Studies of Life

Learning by doing.

Stop investing for a minute, and just breathe.

27 January 2014 by Jim

I have already written a lot about investing, in both the stock market and peer to peer lending providers. The entire ‘civilised’ world is only about making money in whatever way possible. Investing itself is a way to get rich that is, quite frankly, without direct benefit to society as a whole. You’re not providing any service to anyone when you invest, you’re just taking money from other, less savvy investors, and putting it into your own pocket. Or, in the case of P2P lending, you’re taking money from people who are not able, because of their financial and / or mental resources, to invest in the same way that you do. Profits from investing are, quite frankly, obscene.

Once you have 1 million EUR to invest, getting 5% per year – 50.000 EUR – is entirely possible with even the most basic investment skills. Try earning that amount in a year with manual labour, and you’ll see how unfair the system really is.

All the more reason to pay your taxes on your investment returns, so that at least some of your wonderful income (that you didn’t earn, no matter what your broker tells you) is redistributed to those who are less lucky / mentally able.

After having spilled so much digital ink on how to grow your personal stock of money, let me try to impart some – admittedly humble – advice on whoever is reading this.

It’s nice to make money. But don’t get too caught up in it.

A friend of mine, anti-capitalist, anti-consumerism, anti-everything (almost), while being from one of the top three richest countries of the world, chose to live on the street for some time, sleeping in dirty sleeping bags in public parks, or on benches, with friends, on old sofas, flying to Canada to roam the country without a clear plan of where she was headed or what she was going to do or even where to get her food from.

While I do not know if it is desirable for any person to live in that way their entire lives, I cannot help but phantasise about it sometimes. It’s an endearing though: leaving behind your obligations, your worries, your attachments, and just walking around, free as a bird.

I admire her for vagabonding.

And everytime I leave for a bit of solo-vagabonding through a foreign country like Brazil, Finland or L.A. (yes, according to my once swollen feet and burnt nose, L.A.’s size does make it a country) I recognise some of that wilderness and freedom in myself, and even if it’s just for one or two weeks, I deeply enjoy these soul-searching moments.

It helps to be single as well, to not have any real attachments, and I intend to keep it that way.

Why is this important enough to write about, you may ask. Well, if you get too used to running on your hedonic treadmill, chasing pay rise after pay rise or ever increasing investment returns just to have more and more money, each additional 100 EUR bill you will earn will mean less and less to you, because you get used to wealth, just as you get used to everything else that is good or bad. At that point, you are still running on that treadmill, but the reward is less and less potent for you. For George Soros, a 100 EUR bill is an entirely different thing than it is for a small, starving boy in Nigeria. Increasing the social benefit of our wealth, in developed countries where we have the opportunities that we do, means sharing that wealth, and not just accumulating more and more for some perverse numerical fetish. If you have 10 million to leave to your children, believe me, their lives will not necessarily be richer for it. They might very well be poorer, because they will never know how wonderful a 100 EUR bill can look to you if you’ve worked hard for it.

Also, don’t loose too much time investing in or earning money, do not let it take over your life, because time is the only real currency, not EUR or USD. It is far more universal, far more precious, and far more powerful.

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