Diana Clement: Get rich quick is for hare-brained

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Get-rich-quick schemes are for those who backed the bunny in the tortoise and hare fable. Photo / NZ Herald
Get-rich-quick schemes are for those who backed the bunny in the tortoise and hare fable. Photo / NZ Herald

Wanna get rich quick? Then don't read this article. I'm firmly in the get-rich-slowly camp. In fact, $1 at a time.

It's quite preposterous that people really believe that the latest fad will make them rich. Yet it happens over and over again.

Admittedly it's probably an odd time to write about such schemes, as my telephone, which used to run hot with all sorts of offers, has gone quiet around dinner time.

There are still some doing the rounds, such as computer-betting programs. Fortunately, they're few and far between at the moment.

Nevertheless, the get-rich-quick season will be upon us again as sure as night follows day. Before we know it there will be thousands of people suckered in again.

It may be an "entrepreneur" or "guru" crossing the Tasman to tout some get-poor-fast product. Or it may be our own temporarily abated off-the-plan property brigade who find some new get-rich-quick scheme to make money from.

For now, the people who promote such schemes are nursing their wounds, although a few have metamorphosed into internet-marketing gurus.

It's sad that people feel the need or desire to get rich quick. Being "rich" isn't a dollar value. It's subjective. The Costa Ricans are the sixth happiest people in the world, according to the Gallup World Poll - equal with us. Sixty-three per cent of the people in both countries believe they are thriving, 35 per cent are struggling and 2 per cent are suffering.

Yet Costa Rica is a relatively poor country - although wealthier than neighbours Nicaragua and Panama.

The get rich quick gangs come in two main varieties: dumb and dumber.

The dumb ones buy into "gold-plated" investments that are simply poor performers.

The dumber ones sink all their money into something that will fall flat completely and they will lose their money. That may be a scam, or simply an investment that crashes and burns.

The very worst-case scenario is that the get-rich-quick believer has mortgaged his or her existing wealth against a dodgy scheme. This is what happened to some, but not all, Blue Chip investors.

They had taken out mortgages on properties, some of which weren't even built. Those mortgages were tied to their own homes and they subsequently lost their homes, some by selling and, so far, at least one through a mortgagee sale.

While the authorities draw the line between legal and illegal get-rich-quick schemes, I sometimes don't. Whether you lose your money through a legal or an illegal scheme, the result is the same - it's the business owners who usually get richer than the punters who invest in their schemes. What all the get-rich-quick dreamers have in common is that greed tends to blur their assessment of risks. No matter how many warnings are issued to New Zealanders, sadly some people want to believe that they can get rich easily.

While most of the property investment get-rich-quick schemes have gone into abeyance, foreign exchange (forex) and options spruikers are still working tirelessly to sucker in their prey.

There's nothing wrong with trading either of these, unless you really believe it is the answer to your money problems or dreams. It's fine to spend a grand or two of your own money - or whatever you can afford to lose - and run a practice/fantasy trading account at the same time.

There are practice accounts for many different types of investments including share trading CFDs, spread betting and forex, such as the free $20,000 practice account on IGmarkets.co.nz. Try it for at least a year, or preferably an entire financial cycle, before putting any real money in.

Nor should anyone buy into any "systems" or seminars for this type of trading. The systems don't work. Otherwise the person selling them would keep the knowledge to themselves. What's more, the information you get from seminars can be gleaned from books and you're not at risk of being conned out of money through hype at the seminar. Seminars are often fronts for the hard selling of products.

There are, of course, people who do get rich quick. But they're a very small minority, including a handful of lottery winners every year.

Some while back a reader posted on the nzherald website that I should include network marketing among the get-rich-quick schemes that don't work. Network, or "multi-level" marketing, is offered by the likes of Amway, USANA, Melaleuca and even Tupperware, although the reader's gripes were really with the ones selling vitamin/health supplements.

The idea is that you have to use the product yourself, sell it to others and recruit more sellers from whom you get a commission.

There are a minority of people who have got rich doing this. But the vast majority just tick over making a few bucks here and there. The pyramid structure of the organisations means that the end customer is paying way over the odds for goods they could buy more cheaply elsewhere.

Providing you are selling more of the product than you are required to buy personally, then there is no real harm - although I do question the practice of swallowing large quantities of vitamins without seeking medical advice beforehand.

A certain number of hard-working business people strike it rich as well. Deservedly. Steve West, who founded internationally acclaimed Kiwi-based music company Serato, which produces vinyl emulation software for DJs, is one.

I once interviewed author Lee Child, who did get rich quickly, but with very hard work writing a series of bestsellers. He'd made around $37 million then, but will be far wealthier now as his books continue to sell well. He was a pleasure to interview and very modest in his success.

Neither Child nor West got a free lunch. Both were innovative in their fields and worked hard for their money. It's not easy to develop new technology or come up with a unique plot then sell it to hard-nosed publishers. It needs to be said that very few authors or business people, especially Kiwi ones, because our market is small, really strike it rich.

The most popular get-rich-quick scheme in New Zealand is Lotto. Yet you're probably more likely to have a brush with lightning than win $20 million or more on Powerball.

Even so, queuing up on Saturdays to buy your ticket for the big one is less likely to make you wealthy than diligent saving will.

A better investment than the $11 Lotto ticket might be a book that can help you get rich, although avoid those that promise instant wealth. Ten of my favourite investment books can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/3gplbex.

Finally, every year thousands of New Zealanders fall hook, line and sinker for scams, or are defrauded online.

Time and again people fall for the same scams - although sometimes dressed up differently. They may be dating scams where the man or woman of your dreams doesn't actually exists, Ponzi or pyramid schemes, prizes that cost you to claim them, or bogus share tips. What they have in common is that they make people poor, not rich.

Protect yourself from scams

www.scamwatch.govt.nz

- NZ Herald

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