I am the child of two public servants.
Growing up, I thought making $80,000 a year was a big deal. Sure, there were doctors and lawyers in town. And I knew they were wealthier—but I couldn’t put an exact number on it.
I didn’t know what a “trader” did either. I hadn’t even heard of the term, let alone “portfolio manager,” “investment banker,” or even “management consultant.” Anyone who said they were going to get into business was weird.
It wasn’t until years later, when I was farting around in a used bookstore, that I picked up some books on the stock market. Gee whiz, that was interesting.
My Biggest Driver
From there, I decided I wanted to be a trader, but I didn’t really know what that meant. I knew someone who was an “over-the-counter” trader. I assumed he stood behind a counter and exchanged stock certificates for cash.
Somewhere along the line, I came across a great book called The Fast Track: The Insider’s Guide to Winning Jobs in Management Consulting, Investing Banking, & Securities Trading by Mariam Naficy.
In the book, she had a table of what you might expect your compensation to be after a certain period of time in the industry. She said that after 4-6 years, you might expect to earn $600,000 a year.
I almost fell over. I had never heard of anyone making that kind of money before, let alone someone in their late twenties or early thirties. I wanted to be a trader before—I really wanted to be a trader now.
What had happened? In an instant, I had undergone a profound intellectual transformation. For the first time in my life, I became motivated by money.
Money Is Dynamic
You ever notice that everyone who works on Wall Street comes from either New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut?
This is because they have parents, friends, or relatives who worked in the securities industry. And they hear about what it is like to work in the securities industry.
They have had exposure to it.
Someone in Wyoming has no exposure to the securities industry. Growing up there, it likely never occurs to them that they could get a job on Wall Street.
What I’m trying to say is that most people grow up having no exposure to someone who has been financially successful.
They view money as a static quantity that is only looted or plundered or rearranged from one pile to another. They look at the economy as one giant zero-sum game.
One thing I have found in my conversations with people is that it doesn’t usually occur to them that they can make more money. Yes, you can get yourself out of debt by cutting expenses. But you can also get yourself out of debt by… making more money.
Not many people know how to make more money. You can do this by working harder (getting a second job), working longer, working smarter (getting a higher-paying job), or—gasp—starting your own business.
So, there are two ways to look at money. Statically, or dynamically. The few people who know how to look at money dynamically have probably had some exposure to it at some point in their lives.
Greed Is Good
Once I saw that table in The Fast Track, I developed a smell for money. I knew where to find it and how to get it.
A few weeks ago in my class, I had a little free time, so I showed the old Oliver Stone Wall Street movie. The “Greed Is Good” speech is amazing.
I don’t get my philosophy of life from Hollywood movies. But there is a reason this movie was so compelling, and why Michael Douglas won Best Actor.
“The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”
Lots of people feel trapped by their personal finances. They think there is no way out. There is a way out. It is the hardest way out, but it is also the most rewarding.
Instead of trying to slash your way out of it, or starve your way out of it, you can work your way out of it, think your way out of it, or grow your way out of it.
It requires a dynamic view of money, not a static view of money. If you didn’t get it growing up, hopefully you got it from this letter.