Be a Man: Money and Freedom

It's been a bloody long while since I last did one of these, and I figure it's time to look at one of the most underrated aspects of the self-aware man: money.

If game, or charisma, or mastery, or whatever you want to call it, is about anything, it is about having self-confidence and inner strength. That is the core of the entire philosophy that blokes like me subscribe to, it is what we preach, and it is what we believe in. Game has many different aspects to it- self-improvement, fitness, strength, well-being, health, sex, love, and faith. One overlooked aspect of game, in my opinion, is the question of financial security.

Mo' Money, Less Problems

To introverts, like the ones who read this blog, money isn't merely useful- money is freedom. Having it means that you live on your own terms, according to your rules. Not having it means that you're always at someone else's mercy, and that, for a deep introvert, is simply unacceptable.

Let's be clear about this: if you're worried about money, it doesn't matter how good you look, it doesn't matter how much of a sex god you are in bed, and it doesn't matter how many girls you have fawning all over you because of your bad-boy vibe- your game is not tight. Game is about self-confidence and charisma. It is very difficult to be self-confident and charismatic when you're worried whether you can afford to buy the next drink, or when you look like something the cat dragged in because you can't afford to buy decent-looking clothes.

Some readers might naturally think this to be an absurd position to take- every single one of us here has at least one story about that broke ugly dude who still somehow manages to pull a lot of tail. I have one from my own family, which I'll share some other time. I will simply remind you that game- real game- is not (just) about wine, women, and song. The nature of the game requires complete self-improvement for men (and severe societal deprogramming for women). And there can be no question that your finances must be part of that improvement process.

You may well be reading this blog and scoffing at the idea that money is important for pulling women. You may well be in debt up to your eye teeth and still living a playboy's lifestyle. But mark my words well- this WILL come back to bite you. I've seen it happen in my own family, and I'm telling you now that if you don't own your finances, your finances WILL own you. I'm not talking about short-term conquests here; I'm talking long-term security. And as you age, getting the long-term picture right will solve a great many of your short-term problems.

The Frame of Plenty

The great thing about having money in the bank is that you just don't worry about trivial crap. So something broke in the apartment that needs fixing- big deal, call the handyman or fix it yourself, instead of having to choose between eating and staying warm. So you've got a date tonight- fine, you can choose where to meet her out of a number of possible venues instead of going for the cheapest and tackiest one possible. So you need some dental work done- fine, you don't have to choose between that routine tooth cleaning (or maybe that more serious root canal treatment) and your next car payment.

This attitude of not being worried about the stupid stuff in life will also translate into a confident and masculine attitude when facing the world. You know that you can afford to live comfortably and well. You know that you have the ability to provide for those you care about. And you don't have to take crap from people you don't respect, because you know that if you really wanted to, you could turn your back on them without a second thought.

Having money in the bank means that if you really want to, you can tell your boss to perform an anatomically impossible act and take off on a trip around the world. You can enrich your mind at will. If you want to buy your woman something nice, you can do so because it makes you feel good, not because it makes her feel good or because society "expects" it of you. It means you don't have to deal with the stupid struggles and difficulties of everyday life beyond a certain point, which means that a major load is taken off your back.

All of this translates into a frame of plenty. The opposite frame, a frame of scarcity, will kill your game quickly. You will lose confidence because somewhere in the back of your mind, you'll always be worried about your overdraft, your next credit card payment, your next rent payment, and all sorts of other nonsense. With a frame of plenty, your confidence will grow and improve over time. And people around you WILL notice it.

Making Money Doesn't Require a Six-Figure Job

One of the biggest misconceptions I've ever encountered among guys my age, with my background, education, and training, is that they MUST get a high-paying, high-flying job. They all think that they need to be investment bankers, making 250K base salaries while working 16-hour days and living in fancy apartments that they never really get to enjoy.

It's all nonsense. You can live comfortably in most of the US on less than 40K a year. (In New York, it's more like 80K, but then New York is just weird in a lot of ways.) However, you must plan your finances carefully to achieve this. You MUST understand yourself very well. And you absolutely must understand your hierarchy of needs.

By "hierarchy", I mean, quite simply, the priorities that matter most to you. This will by definition require that you make certain hard choices. Which would you prefer- living on your own and saving 10% of your income, or living with a flatmate and saving 30%? Eating Paleo every day and spending a lot of money on food, or eating conventionally and spending much less? Going to an expensive full-service bells-and-whistles gym like Equinox, which is always packed full of cardio bunnies and fruit smoothies, or going to a bare-bones powerlifter's gym with nothing more than a bunch of squat racks, a lot of free weights, and beefy guys who hate poseurs? Every one of these choices will be informed by your income, your preferences, and your beliefs- all of which you have some control over- as well as exogeneous variables over which you will have no control. What works for me won't work for you, but what is universal is the need to balance out your finances with your comfort level. It makes no sense whatsoever to be saving 80% of your income while being completely miserable because you deny yourself some of the simple pleasures of life.

For my part, I knew that I simply didn't want an absurdly high-stress, high-pressure lifestyle. I made this decision very consciously when I graduated from university. I wanted to live on my own. I wanted to have time to do what is important to me. I hate travelling, so I wanted to stay put. And I wanted to have the means and the opportunity to be strong and fit. So when it came time to hunt for jobs, I looked specifically for jobs that would keep me in one place, that would pay reasonably well given my qualifications (which, let's not mess about, are considerable), and that would not require too much commuting.

There is one special problem that introverts have to face when it comes to money. Our desire to be alone means that living with someone else is difficult- pretty much impossible, in my case. I had flatmates in my last two years at uni and I have exactly zero desire to repeat that experience. This means that our single biggest expenditure will always be rent. I'm not saying that EVERY deep introvert should therefore seek to live with a roommate until he can afford to buy a place of his own, I'm just saying that you need to understand yourself and your hierarchy of needs first. Otherwise, nothing I'm going to tell you will make sense or even matter until you know this.

Debt is the Game-Killer

If nothing else I write today sticks with you, make sure you remember this: debt is your enemy. Never, ever, EVER, for ANY REASON other than purchasing a house, go into debt- and even then I would recommend waiting until you can buy a house outright, if possible. If you cannot afford to pay for it right now, with cash on hand, YOU DO NOT DESERVE IT AND YOU WILL NOT BUY IT. It is that simple. It is the guiding star by which I have lived my life thus far, and it has served me very well indeed.

I will readily admit that this is not easy advice to follow- especially if you have student loans to pay off. I did not, because like most Asian families my parents paid for my education. It is among the many precious gifts that they gave me, and I am deeply grateful to them for it. But there's no question that I had a significant leg up over many of my peers because I had zero debt upon graduation. That said, there have been many temptations thrown my way to take on debt, to finance a fancy lifestyle through credit cards and borrowing. I've turned down every single one, because as tempting as it might be to drive a flashy new car or eat at the nicest restaurants, I refuse to let anyone or anything else own me.

If you have debt right now, start paying it off. Right away. I don't care what kind of debt it is, it needs to go. As long as you are in debt, someone else owns you. The moment you are debt-free, no one has the slightest say in what you can or cannot do with your time, your money, and your life. Being debt-free is freedom. It is power. And it is the basis upon which you can build a financially secure future.

Let me anticipate one potential objection here. Going into debt does make sense in a country that follows an inflationary fiscal and/or monetary policy. This describes literally the entire developed world- every single such nation is either printing money, taxing-and-spending beyond its means, or both. When a nation appears to be sovereign debt default or hyperinflation, it makes sense to load up on debt because that debt will never be paid back in full. So says the theory, and insofar as it assumes that wages keep up with prices, it is correct.

The problem with this idea is that in the current environment of rising inflation and stagnant wages (I myself have not seen a wage increase in real terms in four years), you would be a fool to take on large amounts of debt if your income is not growing to match. On top of this, you have no way of knowing when the inevitable massive default comes- and come it will. Many a clever man has bankrupted himself attempting to time such a collapse. Simply understand that to be debt-free is to be in sovereign control of oneself and one's future.

Get the Basics Down

If you haven't disposed of all of your debt, stop reading right now, get off your computer, and start figuring out how to get rid of it. Your guiding principle must always be that your freedom comes first, and you deserve nothing until and unless you've earned that freedom. This means eliminating debt from your life, and if that means you have to make do and mend, then so be it. Nothing I'm going to write from now onward will be in any way relevant until and unless you get rid of the chains that bind you.


If, on the other hand, you are debt-free or very close to it, then the next thing you need to do is figure out how to live within your means, now and forever. That means that you need to do the following:
  • Get a handle on how much you're spending, by category. Budgeting software is available online for free and can help with this, but a spreadsheet will work just fine.
  • Set aside some income every month, either before or after tax (preferably before) to invest with. Investing specifics will be covered in another future post.
  • Ensure that you've got a "rainy day" fund of some sort, which should consist of enough money stashed away in a bank account somewhere to allow you to live for a minimum of three months should you lose your job.
  • Adopt a thrifty mindset wherever possible. Always ask yourself whether you really need to buy whatever flashy new toy is out there right now. This is, I admit, easier for some than others. In my case, I'm a really lazy bastard about a lot of things, especially shopping, so I will always take any excuse I can get away with to avoid spending money.
Working fer Da Man

What I've outlined above is merely enough to ensure that you will enjoy some minimum level of comfort given a certain constant income level. The more important question is, how do you increase that income?

There are different answers for different people. I'm a strong believer in the power of sheer cussed grit and hard work. My sister, who is much more street-smart than I am, would rather find a way to get what she wants through other methods if possible- networking is her strength, resilience is mine. That said, there is a lot to be said for having an entrepreneurial mindset.

Let's face it- having to work for someone else blows. You always have to deal with human stupidity and irrationality, but there is something about working for a big corporation that just sucks the life out of you. And I say this even though I work for a big bank and actually enjoy my job, and get paid good money to do what I do. One lesson I've learned, though, is that no matter what you do, whether you work for someone else or strike out on your own, there is absolutely no substitute for an entrepreneurial, independent, free-thinking spirit. And it is the only way you will progress from merely getting paid every two weeks (or every month) and actually getting what you want.

By "free-thinking spirit", I mean someone who isn't just content to come in and do a job and then leave. I'm talking about someone who sees a problem and has the attitude and the self-belief to say, "this won't do", and then goes in and fixes it. I mean someone who's willing to stand up for what he believes in, who isn't satisfied with just doing things that way because "that's how it's always been done", who is up for a challenge and who isn't afraid of competition. These are very rare traits in the workforce, particularly in big corporations where the best way to guarantee your own safety is to be as average as possible.

The good news is that if you maintain this attitude, you will develop strong self-belief, independence of thought and action, and an enviable work ethic. There is no magic bullet, no shortcut, to making money and being wealthy. It comes about through grit, determination, and hard work in service of a good idea. If you strike out on your own and set up your own business- and I highly recommend that you do- then you will already be well ahead of the majority of people who start up their own businesses, provided that you know exactly what it is that you want to do. If you stay a corporate drone, you'll still be light-years ahead of all of the other drones because you are willing to fix things, while everyone else is not.

Comments

  1. Great post. I have been trying to live like an extrovert for years and it has worn me out. I am at the point i would rather live in my car then share a house again. I am working on working for myself eventually but until then i need to work for d a man...and is it tiring...by the end of the day i have no energy for game.

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    1. I have been trying to live like an extrovert for years and it has worn me out. I am at the point i would rather live in my car then share a house again.

      Indeed. I was very lucky in a lot of ways in that I found a job that gave me the means and the opportunity to live alone, but there's no question that for people like us, we absolutely need space. Without it, we cease to function. I strongly recommend that you do whatever it takes to live by yourself if at all possible. The peace of mind and the comfort that comes with it is worth the cost.

      by the end of the day i have no energy for game.

      I suffer from the same issue. Stay tuned, I'll be posting about this shortly, particularly in the New Year. I'm working on sorting out this aspect of my life and will be sharing details.

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