What You Can’t Buy

From a young age, I knew something wasn’t quite right with the world. It all started when I lost my first tooth. I was five years old when I showed my parents my first enameled souvenir. They told me to put it in a Ziploc bag and place it under my pillow for the tooth fairy. I did as instructed and remember waking up the next morning to find money under my pillow. Wow. I was amazed as only a child can be.

A few months later I lost my second tooth. “What would the tooth fairy would bring this time?” I wondered. However, in my impatient state, I forgot to tell my parents about my lost tooth and just followed the standard procedure: Tooth in baggie. Under pillow. Sleep. The next morning I awoke with anticipation and looked under my pillow. What was this? To my surprise, the tooth was still there. Hmmm. That seemed odd.

I told my mother about what happened and she said that she would talk to the tooth fairy to make sure she visited that night. That evening as I headed to bed I was more anxious than ever. I wanted to see the tooth fairy with my own eyes. Hours later I awoke to something moving under my pillow. I cracked open my eyes ever so slightly to catch a glimpse of…my own mother! After she left the room I lifted my pillow to find my tooth gone with money in its place. The jig was up.

Ever since that day I have been skeptical of what I have been told. The tooth fairy? Nope. Santa Claus? Pass. The superiority of hedge funds? Yeah right. This skepticism partially explains why I love data, why I write this blog, and why I came to Ritholtz Wealth Management. Because, at the end of the day, it all comes down to what you believe, what you stand for—what you can’t buy.

I joined RWM because Barry has been calling out the bullshit in the investment industry since the late 1990s. Because Josh knows every financial trick in the book. Because Michael and Ben are constant skeptics in a world that is filled with more noise and less signal. Because Tony and Dina preach how teachers are getting screwed day in and day out. Because our advisors understand how much of the industry is setup against our clients’ best interests. Blair called us the Truth Seekers. I would go a bit further and call us the iconoclasts of finance. The definition of an iconoclast is:

A person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions

And that is exactly what we are doing. We are attacking the lack of transparency, the outrageous commissions, and the non-fiduciary standards that have plagued our industry for far too long. The old way won’t work anymore. The jig is up. We know it, our clients know it, and our future clients know it.

Those we are fighting against aren’t bad people (I have met many of them), but they do have bad incentives and mouths to feed. However, I won’t let them off the hook that easy. They can steal our work, but they can’t steal our ideas, our grit, and our passion. And they can’t stop the thousands of other advisors across the country that are doing right by their clients. The advisors that are our friends, not our competitors. To those friends I will say, “if you see what I see, feel as I feel, and seek as I seek,” then come join us. The movement is just beginning.

Why did I choose to write about this? Because you only get one life to live. You only get one chance at whatever the hell this is. You might as well live it for something you believe in. Because the world has plenty of lies for you to follow if you don’t. Want to be happy?

Make more money.

Travel here.

Get a spouse that looks like this.

Take this pill.

Buy this.

Eat this.

Get this prestigious job.

Then you’ll be happy, right?

But you won’t. All of the money in the world can’t satisfy your soul. Wealth can’t satisfy the need to belong to something bigger than yourself. As someone who writes about finance every single week, I can tell you that there are some things that money can’t buy. Things like character. Things like integrity. Things like beliefs.

If you look inside yourself, you might just find out what those things are. For there are many tooth fairies in the world, but, the question is, do you want to crack open your eyes to see them?

Zero to One Hundred

When I started this blog 100 weeks ago, I had no idea where it would take me. I had no idea I would get to 100,000 pageviews in a month. I had no idea my writing idols would be reading my work. It all seemed to happen so fast, but this is really just the beginning.

So thank you to all of you who have been following along. I appreciate your words of encouragement on Twitter, LinkedIn, through email, and in person. All of this support keeps me going even when things get tough. There were times when I didn’t know whether this would work, when I didn’t know if I was on the right track. I gave up a relationship of over four years, moved to a new city, and am still over 3,000 miles away from my hometown and all of my extended family. I have issues just like everyone else. However, it’s readers like you that make them easier to bear.

While I still don’t know if my sacrifices will be worth it in the end, I have to follow what I believe. For those that this has affected, I hope you understand. I am just a kid chasing a dream. Thank you all for making Of Dollars And Data a reality. And for the 100th time, thank you for reading!

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This is post 100. Any code I have related to this post can be found here with the same numbering: https://github.com/nmaggiulli/of-dollars-and-data

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