“What’s exercise?” a question about the future of work

Let’s imagine you somehow got your hands on a working DeLorean – and took a trip back to the not-too-distant past of the pre-industrialised world. And when you arrived, you sat down with someone and asked them this simple question over a semi-dirty glass of water at their kitchen table.

Future Human: Did you exercise today?

Pre-Industrial Human: What’s exercise?

Future Human: It’s when you move your body around and lift things to stay fit.

Pre-Industrial Human: Oh, you mean work – is exercise a new word for work? Yeah, sure, I worked today. All day, in fact. All of the daylight hours. I’m very tired.

Future Human: No no, not work…I mean extra movement of your body before or after you’ve finished work.

Pre-Industrial Human: Why would I do that? I’m exhausted. I already did that all day.

Future Human: The reason is that you want to stay fit.

Pre-Industrial Human: What’s staying fit?

Future Human: It means you keep your body in good shape – like ‘thin’, and you remain strong.

Pre-Industrial Human: But my work already does that, and everyone I know is very thin, although I’ve heard stories about the King having a big belly.

Future Human: Well, in the future people do exercise, because they mostly sit down while working, and get fat from eating too much food.

Pre- Industrial Human: Wow, they sit down at work! How much food do they have?

Future Human: As much as they want, all kinds from all over the world…. but let’s focus here…

Pre-Industrial Human: So where do they do this…exercise thing?

Future Human: In gyms, mostly, or running or swimming. Or play sports.

Pre-Industrial Human: What’s a gym? 

Future Human: A place with weights, where you lift them, or do classes like spin or aerobics. 

Pre-Industrial Human: Oh, where do they put these heavy things they lift? Who are they lifting them for?

Future Human: Oh, the weights are specially made, only for lifting. People just lift them up and down. And the classes teach people how to move their bodies…

Pre-Industrial Human: Wow, this sure sounds strange…

Future Human: Strange, well you should see how they look in their spandex…

Pre-Industrial Human: What’s spandex…

Pre Industrial revolution dirty water

Of course this conversation could go on forever, in many directions and fill the void of the Middle Ages pre-industrial mind with all kinds of physical automation and wizardry of tomorrow. The Exercise Industry, and any flow of money, work and exchange of value associated with it, is of course a pertinent example. The positive energy balance (Read here excess food intake) many humans face would not exist without the invention of machinery to remove human labour in farming and food manufacture. The consequences of outsourcing of gathering our food are not limited only to the gym, weights and spandex. We could add to the list the birth of refrigeration, packaged foods, powered transport, television, the diet industry, Jane Fonda aerobics, education, sporting brands and all manner of things which are the result of us, the first generation in human history to have more people to die from over eating than malnutrition.

For every solution technology invents, it presents two more problems to be solved. It’s a less than a zero sum game where two new revenue streams arrive for every one it takes away. New unintended problems arise and new entrepreneurial solutions can be brought to market. Everything outside of the most basic physical needs are human inventions and the result of some previous invention. But ask me what the jobs in the distant future will be and I can’t tell you, just like a pre industrial human couldn’t fathom the need for ‘exercise’. And while AI will take away the need for many forms of intellectual labour in the near term, we will find new tasks for idle humans. Of this, I have zero doubt. Yes, there will be pain for the unimaginative, unprepared and stagnant humans during the transition, but it’s not the first time this has happened and our personal future depends on our personal actions.

Who knows, perhaps an entire industry might emerge to keep our brains in shape as we outsource left brain logic to the micro chip?

Get secret free chapters of my new book – The Lessons School Forgot – out in May.

It’s getting much quicker to fly across the globe, here’s why.

Boeing 707 - Qantas

Over the years flying overseas on a ‘public jet’ has become seriously more comfortable. Sitting back watching a movie, having something to eat and drink in air conditioned comfort ain’t that bad, despite  the ill founded whinging. Yet, the time it takes to fly across the nation or globe hasn’t improved much in 50 years – or has it?

Yes, it still takes around 8 hours to fly London to New York, but it is less than 10% of the price it was in 1965. That means we only have to work 10% of the hours we did 50 years ago to afford the ticket. Time and money are inextricably linked. So on this measure it is 90% quicker to get there.

Something we should think about with what we sell isn’t just the time it takes to do something, but the time it takes to acquire the ability to do it.

There are many ways to measure money, but the the best measure I know of is time. It’s the only asset we can never get more of.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

The Financial Wealth Ratio

old money mansion

When it comes to money there is a simple ratio which tells us the real story of how wealthy we are. Here it is:

Financial Wealth = Passive Income / Earned Income.

We should be aiming for a number which is greater than 1: The reason this is such an important formula is that it takes into account the most important and scare resource – time. While it includes money, it goes beyond it. It infers that earning money from control and ownership of assets is far superior to earning money through labour – regardless of how big the earned portion of our income may be. Passive income does not require our time to be earned.

So what things are included in Passive Income? They include but are not limited to Shares (Dividends), Property (Rents), Licensing Rights (Royalties)… the assets we’ve acquired or built which put money into our pockets. What it is not, is the net value of those assets, just what they generate in real returns – actual cashflow.  Much like a salary is a ‘real’ return on our labour.  And while trading large capital assets may generate actual cash returns, that return is singular and only available at the point of transaction. Unless we happen to be in the business of trading assets, it doesn’t provide a true month to month reflection on our cash position. Passive income is about earnings and probability of those earnings to be maintained over time.

Why Passive is more important than Earned: Speaking of probability, another reason passive income is so vital is that it has a high probability of increasing. Rents and corporate earnings in most developed economies increase at around 10% per annum. Wages on the other hand increase annually at less than 3% per annum. Passive income also removes the power of others. When we earn wages, we are at the whim of the work environment, the company, our boss, the economy, technological upheaval, and all other manner of things which make having a job inferior. Earned income is riskier than than passive income because it generally is not something we control. Sure we can influence it by becoming more skilled and valuable to the marketplace, but we can never have total decision authority like we can with allocating our money to a portfolio. Word of warning – passive income, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be actively managed, or that we don’t need to earn money to acquire it – it takes effort, but builds independence. In other words a passive attitude doesn’t build passive income, quite the opposite.

As mentioned in an earlier post about building financial wealth passive income is the money we earn when we are not in the room. This is actually more important than total income is. Firstly, passive income usually grows over time. Rents go up, anyone who has rented a house knows this pattern. In good companies earnings increase over time. Secondly, passive income is important, because it should be regarded as bonus money. We can manage to live on the earned portion of our income. We know this is true because most people start with zero passive income – unless you’re a trust fund baby. The passive portion becomes it’s own eco system of building more of itself – think compound interest. More on this later.

A story about the Stars: Not those in the sky, but rock stars, sport stars and movie stars. There is no shortage of stories about these people going broke. Bankrupt after earning zillions of dollars. In fact this statistics is very telling: By the time they are retired for 2 years, 78% of NFL players are bankrupt or under severe financial stress. This documentary – ESPN 30 for 30 Broke is worth watching on the topic. How is this even possible? The reason rock stars and sports stars go broke is because they have a poor ratio. Pure and simple. They earn big, have bad spending habits and don’t create a good financial wealth ratio while they have the chance. It should be easier for them than anyone, and most don’t take their opportunity. They don’t de-risk their future.

A story about the Rich: Look at any rich (financially rich) people you know, famous, or even that local business person you admire and you’ll see a good ratio. They own properties, have equity stakes in successful businesses and make the majority of their money from the passive side, not the earned. Even most employees who get rich – think CEO’s – become so from share options more than they do from pure wages. The pattern is clear.

How to hack your ratio: The trick is to move money from the earned income denominator to the passive income nominator. Until at some point there is more passive than earned income resulting in a ratio of 1 or greater. So long as we keep our spending in check, once we earn more money passively than actively, work becomes a choice for both type and frequency. Another hack for building this equation in your favour is ensuring your earned income and passive income are in the same realm or industry. This usually gives you an advantage in your passive income building as your skill base moves you up the learning curve of both sides of the wealth equation. This strategy often results in bigger returns both earned and passive as they interact interdependently. Stick what you know, and leverage knowledge advantage to beat the averages.

Know your ratio: We should know your position, your ratio. You should have a plan to increase the passive portion. The problem is that most people go through life aiming to increase the earned portion more than they do the passive portion. This ends up as a micro version of the rock star problem. The life style spending increases with the income. Knowing your ratio allows you to aim and game the system. To set targets for increasing the passive side. If your ratio is 5% this year, then aim to acquire investments to make it 10% next year.

Other advantages with the Wealth Equation: In most economies the taxation system gives large advantages to passive income. Often dividends are fully franked (the tax is already paid for you). You can offset your earned income with the expenses associated with generating your passive income. You don’t have to pay tax as you earn this money (PAYE), and can earn interest on the returns before it gets taxed. As well as many other structural benefits, such as paying lower corporate tax rates (30% company vs 45% top rate for a mere human) via holding the passive income assets in a private company.

How to build Passive Income: Save at least 10% of what you earn and invest it. The two simplest places to invest would be residential property and index shares. Invest the return on investment from the passive income into more passive income generating assets – never spend any of it. If we can manage to do this, then as soon as our ratio is 1. Work becomes a choice not a necessity.

To do: Add improve your wealth ratio to your goals list for 2015.

New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!

How to build financial wealth in 1 sentence.

cityhead

The way in which all financial wealth is built, time immemorial is this:

Find a way to make money when you are not in the room.

This formula has never actually changed. All the traditional investments fit this definition. Property, Rents, Dividends, Interest, Equity and even creating a startup which becomes bigger than us. Essentially, we need to invent more than 24 hours in a day through the labour of others. We need revenue which is controlled rather than earned. We can build it, or buy it, either way can work. Some ways are faster than others. But if you want to generate money, then you need to bethink this maxim. It tells all about the financial future.

New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!

The average success story

While success is in the eye of the beholder, I heard an interesting fact recently about intelligence and financial independence.  And that fact was that the vast majority of financially independent people have average or below average intelligence. We are talking here about raw intellectual capability. This would seem counter intuitive to everything we are taught to believe in school, the corporate world and life. That we have to be ‘smart’ to accumulate financial advantage. Turns out the opposite is true and social researchers put it down to one simple thing:

“People of average intelligence are not overly impressed with how clever they are.”

Sounds like a silly thing to say, but it gives average people like you and me a big advantage. It means that we know we have to work hard, and maybe even a bit harder. And it also means that we don’t think we know everything already and so we have on open mind to learn new things and methods.

Turns out that some of the key factors in the success equation are about being average.

The truth about the home town

There is a phrase which comes from a best selling book*

I tell all of you with certainty, a prophet is not accepted in his hometown. 

The economics of this statement are simple. If we want to get paid for you knowledge & skill, then we ought travel to a location where we are the unknown quantity.

*No, I haven’t read the book in question.

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Top 10 vital life signs money has no impact on

It’s good to remind ourselves of what we already know. One of these things is the really important stuff which our financial position has no influence on. Here’s my top 10 list.

  1. Being a good family member: Integrity, love, caring, effort, understanding and being able to listen have no price.
  2. Our fitness levels: Having a gym membership, or exercise equipment is not a requirement. Walk, run, push up. Move.
  3. Eating health foods: The healthiest foods are the cheapest. Fruit, vegetables, raw oats, milk, water.
  4. Being happy: We’ll be as happy as we chose to be, right now. I know plenty of rich miserable people.
  5. Education: Library cards are free, all libraries have internet access. University courses are now free.
  6. Enjoying who we work with: If we don’t like who we work with, we can leave. We are not trees. Our roots are not fixed in the ground. Walk on.
  7. Giving: Sharing what we are lucky enough to already have costs nothing. Whether it is a physical good, advice, or knowledge. At the time of giving there is no price.
  8. Friendship: The to and fro of sharing life with a friend is a pure gift.
  9. Faith: Not necessarily the religious type, but the ability to believe in something, anything which makes the future a place worth arriving at.
  10. Work: The joy that comes from doing. The willingness to put in effort now, because it’s worth doing, not because of the reward.

Why did I decide to write this blog post? Well, last friday I had lunch with a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while. During the lunch I got to thinking about how there was nowhere I’d rather be at that moment. That no amount of wealth would change how enjoyable it was, or create a desire to be elsewhere. That moment was in itself one which existed outside of our financial construct. Turns out, that most of the important things do.

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