Playing like a Bigshot

Big shot

Have you ever made a bad decision and later wondered why you made it? Have you ever done something that, even though you know it is wrong, you just couldn’t stop yourself?

How we react to daily situations is a combination of our hard wiring (genetics and how we were raised) and the intellect that we use daily to make decisions. Deep down inside of each off us, we feel a certain way about ourselves (ego) and we act according to this self perception and about how we feel perceived by those around us.

When it comes to money, this is a powerful combination. We may know in our brain that we should act in a certain way, but the desire to feel loved, recognized and appreciated often undermines actions that we (know that we) should take.

Last summer I was overseas working with two colleagues. We were in a hotel (company paid) that had a free laundry service. The workers in the laundry were from Pakistan or Bangladesh. By Western standards, they were quite poor. I believe that their monthly salary was about $300 (US). This might not seem like a lot off money but as I talked to some of the them, I learned that it is quite a fortune. The average worker in their country earns about $50 per month with nothing left over for savings or luxuries. Working at this hotel, the worker could send home $50 to pay the family’s bills, take $50 for “spending money” and still save $200 per month. After a year long contract, the worker could return home with $2,500 and start a business. This one year long sacrifice could change that family’s situation forever.

Now add to the mix, about 100 American expat workers. Along comes the first “big shot” who “tips” the laundry guy $3 to wash the laundry that the worker is already paid a salary to wash. The American worker feels justified paying $3 for a tip because, after all, the laundry was “free” (paid by his employer). And then, the next guy thinks, “Oh yeah, he tipped, so I should tip too.” And a year later, when I arrived, EVERY guy was tipping $3 per week to get his “free” laundry done. Now, do the math. This $300 per month Bangladesh worker is now taking in his salary PLUS $3 per guy in tips per laundry load. Multiply this x 100 guys for four weeks per month. The “American do-gooders” were giving this guy, outside of his “normal” pay, an extra $1200 a month. This is a 400% tip on top of his regular salary that is already 600% of his national average!

Later, I refused to tip at all and the Bangladesh worker gave me a dirty look. When we picked up our clothes the next day, everyone else had folded clothes and mine were a half-wet ball in the laundry bag. His job was to wash and and fold. But because I didn’t tip, he REFUSED to do even the basic service that was required of him. We had spoiled this worker so that now he expects a tip. No, he demands a tip. My one colleague Matty tipped him $20 one day. I was livid. I told Matty that he was wasting his money and was “screwing the rest of us” because soon this worker will come to expect $20 each time he does our laundry. Matty’s reply was, “Well, don’t be so tight, you can afford it.”

Think about the logic of that. I can afford it.

That’s what poor people say.

I’m a millionaire and I doubt that Matty will ever be. He will constantly chase credit card bills, struggle to pay his mortgage and will complain that he “can’t get ahead.”

Think about the logic of this:

This Bangladesh worker is already earning 600% of his “normal” wage at home. This is the equivalent of an American worker taking a job overseas and getting $270,000 per year (six times national average of $45,000). Now, imagine if you took a job overseas making $270,000 working in Saudi Arabia. And then, as Saudis came in to get your services, they handed stacks of $100 bills. By the end of each month, your tips amount to a million dollars in cash. Does that seem reasonable to you? Well, that’s what we did with this man. We were giving him, when compared to the wages of his country, about a million dollars per month when compared to US wages and living standards.

Later, we went for a $5 haircut and matty paid $20 ($15 tip).

I debated with Matty and some other colleagues. I explained that we were giving this guy a fortune, and for what? Matty explained that he was “helping” the guy. I said that his regular salary was a small fortune and that his “help” was just a waste of his money. Matty then said something telling and I immediately understood WHY he tipped. He said, “When I give that guy the $20 and his face lights up, it makes me feel good.”

Ah ha. The reason why Matty was tipping was because it made him feel like a big shot. It made him feel rich compared to this lowly Bangladesh worker. I then realized that Matty didn’t care about helping this guy, he was showing off in front of him. I thought about how so many people love to over tip in America and I realized that it has less to do with manners and showing appreciation; it has more to do with showing off one’s success and wealth.

Now. If your net worth is over a million and you earn over $100,000 in passive income, your house and cars are paid, you have enough $ for your children’s college education and your 401(k) is maxed out, then go ahead. Tip away.

But, if not. You’re taking money out of your retirement, out of your children’s education, out of your gfamily legacy AND YOU ARE GIVING IT AWAY TO A STRANGER.

Think about it. To stroke your ego and to make you feel “rich,” you’re giving away your family’s legacy.

Some days, I walk around in a t-shirt and flip flop sandals. I still wear my expensive watch, but I dress comfortably. I might be at the mall and I’ll see some young guy with his Rolex, expensive car and I know that he’s up to his eyeballs in debt. I know INSIDE of myself that I’m the big shot. I don’t need to drop a 600% tip on a stranger to feel like a big-shot.

There is a difference between the two and they both revolve around your confidence level. People who are not confident in themselves need the placebo of success that comes from the 30 second “approval” they get from the waiter when they over tip. And in the end, that $3 here and that $15 there add up. If saved and invested, over a decade or two, they can mean the difference of having enough $ to buy that distressed rental property or to snatch up a choice asset in a fire sale. That one asset can turn into an income stream or a sale with a big dividend that can be invested again and again.

People who tip big always seem to be broke and complaining about money. I’m smart with my money and I don’t feel the need to impress anyone. I’ve impressed myself. That is all that is important.

Charity

photo from Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle

A few years ago my sister told me that she and her husband had saved an extra $1,500 from their tips that month – both worked in the food service industry.  I was excited for them.  They have always lived paycheck to paycheck and I thought that they finally had a way to “turn the corner” and begin a savings account that might lead to a down payment on a home.  What she told me next both shocked and disgusted me.

My sister told me that they gave $500 to their church and the remaining $1,000 was divided into five dollar bills.  My sister and her husband then went and handed out the $5 bills to homeless people as they “witnessed” to them about Jesus and Christianity.

Whether or not you are religious – try to put that aside for now.  And I can understand supporting your church in the form of monthly tithes (donations).  But to give away your entire savings for the month, when you don’t even have a cash “emergency fund” in the bank is, in my opinion, not only foolish but also reckless.

If you do not have a savings account of at least 3 years net wages AND a fully funded 401(k) and/or IRA plan, YOU HAVE NO BUSINESS DONATING TO CHARITY!

I have a favorite charity.  It is called the Samuel charity.  My investment account is my charity.  And every month, every available dollar that I can find goes in to be invested to generate even more wealth.  I have over a million dollars in the bank and I still don’t give a nickle to charity.

And neither should you!

Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Bono should be donating to charity.  Some rich folks give a couple of million and we applaud them.  In reality, most give only a small fraction of their net worth.  Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are actually making sizable contributions to charity and for that I applaud them.  But leave it to them.  If you haven’t earned your million yet, leave the charity giving to the rich folks.

Sound greedy?

It is.  But  you have to be greedy if you want to be a millionaire.  Money doesn’t grow on trees.  You have to fight and scrape for every dollar and donations to charity are hazardous to your financial future and well being.

Does it sound rough?  Yes it does.  But I’ll say it again.  Quit donating your hard earned money to charity!

If an aircraft is suddenly depressurized, what is the first bit of instructions that they give you?  Put on your own mask first before helping others.  If you haven’t funded your retirement account and you don’t have an adequate emergency cash account, why are you putting a financial oxygen mask on others while you suffocate?

I read an article in Bloomberg this week that stated that millions are starving in India as donated food is pilfered by corrupt officials.  Most of this aid comes from donations from western countries and the distribution is so bad that upwards of 10% of the food rots before it can be delivered and what remains is stolen by corrupt state officials and sold for handsome profits.  Have a look at the article:

Poor in India Starve as Politicians Steal $14.5 Billion of Food

I see a story like it every week.  Last week I saw a story about a woman who claimed cancer to get her wedding paid for – she made the whole story up.  A large amount of every charity dollar donated goes to pay some bureaucrat or administrator.  Some day, when I feel “comfortable” in my financial position I suppose that I shall engage in direct charity.  Find a local family down on their luck and help them out, save their house, pay their water bill, fix their car.

What if you lose your job?  What if a loved one is injured and there are huge medical bills?  The charity money that you gave away could have been used to save your own family.  Charity begins at home and you should think of yourself and your family the next time you’re feeling generous with the excess of your paycheck.

And while I’m on the subject of America - YOU HAVE NO BUSINESS DONATING TO OVERSEAS CHARITIES!  More than 1/3rd of each dollar spent by the American Government this year is borrowed money.  Yes, we’re borrowing money to give to charities (ie foreign governments).  Israel has a high standard of living and less debt than us but we borrowed 1/3rd of the US $4 billion in aid that we gave them this year.  And if you are reading this, you probably have debt of your own.  Home mortgage, car payment, credit cards, etc.  If you send ANY money to charity and you have ANY bills, this means that you borrowed that $ to pay the charity.  If you haven’t paid your house off, your car off, & your credit cards, you’re using borrowed money to fund your charity donations.

We allow our politicians to spend out money on charity countries because we’ve all been sold that it is the noble thing to do.  Perhaps if more Americans were concerned for their own wealth and financial well being, they would insist that Congress do the same with their tax dollars.

What I’m saying isn’t politically correct, but it is correct.  Giving money away when you don’t have enough for yourself is insane.  America is broke and we give away more.  Hard times are coming.  In ten years, you may wish you had given less to charity and saved some for your own family.

Think about it.  Be wise with your money.  Be tight with your money.

The path to riches isn’t easy.  You have to change your way of thinking.

Good luck!

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