Materialism

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When I had gone to the vision board party, one of the tasks was to dream big and find pictures that represent our wishes and paste them onto the board. We had piles of magazines that ranged from gossip to golf to science. Leafing through them, I could find pretty much anything my heart desired. But there was a problem. Leafing thought the mags, I saw nothing that struck a cord. Except a picture of Jason Momoa as Aquaman because I want more tattoos. But that’s within my reach. In other words, I didn’t need a vision board to help me manifest this.

I had a feeling that this was going to happen. Having it played out in front of me confirmed that I strive to live more like a minimalist; someone who doesn’t need excessive materialistic things. To be clear, I have things: caR, I’m Appled out, an iron horse. So in that respect I’m a hypocrite. In my defense, I enjoy all of the things that I own. However, they do not bring me happiness. To me joy and happiness are two different things.

I see so many people buy things for no real reason except maybe to fill some emptiness that lies within. Instead of addressing that emptiness, they buy things to try and fill it. I think there are two basic problems with this approach. One is that the emptiness is within the individual. Second, buying something gives people that endorphin rush. I’ve been addicted to new stuff. I totally get it. But it can hurt the wallet.

My sister has five different ways of heating food up. The oven. A microwave. A toaster oven. A hot air oven. And she recently bought a portable steamer.

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An acquaintance of mine asked me what I had thought about the new iPad Pro. I told him that I went to an Apple store and played with it. Very nice. But my original iPad Pro that I had bought three years ago still works well. I do almost everything with it. Writing. Blogging. I watch all my streaming services on it; I don’t have a TV. The new iPad wouldn’t do anything different for me. He said he was thinking of upgrading.

Why, I asked.

The processor is faster, he answered.

What do you do on it that you need a faster processor?

He shrugged. I draw on it sometimes.

Dude, how fast do you draw that you need a faster processor?

Another acquaintance came up to me in Starbucks a few weeks ago. He looked excited and told me he had good news.

You get a blow job, I asked.

His eyebrows lowered against his eyes. No, I bought a new car.

Don’t you have two already?

Yeah. I traded the SUV in.

He has a sports car that he daily drives and had bought and financed a new sedan. Because he needed more room than his sports car could provide? Which is why he got rid of the SUV? Or he needed a smaller car because his SUV was too big? I was a bit confused at this point.

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The issue is that the emptiness within a person is bottomless. That person could buy everything in the world and still have that emptiness within them because they’re not trying to find out what is causing that emptiness. Instead they’re trying to fill that emptiness with stuff, and that hole is devouring it up.

The new Netflix special, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, shows how stressful people can be when they have a lot of stuff. After getting rid of the shit they don’t need, the people on the show feel relaxed and serene. We as Americans have too much stuff. I mean, it’s not a surprise that we have to either buy bigger homes or rent storage spaces in order to store our endless junk.

Hypocrites, raise your hands.

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I’m guilty. I have two cars. But at least I didn’t go into debt buying a second car.

The question should now be: What is this emptiness?

It could be anything. Lack of confidence. Loneliness. Living a purposeless life. The game is to explore yourself and find out. Honestly, that’s the fun part. For me, I knew I was a creative. So I explored different outlets before settling on writing and storytelling. That took a lot of time. For example, I delved into acting for three years before jumping out of it. But, man, that was fun. I learned so much about myself going on stage and acting. It was one of the big steps that opened me up to me. Since then, I have never left the deep end.

Math Sucks

The question all math teachers hate: Will I ever use math in real life?

The basics are used almost every day: Paying for shit or calculating tips.

It can help you make important life decisions: If I pay the water bill, will I have enough to get drunk tonight?

Consumerism: Is this dress really worth it for an extra 20% off the sale price, since I already have one with red flowers? No, I don't wear dresses. Unless I'm paid to.

The dreaded word problem: Transfer your balance to this new credit card and get 0% interest for 24 months, unless you buy more shit with this card, and then we charge a gawd awful amount of money on those purchases until you pay off the transfer balance, which is likely to be more than you can pay off in the next hundred years.

I look Asian. I am Asian. But math ain't my strong point. However, I know enough to make me dangerous.

Looking at my bank account, I have five bucks. And no, my dear, not the animal deer. So I wanted to know where I could invest my nest egg.

I went to a lecture presented by what I thought was a financial planner, but instead was a salesman. Of what, I was about to find out. And I was the only one who showed up. Suspect.

You know when you're in the middle of a massive forest fire, and there's like hella smoke, and tears are like pouring out of your eyes, and you like can't see nuthin'? That was the first two hours of his slide presentation, a smoke screen.

"Do you have a 401K?"

I nod. "Is that bad?"

"It's tax deferred." Meaning the money I put in my 401K isn't taxed until I withdraw it when I retire, say 30 years from now.

I purse my lips. "Yeah..."

"If you're a farmer, do you want to pay taxes on your seeds, or do you want to let them grow and pay on your harvest?" 

In other words, do you want to pay taxes now, a smaller amount, or pay taxes on your money later, a larger amount? Paying taxes on $100 bucks now is way less than paying taxes on that same money that may have grown to say $340. I'll explain later.

"Now?"

He pointed at me. "Smart man. Not many people get that."

I patted myself on my back with my own hand. I did say 'myself'.

He clicked to the next slide and went over some money concepts.

I didn't know it then, but the salesman had started to talk about self banking. Basically, banks make a ton of cash by loaning money for your $20,000 car, for example, and having you pay them back that twenty grand with interest. Easy money.

In self banking, you pay for the $20,000 car upfront, and then pay yourself back that twenty grand with interest. That way, instead of the bank making bank on that loan, you're the one making bank on your own money. Because that's what you would have done in the first place. Why pay the bank when you can pay yourself? Oh my Gawd! Brilliant!

Then the salesman threw more kerosene into the fire (i.e. more smoke).

"Now that you have more money," he said, "you want a higher quality of life. Right?" Mo'money mo'problems.

"So you buy a second car," he continues, "say an SUV, then get a couple of jet skis, one for you and one for the little lady."

I nod. Can't leave out the little lady. Happy wife, happy life.

"Then you go on vacation, so you self fund that."

Hell yeah.

"Do some upgrades to your crib."

I feel ya, bruh! OK, he didn't use the word crib.

"Buy yo baby momma bling, bling."

Excuse me?

When all was said and done, by loaning myself my money, and paying myself back my money (principle) with more of my money (interest), my money would have increased by 18%, or something like that. I don't remember the actual number.

He pointed at the 18% on the projection screen. "And the banks barely give you 1% for your savings account."

Dats right! Sign me the fuck up, mister!

"So instead of putting everything into your 401K, you can buy a life insurance policy that has a cash value. So depositing ten grand, more if you like, which is better because it benefits you," sure, sure, "you'll have about $6000 in cash value that you can borrow against."

I squint my slanty eyes. "Oh...kay..."

"And the second year you put in another ten grand, the cash value added is around $7000..."

"Uh..."

"So after about ten years," he barreled on, "you'll almost retain the cash value of your ten grand deposit for that year."

I raised my hand. Remember. I was the only one there. "Where did all the money go? Like the $4,000 of my first ten grand?"

"Oh. That's just to put the life insurance policy in motion and to maintain it."

Whatchutalkingaboutwillis?

Who you got back there running this thing? Donald Trump? Well, that explained it. 

Hold on...

I would have to have like a hunned grand ($100,000) to self fund all this bling in order for me to make that 18%, which is mine to begin with, hidden deep in the corners of my couch cushions. Right?

My finger tapped my lip. My mind was like, "Danger, Will Robinson!" Something else didn't make sense. His farmer example defied a math principle called multiplying. Paying taxes now or later doesn't change anything mathetically on the back end.

Say Uncle Sam takes 25% of your paycheck for taxes. So that $100 example, you'd have $75 dollars left. If you invest that with an 8% return for 30 years, you'd have $255.

But if you put that $100 in your 401K, you'd have $340 after 30 years with an 8% return. Then you'd pay your 25% tax on that, which would give you $255.

So his farmer example was bullshit. Good for the farmer. Bad for the math-challenged.

Not only that, the 18% interest earned on my own money also covered the fact that I was paying a $4000 commissions on my first ten grand deposit. That's 40% loss. Yes, that loss gets less and less each year, but that 18% will not make up for it because it was mine to begin with. Whether I put 18% in a glass jar or in a piggy bank, it's still mine. 

So, yeah, you'll use math in real life, or be someone's sucka.