my own bread a few years ago:

Before you get started be sure to have:

Ingredients: flour, water, yeast and salt.

Tools: a dough kneader or food processor (although you could use your hands as well – but beware, it’s a wet dough!), a dutch-oven or coverable pan (we have a Le Cleuset) and an oven.

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!

My neighbour Jason and me became good friends, he later also taught me how to brew my own beer – I used to refer to him as the Beer Doctor! We frequently savoured our own beer creations in our condo jacuzzi and brainstormed more ideas.

But that’s another story.

Rise Your Own Dough $$$

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.

What is better than baking your own $$$

Conclusion

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.

Download the above recipe and give it a try.

Let me know in the comments how it tasted and felt to start baking.

If you like it please bake someone else happy by sharing your bread or this recipe with family and friends just as Jason did with us one day. .

Happiness is having self-baked bread!

Bakers gonna bake!

Matt

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.

The 2020$ – Thriving In The New Decade

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.

Looking forward is important.

Besides finding your Ikigai and building multiple income streams, focus on the road ahead and try to anticipate how YOUR life could be impacted by new trends and how to best prepare for them.

Recession proof your life.

Screw surviving, it’s time to thrive!

1. Get Ready to Fight For Your Job

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.

Conclusion

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!

Winners:

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!

Losers:

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.

2. Global War for Attention and Eyeballs

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.

Conclusion

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.

Winners:

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.

Losers:

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.

With an ever-increasing proportion of global business volume being transacted over the internet, online or through apps, Ed-tech will become more important. If you want, you can access (free) online classes from Harvard – today!

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.

Conclusion

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.

Winners:

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.

Losers:

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.

Conclusion

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.

Winners:

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.

Losers:

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.

By far the most rapid shift in the world's economic center of gravity happened between 2000 and 2010.

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?

Asia is not just China, there are many more countries currently emerging.

Conclusion

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.

Winners:

Corporations and businesses focusing on a growing middle-class in Asia.

Losers:

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.

Conclusion

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.

Winners:

Producers of healthy, tasty and affordable [meat] alternatives.

Losers:

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.

Conclusion

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.

Winners:

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.

Losers:

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!

Conclusion

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.

Screw surviving – it’s time to thrive!

Matt

How To Build Your Abundant Waterfall of Income Streams

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.”

Warren Buffett

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.

Primary stream of income – your job.

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.

Two streams of income – two jobs – teamwork!

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.

It’s a great option to have if you work as a team!

Creating Additional Streams of Income

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.

Streams of income flowing towards you.

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.

Singapore Airlines Suites Class Flight Zurich to Singapore – for free!

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.

Create Wealth – Passive Income

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!

Earn. Save. Invest. Earn more. Save more. Invest more. Repeat!

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.

Room Rentals

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.

AirBnB

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.

Parking Lots

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.

How many streams of income do you have?

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.

Entrepreneurship

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.

Find your Ikigai and create a professional life/ identity around it.

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.

Focus

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.

Robert Kiyosaki

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.

This is how financial abundance looks to me.

Coming from a banking background, my own major streams of income are business (consulting, advising, managing money for others), capital growth, dividends and rentals.

Conclusion

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?

Financially Imagineer your life,

Matt

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