The Fisherman Fallacy

Ashton Fourie  proposes a fallacy:

I think it really doesn’t matter how you define retirement. What matters is what you are doing, and whether it is what you love doing.

Am I retired? Well, I don’t really care. I can’t see that I would want to be doing any less of what I’m doing now when I’m 70, or 80, or 120 (which is how old I want to become to finish all the work I still want to do)

It doesn’t feel like a fallacy: the idea to make money doing what you love doing has to be ‘right’, right?

To find out, let’s revisit the famous parable of the Fisherman and The Investment Banker:

In case you don’t remember the story [full parable + commentary here], it’s about a fisherman who meets a big time Wall Street investment banking-type who asks what he does.

The fisherman says that he fishes for just a few hours each day then spends the rest of his time with his family and playing cards with his friends.

The Investment Banker then goes into an analysis of how the fisherman could work hard for a few years to build up a big fish-wholesaling business so that he can finally retire and … do what?

Spend the rest of his time with his family and playing cards with his friends!

What this story proposes is that you simply enjoy your life now, and don’t worry about the money.

Well, that’s all well and good until you find that you can no longer fish …

Living from the fruits (actually, fish) of your own labor – or, selling your labor and/or time as Ashton does – are very dangerous ways to live. You may love what you do for now, but one day you may (a) no longer love what you do and/or (b) be ABLE to do what you love to do.

What does a concert pianist with arthritis do?

I enjoyed working for a Fortune 100 company, but after 6 years I’d had enough.

I enjoyed starting my business from scratch, but after a few years I couldn’t wait to sell out.

I’m sure that I’d love fishing, consulting, public speaking, venture capitalizing, whatever …

…. but, after a few years, I’d want to do something else instead.

Unfortunately, my Life’s Purpose is all about traveling physically, mentally, spiritually. It’s ‘unfortunate’ because the life that I have chosen for myself takes a lot of time and money 🙁

But, reaching my Number has made living it possible 🙂

Happiness = $75,000 a year!

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Finally, there is a study that equates money to happiness!

The Wall Street Journal reports a study by “the Princeton economist Angus Deaton and famed psychologist Daniel Kahneman”, which states:

As people earn more money, their day-to-day happiness rises. Until you hit $75,000. After that, it is just more stuff, with no gain in happiness.

Let’s assume you want to retire in 20 years on the equivalent of $75k p.a. – after adjusting for inflation (roughly double your required income every 20 years) and applying the Rule of 20 (equates to a 5% p.a. drawdown on your money), this means:

Your Optimal Happiness Number = $3,000,000

None of my readers are chasing less – otherwise, why would you be reading a blog called How To Make $7 Million In 7 Years (?) – but, the point of the study has been taken by the press and the pf blogging community to mean that it’s pointless to chase more than $3 million … seemingly making my uniquely positioned blog redundant by half 🙁

Well, it’s quite interesting because there’s a second part to the study that the media and most other bloggers are conveniently ignoring:

That doesn’t mean wealthy and ultrawealthy are equally happy. More money does boost people’s life assessment, all the way up the income ladder. People who earned $160,000 a year, for instance, reported more overall satisfaction than people earning $120,000, and so on.

“Giving people more income beyond 75K is not going to do much for their daily mood … but it is going to make them feel they have a better life,” Mr. Deaton told the Associated Press.

I don’t know about you, but I like to be happy ($75k p.a. happy) and have a better life ($250k p.a. better life)!

How about you?

Enough is enough!

Early Retirement Extreme wants to slay the ‘enough’ dragon; while, for many, ‘enough’ refers to their income and/or spending, in ERE’s case it refers to his investment net worth:

In terms of the invested assets dragon, I have several. I want to have a $500k net-worth. Once I hit that, I want $750k; then I want $1M. It’s been like that all along. It might just be my biggest source of stress— not being able to rapidly save money, which, rationally, I’m not going to spend anyway. It’s pretty stupid, I know.

And, before you think that “when I’m rich, then I’ll have enough” remember that when people who you and I think are rich (i.e. with net assets in the $5 million to $25 million range) are asked how much they will need before they consider themselves rich, they tend to say: “about double”.

That is, they tend to think that they need about twice their current net worth in order to feel comfortably rich!?

The solution is to prepare your definition of ‘rich’ … in advance!

… and, that should be to have enough money to live your Life’s Purpose. We call that number your Number.

When you get there, STOP because that is – for you – truly ENOUGH.

On the other hand, my ‘dragon’ isn’t income, investment assets, spending, etc., it’s my entrepreneurial gene … I see opportunity in everything and want to invest in it.

Right now, I’m working on my real-estate development projects, partnering with a young entrepreneur in his first bricks-and-mortar venture, and have any number of browser windows open with new technologies that I want to pursue.


While it’s all fun, and mentally challenging, and fits totally within my Life’s Purpose, it all still takes money … so, in some ways, it’s no different to any of the other forms of ‘enough dragons’ out there.

So, how do I deal with my ‘enough dragon’?

Well, I built enough ‘fat’ into my Number to allow both the free time and the free cashflow to play with these new ventures: about 10 @ $50k a pop. Unfortunately, just one of my non-property business ventures is already in $100k territory, so I need to tweak by reducing the number of other ventures that I back.

And, as I’ve already said, this is easier said than done 😉

Comfort kills!

Yes, that is genius …

But, what does T Harv Eker mean by ‘comfort zone’? Here’s what he says in his book:

Comfort kills! If your goal in life is to be comfortable, I guarantee two things. First, you will never be rich. Second, you will never be happy. Happiness doesn’t come from living a lukewarm life, always wondering what could have been. Happiness comes as a result of being in our natural state of growth and living up to our fullest potential.

How ‘comfortable’ you want to live is up to you … but, I can help you convert that into a number: the amount of money that you need in the bank so that you can live your desired level of comfort (or, discomfort).

Then, I can help you get there!

You DO need $12 million to retire …

Money Ning says that you don’t need $12 million to retire.

Except on Planet AJC, ‘Ning!

Money Ning says:

Can you imagine spending $11,250 per month every 30 days until you are 70? It would actually be fun for a while, but by the 24th month, I bet you’ll be tired of buying anything. And if you just leave some money left every month? Well, down goes the savings necessary.

These humongous retirement numbers may catch our attention, but they rarely speak the truth about reality. Plus, chasing a number is a never ending game, because there’s always a higher number to go after.

When I was still $30k in debt, and going nowhere fast, I calculated that I needed $5 million to ‘retire rich’:

– That was in 1998 dollars … in 2010 dollars, we’re up at around $7.5 million

– I under-estimated what I needed; and, so will you!

Right now, I ‘burn’ around $250k per year (land taxes, school fees, vacations; house upkeep; etc.) and don’t consider my spending anywhere near ‘Snoop Dog Lavish’, but it’s WAY over Money Ning’s “$11,250 per month” … and, I can’t EVER imagine spending that little per month. Really.

To that annual spend, I add my two houses (to be fair, I’m trying to get rid of the US one), and my two cars (and some associated expenses) … there’s $12 million, and I don’t live in New York!

Of course, that’s not what everybody needs … maybe not even what ANYBODY needs … but, it is (give – not take – a few million) what I decided that I needed.

But, when calculating YOUR ‘number’, don’t go for the money, do as Money Ning suggests:

Chasing a number is a never ending game, because there’s always a higher number to go after. If you want to feel rich, the more appropriate approach is to just make sure money is out of your way, out of your life decisions, and out of the list of things that you worry about.

That’s what I did … it’s hardly my fault if the answer pointed to $5 Million, nor is it my fault that I ended up cashing out for a whole lot more. And, it won’t even be my fault, if you do, too.  😉

Is greed good?

That is the question posted by Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) in the newly released Wall Street movie sequel which, by the way, is abysmal.

One of the pivotal moments in the movie (IMHO) is when the least-sharky of the Wall Street sharks (played incredibly badly by insipid Shia LaBeouf) asks the über-shark (played much better Josh Brolin) what his ‘walk away Number’ is.

Über-Shark answers: “More!”

If you don’t see the problem with this, then you haven’t been reading this blog.

But, my main issue with the movie, aside from the bad acting/characterization/plot-lines is the central premise:

Gordon Gekko has come out of 8 years in jail, with $100 million salted away in some Swiss Bank Account, but held in trust for his since-estranged daughter. Totally believable, so far … except that there are so many tax avoidance issues that no father would put their daughter in that much danger.

But, that’s not my issue with the plot.

The daughter indicates that she knew that there may be SOME money SOMEWHERE for her, but she didn’t care and was planning to give it all away (a plan that she eventually has a chance to execute, but we’ll come to that). Now, nobody in their right minds would give all their money away to charity: a little, some, most … maybe … but, not all!

But, that’s not my issue with the plot.

It’s in the execution of the ‘give away plan’: her fiance, and soon to be father of her child, talks her into ‘donating’ all $100 million to some new company experimenting with a new form of clean energy (lots of fancy diagrams, light beams, serious-but-kindly-and-honest-looking-scientists, high-tech-futuristic-energy-orbs, and so on).

Now, what form of young-and-brilliant-but-disillusioned (don’t forget the “brilliant” part) Wall Street type would put $100 million of his own money (well, he’s about to marry the chick, isn’t he?!), which represents about $99 million more than his entire current net worth (and, that’s only because he just received a $1.5 million bonus check), in a collapsing market into ONE INVESTMENT?

None of my readers, I hope!

And, even if he was stupid enough to bet the entire $100 million, would he bet it on a speculative company that had NEVER made a single cent in profit?

That, my friends, is financial suicide. Don’t do it, because greed is NEVER good 🙁

Beat 80% of professional fund managers!

I’m disappointed! I thought that and it’s membership-site ‘cousin’ were important enough to be hacked … but, they weren’t 🙁

Turns out that MANY GoDaddy-hosted WordPress sites have been similarly ‘hacked’ – with users seeing a [false] SECURITY WARNING ALERT!!! message. GoDaddy appears to be working on have fixed the issue, in the meantime, please read on for today’s un-hacked post ….


Shawn at Watson Inc. outlines a sensible ‘system’ – one that I have spoken about before – that beats “80%-90%” of professional fund managers [my highlights]:

Some may ask what I mean by systematic investing. Peter Lynch (Fidelity), Warren Buffett (Berkshire), and even Dave Ramsey recommend a conservative and simple approach for the typical investor: rather than trying to outsmart the markets, use benchmarks to track the markets instead. For example, the Vanguard Index 500 fund has outperformed two-thirds of all mutual funds on a rather consistent basis (Cash Flow Quadrant, 1999). Usually over 10 years, these types of index funds yield a return exceeding 80-90% of returns of the “professional” mutual fund money managers (Motley Fool, 2007). Interestingly, the average millionaire is this type of investor (The Millionaire Next Door, 1996). Although there is no 100% guarantee, this method does dramatically decrease the risk over time and provides respectable returns. Provided that one starts early enough (i.e. before mid-forties), consistent investing over time can be the key to achieving a great deal of wealth.

Now, who wouldn’t kill for a system like that?

Well, me for one … and, I’m guessing, most of you!

You see, we (7m7y readers) have a very special filter that QUALIFIES us; it’s the title of this blog: “How to make $7 million in 7 years”.

Now, there’s no reason why you CAN’T read this blog if your target is, say, $1 million in 20 years … I can’t physically stop you … but, it’s ill-advised, because most of what I say would just be ‘noise’ to you …

… just confusing ‘chatter’ that sometimes runs totally counter to what you read elsewhere.

What I say here is ‘noise’ if you really do have very modest financial goals, or no real financial goals beyond saving and trying to become debt free.

So, in my “$7 million 7 year” context, I say “so what if I can beat 80%-90% of fund managers?” because the amount that I can make simply won’t be enough to help me reach my Number … certainly not if it’s one of my main financial strategies.

Instead of worrying about the pro’s and how the vast majority are simply butchering the mutual funds that they are supposed to be wisely managing, realize that investing in the ‘market’ (e.g. by investing in a low-cost index fund as sensibly suggested by Shawn) actually LIMITS your returns to that achieved by the market: 8% over 30 years in any market, 12% in ‘average’ times, and 0% (or worse) in recent times.

Try this:

a) Plug your starting Investment Net Worth (i.e. what you could scrape together to invest) into a compound growth rate calculator

b) Also, plug in how much you think you will be able to add each year

c) Include the number of investing years that you would like to have before you finally ‘stop work’ to live off the fruits of your investments

d) Plug in any number from 1% to 12% that YOU think an Index Fund will reasonably return over the number of years that you allowed, above

e) Halve the answer that the calculator gives you to (very roughly) allow for 4% inflation, for every 20 years (or prorate, if less than 20) that you chose, above.

f) Divide your final answer by 20: on a VERY GOOD DAY, that’s roughly (in today’s dollars) what you will have to live off, each year.

If that’s good enough for you, congratulations on two counts:

1. Thanks to Shawn, you’ve just found your Ideal Investment Strategy … and, it’s easy / low risk, to boot! And,

2. You’ve also saved 2 minutes a day, because this blog – for you – is just noise …. [crackle … and, out!]

But (!), if the answer is NOT good enough for you [AJC: it sure wasn’t good enough for me! But, it just might be good enough for you – be TOTALLY honest, this could be the financial ‘tipping point’ for you] … commiserations: your life just became a whole lot harder!

If so, keep reading … I’ll do what I can to soften the blow 😉

… but, Will Smith isn’t (completely) happy

So, the jury is IN: money does buy (at least some) happiness

… then, why isn’t Will Smith (who has PLENTY of money) completely happy?!

First, let me backtrack a little:

One of the advantages of being rich – well, 7m7y kind of ‘rich’ – is that acquiring technology isn’t an issue.

That’s why we have a Slingbox, which sends live streaming video from our friend’s satellite TV in Atlanta right to my wife’s PC (or, our home theater) in Australia.

This means that she doesn’t need to miss out on the most current episode of Oprah, and neither do I … on the odd occasion that I happen to be in the same room when she’s watching.

As it happened, on this occasion my wife was catching up on some more recent episodes that she missed while we were busy moving house, and it was how I happened to catch a bit of Will Smith’s Oprah interview.

Will said a couple of things that intrigued me:

First, he said that no matter how much money he accumulates, he never stops worrying about money!

Well, that’s actually good news, because I can see that through every stage of my financial journey, I have never stopped worrying about money.

Good news, because if Will Smith – who must be an order of magnitude or two ahead of me, financially speaking – worries about money, then I can stop worrying about worrying about money.

And, so should you!

It appears that worrying about money is a normal part of the human condition 🙂

The second thing that Will said interested me even more: he’s not satisfied with his achievements to date … he can’t believe that he was put on earth merely to entertain people.

It seems that Will hasn’t found his Life’s Purpose!

Confirmation, to me, that fulfilment comes in three parts:

1. Discovering your Life’s Purpose, then

2. Working towards it, using whatever tools/talents you have been given, then

3. Finally, living your Life’s Purpose.

Step 2 is a means to an end (and, there’s no reason why you can’t bypass it if your Life’s Purpose doesn’t require the passing of time, or the accumulation of supporting assets).

But, don’t confuse Step 2. with Step 3. …

… Will Smith might be famous and known for his singing/acting talents, but (for him) it appears they are merely a means to an end.

Discover your ‘end’, and the ‘means’ – even if not as exciting, profitable, and/or high-profile as Will Smith’s – becomes much more palatable.

What do you think?

What’s better: a satisified mind or money?

Sadly, not too long (less than 5 years) after this performance of the great Red Hayes song (covered by everybody from Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan, and even The Byrds), Jeff Buckley died; that makes TWO great reasons to find your Life’s Purpose … the other being in the opening lyrics to this great song:

How many times have you heard someone say: “If I had money, I would do things my way.”

But little they know, that it’s so hard to find one rich man in ten, with a satisfied mind.
Money can’t buy back all your youth when you’re old, a friend when you’re lonely, or peace to your soul.
The wealthiest person, is a pauper at times compared to the man with a satisfied mind.

Find your Life’s Purpose, then the money will mean something: Your Number will be the financial enabler of Your Life’s Purpose!

After all, there’s no other good reason to be wealthy, is there?

Is there any Power in Intention?

We have been examining every possible way to make $7 Million in 7 Years [or, insert: Your Number by Your Date], so why not look at the ‘power’ of Intention a là The Secret?

That’s why we undertook our own highly scientific study that seems to show that manifesting millions actually produces a far worse result than our control group of readers:

– Steve Pavlina’s volunteer team ‘manifested’ an average of $3,500 each over 12 months, but

– The $7million7year control group produced an average of $18,500 each over 12 months.

Our control group did more than 5 times better than the manifesters!

Of course, it wasn’t really a “highly scientific study” (then again, neither was Steve Pavlina’s), so it’s no surprise that we have for and against views; for example, Kate is clearly in the ‘for’ camp:

I am a firm believer in intentions, and I like this one. Intentions guide the thought process and help me look for opportunities.

Whether there is, or isn’t, any Power in The Secret, I can’t help wondering, Kate, if it’s the intent or the doing (in this case: ” look[ing] for opportunities”) that produces the outcome for you?

So, in defining our Life’s Purpose, are we hoping that the outcome will manifest, or are we guiding our thought processes, or are we simply wasting our time?

In truth, I have no idea!

I remember an Indian guru who once said that if you think back over your life to all of the times that you planned for something, you will find many examples of each of the following:

– You planned and it worked out pretty much as planned

– You planned but it didn’t work out very much as planned

– You didn’t plan but things worked out just fine, anyway

– You didn’t plan but (not surprisingly) things didn’t turn out very well

You get my point …

…. so, why bother to PLAN our Life’s Purpose, our Number and Date, and our Growth Engine?

Again, I have no idea, but it worked out just fine for me, so it may work out just fine for you, too 🙂

And, if it’s the ‘intent’ (in planning our Life’s Purpose etc.) that produces the outcome, then all power to The Secret and its followers.

Although, I can’t help wondering:

Why wouldn’t I intend to make $7 Billion rather than a measly $7 million … and, why wait 7 years? 😉