YOU ARE NOT A MAILBOX

Now to the point.

You receive a paycheck from your employer. Then you write some checks of your own. Then (I hope) you think about what to do with whatever is leftover. [Note: Some or all of this may be done with old-fashioned paper checks and snail mail – or it might be done online. The idea is the same.]

With all this mail flying in and out, you could easily confuse managing your finances with managing a post office. You have mail coming in at somewhat predictable times, and you have to schedule your outgoing mail in just the right way, or you could get into trouble. In other words, you must match money inflows with money outflows.

That’s how it might seem, at least. Actually, this analogy is deceptive. It distracts you from what should be your primary financial goal: to increase your total financial wealth – your net worth.

Of course, you may also have other, harder-to-measure goals – primary or secondary – like maximizing your happiness, traveling the world, or whatever. But any such additional goals are far more easily achieved when you combine them with the goal of increasing your material wealth.

Yes, managing your finances like you would manage a mailbox can help you save money. (You may have noticed saving money can be really hard. I’m not particularly good at it myself.) And yes, prudence and saving are generally good things. A rich person doesn’t stay rich for very long without them. But prudence and saving alone will never make you wealthy in the first place.

So, how do you become wealthy?

There are four things that can take you to financial wealth: inheritance, luck, risk-taking and investing. And yes, these strongly complement and overlap each other. Since it’s typically difficult or impossible to influence one’s inheritance or luck, it is best to focus on factors three and four – risk-taking and investing. All rich people (at least the honorable ones) are in some way involved in risk-taking and investing. Note that this excludes most professional politicians, journalists, and academics – who simply aren’t honorable.

The moral is: Climb the mountain through risk-taking and investing – then stay on top through prudence and saving.

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The dark side of managing your money like a mailbox is that it can easily lead you into some specific biases – modern-day misconceptions and truth-manipulations:

  • Now-focus
  • The “average monsters”
  • Invisibility vs. transparency
  • Thinking in percentages
  • And ultimately, “How can I lose?”

You will learn about these fallacies later on. But first…

In our modern times there are plenty of people who earn big money on a monthly or annual basis, yet still, live miserable lives. They’re miserable only because they don’t understand the simple concept of wealth. A concept you will come to understand as you read on.

Let’s dig deeper into this matter of material wealth, its forms and drivers…

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