Unmasking the Villain Behind Your Debt
It’s time to introduce a new character in the Money Games: The Collector. The Collector is the villain, outfitted in dark, mirroring sunglasses and a suit with diamond cufflinks. He constantly foils our efforts to be heroic in our own lives by dishing out punishment with things like ultra-high interest loans, especially if we find ourselves in a weakened position, hanging off the edge of a financial cliff.
The Collector uses this advantage to punish others, silences the needy, and will track you to the ends of the earth with his bounty hunters if you make one mistake. After catching you, The Collector stacks his loot on a table and adds it up, sometimes taking a break to smoke a cigar and swivel in his high-backed chair, laughing maniacally.
To show the power this villain has over the average household, I’ve illustrated with colorful coins how The Collector uses ownership to win the Money Games.
In the graphic on the left side, we have 100 coins which represent how each dollar of financial responsibilities for the average American adds up (other developed countries are similar). I’ve approximated based on Federal Reserve data.
The gold coins are ownership in cash or investments that generate income and create value. We only have 5 of those. The 20 silver coins are the paid off portion of our house (equity) that can’t generate income, so those are frozen (illiquid) until we sell it. The 75 red coins are debts which destroy value and drag us down, because we have to pay The Collector to hold those.
But wait; there is a catch to this Money Game! Our red coins are actually gold coins for The Collector, because The Collector makes money off of us with them. The Collector ended up with 75 gold coins and no red coins, because when we bought all this stuff, we didn’t have enough gold coins to pay for them. In their place, we accepted what was inside the Trojan Horse – the red coins from The Collector.
We promised to give the gold coins we receive from our paychecks every month to replace them. Every month, The Collector stops by to make sure he can collect enough to throw parties on his private yacht on the weekends.
You can pay off your house with the gold coins, but that turns the red coins to silver coins that are frozen and can’t create value. Like a house, all the silver coins can ever be is what they are worth on the market; they can’t generate income.
Next is the most devious trick of all. After The Collector gives the red coins to you, the red coins start breeding while you’re not looking and multiply like money-eating rabbits, even while you’re trying to get rid of them. Then they multiply even faster if you don’t give him the gold coins you promised. The Collector’s trick is that in the Money Games, when the red coins multiply for you, The Collector’s gold coins equally multiply for him.
So you have to play a Money Game where you zap the evil red coins that breed the fastest (highest interest rate). You want them eradicated first so they don’t completely take over to the point where you can’t make gold coins fast enough to get rid of them. Otherwise you’ll find yourself buried in breeding red coins and you won’t be able to move, like a bad horror movie about coins attacking people.
You can only zap your red coins away with gold coins. Accepting more Trojan Horses with red coins inside when you already have too many and throwing gold coins away when you most need them are both classic mistakes in this game. The Collector sees these and drums his fingers together with devious satisfaction.
Now you can more easily see what I did when I sold my house. I converted my silver coins to gold coins to unfreeze them, then used my new gold coins to destroy the last of the red coins. If later on I decide to buy a house entirely in gold coins, they will turn to silver and freeze again, or I can continue renting and avoid frozen silver coins entirely.
Do these coins have magical properties, in my illustration? Even though it seems that way, this is actually the way they behave in your bank accounts in real life.
Ever watch Shark Tank? The sharks are in this position as venture capitalists, giving out red coins to entrepreneurs in exchange for the entrepreneur’s gold coins. They have an advantage in the Money Games because they have a huge pile of gold coins, but most of them started with a few, like most of us.
If you play the game correctly, you’ll find that your situation looks just like The Collector on the right side of the graphic, with nothing but gold coins (and some silver coins if you’ve paid off your house). Now you have the power to give red coins to the markets, which are gold coins for you.
There is a fine line in how you use this advantage. Will you become The Collector? Or will you become The Benefactor, using the advantage to support causes and better the world? The Benefactor wears white, flowing, luminescent robes that shimmer with good intentions. She doesn’t smoke cigars or laugh maniacally, but tries to save those being chased by The Collector’s bounty hunters.
One of my favorite entrepreneurial stories is John Paul Dejoria. Ever heard of the Paul Mitchell company? I’ve used his hair goo before. As one of the founders, he ended up homeless and living in his car when one of his original backers didn’t come through with a crucial startup investment.
However, Paul pushed forward with building a value-creating company, which became enormously successful. He took another chance nine years later and invested in another new company (just an idea at the time) and named it Patrón, now a household name for the tequila drinkers and rappers among us.
He has never forgotten his humble beginnings and is now also recognized through his philanthropic work as one of the billionaires who have signed the Giving Pledge – to give at least half of his wealth to charity.
Some billionaires have committed even more. Warren Buffett signed the Giving Pledge and has committed to give away 99% of his wealth. He points out that compared to most people who sacrifice their livelihood for charity, his is a comparatively small price to pay.
Remember this when you start winning the Money Games. Some people start winning The Money Games and instead of using their power to become a hero, turn into The Collector as a villain. Anyone who wins these games chooses to be a hero or a villain. It’s all in how you play.
How do we get more gold coins? My next article will give you a good place to start.
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