If you haven’t listened to Rich and Tony’s “Budgets & Brews Podcast” yet, you got to check it out! The hosts Rich and Tony are finance and hop-juice enthusiasts!
They created the “Budgets & Brews Podcast” as their way to spread financial literacy to family & friends at first. Then they added a special “splash” to their show: Beer!!!
[yes, I count myself to the hop-juice enthusiasts as well]
My grandfather used to say: There’s nothing better than something good together with something good. That’s what Rich and Tony did: A perfect combination of their two favorites – finances and beer – in order to create a more relaxing and welcoming environment.
The other aspect is: Rich and Tony like to remove the naturally intimidating feeling of finance terms and lingo and make financial literacy more fun and accessible to a broader audience!
This is 100% aligned with my mission.
The show is intended for anyone seeking more financial education and potentially getting started working towards financial independence.
There’s no better way to start THAT conversation than with a fresh beer!
For the show I’ve chosen Brewdog Punk IPA.
It’s a wonderful IPA
like the financial advice I’d like to provide: It’s “fiercely independent, forever craft!”
This is the first post of a series called “financial excursions” where we will explore how to understand the world better while learning about money and your life. In my view, “financial excursions” are the best way to teach your kids about money. This summer we took our kids for a trip to see one of the largest dams with hydroelectric plant in Switzerland.
We marveled at the large wall, enjoyed the views from its top, learned about its functions and of course I grabbed the opportunity to explain how building a dam is similar to capturing your income streams and save money and therefore time for later usage in life.
Let’s explore our discoveries together.
This summer, we went to see the Mauvoisin dam. In Switzerland we are very proud to have the bulk of our electricity production generated by hydropower (59.9%), nuclear power comes in second (33.5%) and conventional thermal power plants (2.3%, non-renewable) conclude the electricity mix.
Switzerland has currently 638 hydroelectric power plants. The largest dam in Switzerland is the 285 metre-high Grande-Dixence dam (canton of Valais), the second largest is the Mauvoisin dam standing at 250 metres (820 ft) tall, it’s the eight-tallest in the world.
The impounded water behind the Mauvoisin dam forms the 5 kilometres (3 miles) long lake with a capacity of 211.5 million m3 and captures the water from an area as large as 167 square kilometres.
The impressive statistics about this dam include of course its capacity to produce energy. Water released from the Mauvoisin dam into several hydroelectric power stations lower in the valley are boosting the Swiss energy grid with 943 million KWh annually!
The dam was also chosen as perfect location of the world-record highest [successful] basketball shot. In 2016 the 28-year-old Australian Derek Herron launched a basketball from the top of the dam, where it fell 180 metres directly into a net placed on the ground below.
Fact is: The average millionaire has seven flows of income!
It’s good to have the income flows, but what do you do once the “water” comes flowing your way? If you don’t do anything particular, “water” will follow gravity and disappear in the endless oceans where it originally came from again.
Looking at the wild mountain range the kids could see how the mountains are still nicely covered in snow – even in summer. From there, the sun melts the snow into water and as it comes down, energy is set free. This energy, released from water flowing downwards, has been harnessed by humans for millennia. Over two thousand years ago, people in Greece used flowing water already to turn wheels of their mills to ground wheat into flour. Today, we convert this kinetic energy into electricity.
This sounds all magnificent. However, there’s one big problem here: As the water keeps flowing, you must keep using and consuming the energy right on the spot. Hence, how about if you would like to delay consumption? How to prevent money simply from flowing through your life I asked my kids standing on that magnificent dam?
If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.
Build Your Dam
Of course, standing on one, the kids understood quickly: The best way to stop the water from simply flowing through is to build a dam. Financially spoken, this translates to controlling your spending and taming your tendencies towards increasing your spending as you earn more:
Avoid lifestyle inflation.
Forget about keeping up with the Joneses.
Re-direct a certain amount of your nicely flowing income into a “reservoir” for your future use.
In order to save, you need to build your financial dam in life.
A container or vehicle with a huge wall that can capture your ever-flowing income streams and keep the savings “safe”.
I explained my kids how useful it will be to have all this water saved up once winter is coming. You can then simply open the valve at and get fresh energy as and when you need it.
Simplified spoken it’s the same with money:
Fill your “containers” with money now so you can tap into your savings once you need it.
We shall cover in other posts what to do with your savings as keeping it simply in “money” itself is not the best choice anymore due to inflation though.
I further explained to the kids that the people running this hydro plant can not capture all the water as otherwise it would cause a drought downstream.
The amount of water they let pass represents the “enough” in your life.
How much money is enough, so your life is worth living?
Capture as Many Income Streams as Possible
Once your dam is built, try to collect the proceeds of more income streams into your reservoir. The more sources contribute to your collection, the easier and faster it will be to fill it up eventually.
At Mauvoisin the engineers have built tunnel systems and more deviations to capture the maximum amount of water possible in the area.
At this point you may ask your kids if they feel it usually takes too long to fill up their bathtub at home.
Wouldn’t it be easier to have a warm bath at home if water comes in from more than just one tap?
The more you put in, the faster it gets full.
The more you save, the easier your goal is reached.
Explain it would be the same with money and ultimately buying your time back in life.
The Mauvoisin system – like others as well in Switzerland – has an extra feature that not many know of and which I truly like.
Somewhat more downstream, there are other, smaller, reservoirs again to re-capture some water. These intermediary lakes are once again reservoirs where even more electricity can be produced as water lets gravity do its job.
Financially spoken this means nothing else than:
Spend your money or time wisely.
Maximise their usage.
Having such intermediary lakes can also be viewed as “budgets”.
Let me explain:
Energy consumption is not the same throughout the day, more of it is consumed during daytime and less is being used at night. In Switzerland we also have a significant energy output from nuclear power plants. As less energy is used at night, why not re-use the anyway produced nuclear power to pump additional water from intermediary lakes back up into the main reservoir?
Why is this like a budget?
Let’s say you plan $40 monthly for a haircut. What if you cut your hair yourself? Then you’ll not be needing the $40 that you’ve prepared already and can put it back into your main reservoir. Read more here what could happen if you start doing something along this idea.
Create Power On Demand
A hydropower plant system is like a battery.
You can capture, save, and release energy with it.
Whenever you need some, you simply open the tap and produce instant energy.
In this last step, combine the lessons above and think of water in terms of money and of money in terms of time.
Time is money.
And money can become time again.
The main take-away my kids as well as you should get from this first “financial excursion” is that it’s worth your while spending/ investing some of your time NOW to create your own battery for YOUR life!
The better your system is built, the easier and more fun your life will get.
Trust this post can help you and your loved ones store some money, energy and ultimately time – the most prescious of them all – so you can live more!
If you have kids, consider taking them on this first “financial excursion”.
If you enjoyed this read please don’t forget to subscribe my blog by email, like my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter in order to not miss any future “financial excursions”!
Now, have fun doing “financial excursions” with your own kids and please share the idea with your friends and other parents!
The “Marshmallow-Test” was first conducted back in the late 1960’s by a Stanford professor named Walter Mischel. Over the years and due to its results, it became one of the most famous studies for the subject of delayed gratification.
What is it about? It’s about measuring how young kids can use their willpower to delay their gratification and what impact this has on their potential in many areas of life.
The test was simple: A kid was brought into a room and given a plate with one marshmallow on it. Then it got asked to make a simple choice: Eat this marshmallow in front of you now, or wait 15-25 minutes in order to receive a second marshmallow on top!
Simplified: Each child was given a choice between having one marshmallow now or two marshmallows later. Most kids choose to have two marshmallows later. However, then they were left alone somewhere between 15 and 25 minutes (depending on age) with the irresistible sweet marshmallow right in front of them…
The test was then measuring the number of seconds that a child is able to wait. A few decades later, the researches went back to examine the life of those kids. They could prove the longer a kid was able to wait before devouring the marshmallow at age five was significantly predictive for a few very important life outcomes in their adulthood later on.
They found that kids who could wait [longer/ for the second marshmallow] where more likely to pass more difficult exams, had better social skills, where more confident, successful, healthy, and yes: Happy!
Of course, this test may have some limitations, however, the key essence holds true. More on those critical thoughts that challenge the test at the end of this post.
How to pass the Marshmallow Test?
First and foremost, it’s so simple: DO NOT EAT THE MARSHMALLOW!
That sounds simple but is not as easy as you think for a little kid.
The researchers highlighted two significant findings about how kids successfully passed the test:
First, not physically seeing their reward made it easier for the children to wait longer. This means, don’t look at the damn marshmallow all the time. Find a way to trick your mind into changing your thoughts.
Second, using distraction strategies also had a positive impact on how long the children managed to wait. Some of the kids started so sing songs, covered their eyes with their hands and arms, started to tip-toe on the floor, prayed to the ceiling and so forth. One little girl even tricked herself into falling asleep – a highly successful way to earn big rewards as André Kostolany confirms:
“Buy shares, take some sleeping pills and stop reading the papers. Many years later, you’ll see that you’re rich.”
The key to success seems to be the ability to focus on the long-term goals despite short term attention magnets.
It’s some kind of trade-off.
Most people are programmed to chose instant gratification over all else.
If you find a way to trick yourself to “suffer” short-term you can unlock the door to the promised land of more enjoyment later:
If you exercise now: You will get healthier.
If you study hard: You can go to your dream school.
If you work smart: You will have a great career or even start your own business.
If you don’t eat out: You will save more.
If you don’t buy that toy now: You will invest more and become wealthy.
If you don’t waste your time and focus: Your dreams will become true!
While we are all different from each other. The remedy is the same.
The key is to find areas where YOU are capable to delay gratification.
Self-control is the key to success.
If you manage to resist short term temptations, you will go far!
How to Teach the Findings of the Marshmallow Test
While it’s easy to teach information and facts as above, the hard part is to teach methods that you can apply to actually improve your behavior and results.
According to Stanford psychology experts, the most important skill parents need to teach their kids for the 21st century is to “become indistractable”. This is a tough one in our modern society where the new currency on the street is “attention”. Even the more, it’s super important to take some time to learn to focus either yourself or teach your kids this skill in one way or another.
A counterintuitive way to teach focus was a study by Michael Posner and his colleagues at the University of Oregon who worked with 4-6 year old kids with the aim to teach them better focus skills using video games. In one of the exercises the kids had to use a joystick to control an umbrella above a cat with the aim to keep the cat dry as it runs around. Kids could manage to stay focused and kept the cat dry. Such sessions led to substantial increases of skillset in kids, including a higher nonverbal IQ level.
Another way is teaching through stories.
Sesame Street for instance has created situations in which Cookie Monster must learn to control himself. Instead of gobbling up his cookies right away – like eating the first marshmallow right away – he’s got to behave and wait. His goal was to join the “cookie connoisseur gourmet club” and – yes- for that one you got to be able to wait for your cookies. In the episode, Cookie Monster learned strategies such as “framing” where he’d pretend the marshmallows are just a picture – and because if it’s just a picture, you can’t eat it. Cookie Monster also had the idea of tricking himself into believing that the cookies are smelly fish, then he will not want them at all.
The key concept for yourself as well as for kids is to get exposed to strategies that showcase what self-control is, while having fun. The best strategies are including both: A great teachable and the self-motivation within. Kids – and adults – must want to change themselves.
Ultimately such exercises will help build character, grit, persistence, tolerance of frustration (!), gratitude, optimism, excitement and how to build energy going into a new project.
Even more important than simply teaching something to your kids is once again: You got to model it. If you promise something, you got to keep your promise. It will get tough to expect your kids to delay gratification if you are breaking your own promises to them.
Finally: Kids must understand that their behavior has consequences.
If they behave in constructive and creative ways, the consequences are good. If they behave in negative ways, the consequences are “less good”. As a parent, it’s your job to create that environment to let them become aware there’s a relationship between what they’re doing and what happens to them in the end. This way, they can internalize those lessons and have a better chance to later live the life of their dreams.
As mentioned above, there are many ways to delay gratification. The essence is not to delay everything 25 years out and have absolutely zero enjoyment right now.
That’s no way to live!
However, there are many small things that you can do, to marshmallow test yourself right now, here are the five most important ones in my personal view:
1] You saw something that you’d like to buy:
Try to not look at it, hide it, wait – hold on for a few days and let your emotions cool down.
In more than 80% of cases you may as well forget about it again. If not, maybe yes, buy it.
remove temptation, install “spending speedbumps”
2] You check your account and see your stocks are up or down a lot – you’d like to take action:
Take some time to think again why you bought these holdings in the first place? Try to think if any of your long-term assumptions has dramatically changed? Are your emotions rather than your rational mind guiding you? Control your emotions and check the fear and greed index. Maybe sleep over it. Most often your conclusion will be unchanged from before. If not, maybe take action!
learn how to manage emotions and stress, align your short-term actions with your long-term goals
3] It’s late at night, you’d like to Netflix and chill – but you also have that great idea right now…
Don’t stress it too much, but do this: Take 5 minutes first, sit down, bring your idea to paper. Once you write it out, you can tell if you’d rather like to work on your idea now or still watch Netflix. Maybe you’re super tired and rather go to sleep than watch TV so you can work on your idea early in the morning?
prioritize your time, be intentional, beware of time bandits
4] It’s the last Friday of the month and you’ve just received your monthly salary.
It’s wonderful to see your cash account nicely filled. The weekend is coming. You’d like to go out for dinner, get a haircut, buy some new clothes and splurge a little, maybe stack-up on some exclusive artisan bread for Sunday brunch – after all: You’ve earned it! Right?
How about marshmallow testing yourself first? How? Yes, you’ve earned it: Pay yourself first! Automate a monthly deduction from your salary account to your savings and investing account. Invest into your system of abundant income streams before you spend. Then go have fun!
set goals, measure your progress, pay yourself first, automate where needed and control your urges
5] Last but not least, we are all human and yes, you are going to fail. It’s natural.
However, beating yourself up and being harsh to yourself doesn’t help. It’s wasted energy. Eighty percent of achieving your goal is based on your attitude. Attitude defines altitude. If you’re planning to work on ambitious goals, you’ll need time to build sufficient self-control, discipline and focus.
learn to forgive yourself and move on – learn from mistakes, stay passionate
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
Some people have valid reservations why the marshmallow test turned out as it did. As promised at the beginning of this post, here the disclaimer: It was argued kids of successful parents are usually doing better at the marshmallow test not because they control their willpower better, but rather because those kids were around “trustworthy adults”. Thus, the kids trusted that the second marshmallow would be there in the future.
Nevertheless, I strongly believe that mastering self-control and working on long-term goals with persistence, grit and endurance is more rewarding than not. My dad had me marshmallow tested as well during my own childhood. It’s something you can learn and pass on to the next generation.
A Finish proverb goes like this:
“Life is uncertain, eat your dessert first!”
However, the average human lifespan has increased steadily. We have now more “future” than ever before to spare. Therefore, despite life’s uncertainties, try to focus on your future enjoyment and picture your imagineered life – then you can stand this experiment, this method, better.
Do sustainably, in a fun way please.
Eat more marshmallows!
Tomorrow – not today!
Make it fun.
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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.
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.
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.
Step 3: Kill your fears!
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.
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!
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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:
Sell covered call options on your holdings/ the index
Use proceeds of 1. to buy put options on the same holdings to install a hedge
In short: Reduce exposure and hedge potential downsides.
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:
Buy an inverse VIX ETN such as the SVXY – let go again once situation normalized
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!
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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.
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.
Money doesn’t grow on trees: You got to work for it!
Lot’s to learn I still had.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Give kids real money and life experiences. Let them feel the consequences of their decisions.
Now I’m the father and instead of allowances, I’m running 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.
Make money visible and talk about it openly.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.
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.
Learn how to stand on your own feet early.
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.
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.
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.
It encouraged me to stay the course.
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.
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
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!
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…
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:
Generate passive income to cover our family expenses
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:
Retire from my 9-5
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:
What you do
What you get for it
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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
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.
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.
Learn how to focus.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
How Travel Hacking Itself got Hacked – and what we can learn from it.
Many airline passengers whose trips got cancelled some months ago are still waiting for their ticket refunds as carriers and travel agencies are running low on liquidity. As of August 2020, airlines are withholding billions in refunds – that’s Billions with a capital B!!!
The current corona pandemic leaves airlines stretched.
They are suffering liquidity shortages. While this may seem historic for most, it’s for sure not the first time airlines are struggling. Let’s take a walk down history lane to see what we can learn from the past: This has happened before!
We shall get back to 2020 and the Covid pandemic towards the end of this post!
First let us travel back to 1981.
In that particular year American Airlines was in deep sh*t.
After the oil crisis of the 1970’s, in 1978 the US enforced the Airline Deregulation Act to deregulate the airlines industry. Just a few months later in the early 1980s the economy was in a period of sky-high interest rates and roaring inflation. In 1980 AA posted a $76 million loss while facing new competition, lower ticket prices and high borrowing costs and fuel prices.
It was a tough time and AA was in urgent need for cash. Due to exorbitant interest rates borrowing was not an option to consider.
Therefore AA came up what later got coined as the one of the most epic marketing failures ever: They started offering the best deal frequent travelers could ever lay their hands on – ever!
For a hefty $250,000 the AAirpass offered nothing less than:
UNLIMITED FIRST CLASS TRAVEL FOR LIFE!
Can. You. Actually. Imagine. That!?
FYI: $250,000 would be $700,000 inflation adjusted to 2020
Over the course of the years, AA sold about 65 unlimited lifetime first class passes until they stopped selling them in 1994. Apparently, Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban said that it was “one of the best purchases he’s ever made – it opened the world to him: He could go anywhere anytime he wanted to – first class! Other notable customers included Michael Dell and Willie Mays.
And hey, it doesn’t stop here!
For some extra cash, you could also get yourself a companion pass.
Originally the idea was to offer this product exclusively to existing frequent business travelers…
However, some travel hackers did their math correctly and this was how a certain Mr. Rothstein purchased his own AAirpass plus the companion pass for $383,000.
Mr. Steve Rothstein was a Chicago based investment banker and he loved the idea: “Instead of getting interest paid from a bond, you could redeem your returns in air travel.” A very fair deal in his view: “They need cash and they can pay me in miles.” Why not! Right?
Travel Hacking Itself Got Hacked
Soon American Airlines had to learn the airfare market is not comparable with, let’s say an “all-you-can-eat” buffet or “all-inclusive” vacations where customers would have natural limitations of how much they were able to consume.
When it comes to first class tickets just imagine how many folks are literally ready to go “the extra mile” to profit from such an offer.
Starting from 1987 Mr. Rothstein went many many extra miles with his AAirpass, he booked more than 10,000 flights to anywhere. Sometimes he simply flew somewhere to grab his favorite sandwich. He also frequently just took complete strangers along into first with his companion pass.
He basically used the airlines’ network like a bus…
From Chicago, he reportedly flew:
1,000 times to New York City
500 times to San Francisco
500 times to Los Angeles
500 times to London
120 times to Tokyo
80 times to Paris
80 times to Sydney
50 times to Hong Kong
Another gentleman, Mr. Vroom from Texas, even took out a loan (!) to finance (!!) the $400k (!!!) – by the time he bought – AAirpass fee.
He flew well above 2 million miles per year thereafter. Mr. Vroom sometimes simply flew to Paris to have lunch and would return shortly thereafter.
The next time AA got into financial trouble was in 2007. Once again, they went through their books just to figure this time the AAirpass program was costing the company too much. What a surprise. American calculated the two top-clients Mr. Rothstein and Mr. Vroom cost them well above $1 million in taxes, fees and lost ticket sales – per year!
What an amazing return on investment for the two of them!
They were miles ahead!!!
The Revenue Integrity Team Steps In
Unfortunately, good things seldom last. The story ended bitter for our unlimited lifetime loyal frequent flyers! Once the airlines’ “revenue integrity team” (what a name…) started to get active, their AAirpasses got revoked.
The airline claimed the reason being “fraudulent activities”. Both clients got stripped of their passes and were told they would never be able to fly on the airline again. Ever.
Nowadays, the American Airlines Airpass is merely known as an all-inclusive membership program that offers elite status, flight discounts, and other rewards. It now comes with an annual fee.
This is all history, so why do I write about the above story at the current point in time?
Well, due to the current pandemic, we have arrived at a similar “situation” once again. Airlines are short on cash! And as before, in 2020 airlines are reaching out to their largest customers and are offering to sell miles directly to them – to secure liquidity.
History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.
While in the early 1980’s the largest clients where direct business travelers, the largest clients in 2020 are – yes – you guessed it: Credit card companies with reward systems such as American Express, Chase and others! These large corporations are currently winning big and can purchase points at deep discounts – just to offer them to you later.
American Airlines and United Airlines also ventured out to conduct more innovative financial engineering recently. They are mortgaging (!) their mileage programs with financial institutions to borrow against and “monetize it”. Due to this new way of “banking points” both airlines have recently disclosed valuations of their mileage programs.
The numbers are in the tens of billions of dollars!
Why is this scary? Imagine that both, American Airlines and United would be worth a negative valuation after discounting the value of their points programs…
Here some numbers:
Just the U.S. portion of the AAdvantage program is currently valued around $19.5 billion (subtract that from it’s market capitalization of $5.6 billion…).
Uniteds’ MileagePlus program got valued at $21.9 billion (now compare this with it’s market capitalization of $10.1 billion…).
This is how valuable the reward systems have become and how crucial they are for the industry.
While I don’t believe the airlines will disappear just yet and like that, there’s a certain risk also on the respective banks’ books now. Hope they know what they’re doing. But the main point I’d like to convey today is another one.
Travel Hacking in 2020
Since Mr. Rothstein got his AAirpass, airline loyalty programs have transformed from a way to simply increase customer loyalty to a massive profit center.
The above example of how American Airlines and United are even empowered by the system to “mortgage” these hugely valuable assets – to unlock billions of dollars in bank loans to help survive the pandemic – shows the world the true size and value of their programs.
According to my opinion the most recent developments may lead to the following potential outcomes.
Here my considerations for travel hacking in 2020:
There will be some sort of “inflation” in point values coming up – your points today are more valuable than your points tomorrow. In other words: The earlier you book your flight, the better deal you can get. Airlines are happy at the current moment for miles holders to redeem points!
With inflation and more points being “monetized”, the rewards, in terms of points – not in actual value – will move up in the near future. Look out for a changing landscape of reward systems and re-position yourself if needed.
Buying extra miles could be a true bargain during this period of time. Try to take advantage of it strategically. AA has launched a new offer allowing frequent flyers to purchase miles with up to 100% bonus through Aug. 31, 2020. This offer brings the cost per mile down to as low as 1.71 cents.
Be sure to understand the involved risks such as prolonged insecurity regarding flight plans, countries having closed their borders, airlines getting stretched, potential airline bankruptcies and still yes: getting exposed to the virus itself.
If you hold a substantial amount of travel points and miles (like me), make sure you keep them with the right “bank” – or airlines. Some airlines might go bankrupt depending on how long this pandemic will continue. Nobody knows. If your points are with them, you may lose them. One way to secure points is to keep them with the credit card company or bank first and only convert them to miles once you’re about to redeem a flight. Buy points now and buy yourself time!
Maybe as of 2020 we can’t just buy a first class for life pass quite yet, but I’m looking forward to learn more about improving deals coming our way to stay miles ahead.