Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Free Financial and Pickup Advice

The Financial Advice

Every financial adviser in the free world offers the same advice:

1) Pay off your debts, starting with higher interest rates, then moving to lower.

2) Accumulate six months' income.

3) Invest extra assets.

4) Calculate how many years of roughly half your prime earning income you'll need before actuarial tables say you'll die, and get that before you retire.

Dressing Up The Financial Advice

There are various ways of dressing up this advice to make yourself sound intelligent when you're trying to get someone to pay you for what everybody already knows:

Insurance brokers target middle-income people, claiming that industry lobbying for tax breaks makes their product a good investment. Why does it work? Because it's partly true. Decades ago, insurance companies bought tax exemptions from Congress, allowing principal growth in nominally "insurance" investments to be tax-deferred. Insurance companies take customers' money, invest it in more profitable business ventures (like owning stock in corporations or legislatures), share a little bit with customers, and pocket the extra to the tune of billions. The "you'll pay less tax!" line for insurance customers tricks many of them into feeling that they're saving something, which they are--they're saving income tax on the increased gains they would've had if the rest of the money had been in securities. (Do not confuse "term" life insurance, to provide for someone if you die, with various investment insurance products.)

Financial consultants target middle- to upper-income people, claiming that paying the consultant to select special combinations of stock and bond funds will result in higher returns. Why does it work? The vast array of potential products confuses people like the carpeting patterns in a casino. Un- and negligibly-managed funds have outperformed managed funds for decades and decades, but they generate fewer returns for professional investment managers, who get paid more the more time they spend "choosing" and "managing" funds.

Bottom-Feeding Assholes target low-income people, insulting them for their lack of resources and encouraging them to buy Enchanted Anti-Tiger Rocks, and also books and pamphlets explaining why Grandmother's advice was either (A) incredibly outdated, naive, and fiscally dangerous, or (B) an insightful, yet forgotten legacy of ageless fiscal wisdom. They sell debt consolidation and refinance products, discourage people from seeking legal advice or widespread social solutions to poverty, and foment intra-community strife by suggesting that poverty is caused by other poor people who refuse to break the debt cycle through clean living. If they want to sound really, really clever, Bottom-Feeding Assholes can spend at least forty-five minutes explaining why it saves money to pay off a single large debt with a higher interest rate than to use the same sum of money to pay off three smaller debts with lower interest rates. (If they're targeting higher-educated groups, they call the 6 months' liquid salary a "reserve fund," and if they're targeting lower-educated groups, they call it an "emergency fund.")

Annuity brokers target middle- to high-income people, claiming that they might outlive their savings and end up on the street, unless they give all their money to an insurance company, which will guarantee fixed payments in return for letting the company make greater profits investing the principal in securities or legislatures.

All of these little games address surface issues, focusing human attention on a tiny slice of faux reality that has almost nothing to do with the reliable accessibility of basic needs to aging 18-55ers, or with why elders wear bedsores and eat dog food. Still, if you're in any form of "middle-income" group, then getting grifted a little by the tricksters above isn't nearly as bad as not even being worth conning in the first place.

The Pickup Advice

Every pickup artist in the free world offers the same advice:

1) Design your appearance to attract attention, because you're either good-looking and/or wealthy or you're not, so catching attention is a net plus either way.

2) Don't give someone time to think about you after they've noticed you but before you've closed the distance to a conversational one--approach quickly and begin lines quickly.

3) Cleverly demean something about the person using a rhetorical trick that makes what you said not appear to have been an insult.

4) Recite canned anecdotes while pretending not to be aware that you're increasing physical contact.

Dressing Up The Pickup Advice

There being less money in teaching pickup advice, pickup instructors tend to be solely Bottom-Feeding Assholes. They're usually associated with shallow men, but actually do an immensely profitable trade with terrified, self-critical women. Many centuries ago, wealthy women and men had already standardized the modern methods of acquiring mates, so pickup-method salesmen are, essentially, the credit counselors of sex. Like bottom-feeding financial consultants, they focus a lot more on insulting the appearance, instincts, and (lack of) financial prospects of their target customers, using their own (3) method to encourage the customers to prove themselves (by using the purchased advice to attain, and subsequently brag about, family production and/or standalone sex).

All of these little games address surface issues, focusing human attention on a tiny slice of faux reality that has almost nothing to do with finding interpersonal comfort, reliable intimacy, self-confidence, happiness, or even good sex. Still, if you're in any form of "middle-income" group, then getting some guy to take you to the Dominican Republic for a week (or banging a few 10s) isn't nearly as bad as not even being worth conning in the first place.

The Neg

Mystery and Dave Ramsey are good examples of the vile cons that feed on less powerful customer bases with negs.

What is the neg? The neg is one of the proudly acknowledged components of pickups, and an expressly un-acknowledged component of the financial stuff. Pickups, M2F: the Lustful Man compliments the Desired Woman about an unnatural aspect of her appearance. The Desired Woman is then embarrassed that the unnatural aspect is not natural, but she can't be offended at Lustful Man because he "complimented" her. So, she tries to prove that she merits the compliment.

Example: "Oh my god, how do you get your hair to look that awesome without even practically trying?" (Delivered only when the Target has obviously dyed her hair and/or spent a lot of time arranging it.) The implied insult is there: to make your hair look acceptable, you have to work that much. But, because it was delivered like a compliment, the Target can't get mad--someone just complimented her! Why does she feel bad inside, though? How to make that feeling go away? "By earning a different compliment fairly" is the simple way out.

Seems stupid, but awfully, it works. Insulting the customer is a longstanding way of increasing sales. That's why wine vendors sneer in order to get casual diners to shell out for an $115 bottle, to prove that they possess sophisticated palates. Luxury vendors of all stripes subtly question, while appearing nice (but still giving you that sick feeling in your gut), your worth: do you really belong here? Which brings us to...

The Political Advice

That's all it is: just a big Mystery Method filled with a bunch of negs. You compliment people on their civic involvement, steadfastness, close study of foreign relations and high finance, empathy with the plight of children, or pragmatic willingness to compromise, so that they'll feel bad and try to prove that they really do understand things. Sale made. If you're the one hearing it, then afterward, you feel crappy and powerless inside--yet, because the Con appeared to be addressing your concerns (however "wrong" she/he might've been in her/his assumptions), you can be led to thinking that you're having an actual conversation about actual topics, and not just getting set up for diminishing retirement or a bad fuck.


  1. All of the techniques you've outlined are also used to get young people to go to graduate school in the humanities and non-quantitative social sciences, or to law or MBA schools. The part about putting someone down without seeming to especially resonated: The ones who entice young people to sign their lives away tell young people with useless liberal arts degrees things like, "You can complete what you've started" or that student loans are "good debt."

  2. I always thought the best way to hit on someone is to compliment him or her on whatever it is you like about them. If they don't seem like they're into you, quit bothering them and go hit on somebody else. Oh well, I'm a simple soul.

    @DF In their defense, selling degrees to young people is how professors get paid. They're hawking a product just like any used car salesmen.