The Green Sheet Online Edition
December 26, 2016 • Issue 16:12:02
Minimalism: A path to financial freedom
Editor's Note: John Tucker has over 10 years of professional experience in commercial finance and business development. He is also an M.B.A. graduate and holder of three bachelor's degrees in accounting, business management and journalism. To connect with John, please send him a connection invite via LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/johntucker99 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For this article, I want to focus in on the connection between financial freedom and minimalism to show merchant level salespeople (MLSs) an alternative to the high-pressure sales tactics, over-consumption and unrealistic compensation expectations that prevail in our industry.
The word "piker" is used to ridicule sales agents who don't believe the rah-rah speeches given by recruiters and sales managers, which paint pictures of extravagant compensation:
- Make $200,000 per year with no experience
- Build residual income of $25,000 per month
- Build a processing portfolio and sell it for millions
Most will not earn six figures
While some agent unicorns make $200,000-plus per year consistently, they are the exception, not the rule. In fact, Glassdoor Inc. and Salary.com reported the median income for an MLS is about $49,000 per year, nowhere near $200,000.
The majority of MLSs will never earn six figures. Due to global and domestic economic market forces, no matter how diligently they work or how smart they think they are, forces out of their control will create insurmountable barriers to attaining "Six Figure Man" status. Some of these forces include:
- Technology automation/robotics
- Globalization/cheap labor
- Stagnant economic growth
- Horrible trade deals/bad trade policies
- Higher taxes due to higher debts/out of control government spending
- Increasingly competitive marketplaces
- Complex problems requiring complex solutions, which demand high investment and research and development
- Increasing marketing restrictions and costs that make it harder to market products and services
- Increasing regulatory burdens that make it harder to operate
- Strategic networks that close out access to many products, markets, networks, etc.
- An overabundance of educated people with too few jobs to place them in
Success in our industry has always been due to leveraged resources, rather than some sort of Midas touch or superior selling capabilities. Twenty percent of sales agents produce the majority of production and sustain at least a decent career; the other 80 percent usually don't last 12 months.
This is because the 20 percent group of sales agents have access to resources, data, information, products, strategic networks, capital, and/or market segments that the other 80 percent don't have, thus providing the top 20 percent a significant competitive advantage. Without a unique competitive market advantage, you stand no chance of succeeding today, but the rah-rah speech crowd will never tell you this. (For further discussion on this, please see my prior articles, "Are you in the payments matrix?" and "The one man show: Be a piker, dream middle class" in The Green Sheet issues 16:10:01 and 16:01:01, Oct. 10 and Jan. 11, 2016, respectively.)
Should you embrace minimalism?
Regardless of where you might stand, why not embrace minimalism as an additional protection layer? Why not be a piker, that is, structure your life as a minimalist, and seek to just live a comfortable life? Think about it. Is there really anything wrong with the goal of just living comfortably?
I've never understood why the image of a successful person is so often portrayed as the guy who racks up the most expensive "toys" to impress people he doesn't know, doesn't like, and who, in return, wouldn't spit on him if he were on fire. It's the proverbial keeping up with the Joneses mentality that leads people to over-consume; even if they make $100,000 per year, they spend $120,000 per year and place the overage on credit cards that charge high interest rates.
Minimalism is living below your means to where you can still live a quality life without getting yourself deep into debt. Minimalism allows you to take control of your expenses and spending, which are the key components of becoming financially free.
My goal in this industry has always been financial freedom. In a nutshell, to be financially free is to structure your assets to where your passive income from them covers all of your personal expenses and debt payments.
Is the higher consumption lifestyle really necessary? Do you really need:
- To purchase a $60,000 car for $1,100 a month over 60 months or, even worse, lease the same car? How about saving up and buying a car out of pocket, that's at least two years old, with a car purchase budget of no more than $15,000 to $20,000?
- A $500,000-plus house, putting yourself on the hook for 30 years of a $2,500 a month mortgage payment, not including the costs of maintenance, repairs, utilities, furniture, taxes and insurance? How about buying a modest house with a purchase price of no more than $150,000 and seeking to pay that off within 10 to 15 years?
- To fly off every week to new islands, the names of which you can barely spell?
- To consistently consume processed foods through the drive-through or dine at the most expensive restaurants? How about cooking at home, which also gives you the opportunity to eat healthier food and save money at the same time?
- To buy new clothes every week? How about maintaining the clothes you already have?
Can $49,000 per year lead to financial freedom?
Based on various economic reports, including U.S. Census Bureau data, you are considered to be middle class if, as an individual income earner, you make $37,000 to $90,000 per year. Making this income range also means you are in the top 6 to 15 percent of individual income earners in the country and make more than 85 to 94 percent of all individual income earners. So by making a typical MLS income of $49,000 per year, you are in the top 15 percent.
If you position yourself in a low or average cost-of-living region, you can live in great quality suburbs on $49,000 per year, as well as achieve financial freedom. For example, let's say you bring your expenses down to $3,200 a month using minimalism-based tactics, while building a residual portfolio that pays out $49,000 per year, which is $4,083 per month (before taxes). This means you would be financially free.
Imagine if you were financially free as well as a minimalist? Both provide you the option of living a life free of tyrannical bosses and debt collectors, freeing you from the daily work grind and the stress of high debt.
While I'm not here to tell you how to live your life, I would like you to consider an alternative lifestyle path. If you decide to follow my path, you might be chided by certain members of our industry for being a piker, but remember, these words from an anonymous source: "It's your life. Don't let anyone make you feel guilty for living it your way."
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