02 Feb 2023 No Such Thing As Easy Money
It seems to me that the most devastating, most commonly sold lie in finance is that something can be got for nothing. That the hard work can be skipped, that the process can be short-circuited, that no-pain can in fact lead to solid gains.
This is an ancient error. I’m sure when we were hunter-gatherers there was always some guy sitting at home by the fire wasting time with a new incantation to attract deer rather than simply grabbing his rudimentary weapon and going out to look for one, or at least working to make his weapon somewhat less rudimentary. But in the 21st century we have figured out all sorts of shiny, new, absurd ways of committing the error over and over again.
Exhibit A: It is easy to pick on the vast majority of crypto projects right now, due to the fact that they continue to be proven as nothing more than blatant Ponzi schemes and massive frauds, built on the lie that something can be got for nothing. All the promised use cases of crypto (use, as in useful) continue to be deferred, and in their place we got Dogecoins, NFTs, fraudulent exchanges, Bitcoin being the opposite of an inflation hedge, and glorified multi-level marketing shams. If you buy home cleaning products from a friend at least you have something to show for it.
Let’s be honest, though. It’s just as easy to commit the something-for-nothing error with real currency, and none of us are immune to the siren song:
- It’s easy to want a certain lifestyle without the income necessary to pay for it.
- It’s easy to feel entitled to a level of retirement without doing the saving necessary to fund it.
- It’s easy to want market returns without market risks.
- It’s easy to talk about causes we care about (and feel good about the talking) without actually giving generously to them.
At the end of the day, your finances are a lot like other areas of your life: priorities and practice are the only things that really matter, and they are inextricably linked. Sometimes, for example, your priority of getting a couple of hours of moderate exercise each week will be enough to get you to the gym for the practice of running, but other times you don’t want to go to the gym at all and the only thing that gets you there is the habitual practice itself.
It’s the same with your money. You have all sorts of priorities, some of which—like your current vs. your future lifestyle—appear to be in direct competition with each other, and each priority has an attending set of practices and habits that are absolutely essential. Sometimes the priorities lead, and sometimes the practices lead. The important thing is to 1) Make sure you are prioritizing the “right” things (I.e., matching your lived priorities with your values), and 2) Practice habits that will consistently support the priorities.
Look, if it were easy, everybody would be doing it. But for those who are ready to put in the work and realize they need some guidance, that’s what we’re here for. There’s no such thing as easy money, but there are endless ways to make money meaningful.