The Rules of Money, Part 1

It may surprise you to learn that I did not have a happy school experience.

Then again, it might not surprise you at all. I was an autistic boy subjected to a system that was not designed to accommodate me. Granted, the American education system antagonizes most students, and the problems stem from the system’s foundational design. But I found myself particularly isolated. Frequently, it felt like the only point of the system was to punish me for existing.

“But you have to do it,” was the perennial reply from parents, teachers, and school administrators. Regardless of how painful or pointless it seemed, no other options could be entertained. To fail at school, they told me, was to fail at life. Toughing it out and making the grade was the only way in the world to survive. Why?

Because money.

The World’s Hardest Problem

The logic behind the no-compromise stance on schooling pushed by every echelon of society boiled down to the following bullet points:

  • Making money is the hardest problem known to man.
  • To give students the barest glimmer of a chance to solve this unsolvable problem, they must dedicate between twelve and twenty years of their lives to studying the problem, examining it from every angle, and have this activity be the most central endeavor of their lives during their precious formative years.
  • Even with this twelve-to-twenty year commitment, the student may still fail to crack the problem of how to make money. They will certainly fail without the education, yet the education brings with it no guarantees.
  • But the student must assume this risk, because unless they solve the unsolvable problem of money, their lives will develop into a horrific sequence of suffering and destitution.

Thus, I was out of luck. As unhappy as school made me, it was the only thing that could save me from becoming homeless, drug addicted, suicidal, and enslaved/exploited by cruel and faceless corporations. So, in reality, the unrelenting teachers and school administrators who went out of their way to make me feel broken and unworthy were selfless angels who were only looking out for me. And the criticism leveled at them was the worst kind of ingratitude, proving that I required more stringent abuse disciplining.

It was all for my own good.

A Truer Reality

During my time in school, I didn’t have the tools to properly examine the narrative surrounding the necessity of schooling. The arguments in favor were presented as tautologies. The arguments against were never presented at all.

But what a blessing hindsight turned out to be. After stepping away from the conformist school environment, a few things became clear:

  • Plenty of people who endured the whole nine yards of the school system, graduating with full honors, still went on to become homeless, drug addicted, and suicidal.
  • The cruel and faceless corporations were more interested in enslaving/exploiting the people who had endured the entire school process. The only point of getting a college degree was to signal you as a potential “model employee” who would bear the shackles placed on him with a smile.
  • The most schooled of people were actually the least likely to solve the problem of how to make money.

And this last bullet struck a nerve. Wasn’t the who reason my peers had been subjected to school all that time solely for the purpose of solving this problem?

Come to think of it, when had the teachers actually taught us the most important lesson: how to actually make money? Had I been sick that day? Had all of us been sick that day? Because it seemed that not a one of us had ever been taught that lesson.

I could tell you when I had learned to diagram sentences, when I had learned the phylogeny of animal life, and when I learned differential calculus. But I cannot point to a single instance—in public school—where the teachers taught us how to make money.

How could that possibly be?

If You Want Something Done Right…

In high school, I had decided that my desired career path was to become a fiction writer.

And you had better believe that was not what the school pushers wanted to hear. “Wouldn’t you rather be someone’s full-time slave employee? Never having to worry about things like health insurance, or where your next paycheck is coming from?”

“We can’t let you throw your life away like that. You need to dedicate yourself to a more secure line of work, like teaching at a school or university! Just sign up for a masters program, followed by a doctorate, and you will finally have the level of education you need to be a success.”

And, in fairness to the school pushers, I got a lot of the same advice from professional writers.

“Don’t quit your day job,” is the refrain given by many an established author, looking to prevent young talent from wrecking their chances. And it comes from experience. Many hopeful writers, too confident of their own success, found out too late that publishing is a dog-eat-dog world. Many of them returned to the field of mass employment, tails tucked sadly between their legs.

I did end up entering a career field based on my education. I would play everyone else’s game. But I would do it with a dagger up my sleeve.

Since school had withheld from me the knowledge of how to make money, I had determined to obtain that knowledge on my own, no matter how long I had to search for it. And with it, I would construct a future where I would work as a full-time author without an employer.

I was not prepared for how little time that would take.

The Underwhelmingness of It All

Everything I did know about money, I learned outside of the public school system. In fact, I can count exactly three sources of all my money knowledge prior to my entering the workforce.

  1. A brief lecture from a seminary teacher about how credit card companies trap their victims clients by offering predatory “minimum” payments.
  2. Various statements from my own father about his investment endeavors over the years. These statements were made so idly that I doubt he realized he was teaching me anything, which was curious because he had made himself remarkably wealthy using these methods. You would think he’d make more of an effort to formally pass this knowledge along to every one of his children. Yet these were always informal lessons, constructed on the spur of a moment, and just as easily detoured into other subjects.
  3. The book Dave Barry’s Money Secrets, by Dave Barry.
Apart from being the funniest book ever written, it also serves as a functional primer for learning how money works, without ever taking a break from its satirical presentation.

And I assumed that these three things were, at most, a mere tenth of a percent of all the things I would have to know before I understood how to make money. After all, in my twelve years of public education, I had been told that investing was too complicated a subject to teach at the pre-collegiate level, and then college had convinced me that an undergraduate education would never suffice for such a difficult and intricate field of study. I was prepared to spend another twelve-to-twenty years studying on my own before I found my answers.

How long did it actually take me?

Maybe a semester’s worth of time, all said. Granted, I was only researching the problem casually, and not committing to it like I would with a college class. More than a year passed before I had all the knowledge I needed, but if I hadn’t taken my time, and so many breaks, it could have easily been distilled down to a single college semester.

It turns out that the three things I already knew easily brought me to 50% of where I needed to be. The rest I learned from Reddit forums and YouTube videos. A lot of those forums and videos were filled with bad information that doesn’t actually work, but the 50% foundation I already had gave me plenty of rules for sifting through the slush and discerning which claims were worth my time.

Not long after that, wealth followed. I stopped needing my day job, but held on to it for a few extra years (“You need health insurance!” was the excuse people kept giving me).

I Will Never Get the Lost Years Back

You might think that my good fortune would fill me with unmingled joy. Yet looking back, all I can wonder is why I wasted so much time letting other people make me so miserable.

I solved the problem of how to make money, no thanks to the schooling that was supposedly necessary for that purpose. And I did it by doing almost the exact opposite of what school told me to do. I’ll grant that a formal education in the art of making money would have been useful. That such was promised and then never delivered only makes the sting that much worse.

Why couldn’t those years of schooling been dedicated to teaching me something I actually needed help with? Making money turned out not to be a challenge, but there are highly difficult problems that my years of education could have been dedicated to solving.

If, for example, the schooling had tried to solve the problem of “how to create and sustain meaningful human relationships”, I would have considered that time well spent. And public schools could easily teach such lessons without sacrificing their primary purpose as government-funded daycare centers.

I wonder if anyone will be held accountable for leading millions of American students astray. I wonder if there’s even an appetite for it.

The Rules of Money

Money is easy. Money has rules.

This fact makes money different from people. People don’t have rules. You can do absolutely everything right to people only to get rejected and hated by them.

Money is different. Money is consistent. If you obey the rules of money, you get more money. It’s not a problem to be solved, it’s a game to be played. And the game is deliberately set up to be winnable so long as you know the rules.

What are these rules? Click here to read part 2 of this article!

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