From NEET to early retirement: Some words of encouragement and inspiration

mood

I.

I’m not a big fan of doomers. Let’s say you’re a young man stuck in a war. One of your comrades says “there are too many of them, we will never win!” He begins pointing out all of the big tanks coming in your direction, all of the artillery andsoforth. That’s the wrong approach to life. You’re supposed to give it everything you’ve got, if you perish then you can at least perish with the knowledge that you tried.

Pessimism is dangerous, because it blinds you to opportunities. A pessimist looks at the past ten years and says to himself: “I missed so many huge opportunities”. An optimist looks at the past ten years and also says to himself: “I missed so many huge opporunities!” The fact that you missed huge opportunities is something to be happy about, because you know when you would have missed no opportunities? If you had been born 200 years ago in the Southern United States as a slave. They prohibited you from learning how to read, they treated you like property and they were legally allowed to rape you. In the next five years, you’re going to have countless opportunities to do something meaningful with your life. How many opportunities did Celia have? Probably zero.

Right now, most of you are saying: “I can’t believe I didn’t invest in Bitcoin back when I heard about it in 2011!” In a few years, most of you will probably be saying: “I can’t believe I didn’t invest in life extension companies!” Twenty years ago, you would have been saying “I can’t believe I didn’t buy a domain name three years ago!” That’s just the way the world works. Most people miss most opportunities.

It tends to be the nature of pessimists that they don’t see opportunities. A while ago, I knew a guy who had studied economics. I asked him if he had any advice on what might constitute interesting investment opportunities. What did he say? “Michael Burry is buying land above aquifiers because water is going to be scarce.” If that’s the first thing you think of when it comes to opportunities (a problem disguised as an opportunity), you’re probably not going to grab a lot of opportunities.

The pessimists will say that opportunities in life are unequally distributed. That’s true. You and me are not accredited investors, so we generally can’t buy companies before their IPO. But opportunities in life have always been unequally distributed. That doesn’t change the fact however, that you have more opportunities available to you in life today than ever before.

Here’s an example: You can build an OTEC pump that generates electricity by moving cool water up through a pipe on a Caribbean island, reducing temperatures on the island in the process while sequestering carbon dioxide by mixing ocean layers. It’s perfectly economically viable, but you’re probably going to fail and go bankrupt within a few years, like the last group of Dutch dudes who tried setting this up on the Dutch antilles.

You know what happens next? People will know your name and companies will be saying: “I want to hire that guy, he has the right mentality in life.” Everyone wants to work with a guy who tries to set up a power plant that reduces surface temperatures and sequesters carbon dioxide.

 


II.

 

I essentially grew up in poverty. Whenever I meet my father, he still proudly announces the latest thing he scooped out of other people’s trash. My parents lived off welfare for most of my life. They would earn money on the side, collecting old car batteries from the side of the road and doing other stuff like that. I love my parents, but I don’t want people to pretend that I had it easy, just because I’m a white man. Working class white boys in the United Kingdom are least likely to go to college, so they actually start out with a big disadvantage in society. Me, I dropped out and spent a couple of years living as a depressed NEET.

What tends to get me pissed off is seeing young decadent left wing people peddling communism. They already tend to have all the advantages in life, but they want to destroy the last opportunities that working class guys like me have to take care of ourselves in life. I don’t like being treated as “privileged”, by people who have no clue what I had to go through.

They’re basically creating a society where you get ahead in life by having the right personality type: Docile, agreeable, hypersocial and boring. It’s the kind of society where you get into the right college because you took the right extracurricular activities and subsequently get the right job because you went to the right college.

Communism after all, is just cronyism for the bourgeoisie. Here’s a good example of American Democrats basically pushing for the type of cronyism that you normally see in technocratic communist states: In Washington D.C. the Democrats voted to make it mandatory to have a college degree to take care of children. Keep in mind, this is not even good for black people (they’re more likely to drop out of college than white people). It’s simply a policy good for people who are high in conscientiousness. Bourgeois people high in conscientiousness tend to use the government to make life easier for people similar to them, while making it harder for people like me, who are reasonably intelligent but low in conscientiousness and agreeableness.

The reason I’m explaining this is because for all practical purposes I’m no longer a poor man, despite dropping out of college and growing up in poverty. I took a roughly similar route that a lot of other young guys took: You start out trading cryptocurrency, then you move on to investing in the stock market. I find cryptocurrency cringe-worthy, as it’s basically a negative sum game, but it worked for me.

However, the thing I want to point out is that if you’re looking for true egalitarianism, a situation in which my “white male privilege” becomes entirely irrelevant, the place to look would be in cryptocurrency. The year is 2013. Are Bitcoin companies going to refuse you service, because you’re a genderqueer latinx BIPOC lesbian? No. The only people buying Bitcoin back then were nerdy white guys like me, while everyone else was busy engaging in hashtag activism on Twitter (#banbossy amirite? #notyourasiansidekick!), but whose fault is that exactly?

This is the same crowd that wants to have their college debt forgiven, while pushing laws that make it impossible to get a decent job for people like me who don’t have a college degree. Whose fault is it that you spent 20,000 dollar a year on college tuition? You make that decision. I figured out after three years or so in college “this is not going to work for me, if I don’t quit I’ll eventually be thirty and still have no degree”. That’s when I started buying Bitcoins and doing freelance web design stuff.

I want to live in a society where a crowd of hypersocial people high in conscientiousness can’t rig the game in favor of themselves. The stock market is fair. When I buy stock of a Chinese or Japanese company, I don’t get a discount because of my race, gender, social class or sexual orientation. The only thing that matters, is whether I made a smart decision or not.

On the other hand, in the rest of our society, cronyism increasingly applies.What I notice everywhere in society, is that we’re increasingly moving away from a societal model where your actual skills matter, towards a societal model where your qualifications, personality type, social competence and your social network matter most.

Essentially, we’re moving towards a society where the political left represents the interests of people who are socially competent, conscientious, agreeable and charismatic, while the political right represents the interests of those of us who have actual skills. I want to live in a society, where my human rights and my ability to earn a living are not completely dependent on whether I am popular with other people or not. That’s why the political right now appeals more to me than the political left.


III.

I don’t consider myself to be poor anymore. In fact, I would like to quit my job at some point this year, provided I have a clear plan on what to do with my life after that. A year ago, when everything began crashing down, I thought to myself “this is the time to buy”. I told you all about this a year ago. Well suffice to say, stepping into the stock market back then worked out pretty well.

Again, I’ll emphasize this: My mother makes ends meet by selling junk on the Internet, that my father finds laying on the side of the road. I don’t see myself as benefitting from a system rigged in my favor. In fact, I experience the society I live in as being rigged against me. How exactly, is the game rigged in my favor?

What did you learn in college? Did your college professor tell you to buy Bitcoin back in 2013? No, but perhaps they did introduce a course on “blockchain technology” in december 2017. Employers are going to expect you to get a “four year college degree”, before they will even invite you to a job interview however.

I was invited to a handful of job interviews in IT, where they made an exception on the requirement for a college degree. I would be the only applicant out of twelve or so guys to pass their cognitive tests. Then I would have a job interview with a preppy guy and a preppy girl from HR, they would notice that I’m nervous, they would ask me about my “job experience” and then they would come up with an excuse not to hire me.

The only reason I began earning money for myself, is because I grew up in a society that is rigged against me. I began earning money for myself, because all the alternatives that are open to most people, were simply not open to me. When society didn’t have a place for me, I made a place for myself.

Below, you can see the status of my two brokerage accounts:

Taking into consideration the money left in my bank account that I still need to invest, I’m left with around 485,000 euro to my name right now. Assume for a moment that after adjustment for inflation, I am going to earn a 10% return on my principal every year, from this point onwards.

My income before wealth taxes would thus be 48,500 euro. After the Dutch wealth tax, you’re left with ~43,000 euro. If you think I’m correct when I say that I can consistently earn at least a 10% return on my investment per year from now on, and if you think I’m correct in saying that 43,000 euro in a year is enough for me to live off, then for all practical purposes, I don’t really have to work anymore.

I’ve discussed this situation with family and friends and they tend to bring up a number of counter-arguments. I’ve outlined them below:

“You’re not always going to have these type of returns!”

Yes, I fully agree. But I don’t always have to see the type of returns I saw this year. For people with less than 1 million in net worth, value investing should generally allow you to get a return of around 20-25%, although Warren Buffet claims he could earn 50% a year if he had to manage a million dollar or less.

“There could be a black swan event, that wipes you out.”

Well, that would need to be one hell of a black swan event. Explain this one to me: Imagine I own five different Japanese companies, with Price/Earning ratios between 4 and 8 and negative enterprise value. What’s going to happen exactly, that would obliterate my portfolio? Japan might get nuked again, but if so, we’ll probably have other issues to worry about.

There’s always going to be risks in life, you can’t exclude every risk. We should avoid taking irresponsible risks, but we should not allow ourselves to be paralyzed with fear, by risks that can not be eliminated from life. It’s possible that something with my portfolio goes terrible wrong and at age 42 my wife will leave me and I will have to apply for a job at McDonalds and serve her takeaway food when she shows up in her new boyfriend’s ferrari. If the risk of that happening is 5% or less, I’ll take it. It’s also possible that I have it all planned out perfectly, but then it turns out I have a rare disease and I drop dead at age 33.

When it comes to such complete catastrophes, the right response is not to plan for them, because we simply do not have control over everything in life. Rather, the right response is to have faith in God. Part of my plan is that if God, His random number generator, my body, or the laws of physics themselves decide to completely screw me over, I accept defeat. I plan for a boring future, because you can only plan for a boring future.

In fact, I would say I am slightly better prepared for a bad future, than most people are. You know how to gather wild berries? Well that’s very nice, but when the shit hits the fan, gathering wild berries and identifying deer tracks won’t do much to help you survive, because that’s what everyone will start doing. You’re prepared for a bad future when you have the ability to leave the place you live, without being stuck with a 300,000 dollar mortgage. You’re prepared for a bad future, when you know that you could spend five or six years unemployed, without dying of hunger. If everything goes wrong the way some people think it will go wrong (megatsunamis, mass starvation etc), there is no point in preparing for such a future: Most of us would die regardless of what preparations you made.

“You’re going to get lonely and bored when you quit your job.”

Yes I fully agree. That’s why I’m not quitting until I have built up a viable alternative to spend my time with. This doesn’t have to be something that earns me money. Maybe I decide that I’m going to direct an art house movie. Maybe I will decide that I’m going to cultivate rare plants, or travel around the world. I’m quitting my job, the moment I have something else that I can point at and say “this is what defines me as a person”.

“You’re a selfish greedy bastard for having half a million euro.”

Well, this is where I disagree. I’m not ashamed of having money. I could give my money to a charity, the executives would throw a lavish party and perhaps spend it on underage prostitutes, like Oxfam Novib did. Having money itself is not greed: The greed is in how you spend it. Some American billionaires let private airplanes fry across the country, just to bring them their golf clubs. That’s selfish.

Is it selfish, for me to live off my investments? I don’t believe it to be selfish. Whether that’s selfish or not depends entirely on how I spend my money and the time I am left with by not having to work. Imagine I travel around the world, snorting cocaine off hookers butts. To some degree, that makes you a selfish greedy bastard. The people who frown on having money, tend to be the people who immediately spend it on bullshit themselves. I simply lived frugally for years, I never bought a car or anything else I didn’t absolutely need, I didn’t go on expensive vacations either.

But imagine this one: I stop working and live off my investments, because I want to have a family and take care of my children and ensure they have a happy exciting childhood, traveling in a small boat together to foreign countries and going on adventures that would be impossible if I had to go to the office every day. Would you consider that selfish? I would not consider that selfish.

If you’re a good person, which I will assume by default you are, then I entirely wish for you to have the same happy life that I pray for myself: Living off your investments, traveling from country to country with your spouse and your children, spending your time doing interesting things, instead of filing paperwork at a cubicle somewhere.

“What about your obligations to other people?”

One of the virtues we should strife for in life, is humility. I’m not the person who is going to save the world, or at least have no reason to believe so. I try to live in accordance to my moral compass, I try to make the world a better place, but my influence is inherently limited. We have to take care of our family and friends first. If my brother asked me for something I would be quite happy to help him out, but I doubt he will. I would similarly happily help my friends, but most of them are wealthy and the others are proud or have no need they can not provide for themselves.

IV.

You didn’t come here just to endure me bragging about my money. I should give you some basic advice instead.

Try being frugal, until you don’t have to be frugal anymore.

I have no driver’s license and I have no car. I travel around with my bicycle and public transport. If you’re eighteen now and you want to be able to stop working at age thirty, it’s not as difficult as you might think. One option is not to go to college, but to get a simple job. You live with your parents and you just buy cheap companies with all the money you earn every month.

Of course that comes with disadvantages too. You eliminate a lot of other directions you can take in your life, if you don’t go to college. But most people don’t start earning six figure salaries after college. Most people are just left with a lot of debt. A lot of comparisons online suggest that college is still worth it, by pointing out the average salary of graduates versus high school graduates. But they ignore four problems:

  1. You have no guarantee that you will actually graduate. A lot of people drop out of college. You might very well be one of them, it’s not easy to know in advance.
  2. You shouldn’t compare average wages, because a small group of college graduates distort the numbers with their huge income. You should compare the median wages, which are far more similar.
  3. You should compare the after-tax and benefits income of college graduates versus high school graduates. Most comparisons just look at the pre-tax salary of graduates and conclude that it pays off. However, a high school graduate maintains a larger share of his actual salary, whereas a college graduate will have to pay a lot of taxes.
  4. College graduates tend to end up living in a situation where your cost of living becomes higher than high school graduates. It’s nice if you earn a six figure salary, but working in fracking in smalltown America might leave you with more money to spend than being a six figure codemonkey in San Francisco.

You should go to college, if you have a clear passion and goal in life and know how graduating college fits into this passion. I had no clear goal in life when I went to college, so for me it was essentially a mistake to go.

At this point in time, I don’t really have to be frugal anymore. However, being frugal helped me a lot when I was young.

Don’t buy gold, cryptocurrencies, silver or other non-productive assets.

When you buy something, buy something that delivers something of value every year. Real estate works for some people, but I personally very much prefer to focus on buying stocks of companies that are trading at a discount to intrinsic value. It’s not hard to find such companies in Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Japan.

Bitcoin is not an investment. When you buy Bitcoin, you turn your money into Chinese CO2 emissions. A bitcoin doesn’t produce anything, it simply consumes a lot of electricity. Some people will earn a lot of money with Bitcoin, but this is only possible, because a lot of other people lose a bit of money through Bitcoin. With schemes like Bitcoin a lot of people generally think they are rich, but when it’s time to cash out suddenly the money is not there.

Most young men are going to lose a lot of money they worked hard for, because they invested it in cryptocurrencies. I can’t just give you a five step plan on how to become a millionaire. It’s much easier however, for me to explain what the ways are the most people lose a lot of money. Well here’s an answer: Most young men are going to lose a lot of money, because they bought cryptocurrencies.

Yes, if you buy stocks like me, you should be quite happy if you manage to earn 20% a year, whereas with cryptocurrencies, some people witness 1000 dollar turning into 100,000 over a period of years. What happens to most people however, is that their “investment” crashes by 90% or more. You don’t hear about that, because it’s not something people will brag about.

Young men generally still need to learn the virtue of patience. Let’s say you’re eighteen right now. You decide to spend the 10k you earned stocking shelves in the supermarket on a stock. You earn a return on investment of 20% every year. At 23, you’ll have 60k. That’s enough money for a downpayment on a house. Most guys won’t have that kind of money, because they bought worthless digital tulip bulbs.

Figure out something you can do that most people can’t do

Profit doesn’t survive competition. Louis Vuitton bags are very profitable, because only one company is allowed to produce them. Grain is not very profitable, because a lot of companies can grow grain.

Being a customer support agent is not very profitable, because almost anyone can do that job. Being a professional chess grandmaster can make you rich, because only a handful of people can play at your level.

There are a bunch of things that you are much better at than most other people. For me, I’m good at thinking critically, without adjusting to the prevailing sentiment of the masses. That has helped me with investing. I have also always been quite good at math, I just have an intuitive understanding of numbers. Figure out what you’re really good at. If it’s something you also happen to enjoy, then it’s probably a good place to focus your effort.

Pay careful attention when the majority of people are wrong.

Don’t just live on autopilot. Don’t just do things because you’re “supposed” to do them. I went to college because I was supposed to. It was a big waste of time for me personally. Similarly, you’re supposed to work for a boss, but that’s generally speaking not a path to riches.

It’s perfectly possible to be self-employed and make good money. As an example, if you have basic web design skills, you can earn good money through self-employment, simply by buying a website from someone. A lot of websites are sold at a price of around four times earnings. In other words, if the earnings are stable (they generally go up actually), after four years you earned back the money you invested, but you also still have the website.

It’s not what I specialized in myself, I learned to figure out how the stock market works. It’s perfectly possible to retire early by running a couple of websites however. The biggest opportunities of all however, are probably those moments when you see chances that most people deny exist. Personally, I believe the best example of that is life extension, most people don’t think we will figure out how to increase old people’s life expectancy. I think we will.

V. Conclusion.

I’m starting to feel like an adult now, because I now realize I can take care of myself. In fact, I plan on making long term goals. I’m gradually getting over some emotional baggage from the past. I want to see if I can find a girlfriend this year, someone I can spend the rest of my life with perhaps. I will probably sign up for a dating app/site/whatever, even though I deeply wish there were some kind of more romantic and natural way for me to find someone.

Eventually, perhaps a few years from now, I would like to have healthy and happy children of my own. There are a lot of different kinds of blessings we can have in this life, personally I just try to follow what I consider my moral obligation to the best of my ability and then I hope that the world will respond by being merciful towards me.

As an example, I tried to be a vegan, but I found that it left me frequently feeling tired and unhappy, I think it may not be well suited for my Northern European heritage. I don’t see it as wrong to grant myself some pleasures every once in a while, like a good plate of raw oysters, but I try to avoid succumbing to decadence.  I still try to take care of nature in what ways I can. I try not to buy leather products, I feed the birds around me and I even took a small hedgehog into my house to help it survive the winter.

Psychedelics, psilocybe mushrooms and 5-Meo-DMT in particular, have helped me become more empathic. Psychedelics have also gradually made me come to believe in God. I don’t have very clear religious beliefs at this moment, although I feel mainly attracted towards Hindu philosophy. In Hindu philosophy, sensual pleasures are seen as a normal part of growing up for young people. After raising a family and growing older, devout Hindus tend to renounce the world and prepare for what comes after death. I think this is a healthy balance to strife for. The young should enjoy life, as we grow older, we should take on more responsibilities and learn to ask less for ourselves. As an example, we should not ask that children are locked up in their homes, to protect us from a virus.

It sometimes saddens me that I wasn’t born into the Hindu faith. I don’t think I could see myself become a devout Catholic, although I sometimes do feel drawn towards it and like the idea of having closer ties to my own cultural heritage that goes back thousands of years. Insofar as I am religious, it mainly expresses itself in that I pray to God, asking to protect me from hubris, decadence and cruelty, and to help me become more empathic and able to embark on whatever my duties may prove to be in this life. Even if you do not believe in God, this may be conducive to your own personal development.

4 Comments

  1. You can insure your whole portfolio against black swans for cheap if you learn options.

    Far otm leap puts, for 1k per year you could cover your downside risk and it is worth it.

    We are mentally very similar white trash lives, disagreeable critical thinking blah blah etc… You are just living a strangely similar life path to me, but I am older and so it’s mostly all worked out very well for me , just keep your eyes open and seize opportunity and take risks you will do great, but I do want to tell you my biggest regret because you are still young enough to not fuck up the way I did, my biggest regret is not having lots of children when I was your age. Go on a big adventure then find a girl that is mentally stable and have children. All my anxiety is based on having no children. Life becomes pointless without them because you can get bored of everything else. Good luck .

  2. Thanks, this is exactly the post I needed right now. I too dropped out of uni and wish I had never gone, but was pressured and hectored into doing so. It still eats at me to this day. I am 28 and already jaded beyond words at being a codemonkey, and at society in general, especially after the past year.

    I hope that I will be one of the few people who will “make it” from crypto, because making it to me is much less than it would be for other people. I am refocussing my life around getting to the point as fast as possible where I no longer have to work, even if that means moving to a super low cost region of the country and living frugally. All I want to do is spend time in nature and think. It is hard though, as I need to now unratchet my lifestyle which has inflated with my codemonkey salary (which still does not go terribly far).

    I did invest in Bitcoin in 2011 but it amounted to little. You say you are happy to get a 20% return from your stocks, yet you already ran the crypto gauntlet and made the fat gains to buy your stocks with. Without those initial crypto gains, how far along would you be? Crypto is my hopium as I’m no longer young enough to compound moderate gains to anything worthwhile before I turn 70, and will also admit that I am simply getting impatient. That said, I would like to think I am not too high, and there is a decent chance my cryptos will pan out. They are speculative assets but it can result in more money all the same, even if it is not “productive”.

    • I wonder how many of his present-day readers are self-hating codemonkeys. I am the same age as you, same job, also in crypto.

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