The value of most assets you can own is a total lie.

Tim Denning
Image Credit: ThomasPiketty/FT Times

My thoughts about money have radically changed recently. One core idea has been at the heart of my financial transformation.

The value of most assets you can own is a total lie.

What do I mean? Real estate looks like it’s going up in value. Stock prices look like they’re going nuts and minting millionaires. Gold looks like it may make a return and help be the safe-haven asset again for tough times like recessions. Then Raoul Pal and Michael Saylor, two incredibly smart financial gurus, slapped me in the face through Youtube.

We’ve got it all wrong.

The value of an asset comes down to what you measure it in. When you measure value in U.S. dollars the whole world looks great and as though we’re returning to boom times. When you stop measuring everything in U.S. dollars your entire financial life changes. Or if you start measuring the value of assets against the Federal Reserves’ balance sheet (google it), or in gold/bitcoin, the financial mirage changes again.

We’re told inflation is the measure of a basket of consumer goods. What if inflation is the measure of asset prices?

Asset prices are all pumping. So either we’re all financial geniuses, or we should stop measuring value in a currency that can be printed out of thin air, acting as a form of tax.

Accumulate debt

Debt is great until interest rates go up. Debt is a psychological feeling. I feel like a prisoner doing a life sentence when I’m up to my eyeballs in debt. Debt creates stress. If you lose your job then the debt still has to be paid. If you go through illness or a heartbreaking life event, you can’t just say “screw it, I’m taking a year off.” Debt keeps you attached to the economic cow teat.

Get a job with a good bonus

A corporation can rob you of any incentives they promise you. A bonus is a promise. When you build your own money-making vehicle there’s nobody who can pretend to give you money and then change their mind.

I’ve made more money from investing my time in after-hour side hustles than I’ve ever made from a corporate bonus.

Get an investment property

After taxes, maintenance, damage, and whatever else, are you really better off? I feel like property spruikers leave out a lot of detail. Like you need a huge upfront deposit to even get into the real estate market.

Hands up who has $200k sloshing around their moderately priced apartment ready to give to a commission-hungry mongrel in a suit? Investment properties are overrated. Banks as bosses are a nightmare (take it from a career banker).

Lease a luxury car

Why would you buy a petrol car? Cars will be all electric in the not-too-distant future. Owning a luxury car that needs an expensive resource like petrol seems dumb. Then even if you do buy a new electric car, technology will devalue it because who wants an onscreen display in their car that becomes the equivalent of a Nokia flip phone in three years? Not me.

Trains give you time to think. Taking Uber allows you to sponge off someone else’s car.

The brand of your car is meaningless, too. A BMW and a Toyota are only different in terms of how much time you have to sacrifice to buy each one. Buy a car that robs you of less time.

Nobody cares about what piece of rectangular metal with four wheels you drive. They’re not burying the Lambo with you when you die. Remember that. And your children don’t want an out of date Lambo from their out of fashion parents when you’re no longer around.

The problem with luxury cars is you always have to have the newest one for it to help you live the lie.

Buy a house you can barely afford

You buy a house. You go to the upper limits of your budget because, well, everything is so damn expensive. You can barely afford it. Then the magic markets start to see rises in interest rates. Australia (where I live) just announced its first hike in interest rates.

Your home loan looks affordable until rates start going up. Then you realize you don’t have as much money left over. Then what do you do? Try to sell your home. So do others who’ve come to the same realization. This is what creates a 2008 property crash.

Purchase luxury designer goods to impress

Seriously, who cares what watch you own or what leather bag you carry your phone in? Nobody cares. Consumerism is a ridiculous idea. It’s a game where you’re supposed to look better than a person sitting next to you, so you can feel better about yourself.

What nobody tells you is if you make people feel better about themselves, you access superhuman powers that can help you find hidden opportunities wherever you go.

Trade your luxury goods in for money to help you live with less stress.

Eat at fine dining restaurants

Fine dining is a scam. They give you smaller servings for a lot more money. They serve your food on fancy plates. They send waiters to come to your table and make you feel like a king/queen.

Waiters aren’t our servants. Service workers are not Egyptian slaves.

That’s the lie the fine dining revolution invented. You can simply order food at a restaurant and walk ten steps to your own table. You can get up and help yourself to a glass bottle of water too.

Trading your time for overpriced food is a bad investment.

Price discovery has gone away

Free markets are supposed to dictate prices. Since 2008 the governments around the world have softened and even eliminated price discovery. Stimulus, fiscal spending, free loans, bailouts — they’re all ways to prevent recessions and bankruptcies.

Without recessions and bankruptcies you remove price discovery. When price discovery disappears you have a different type of society. Some call it socialism and others call it communism. You could even call it Japanism — where the government owns a large amount of the stock market.

A lack of price discovery is a bad thing if you believe in freedom and free markets.

Crypto bubbles aren’t real. What you’re seeing is network effects.

I used to throw the word “bubble” around too. Raoul Pal explains that when people call bitcoin or crypto a bubble they’re misunderstanding the change in the way investing works.

Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, and Apple when measured using the typical P/E ratio metric, look like something has gone horribly wrong and they’re overvalued. But things have changed. Tech companies operate at a loss for a lot longer than traditional companies.

The value of tech companies should be measured based on what stage of network effects they have achieved.

Metcalfe’s law states that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system. Therefore, what looks like a bubble is really just the exponential rise of a technology’s network effect. Bitcoin is at an important inflection point where its network effects are accelerating. The price of bitcoin makes it look like a bubble, but in the new world of digital assets it’s just the magic of network effects in motion.

Invest in network effects over a company’s valuation.

Creating content is a financial magnet

Publish words, pictures, videos or audio every week. Don’t get too hung up on the vanity metrics of views and likes. Money, ideas, and people find you when you create content.

Start with free content. Dabble in paid content through newsletters, or platforms like Youtube that pay creators royalties. You’re already a content creator if you type direct messages or send emails. Congrats.

Content equals real-world social proof on your ideas. You need evidence of what path you should take to earn money. Content acts as a compass.

Start a tiny digital-only business

Business simply means charging money. Very few people tell you that you can charge money for skills you learned at your day job, after hours.

If you work in IT sales then you can sell your selling skills to up and coming salespeople. If you work as a nurse then you can show other people how to become a nurse. If you know how to administer first-aid then you can help parents of newborns learn first-aid, so they can save their child’s life in the event of a choking incident.

Find a second way to charge money for your skills. A day job equals one customer. Social media helps you find your second customer. Two customers are less financially risky than one customer.

Invest time in a blockchain-enabled Web 3.0 world

Get educated on bitcoin and ethereum. These two concepts will reshape your financial future. I’m not necessarily saying invest your money. I’m saying invest your time to learning about them. Not understanding Web 3.0 will be like not understanding how to use a phone in 2–3 years.

Zero percent interest rates are a war on time

In a zero interest rate environment the average person celebrates. They think they can access debt at close to zero, and therefore, purchase their future at a huge discount.

Michael Saylor says that zero percent interest rates are effectively trying to make time go backwards. When interest rates are extremely low it’s a war on your time. Read that again.

The concept of why you need money has been distorted. Money used to facilitate purchases, has diluted us from money’s true purpose.

Lesson: Money is your time.

Wasting money is wasting your precious time. The best use of money is to buy back your time. When you buy back your time, you buy back the freedom to do whatever the heck you want each day. That’s what very few people tell you about money.

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