How Do You Guys Do It? Part I

We're so rich, we can hire people to portray us in our featured photos.

We’re so rich, we can hire people to portray us in our featured photos.


We try to keep things nice and impersonal on here, for several reasons. The primary one is that it’s 2013, and a resourceful person with patience and a vendetta can find out more about you than you might be comfortable disclosing, so why make it easier for them?

But without sharing too much with you, we’ve managed to position ourselves so that we don’t have to work. And believe us, we don’t. At least not at conventional jobs with a boss, and a workplace, and a regular schedule, and a break room (“This yogurt is Michelle’s. Please do not touch”), and a sexual harassment policy and an annual employee picnic. We can live off our passive income, and have no desire to go back to the real world. Those of you who have regular jobs and enjoy them, we might not understand you, but we salute you. Thanks for keeping our gross domestic product high.

We wouldn’t give up this lifestyle for anything. We get to travel extensively, live in a nice house, drive serviceable if not ostentatious cars, and never have to worry about creditors taking any of it away. So how do we do it?

That’s easy: we sponge off the government!

Kidding. Sure, there was some serendipity along the way, but the vast majority of our success can be credited to not doing stupid things. We could write a book (heck, we did) about all the stupid things you could build wealth by avoiding. Here are a few of the biggest culprits in this, the inaugural post in an irregular series:

Tobacco, alcohol, drugs. As best we can tell, the median price of a deck of smokes is around $7. We’re not going to do the math for you, as any idiot can multiply $7 by 365, but the good news for those of you who are scarfing down a pack a day is that you’re probably keeping the weight off. No wait, on further examination a lot of you are fat. Also, any weight you’re failing to gain is that of healthy pink lung tissue, and why would you want to cultivate that?

A “gram” of pot costs $15 to $20, given that your dealer probably isn’t arranging it on a scale calibrated in grams, nor operating under the purview of your state’s Bureau of Weights and Measures. That’ll get you one or two joints, but hey, none of you are serious pot smokers, right? Just once in a while, just to get a good buzz, I hardly ever smoke, only when there’s no beer around, it’s better for you than alcohol you know, etc.

So yeah. If you can put it in your mouth and emits smoke, it’s keeping you from being as rich as you’d otherwise be. Pointing that out hardly counts as thought.

Okay, fine. But you expect me to give up alcohol, too? That’s crazy talk.

We don’t “expect” you to give up anything. We wrote about this on Money Funk a couple years back and the commenters told us we were being judgmental, which is ludicrous. As if pointing out that alcohol purveyors expect money in exchange for their sweet brown liquids is somehow heresy.

The major booze trade organization’s own estimates say it’s close to a $400 billion industry. Divide that into the number of people who live in the United States (subtracting the kids and the people on dialysis, of course) and then try to determine which side of average your own alcohol expenses are on.

The catcalls are starting already, we can hear them. Fine, you need it to relax. Some of us don’t. You can’t imagine being in a social setting and not drinking. We don’t dispute that, but some of us have broader imaginations.

You know what’s funny? Even The Cheapest Man on the Planet, the guy who would rather do indoor craft projects 30 nights in a row with construction paper he dug out of his neighbor’s garbage than go to a movie once a month, can’t bring himself to say that drinking is about as unnecessary as expenses get. And it’s not as if our hero is some socially well-adjusted extrovert, either.

Education. “The Greatest Investment You Can Make”. An utter lie, and maybe the more we repeat this the faster it’ll sink in. Why is it a lie? Because formal college education is not uniform. Here’s where people love to cite studies showing that people with bachelor’s degrees earn more than high school dropouts, and people with advanced degrees earn more still.

Amassing college credits, without respect to what subject they’re in, is like consuming calories without respect to what food they’re coming from. That Bachelor of Arts in comparative literature will benefit you even less than eating a diet consisting exclusively of chocolate will. At least the chocolate doesn’t have to be financed to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, nor does it take 4 years to eat.

The arts in general: bad, at least financially speaking. (Last we checked, while several universities promise significant non-financial rewards, their admissions offices still expect payment in legal tender.) Math and science: good. Marvel at the works of Degas and Milton all you want, but if you must, don’t spend years and (borrowed) money for the privilege. Because it’s not a privilege, it’s an expense.

That doesn’t mean you’ll be ready to take on the world with a high school diploma. You probably won’t. But you can learn a marketable, worthwhile trade without committing huge money nor huge time to the endeavor. Those studies referenced above? For some reason, they never specifically compare liberal arts graduates to steelworkers or machinists. To some effete people, there’s a stigma to working with your hands. To us, there’s a stigma to incurring pointless debt that you’ll take decades to pay off. Ceteris paribus, the $52,000-a-year electrician with a contractor’s license is a better human being than the $30,000-a-year retail clerk who can parse Noam Chomsky’s theory of universal grammar.

That wasn’t so hard, was it? None of that stuff is painful, or even inconvenient. It’s not like we’re telling you to go without sleeping or shaving. But it’s a start. More next time.

The 22nd Through 24th Ways Rich People Think Differently

One downside to being rich is that you don’t get to decorate your cubicle in fun and exciting ways that highlight your personality.


Saw this on Yahoo! Finance. It’s a 21-point summary of a book titled How Rich People Think. The consensus seems to be that the book is mediocre, but the summary was solid. Points included stuff like

Average people live beyond their means. Rich people live below theirs.

Average people believe the markets are driven by logic and strategy. Rich people know they’re driven by emotion and greed.

Average people teach their children how to survive. Rich people teach their kids to get rich.

All of which are indubitable, and which inspired us to add to the list.


Rich people quantify, average people aren’t “all about numbers”.

You want to take the one most beneficial step towards improving your financial situation, regardless of how good or bad a place you’re in right now?

Figure out your net worth. Add up everything you own, even including your house if it makes you feel better. Don’t use the sale price, use the current value. Go to Zillow if you don’t know where to start. Don’t forget to subtract your mortgage balance. Oh, that makes it negative? Sorry about that.

Add your 401(k) or IRA balance. It’ll take you 10 minutes to figure this out. You should have an account number and a login somewhere. We’d tell you to subtract your credit card balances, but we’re assuming you’re not so dumb that you’re carrying any.

That’s your net worth. A rich person knows his or hers within a few percentage points, instead of dreading the bills that are going to come in tomorrow’s mail. Here’s one of the stupidest lines we’ve ever featured in our weekly Carnival of Wealth, which itself is often a paean to stupidity. This is verbatim from a submitter, plus the ((sic)):

The Debt

Erika Amex: $285.67
Citi Card: $2,128.41
Student Loan #1: $9,101.51
Student Loan #2: $11,432.70
Student Loan #3: $2,050.00

So apparently there is a third student loan (0% interest) that I completely forgot about it (sic) until I was sent a bill in the mail. Great.

Average people get willfully blindsided like this all the time. Rich people don’t “forgot about” $2,050 debts. They know what they owe, and when they’re supposed to pay it by.

Yeah, whatever. Rich people don’t have debts.

Which brings us to another point:


Rich people leverage, average people make do with what they’ve got.

Rich people have plenty of debts. To some extent the richer you are, the more you’ll borrow. If this sounds counterintuitive, you might be average.

Rich people borrow money, at known and stated interest rates, with the intention of earning returns that outpace what they’re borrowing said money at. The prospective dry cleaner who borrows $500,000 at 6% is now on the hook for $30,000 a year. But now he can buy machines and a storefront. He can sell his wares – or in this case, his services. He can take money from customers, who will pay that $30,000-a-year loan for him and do it gladly if he returns their clothes sufficiently gleaming. Maybe he’ll even be able to pay the loan back early, allowing himself to borrow even more, at lower rates, which he can then use to finance bigger operations with.

Or he could get a job working for someone else, and save as much of his pitiful salary as possible.

It’s like people who pride themselves on paying cash for a house, but don’t tell you how long it took them or where they were living in the meantime. If you have to save for 30 years to buy a house, 30 years during which you paid rent to some other homeowner, that’s hardly anything to be proud of.

Most rich people are not born that way. Really, they aren’t, despite what the more reactionary folks on the left side of the political spectrum believe. The Cox family heiresses are outnumbered by the successful entrepreneurs who understood this fundamental principle of leverage. Ultimately, that’s far more important than an inheritance.


Rich people learn from mistakes, average people dwell on them.  

Everybody fails. You’re probably somewhat familiar with the following story, but it illustrates the point:

Apple. The largest corporation in the world and one of its most respected. 5 short years after it went public, the board of directors tossed out the company’s primary founder and visionary. The board sided with the CEO whom Steve Jobs had hired, over Jobs.

12 years and 3 CEOs later, Jobs came back, and every home run since has been well-documented. Here’s what a rich person would have learned in that interim:

  • I can still create imaginative products, but I need to spend more judiciously.
  • Instead of suing my biggest competitor (Microsoft), maybe we can cooperate and both get even richer. Heck, I’d even be willing to sell them a non-voting chunk of the company.
  • Our designs are a little different than most. Let’s make them vastly different, and brand ourselves in a way that Dell or Hewlett-Packard can’t imagine.
  • We’ve got to stop cannibalizing our own products. In fact, what if we were to make minor changes to them on a regular basis, and sell them to the same people again and again?
  • Being a computer manufacturer is swell, if limiting. Why can’t we be a retail outlet? A phone company? A music store?

Here’s what an average person would have learned in the interim, if you’ll suspend disbelief for a second and assume that an average person could have built Apple in the first place:

  • This sucks. Ungrateful bastards.
  • Who are they to treat me like this?
  • Damn, I never should have created the Lisa. Damn. Damn. Damn.
  • I wonder if Microsoft would hire me. Maybe I could be a department head there. Gates will rub his hands with glee, but I really need a job.

Ways 25 through 27 on Friday.

Why You Should Read Our Archives

"More money, more headaches." Go away.


Because most personal finance sites are garbage. One popular one is written by a 32-year old guy who admits to being 40 pounds overweight, yet gives diet and exercise advice.

Another of our favorites (damn, we wish we could link to these) is written by a guy who displays his negative net worth on his site. He lives in a rental house, is busy trying to have additional kids he can’t afford, and loves to tell people where they can cut corners in their own lives.

It’s like the blogs written by mothers who dispense advice on how to raise children, even though their own children are only 5 and 3 years old and the blogs themselves consist largely of pumpkin spice latte recipes and craft projects. (Okay, here’s a link.) If someone’s going to dispense “mom advice”, shouldn’t it be a mother who’s actually performed the fundamental task of motherhood: turning kids into productive and responsible adults?

These other sites have nothing to do with their ostensible topic of concern, be it personal finance or motherhood. They’re about sharing stories, baring souls, and finding love and acceptance among like-minded commenters who use exclamation points injudiciously. (Excellent post!! Great job short-selling your house!!!)

What makes Control Your Cash different is that we’re coming from a position of knowledge. Not necessarily intelligence, just knowledge. We know what works and what doesn’t, through plenty of real-world trial, error, and common sense, and we’re willing to share our findings with anyone who can read. We’ve lived hand-to-mouth, figured out that we didn’t like it, and learned how to build wealth instead. (Hint: it had nothing to do with reducing our energy consumption or renegotiating student loans that we shouldn’t have taken out in the first place.)

If you want to build wealth, buy assets and sell liabilities. Heck, our entire site could be reduced to those 4 words and you’d still learn more here than you would most other places.

If you don’t know what an asset is, it’s something that helps you build wealth. A liability, as we define it, does the opposite. That doesn’t mean to live under a bridge, eat at soup kitchens, and put every penny you earn into Apple stock. It means to live your life dynamically, acknowledging that certain expenditures can’t increase your wealth (although they might increase your non-monetary quality of life), while others can.

We live in a big, wonderful, abundant world, whose potential we as a species have barely tapped. Our planet consists of the same raw materials it had 4000 years ago, when we were living in mud huts, never traveling farther than we could walk, and having all our teeth fall out as a matter of course. Forced personal conservation is the very opposite of the mindset that got us to where we are today. You know, a place where we have exponentially more knowledge at our fingertips than even our parents did – essentially free of charge, no less. Where you can travel across the world for a few days’ wages. Where diarrhea is a mild inconvenience, rather than a childhood death sentence.

Sorry to go Anthony Robbins on you, but hear us out. Living for the express purpose of spending as little money as possible is barely living.

Stop preoccupying yourself with combining multiple errands into one trip and only shopping on double-coupon Wednesdays. Instead, examine what’s in your 401(k). Track its value over the course of a few months and figure out whether you can do better yourself. Take an hour to understand how the whole thing works. Read financial statements of publicly traded companies and buy undervalued stocks instead of complaining. Start your own business, and spend a few hundred now to save tens of thousands down the road. Implement 100% painless changes that will only positively impact your life, and save you real money in the process.

Instead of an emergency fund that isn’t intended to grow, take a calculated risk and put that money in an investment. Leverage it in real estate. Even the cheapest functionally sound home you can find can attract a tenant who’ll make your mortgage payments for you and let you enjoy tax benefits that non-landlords don’t even know about.

There are a million ways to reduce costs. Just ask the sages who think that it’s worth it to encourage you to waste time making your own detergent. Or inconveniencing yourself by turning off the air conditioning and fanning yourself instead. Or our favorite, improving your gas mileage via

pulling out (your) car’s seats (except the driver’s!), ash trays (sic), speakers, radio, sound deadening material, interior trim “and anything else not integral to the vehicle’s driving ability.”

(That can’t be true, right? That has to be a goof. Someone posited that, as ridiculous as it sounds, in the hopes that someone else would post it and a gullible tertiary party, we, would cite it.)

However, as many ways as there are to reduce costs, there are at least as many ways to increase revenue. To concern yourself with the left side of the ledger, rather than preoccupying yourself with the right side.

Are you playing to win, or to avoid defeat?

**This article is featured in the Baby Boomers Blog Carnival One Hundred-seventeenth Edition**

**This article is featured in the Carnival of Financial Camaraderie #7**