The extremes of the personal finance world were on display at the Marriott World Center in Orlando, Florida earlier this month as money nerds clashed with the get-rich-quick crowd.
In an unlikely juxtaposition, FinCon ’22 – a conference of content creators (bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers and other types of media) – was a few conference rooms down the hall from PlanNet Marketing’s international BREAKTHROUGH convention, a forum for producers of a multi-level marketing company with ties to the travel industry.
You had no trouble guessing what event people were going to when you saw them walking through the huge hotel and conference center: the money nerds were wearing shorts and polo shirts, as well as t- casual shirts advertising their brand, members of the sales organization were dressed to nine, as if they were going to an adult ball.
What they shared was an enthusiasm for their endeavors in the financial world, a streak of self-promotion, and a belief that they are on the right track and want to bring others with them.
The similarities end there for the most part, as the groups are otherwise polar opposites.
Yet, as individual investors going through crazy financial times, there’s a lot to learn from the extremes and mindsets you find there. You may never want to be part of the nerd bunch or ride with the go-getter millionaires, but knowing your mindset and tendencies will help you find your best path.
Let’s start with PlanNet Marketing, which I hadn’t heard of of until I walked into the long hotel queue (I was there for FinCon).
PlanNet Marketing is a multi-level marketing (MLM) company in the travel niche. In partnership with InteleTravel – another MLM company – it gives people the opportunity to start a travel agency business from home.
I hate multilevel marketing programs; It’s wrong to say that MLMs are, de facto, pyramid schemes, but that’s how they feel to a lot of people.
PlanNet Marketing might be different, but I couldn’t get company officials to talk, only talking to random conference attendees. I did limited research into the company and did not attempt to reach anyone from InteleTravel.
Despite my doubts, I’ve met people who were happy with their MLM experience, pooped my worries away, and talked and dressed up a successful game.
PlanNet Marketing itself has no real products, but is instead a funnel to InteleTravel, where potential travel agents have access to a booking engine and travel booking tools.
The PlanNet Marketing Representative – the person who signs up and becomes involved – earns commissions for recruiting other Representatives, but also on travel bookings, and may also earn other payments by selling agent businesses InteleTravel.
Representatives pay a small upfront cost and monthly fee, and don’t have to purchase any product to earn commissions. They have no minimum sales quotas or goals to achieve.
They are also unlikely to achieve real financial success.
The company’s 2020 earnings disclosure statement, found online, showed nearly 98% of “active independent reps” are travel reps, working just a few hours a week and earning around $155 a year. That works out to about $13 per month, which is less than the monthly fees these reps pay the company.
According to the disclosure, less than half of one percent of active PlanNet Marketing reps earn more than $500 a year.
Chances are it won’t be the concert that will change anyone’s life.
Yet the true believers present, apparently, are either the exceptional producers or have failed to recognize that they tend towards the average.
Many have told me they prefer this plan – using their money and time – over investing in the stock market because it gives them full control of their financial future. They dress because they believe showing abundance will attract other people who seek it.
“I don’t trust the stock market,” said a man named William, who chatted to me as we waited for an elevator. Several others agreed with him. “I work to make my money, I’ve never trusted anyone, and this has been a way for me to make more money. I don’t expect to get something for nothing like I would if i put my money in the market and hoped it would grow, i work to have more control over what i get.
Compare this mindset and distrust of the stock market to the money nerds at FinCon.
There were members of the FIRE – Financial Independence Retire Early – movement and bloggers, stock and options traders and the shovel crowd coming out of debt. Financial bloggers come in all shapes, sizes, and education levels, and while not all of them create the best, most detailed/comprehensive financial coverage, they are committed to their endeavors.
They want their money to work smarter, not harder. They also want it for their personal life.
They want to know who to trust with their money, and while they trust each other to earn and save it, they want help – be it investments or advisors – to grow it and do it. last a lifetime.
They buy low-cost, long-term investment vehicles like index mutual funds.
They’re nervous now, but are looking into the issue to determine better outcomes, and they know most of all that will come from spending sensibly, saving aggressively, and staying diversified.
In the end, the members of each group thought that the other side had better try their own way; moreover, they were not going to change sides.
But with an economy and stock market struggling to cope with high inflation and rising interest rates, there’s no right way to success.
Although you want to emulate the success of others, take the path that’s right for you. Try to find the path of least resistance.
Thoroughly examine your logic before committing to it. Judge success by your personal standards and goals, not how others look and act.
The takeaway from Orlando was simple: trappings of success aren’t what make you successful, especially in these times when trouble seems to be upon us.
Your efforts and mindset go a long way in determining your financial success, but if you see a lot of financial damage along your financial journey, recognize that you may not be on the path to prosperity.