The Old, Sensible Ways of Building Wealth Are Dead
Now you have to gamble.
By: Jessica Wildfire
One of my uncles attempted suicide after losing his savings on a bad stock tip. Another one ruined his career by trying to become an independent stockbroker, losing other people’s fortunes. I have also got an uncle who spent most of his life barely above poverty, working as a truck driver to raise three kids. He managed to beat cancer, but it bankrupted him.
My fourth uncle became a millionaire.
Here is how he did it:
- Worked one job for 40 years.
- Never got married.
- Never had kids.
- Never went out.
- Lived with his parents his entire life.
- Inherited their wealth.
Now my uncle lives alone on a hundred acres of family land, which they have held onto for generations. He spends his time photographing deer and collecting guns. I guess that is his dream. Lately it feels like the only one left. The alternative is staking every penny you own on dogecoin and becoming a millionaire overnight.
We are out of conventional paths to wealth.
Thirty or forty years ago, all you had to do was get a job and not screw it up. You invested in stocks, or you had a cushy 401K from your employer. If you were lucky, you inherited a home or some savings bonds from your parents, and that stabilized your retirement plan.
None of that works now.
Inflation is gobbling up our spending power. Housing prices are soaring, and not because of a bubble this time. Lumber costs are going up, and it is raising home prices by as much as 15 percent. That number’s going to keep surging, according to experts.
Meanwhile, people are moving out of mega cities like New York and San Francisco and scattering across the suburbs.
Returns on stock investments are shrinking, and wages remain flat. We cannot even get democrats to rally behind a simple minimum wage increase. All of this has further crippled millennials, and it is doing the same thing to Gen Z as they try to enter the work force during a pandemic.
All that leads to one inescapable conclusion: There are fewer paths to financial independence than ever. You either must get incredibly lucky, or you have to resign yourself to a decade or more living with your parents. You must delay all of life’s major milestones, like buying a home or starting a family — assuming you don’t forego them altogether.
You have to be my fourth uncle.
We are desperate to escape.
Dogecoin recently minted a fresh batch of overnight millionaires, after Elon Musk officially embraced it as “the people’s crypto.” This comes after months of speculation on meme stocks.
People are celebrating.
They should not.
More first-time investors are entering the market this year, but they are not doing it because they finally have the money. They are doing it out of mania, and fear of missing out
Basically, being richer means you have more flexibility in how you distribute your wealth. They can afford to lose more, so they invest more. It gives them a gigantic advantage over us little people.
Sure, the rise of meme stocks is great for the handful of people who lucked into fortunes. They will not have to worry so much about the future anymore. They have found their escape from the rat race. They just might be able to keep their heads above water, literally, as sea levels rise and climate change renders vast swaths of the planet uninhabitable.
The rest of us are still looking for our escape, and that is the problem. We are not trying to fix the system. Apparently, we think it is broken beyond repair. So now we are just trying to get out. We will do anything. We will pour our life savings into a joke currency and cross our fingers. (No, maybe not you personally, but this is how millions of people think.)
Meanwhile, the billionaire-influencer crowd continues promoting unrealistic formulas for generating wealth. They are usually in their mid-20s, from well-to-do families, and simply haven’t seen the curve balls life can throw at someone. They are not interested in building a fairer world through civic action. They are trying to convince everyone they can opt out. And so here we are, a society that is largely concerned with getting rich so they can defect from the economy. This trend is not helping.
It is making things worse.
Sensible investment advice does not work.
The stock market and crypto economy are both rigged games that reward aggressive, risk-taking behavior. This is why women and ethnic minorities have largely missed out. It’s not because they’re bad with money, it’s because they’re prudent. Unfortunately, our culture does not reward prudence anymore. It rewards reckless greed.
Every piece of investment advice out there tells us to be sensible. They say, “Only invest what you can afford to lose.”
Let’s face it, that’s bullshit.
For the vast majority of us, the only way to make investment in stocks and cryptocurrency remotely worthwhile is to go all in. Buying a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars’ worth of stock or crypto isn’t going to change anyone’s life. The rich dudes at the top know it. The returns are too small. They tell us to be sensible, to cover their ass, but they push success narratives that encourage wild speculation.
It’s almost planned.
They are simply after our little bit of disposable income. They want us to buy the dips, because it generates revenue for them and helps stabilize asset values. Meanwhile, they will manipulate markets and throttle prices so they can “take profits.” It is what they’ve done the entire time.
The people who talk about “diamond hands” either do not know how speculation works — or they don’t want to admit it. All they are doing is tossing a hot potato back and forth. Of course, they want you to have diamond hands. The more people who bet on an asset to drive up the price, the higher it goes, until they decide to cash out.
That is how most assets work. The only value they ever truly have is a prediction of future value.
Sensible investors are priced out of volatile assets.
So, guess how much money the average person has to invest now, if they follow sensible investing advice…
This number does not include zoomer grads from ivy league schools currently running side hustles while living with their parents. It also does not include single, childless bros who run lifestyle vlogs. They might have money to blow on bubbles, and they are not exactly average.
Despite having a PhD and a tenure-track job, and running a successful blog for a few years now, I am still in the 60th percentile.
Here is my bitcoin story:
Back in 2017, I was tempted to invest in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, but I did not have any disposable income. Like millions of other millennials, I was mired in student loan debt. I climbed out of debt by working hard and saving money. By then, I had more than enough money to invest in bitcoin — except the price of bitcoin had gone to $20,000.
So, I was back to square one.
I could either invest in a fraction of bitcoin and see small and almost insignificant returns, or I could do something reckless that would change my life forever. And that is the choice every investor faces now, whether we want to be honest about it or not.
We are celebrating the wrong thing.
Occasionally, a handful of people get lucky. They make millions and wind up on the cover of Newsweek. Their success undermines sensible investment advice while perpetuating the myth of the overnight millionaire, the idea that anyone can get rich if they just recklessly sink all their cash into one hail-mary investment and wait for a miracle.
Millions of Americans see that, and then they try to replicate the success. Maybe they know it is too late to get in on Dogecoin, so they go looking for one of a hundred other wealth schemes. Maybe it’s a cryptocurrency, or maybe it’s a startup that promises huge returns on an early investment. Either way, millions of people get taken for a ride.
They lose everything.
They wind up like my one uncle, or my other uncle.
Some readers accuse me of focusing my critique on billionaires and influencers, when I should be putting the blame on the millions of naive saps out there who keep falling for the same tricks.
Here is the thing, those “saps” don’t know any better. Most of them did not get a great education in economics or math. They grew up in under-funded school districts. The most hardcore crypto enthusiast I have ever met happens to be a cousin, and he didn’t even know what a galaxy was until I explained it to him last year. That is an extreme, but it’s a good example of what happens when you don’t fund education and set people up for failure from childhood. They fail, and they become dependent on wealth schemes for salvation. Their ignorance is not pure chance, and it’s not their fault. It is the result of a calculated, long term strategy by the elites to produce a population of noncritical thinkers who do whatever they say.
It is working.
Billionaires like Elon Musk now enjoy a thriving mass of acolytes who practically worship them, plus a team of celebrity-influencer shepherds who sing their praises and keep everyone in line by constantly filling their heads with fantasies of wealth and fame. If half the world remains under the spell of overnight millionaire bedtime stories, they’ll never fight to change the system that makes such stories necessary.
So, I critique it all. I critique the rich and powerful. I critique the narratives that keep them in place, and the millions of ordinary people who keep buying into their own doom. It must stop.
Otherwise, we are screwed.
Here is your real “get rich” advice.
Unfortunately, there is not many ways left to make it into the top net worth brackets. It does not matter how hard you work, or how smart you are. It does not matter what you invest in.
You have one shot left: Move in with your parents. Work your ass off at different side hustles. Don’t get a 9–5 job. Don’t buy health insurance. Don’t get married or have kids. Take an uncomfortably large chunk of your earnings and gamble it on something Elon Musk tweets about, and hope he comes through for you. Meanwhile, pray you stay healthy.
That’s it. That’s how you get rich now.
We could wake up a little and stop reinforcing the myth of overnight millionaires, and start holding the archetypes of our current financial system accountable for their actions.
I know what I prefer.
By: Jessica Wildfire