Numbers on the board

Over a month ago I opened a Roth IRA account through Merrill Lynch. Partly it was out of boredom and wanting to try something new; the other part was using it as a hedge in the extreme scenario I don’t get-rich-quick at some juncture in the next 20 or 30 years.

I advocate for socialism and very much look forward to accumulating wealth so I can one day be a rich socialist. That way I would have more credibility than I do right now. Let’s face it: anyone making less than $100,000 per year who wants Democratic Socialism to be a thing is expected to want that. Or at least they should want that, since it’s in their best interests. Like anyone else I am on the road to pursuing happiness, and for me happiness is directly proportional to how much money I have.

When I was a little kid I really, badly wanted to go to Duke University. Why? Because I was in love with the basketball team. So for the bulk of my childhood — or at least the relevant age-10 to-17 years — I was bent on going to Duke. I cared about getting good grades, and I cared about doing well on the SAT. My day to day code was a lot less stringent then, but having a set goal vaguely influenced the choices I made. All told I would say it was for the best that my dream was to make it into a great college and not, I dunno, selling crack, or something.

I never enrolled at Duke, and to keep it a hundred I didn’t even apply since I knew my grades and test scores weren’t good enough. I figured I’d save my parents the application fee and save myself the embarrassment of getting rejected.

What spawned from that dream wasn’t a complete loss. I did end up at Virginia Tech — because I was in love with the football team — which as an accomplishment is nothing to sneeze at, and still seems crazy when I look back on it. As an 18 year-old child I seriously lived on the other side of the country and for real went to class to study communication. That really happened.

I reference Virginia Tech the same way I reference a lot of things from that period in my timeline, as it became the critical juncture of my life. All that came before led to it, and all that has happened since is, in some way, because of it. Or in spite of it.

Kids want stupid things, and I was no different. I wanted to go to a well-known, fancy-sounding college mostly for the wrong reasons. But perhaps most of all I wanted to be accepted to prove myself to my own internal critic. He is never satisfied. Duke was my big dream, and I didn’t make it. But since I was shooting for the stars, I ended up at VT. The process I underwent turned out to be a worthwhile use of my effort.

For that same reason, in life I am shooting to be a multi-millionaire, though I will probably settle for a million, or $750K, or $250K, annually. I have to set absurd expectations for myself or else everything — and I do mean every goddamn thing — is pointless. That’s the way I feel.

I am motivated by the dumbest things. There is, as I’ve already mentioned, my internal critic I need to impress. That is and always has been my greatest hurdle. But a bulk of the chip on my shoulder is all the people who ever believed in me and no longer do, who were once cool with me and no longer are, who I already had my time with. To be sure, it took some number of years before I was at peace with my situation. Now that I’m here, it’s not like I’m mad at anyone. It’s not like I hate anyone. I just stay busy minding my own business.

But it would be a lie to say that my past — and past participants — don’t have any impact on me. I’ve always wanted to show everybody that my way is the right way, that I’m right, and to some smaller degree that, once, they were also right (about me). Maybe that’s a needlessly-too-deep way of looking at this, but it highlights just how shallow and petty I can be.

From a selfish point of view, and what am I if not totally selfish, the vision I have of my future is quite grand. It’s pretty dope. The setting is warm and laid back, the background music is subtle, and the finished product is a tale of Local Boy From San Bernardino Does Good — where I pay back my interpersonal debts and cash in all the chips I have spent my life wagering on myself.

This is the long game I play in my mind, but I know that dreaming alone won’t get me there. It’s going to take a plan. As awesome as it may be to hope on winning a massive jackpot at a casino, or becoming a millionaire through the stock market — winning the lottery, basically — it isn’t realistic to bank on those outcomes. In the end it’s a child’s game to wishfully think of the easy way out, even if those thoughts are usually the most fun.

It’s going to be a challenge, and I live for that fight. I live to solve that problem. It just happens that my longterm “problem” is the ground I need to make up between where I am right now and the millions of dollars I expect to have in the bank down the road. In a way I wouldn’t even want the easy way, the timely stroke of good fortune, because that wouldn’t tell me anything about myself. Winning over time is the real proof, not some flash in the pan. I am, after all, the guy who tells you baseball stats over the Small Sample Size are essentially useless. Why would it be any different in life, specifically my own life?

(With that said I would be more than happy to get lucky and make it all at once, worry about the rest later on. I’m farfetched and romantic; not stupid. There is some slight differentiation.)

But what, then, does it say about me that money is my main motivating factor? Does that not make me almost exactly like everyone else? Is it even what I want in the first place, or am I simply pursuing it to prove to everyone how easy it is, or how much better I am at getting it than they are? These are just questions.

I rail against the model of greed that capitalism forces out of society, and in my heart I know it to be true that socialism raises the floor and benefits everyone — which is all I really want. I want everyone to win.

And at the same time I’m almost entirely fixated on my own personal gains. When I first opened my Roth IRA account, the stocks I was quickest to gravitate towards — or at least spend more time researching — were those of the major banks, and the Pharmaceutical industry, and insurance agencies. In other words: I am betting with the institutions I detest and against the workers I so strongly campaign for.

I am betting on the rich to get richer, basically.

Jay Z has this final verse on “Moment of Clarity,” one of his best songs on the Black Album, where he says (emphasis mine):

I dumb down for my audience and double my dollars
They criticize me for it yet they all yell “Holla”
If skills sold truth be told
I’d probably be lyrically Talib Kweli
Truthfully I want to rhyme like Common Sense (but I did five mil)
I ain’t been rhyming like Common since
When your sense got that much in common
And you been hustling since, your inception, fuck perception
Go with what makes sense
Since I know what I’m up against
We as rappers must decide what’s most important
And I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them
So I got rich and gave back to me that’s the win, win

You don’t have to know who Common or Talib Kweli are to appreciate this. The juice of what he is saying comes at the beginning, where he literally tells you his master plan, and the end where he offers his reasoning. This particular part of this particular song has always stuck with me, because it’s so honest and straightforward. Jay Z tells you exactly what he is doing.

I’m not worth half a billion and I’m not trying to relate, but I respect the play. It is how I aim to execute my own gameplan.

The moral to my story would probably read If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them. I’m struggling with making that okay, convincing myself there is something righteous about profiting off the misery of the working class. Maybe from working in a casino I am just conditioned to believe that the House always wins.

Then I think about my mom, and my dad, and my two brothers. And I think if it’s not me, who else is it gonna be? My dad is living off Social Security. My mom is going paycheck to paycheck. My older brother is 29 and making average money, and my little brother is 21, unemployed, and not going to school. It has to be somebody. Somebody has to do it.

I see myself as nothing but a reaction to such a dynamic. My family is good people. I would wager that I am the worst of the bunch, by default, and yet I can’t picture a future where they aren’t all comfortable and some form of happy. I know money isn’t everything, but it’s a damn good thing to have in the meantime. And if my main contribution to my family is that I can make them stable enough financially where they can focus their attentions to other, real life, problems, and not have to worry about the cost of being alive, then that will make everything worth it to me.

There is nothing wrong with doing bad things for good reasons. If betting alongside the rich and powerful is the worst thing I’m involved in — played with money that I earned — then I would say my character is as good as it’s ever been.

The conflict only exists with me, in my head, since I claim to be on the side of workers. Betting on the rich to keep winning is like a hedge in that way, because if I’m wrong then that will mean my side won. And if my side wins, it means the big banks will be less powerful, the Pharmaceutical industry will not be making as much money on drugs, and the health insurance agencies will go the way of the dodo bird.

Either way, it’s a win for me.

There are all kinds of cute memes talking about how “money can’t buy happiness” or “money isn’t everything.” And they are all bullshit to me, since I have never experienced it to be true and since it gives people the impression that capital isn’t the prime avenue to becoming happier. Whoever said money can’t buy happiness couldn’t have had very much of it.

One of the common misconceptions of socialism is this idea that we hate rich people, like being rich inherently makes one a bad person. I have nothing against them, in all honesty, because (like mostly everyone) I plan to be one someday.

My main contention is that the rich should not be getting fat off the backs of the workers. There is more than enough money to go around to make older people live more comfortably, for workers to make $15 an hour, and for every person in the country to have free healthcare. If that means my taxes have to go up another 20-25 percent, so be it. Because if I’m making enough money to be taxed 50 or 60 percent, that means I will be doing well.

Again, I want everyone to win.

If you are in your 20’s and start saving now, open an IRA or whatever, you will have at least a hundred thousand dollars in the bank when you retire in 30 years. If you are able to put away $300 or $400 a month, you could be closer to $500K or $1 million if you play your stocks right.

Anyway, money is fun.

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