One Weird Trick
We have all likely read the title of this post, hundreds of times online in click bait advertisements. You know those ads making outrageous promises related to dozens of desirable outcomes. They run the gamut from acne treatments and testosterone boosters to investment advice and defeating ISIS. All of this, with just one “weird trick.”
I don’t think anyone who reads these things or even clicks on them truly believes what is being advertised but there is a reason we keep seeing them. They work. Not at defeating terrorism or cutting belly fat, but at their true purpose, which is getting us to click on them.
You see, they accomplish their goal by representing themselves as solutions to our challenges and bromides for our fears. Thomas Harris wrote “When the rabbit screams the fox comes running, but not to help.” The marketing mavens of Madison avenue do not love us and are not trying to solve our problems, they are trying to solve their problems. For the marketers and the corporations they work for, problem number one is getting us to buy their stuff; problem number two is getting us to keep buying their stuff and whatever problem number three is, it’s a distant third.
Realizing this truth is the first step in extricating ourselves from the negative feedback loop of recreational consumerism – which too many Americans participate in as if it were a second job.
It often begins innocently. We watch TV or read a magazine and see some athlete or actor we revere endorsing a product we don’t need and, until that moment, may not have ever wanted. Perhaps, there is a friend or colleague we like and respect that drives an expensive car or wears a certain piece of jewelry and we feel that through imitation, we can capture some of their magic. Or maybe, deep down, we wish we were more confident and want to believe we can buy more confidence. Put plainly, we want to and strive to be more like the people we admire. Advertisers know this and exploit it ruthlessly.
So we plunk down our hard earned dough, buy the overpriced _______ [fill in the blank], and strut our stuff, proud as a peacock. And you know what? It feels damn good, this counterfeit confidence. For a little while at least. Before too long however, we are very much back to feeling like our old selves. Our money alas, is gone for good.
Even more alarming is that once you start down the path of hollow luxury, it can be difficult to find your back onto the road of reason. It is the marketer’s plan that we begin to view ourselves as the type of person that only drives such and such a car, or the type of individual who wouldn’t consider wearing anything not made by designer so and so. These are dangerous and expensive delusions that are to be conspicuously avoided.
Almost all of us have a choice. We can build wealth, or we can appear wealthy. Ironically, the cost of appearing wealthy is often the better part of what would have been our actual wealth, had we saved it.
I am sad to admit that I am speaking from personal experience. In a recent seminar, a portion of which you can see in the video section of this site, I talk about having once leased a German luxury car; several in fact, over the years. The last time I did was 10 or 12 years ago and I am proud to say that I have made much wiser decisions since then.
If in some ways this sounds like you, I can’t tell you how to opt out. I can however, tell you how I was able to change and hope it will work for you too. For me the answer was information. I have a dear friend who is about 10 years older and 100 years wiser than I am. He was a big earner and a big spender for much of his 20’s.
It was he who began to open my eyes to the pervasive, money incinerating machines that slick marketers have made us into. This educational process is ongoing, but a few years ago he gave me a book that I can see in hindsight was incredibly important for me. It was Dana Thomas’s Deluxe, How Luxury Lost its Luster. The book focuses on fashion, but its implications for all the other trappings of wealth is clear.
In it, Thomas lays out the stark contrast between the luxury industries business model and its marketing model. Their marketing firms are charged with fabricating a mirage of class, beauty and aristocratic opulence for those who buy their goods. While on the business side, they are rotating their third world sweat shops from Madagascar to Viet Nam, chasing the cheapest labor.
Check your closet for a tag that reads “assembled in France.” The items are almost entirely made in one of the aforementioned facilities but for some insignificant strap, button or tassel which is attached after they arrive in Europe. Sounds silly right? If an alien watched this process from outer space they would be scratching their head. Of course, the alien doesn’t know what the luxury brands do. Namely, that someone might begin to question why a bag that costs $8,000 is “made in Malaysia” by a worker making around eight cents an hour.
The illusion of luxury must be maintained after all. Especially when people of modest means are willing to beggar themselves for it. The more you learn about how unglamorous the process of commercial glamor is, the more it just starts to seem silly.
Now, let’s compare this destructive feedback loop with a constructive one and see how they stack up. You can then decide which you’d prefer for yourself and those you love. In this victorious cycle, we commit to saving more, every month, systematically.
Because we are saving it via our financial mosaic, the money is earning a rate of return rather than sitting in a bank account earning almost nothing and available to be easily converted into overpriced junk we don’t need.
Because we are saving more we need not be obsessed with rate of return and can assume less risk.
Because we are assuming less risk we are less likely to experience what might seem like or even actually be a catastrophic loss.
Meanwhile, our savings are still generating a rate of return and, hence, our assets grow over time.
Because our assets are growing, we feel less fearful about the future.
Because we are feeling less fearful about the future we develop a sense of well-being and peace of mind.
Because our peace of mind and sense of well-being is growing, we come to possess in fact, what marketers promise in vain. Confidence.
This is the bone deep confidence that we can live the lives we aspire and deserve to, while also being in a position to help the ones we love if and when they need us.
I guess you can think of it as the “one weird trick” that isn’t weird and isn’t a trick. It’s just a much better way to a much better life, in all the ways that matter. If this life of confidence appeals to you, take action. If you like, consider consulting a financial planner you trust to help.
Scott R. McGimpsey August 1st, 2017
This material was prepared by Scott McGimpsey and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources, however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Neither Summit Brokerage Services Inc. nor Scott McGimpsey is engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professionally services. If such assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal, state, or municipal tax penalty. Moreover, a diversified portfolio does not assure a profit or assure protection against loss in a declining market. UNIFIED PLANNING GROUP is an independent firm with securities offered through Summit Brokerage Services Inc., Member FINRA, SIPC