Creating Financial Freedom


“I think if freedom were a stock, I’m buying. I think more is coming,” — Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner.

This podcast episode highlights five key points leading to financial independence, featuring insights from American history, Rule Breaker Investing listeners, and Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner.

Rediscover Ben Franklin’s wisdom, the Diderot Effect, and Yankee ingenuity. Learn from listener stories about frugality, teaching financial literacy, and entrepreneurial success.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool’s free podcasts, check out our podcast center. To get started investing, check out our quick-start guide to investing in stocks. A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on July 03, 2024.

David Gardner: It’s Independence Week here in the United States of America. As a US-based Fool myself, I like to use this week every year as an opportunity to celebrate one of my favorite forms of freedom. Financial freedom. For many of us, especially Motley Fool members and Rule Breaker listeners, those two words, financial freedom, echo like a Liberty Bell. But how is it obtained? Show me the movie of how financial freedom happens, you may say. Well, we don’t have time for a movie this week, but we do have time for five key points, illustrations, stories coming from you our listeners that help lead to financial freedom. Smarter, happier, richer, American style. Only on this week’s Rule Breaker Investing.

Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing, obviously, happy July 4th, to all my fellow Americans, and to those around the world. About a third of our listeners are outside the United States of America. I wish for you financial freedom, actually freedom in all kinds. It’s such an important word for me personally. I hope for you. I think that freedom is one of the things that we should never take for granted, and it’s one of the deepest pleasures that a human being can experience, especially persistently. We’ll be focusing on financial freedom this week, but freedom writ large is a powerful concept. It’s in many places in the world today. It wasn’t centuries ago, but it still is in not that many places in the world today.

I think if freedom were a stock, I’m buying. I think more is coming. Maybe in its own small way, this podcast helps toward that. For each of my thoughts for you, this week of independence, I’m going to share an American thought, and then a Rule Breaker listener thought that you sent me to connect it to the American thought. Then briefly my thought after. That’s the format, the American thought, the Rule Breaker listener thought, and then my thought. Before we get started, next week, I will be reviewing the 35 stock samplers that I picked on this podcast over years and years. Each of them was initially picked on this podcast and then was reviewed 1, 2, and 3 years later, 30 different samplers. That means 150 stocks, and for the first time, we are going to take a look at the entire experiment and look across the data and dive some insights, what we can all learn from my 35 stock samplers on Rule Breaker Investing.

I’ve been planning for that one for a while. We had to have them all expire first. Each of them had to proceed through three years that could teach us about the markets and what we can learn about these stocks and about ourselves, as well. That will be our focus on a special Rule Breaker Investing podcast next week.

Before I get started, let me just lead off with an American quote. My first one of this podcast. This doesn’t connect to financial freedom. This just reminds me anyway, of what an experiment the United States of America always has been and continues to be today. Last year on Authors in August, I welcomed on Neil King, author of An American Ramble. In his book, Neil writes this at one point, speaking to America in its earliest days. He said and I quote, “The riotous debate over what the young America would be, whether it would survive into robust adulthood or fall to a dissolute adolescence. Everywhere these men and women went, they asked, who are these Americans? What sets them apart? Can a unity be formed from this cacophony of Puritan, Quaker, Catholic, Dutch, German, Scots-Irish, African, Indian? How to meld the coastal gentry with the uncouth mountain man? The solid farmer with the brawling city dweller, the enslaver with those appalled by that institution. Can something enduringly good be made from this mess?” End quote.

I wanted to lead off with that because I hope it’s a good reminder that this nation was started as a democracy and a democratic experiment. We are now here in our third century, in so many ways benefiting from risks taken and lives given to make this week, this year, every passing day possible. One of the better lines, I think this is Warren Buffett. It might have been Charlie Munger, but I think it was Warren Buffett. In so many words, Buffett said, “We’re sitting under the shade of a tree today because somebody 30 years ago planted that tree.” Well, we are all sitting in the shade of so many good things in the United States of America today. I realize there are a lot of ill things and always have been. But I prefer to focus on what’s working. Can the experiment work? In so many words, speaking to Neil King, and American Ramble, and what people, especially the haters or doubters, when this country started a few centuries ago.

That can never work. Puritan, Quaker, Catholic, Dutch, German, Scots-Irish, African, Indian. Who’s ever heard of such a thing? Here we are a few centuries letter sitting in their shade. Let’s get started with what you’ve done to create financial freedom. That’s right. That was the prompt I issued on this podcast last week, and some of you joined in over Twitter, X, over the succeeding days. For each of these, you’re respond to the prompt. I’m just sharing back along five themes, Number 1. The first theme what you’ve done to create financial freedom in the last year or so frugality. My American thought comes from one of the great Americans, Ben Franklin. Ben Franklin defined frugality thus. He said, and I quote, “Make no expense, but to do good to others or yourself i.e., waste, nothing.” End quote.

Succinct. Frugal in his phrasing and so right. The Rule Breaker listener thought I want to connect in with that came from at 307Fool on Twitter Matt Hard over the past few days, Matt, you dropped this note in response to what you’ve done to create financial freedom in the past year. You said, quote, “It’s been similar to the last couple of decades, spending less than we make. Investing for extraordinary time periods, letting the money compound. The difference is how much more independence our money has earned by us doing nothing. Our money and options have compounded.” End quote. I really appreciate all elements there, but I’m pulling out, especially that line about spending less than we make, Matt, because I think that’s the foundation that everyone needs to proceed from in order truly to become a success at investing. It’s very hard to make compound interest work if you’re paying compound interest rates to other people, especially for the many Americans in credit card debt in different forms. We’ve always liked loans for students, loans for mortgages. These are things that tend to be lower interest rate loans and that we pay off overtime and add value to our lives, but not overspending. Not overspending on a given day or week or month and being behind on double digit credit card interest rate payments. It’s very hard to work from there to a place of financial freedom. I think part of the beauty of frugality is it’s all relative. It’s a choice that we make, no matter how much or how little we have, I’ve seen it done at every level, we truly can live below our means. That is, we can have more coming in than going out.

Sometimes, not that much is coming in, which means you need to spend even less than that, and the discipline that you gain by doing that, by living that, will benefit you and your family for the rest of your life. Frugality is such a wonderful base to build from, and one closing thought. This one comes from James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, who I had the pleasure of talking to on this podcast a few years back, James Clear wrote this about the Diderot Effect. Some of you will recognize this 18th century Frenchman and the effect attributed to him. But many of us I needed to be reminded of this. I read this book years ago, but I just re read this passage, and I realized I forgotten that. It’s such a good point. Here it is. James Clear on Denis Diderot. The French philosopher, he writes, “Denis Diderot lived nearly his entire life in poverty. But that’ll change one day in 1765. Diderot’s daughter was about to be married, and he could not afford to pay for the wedding. Despite his lack of wealth, Diderot was well known for his role as the co-founder and writer of Encyclopedie one of the most comprehensive encyclopedias of the time. When Catherine, the Great, the Empress of Russia heard of Diderot’s financial troubles, her heart went out to him. She was a book lover and greatly enjoyed his encyclopedia.

She offered to buy Diderot’s personal library for 1,000 pounds.” That’s more than $150,000 today. “Suddenly, Diderot had money to spare. With his new wealth, he not only paid for the wedding, but also acquired a scarlet robe for himself. Diderot’s scarlet robe was beautiful, so beautiful, in fact, that he immediately noticed how out of place it seemed when surrounded by his more common possessions. He wrote that there was quote, “No more coordination, no more unity, no more beauty”, end quote, between his elegant robe and the rest of his stuff. Diderot soon felt the urge to upgrade his possessions. He replaced his rug with one from Damascus. He decorated his home with expensive sculptures. He bought a mirror to place above the mantle and a better kitchen table. He tossed aside his old straw chair for a leather one like falling dominoes. One purchase led to the next, Diderot’s behavior is not uncommon. In fact, the tendency for one purchase to lead to another one has a name the Diderot Effect. The Diderot Effect states that obtaining a new possession often creates a spiral of consumption that leads to additional purchases”, and I end my excerpt from James Clear’s book right there. The end of the story is not that Diderot went broke, or he made a horrible decision, and we’re not sitting in judgment of all of a sudden upgrading your possessions. For a lot of us, that’s very pleasurable. It’s just good to be aware of that.

Aware that if you do purpose frugality, and then all of a sudden you start to spend more, you’re probably going to be spending more than that. Buy a new house, you’re all of a sudden going to be spending a lot more money outfitting your new house, maybe immediately or maybe over time. Just being aware of the Diderot Effect, and balancing that against the frugality that needs to start as a seed in the lives of each of us, if we purpose financial freedom is very helpful. Thank you again to Matt Hard for his note, thank you to Ben Franklin for his great quote, and James Clear, for reminding us of the Diderot Effect.

Let’s move on to what you’ve done to create financial freedom Theme Number 2. Lead off with the American thought, this one is from Mark Penn. Mark is the author of the book, Microtrends and Microtrends Squared. I talked to him about Microtrends Squared on Rule Breaker investing years ago, another author in August, in that book, Mark writes, and I quote, “We need to encourage every rising cloistered college student to take a trip one summer, not to Israel or France, but across America. For six weeks. We have become so siloed that Americans simply don’t know America.” End quote. I’m going to connect that in with this note that came in from At Pops Spiffy. I like that screen name on Twitter X. Love Spiffy Pops. At Pops Spiffy. You shared this with what you’ve done in the past year to create financial freedom. You said, “I’ve introduced my girlfriend’s son Ryan to the Rule Breaker Investing podcast. He’s 28, and has been investing with the Rule Breaker style for the last year. Ryan is a very good listener and is eager to learn. He understands compound interest well and is very excited for his future. Ryan also reached out to me last week and said, I have my first 100% gainer on Trans meetics. He said, he may have to add up on TMD X soon. He loves your logic behind adding to the winners, and don’t double down.” End quote. Thank you for that, At Pops Spiffy. In fact, I got another note that I want to connect in with this theme of reaching our youth, which is what you can do to create financial freedom, what some of us have done in the past year. This one from longtime listener, Jom at Jomi_Bear, although Bear has a three [inaudible] speak in her screen name, Jom said, “Staying informed and committing to lifelong learning about investing, so I can be a good reliable resource for friends and family who ask for my advice.

Also, keep my biases out of the conversation and meet them where their financial needs are.” Yes, Theme Number 2, whether we’re talking about Mark Penn encouraging every one of us, especially the young people to travel across America and see this rich, wide, very diverse nation for what it is, not just staying to your local zip code or the same people that you knew growing up, but really endeavoring to learn about our country can only make our country stronger, and that’s true of every country, but we’re talking about America this week. the first thing that I think of when I think about Pop Spiffy and his girlfriend’s son, Ryan, is that Ryan, you’re not just listening, although you are, and welcome, great to have you. You’re not just reading books or wise words of advice about how to invest better, but you are. Most importantly, you’re practicing, you are in the game. What I loved hearing was that you’ve just experienced your first double, the first two bagger in your investing career, you’re still in your 20s. There are so many decades of good, Foolish investing capital F ahead of you, and you are in the game. This is not just in theory. You’re not just imagining you’re actually in the arena. I just want to underline that because part of reaching our youth and making sure that for you and me, dear listener, what we’ve learned about investing and what works in life, we make a real point of sharing with people younger than we are. It’s one thing to give them wise words of wisdom. It’s another to set them up to play the game. A lot of us have funded accounts, most obviously for our children, but sometimes for our nieces and nephews or for our grandchildren, there’s probably no better way to start someone on the journey to financial freedom than by actually starting an account for them as young as possible and beginning to encourage them to think about what they’d like to put into that portfolio, which companies make sense for them. Maybe they want to stick to funds, whatever it is. Saving money, adding to that over time, the actual in-the-game practice is the most powerful lesson we can give our kids. Before I move on to Number 3, I just want to say as we teach our children well, I really appreciate Jom’s point that she makes about her own self-awareness.

It isn’t just that she’s learning about investing over her whole life to be a resource for friends and family, it’s that, “Also keep my biases out of the conversation, meet them where their financial needs are.” That is next-level thinking, not everybody has that self-awareness. I’m not sure I have that self-awareness, but anytime I’m around somebody or get a note from somebody, in this case from John, reminding me that we can get too much in ourselves and not be other focused enough, I always benefit from that reminder. Theme number 2, what you’ve done to create financial freedom in the past year. For a lot of you, for a lot of us, we’re helping people younger than we in many ways, and these are a couple of very specific ways from wonderful Rule Breakers sharing their experience.

Let’s move on to theme number 3, what you’ve done to create financial freedom in the past year. Here’s the American thought, a little bit of American history. In this case, I’m quoting from a book I read some years ago, City of Dreams by Tyler Anbinder. This is really about how New York City started and grew over the course of centuries. That’s the City of Dreams. This is Tyler Anbinder, reminding us of the British practice of quartering. I needed to remind myself, I needed to look that one up before this podcast to remind myself of it, but I think many of you will know your history better than I, and others will learn or relearn right now. Here’s a quote from City of Dreams and I quote, “before long, the two sides, that would be the Brits, the Redcoats, and the Americans, the colonists, before long, the two sides began butting heads again, this time over whether or not the colonists should have to finance the lodging of British troops in America.

The British argued that since the soldiers protected the Americans from the French and the Indians, the colonists should shoulder the burden. Americans insisted that their own militia units were adequate to these tasks and that the British government had really stationed troops in the colonies to intimidate the colonists into accepting Parliament’s unfair taxes.” That is the quote from Tyler Anbinder, and I’m calling it Yankee ingenuity. Another phrase might be self-reliance. I think it’s a very important part of American culture. Of course, you can get taken too far. Self-reliance, if it’s too much about the self, and not enough about the reliance can become a practice that’s self-defeating if we’re failing to cooperate with others or recognize how much value is added every day to our lives by people who are delivering us our Amazon packages, who are giving us good advice over Zoom, who are performing the myriad acts that make our lives possible day in and day out. We are all very reliant on each other, but there is something about rolling up your own sleeves, taking responsibility for your actions that I never want anyone to forget, and are very important to the American culture. Two notes coming in from listeners made me think of this this week. The first from Paul Essen at paul_essen on Twitter X, and a former Fool employee and friend of mine, Paul, you wrote, what have you done to create financial freedom over the last year? Quit my 9-5 and started my own business. Not only do I get more time to spend with my family, but my success or lack thereof, he adds, is now more closely tied to my own skills and hard work, instead of decisions made by others. I’m assuming Paul, no one’s trying to quarter troops in your house, but there is something to be said for the courage that it takes to say, I’m going to strike out on my own. You quit your 9-5 in the last year you started your own business, congratulations, I wish you the best, very Yankee of you. But to make it clear, since the Redcoats have in time become maybe our best friends, our best international allies, the Brits, we also love many other countries, many friends in Canada, but since I led off with stories around the Quartering Act, which ultimately led to a big part of America’s rebellion against the Redcoats,

I’m very delighted to introduce this note from Brian Drain, as well, who’s writing in from the UK and proving that self-reliance in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, I’ll speak to that in a sec. Self-reliance is not just a Yankee thing. Brian Drain wrote Happy Independence Day. I’m Brian Drain from the UK, a member of the UK Motley Fool Share Advisor Service, and a regular listener to the Rule Breaker Investing Podcast and the Motley Fool Money podcast. Thank you, Brian. I’ll be 55 next year, meaning I can start to access my pensions in the UK if I wanted to. This got me more focused on investing a few years back. I’m now planning to move from working full time to three days a week, from April 25th on.

To enable more financial freedom, I have been doing the following. He gives a succinct list of six things that Brian, you’ve done in last year to enable more financial freedom. Number 1, reviewed your various pensions and savings, you ran some simulations using Microsoft Excel of how you could draw down under various situations like you’re fully retired or you’re partly retired from different ages. The results Brian writes helped get me super focus. Number 2, increased amounts paid into pensions and UK tax efficient accounts rather than spending on golf gear, he wrote. Number 3, paid off the mortgage early from regular monthly and one-off overpayments. Number 4, use the spare cash from being mortgage-free to add even more to my pensions. Number 5, installed solar panels and a large battery for the house, in the hope we get sun in the UK to reduce my monthly outgoings, and number 6, moved from leasing a car to buying a second-hand electric vehicle to reduce monthly outgoings on leasing and fuel. Brian concludes these will allow me comfortably to work three days a week from April 2025, and fully retire in 2030, if I want to. All the best, thank you for the podcasts, always very enjoyable and educational cheers, Brian Drain. Brian, cheers back to you. Every one of those six steps and anybody can hit the Listen backwards, 10 or 30 seconds, whatever app you’re using to access this podcast, you can go back over it.

If you listen to each of Brian’s six actions, every one of them contributes to financial freedom, but taken in concert, all six of those playing together show me somebody who’s very serious about achieving financial freedom, and Brian, you are serving as a model for many others, cause part of what I’ve always tried to do through this podcast is inspire you and me, dear listener, by meeting the exemplars. Yes, we have famous authors like James Clear on this podcast, we also have wonderful lesser-known people, like you and me, or in this case, Brian Drain, who are doing the right thing and modeling good behavior for all the rest of us, so we know what financial freedom looks like and how to get there. Brian himself is not there yet, but Brian, you’re clearly on the path, and you’ve got your Excel spreadsheet to prove it.

I know you’re not just running one simulation, you’re imagining what if the market drops. What if I’m fully retired? What if I’m partly retired, etc, that’s the way to do it. My thought concluding theme number three, which is Yankee ingenuity is first of all, it’s not just Yankee, although I think a big part of the American spirit is that spirit of self-reliance, which puts me in mind of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous essay entitled self-reliance and I wanted to speak briefly to this very well-known quote from it and I think you’ll understand why in a sec. Here’s the very well known quote, ” A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” I want to speak out both sides of my mouth briefly to that because taking Emerson and his main point and his main word, a foolish, small F consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. If you’re just going through the motions, then with your little mind as a little statesman, you’re probably not going to do anything great in this life, and you may well never reach the freedom that we all hope for if you’re just going through the motions of what got you here, unless, of course, what got you here is totally working, but for a lot of us, we realize, no, we actually have to push our boundaries out a little bit more. We need to save a little bit more, be more frugal. We need to take a little bit more risk, be willing to sit through market downdrafts in order to get the great winds that come from people who truly invest, who truly buy to hold over long periods of time, as Matt Hard mentioned earlier on this podcast. That’s really the way toward riches. It’s not that small F foolish consistency that’s going to get us there, the hobgoblin as Emerson wrote of Little Minds. But now speaking briefly out the other side of our mouth, at the Motley Fool, we’ve had a lot of fun over the years, taking quotes that mention foolishness and fools and reversing their meaning by capitalizing the word foolish, so read differently, a capital F foolish consistency is not the hobgoblin of Little Minds, it’s actually what gets you and me to financial freedom. Here’s what a capital F Foolish consistency looks like to me.

It looks like you saving money every two weeks, a little bit, and then a little bit more than that over time from your salary check in order to invest that, probably through dollar-cost averaging mechanically and regularly in every good and every bad market that you will face into your future, showing a capital F Foolish consistency of saving and investing and if that’s a hobgoblin, well, let me just say that’s not a hobgoblin, that’s actually the way to financial freedom.

Taking Emerson with his self-reliance and reversing the F, I think we a light on an important truth that I think this podcast demonstrates, and through listener thoughts like Paul’s and Brian’s, we’re reminded of what really works out there in the marketplace and in life. To conclude, number three. There is something to be said for rolling up your sleeves and accepting responsibility. In fact, one of the four laws of self-knowledge from Warren Bennis’ wonderful book on Becoming a Leader is number two. This is an easy one to memorize. I’ve tried to live my life by this. I try to spread it everywhere, including right now, to you, if you haven’t come across this thought before. Accept responsibility, blame no one. Warren Bennis was an American, I don’t know if it’s fair to say that’s an inherently American thought, but I think it’s a very strong thought for everyone wherever you are to accept responsibility and blame no one is such a gift to yourself because being a self reliant person, you will learn and grow from accepting responsibility, rather than sit there looking backwards, always blaming someone or some thing outside you often in the past for how things are now. That’s not a life that I would want to live. Let’s move on to number four. We got two more themes to close. All right. Theme number 4 in what you’ve done in the last year or so to create some more financial freedom. I’m going to call this one working hard and getting rich. The American thought this one comes from author Arthur Brooks.

I spoke to Arthur on this podcast last year about his book Love Your Enemies, that’s what I’m quoting from right now, this very American thought. “The knock-on effect of seeing the benefits of economic competition and accepting rules of fair play is that Americans generally trust and admire people who legitimately succeed, even those who become wealthy. As one 2013 poll from the Pew Research Center found, 88 percent of Americans said they admired people who get rich by working hard. Indeed, America’s nearly universal admiration for earned success distinguishes this country from most other countries. This shouldn’t come as a surprise though. Seventy-three percent of Americans believe working hard is important for getting ahead in life. That’s 23 percentage points more than the global median.” Working hard and getting rich.

That connects with this Rule Breaker listener thought. Teresa Frakes, it is my delight to share this note. I think we’re meeting each other for the first time. I love that you took the time to write this. Let me share. David, as a former civil service employee, I am a grateful member of a defined benefit retirement program. In addition to the required contributions to my retirement account as a civil service employee, I opened a 457B deferred compensation account seven years before I retired. When I retired in 1996, these two sources of income were entirely adequate to my needs. However, I met the specter of the required minimum distribution. That would be a requirement once you reach a certain age to start pulling money out of your retirement account. Teresa Wrights, I met the specter of the RMD in the 457 account in 2013 when I turned 70. I watched my savings dwindle until 2015, when I summoned my courage, opened a rollover IRA brokerage account and signed up for Motley Fool membership. I learned about the value of investing from the Motley Fool beginning in 2015. As a result of what I learned, I have been able to pay off my mortgage on March 4th of this year, and as of this date, end of June, my stock holdings exceed the balance that was in my account on that rainy day this March when I bit the bullet and wrote a giant check to my lien holder. It is true, Teresa continues, that my civil service retirement income with a Social Security check afforded me an important backstop. I was free to consider the happenings in the brokerage account to be moot. I happily did so until I saw the enormous benefits that had accrued to me from my investments. I never imagined I could be so free from financial worries. I owe the Motley Fool a ton of gratitude. If the value of investing in good companies were taught in high school, our country could be a giant co-op. I think that is what the Motley Fool Foundation will eventually accomplish. Very truly, Teresa Frakes. Very truly, Teresa.

I am so delighted that you shared your story, and while you give credit to us, which we obviously appreciated the Motley Fool, that’s why we do what we do. I’m always the first to point out it was you who had the courage to take the risk in your early 70s to start figuring out the stock market and investing. Here you are just 10 years later having discovered how immensely helpful that can be for your own sense of freedom here, your financial freedom. Teresa, you made the decision, you saved the money, you invested it, you get credit from me and I’m just delighted that we could be a partner to you since the theme here is working hard and getting rich, you did work hard, and you have gotten rich and maybe the irony worth pointing out here, but truly the irony here is that it wasn’t working hard that got you rich. In a sense, it was saving.

Then I would say, lazily letting that money ride and grow over time. Working hard gives us table stakes to have enough income to support ourselves over the course of our lives. But as my friends, Armando and Mavalynne, the Sardis, who are wonderful supporters of The Motley Fool Foundation, Dr. Armando Sardi, I got to know Armando because as a doctor, he simply passed out copies of The Motley Fool Investment Guide to all of his employees at the Baltimore Hospital where he’s worked a miraculous cure of cancer, a very talented surgeon. Dr. Sardi recognized the power of education, especially financial education for those around him, passing out copies of our book. When I talked to Armando and Mavalynne last year around the Motley Fool Foundation’s work, and I’ll always remember this, they said, “As we’ve studied this over the course of our lives, we’ve realized people are not going to get rich off of their salaries.” The vast majority of us, anyway. I guess if you’re an NBA star, maybe you can get really rich off your salary, most of the rest of us, the other 97% or so, it’s not going to be our salaries that get us rich, it’s going to be having the courage to invest the money that we’re saving, and then letting that grow and compound over long periods of time. Theresa Frakes, now in your early ’80s, if my math is right, I’m just delighted to make your acquaintance, and to share your story as an exemplar, for many others.

The Motley Fool has many members worldwide, coming from all different ages, but it’s especially instructive when I can take someone who is in the latter half of their life, an older person, and show the benefits they had as an older person of getting started and then benefiting from the fruits of that getting started. Working hard and getting rich is what I think a lot of us probably did at least a little bit more of in the past year to create more financial freedom. But I think the great irony is, you can work your whole life long, whether it’s in the civil service here in the US, whatever your job is anywhere, and it’s not really going to be probably your salary that gets you rich, it’s going to be the investments that you made of that salary over time.

Onto what you’ve done to create more financial freedom in the past year, theme number 5, this one I’m going to call it Innovation, the Erie Canal. My American thought this one comes from another author Martin Doyle who wrote a wonderful book called The Source. It’s all about the history of the Erie Canal, and I’m going to quote from it right now. Martin wrote, “The Erie Canal was all that was needed to penetrate the barrier between the Atlantic and the burgeoning West. It funneled traffic and commodities along its northern pathway instead of through the South. When initially completed, the canal was only four feet deep and 40 feet wide. It allowed two horses on the parallel tow path to pull over 30 tons of freight at the steady clip, they’re horses after all, of four miles per hour. Costs to move freight dropped from $125 a ton before the canal to less than six dollars a ton after. Within a year of its completion, over 7,000 boats were operating on the canal. The canal was part and parcel with industrializing the North. The once obscure towns along the canal, Syracuse, Utica, Rochester, and Buffalo became hubs of 19th century manufacturing and industrialization.” Innovation, the Erie Canal. Innovating, taking risks, starting a business, as Paul Essen mentioned earlier. Let’s go to Rule Breaker listener, Martin Triggs, for his thoughts about my question, what have you done for financial freedom in the last year?

Martin wrote, “Greetings. I have worked at growing my business for more financial freedom through many initiatives such as advertising, events, and improving customer satisfaction. My wife and I started our English school in Japan in 2020 called SKY English School, S-K-Y, SKY English School after I came across an effective, ‘seriously fun curriculum’ I really believed in from Pacific Language School. We also moved to Tsukuba, Ibaraki, which has a huge total adjustable market of kids and young families, my target customers. We started from scratch just as COVID hit in March 2020, but have since grown to about 70 students, mainly children, with some teens and adults too. We’ve also expanded to teach at five local day cares in the mornings to kids under six years old.

Our bottom line has really grown,” Martin adds, “and now after running at a loss for a few years, we are net profitable. I hope I can open a second branch soon. We invested in advertising, mailing out thousands of flyers and putting ads in a local monthly community magazine. We offer three free trial lessons and usually get 80-90% sign ups from this as the kids enjoy learning English with us, and parents can see the quality of our product. Kids often start with us from the age of four or five, so if we’re good, we could have years of recurring revenue ahead as the child continues with our system. We do fun events like Halloween, which the kids love. I’m always learning new ways to enhance our school and make our service better. It’s amazing what you learn from starting a business. You have to, otherwise, you’ll go bankrupt and lose everything. It’s hard to get customers, something I’m sure you know well at The Motley Fool. We’ve got to be very high quality and excellent and continue to improve. I appreciate Jeff Bezos being ‘terrified of his customers’, and that today is always ‘day 1’. I’ve been able to hire one full-time teacher and provide him with a decent living for his family, keeping conscious capitalism in mind. I’ve helped his financial freedom too.” In conclusion Martin writes, “I get inspiration learning from some of the great businesses discussed at The Motley Fool.” Especially the one from Warren Buffett, “I’m a better investor because I’m a businessman, and a better businessman because I’m an investor.” Even an ABC teacher can learn from that. Thank you, Motley Fool, for being pro-business and pro-capitalism. That is the way to lasting financial freedom for all.” Signed, Martin Triggs.

Martin, thank you for that note. I always love hearing about your school. You’ve written in a few times in the past, and sharing some of your entrepreneurship and your learnings and your perspective, I can see how you are indeed, in many ways, creating more financial freedom through yours and your wife’s efforts, and I wish you the very best with your school. In Martin’s note, there are some recurrent themes we’ve already spoken to. There’s definitely some Yankee ingenuity there, rolling up your sleeves, starting something. I often have said, I believe this very firmly today, the countries that are the best countries in the world are the ones that are the most entrepreneur friendly. If you want to look at the greatest economic successes, whether we’re talking about big ones like the United States of America or much smaller ones that are still miraculous based on what they started with like Singapore, you’re going to see countries that favor entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are the people who solve our problems. They do so, often, for profit, sometimes not for profit. I really love the ones that do it for profit because you and I can become part owners through the stock market as they solve my problems and the world’s problems, yours, by giving us better products and services, new solutions. The best thing any society can do for itself is to enable its problem solvers, its dreamers, its Rule Breakers, to enable those people to start businesses and start helping all the rest of us through their vision and their guts, to start something and do something that makes a difference for us and our families, a positive one.

The greatest countries in the world are the entrepreneur-friendly countries and the worst countries in the world, are those that make it near impossible for entrepreneurs to find their financial freedom, to practice freely what they hope to do that redress the wrongs of their own societies. I saw a great one minute clip, feel free to Google it. You may have seen it this week, it’s from Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, reflecting on Lee Kuan Yew, who founded modern day Singapore. He died in 2015. In a lot of ways, Singapore is an odd country. It started with very poor natural resources from a hard place in history. It’s still a one party society which strikes most of us, me, as odd and maybe not the best approach. But to think what Lee Kuan Yew put in place, Tony Blair underlines three factors that made them such an economic success.

The three factors are, Martin Triggs, number 1, study English. Singapore requires the English language. You can imagine the people who were saying, why would you do that? Britain has been the source of our problems, we want freedom, we don’t want English, and Lee Kuan Yew said English is the language of the world, we have to teach our kids English if they’re to be successful at a grand scale. Number 2, Blair underlines welcoming outside advisors. He uses the phrase human capital. They were very solicitous of people who could come to their country and provide the best advice. Again, a lot of people resented the British. Lee Kuan Yew invited in the smartest Brits that he knew to help them think through their economy and their country. The third and final condition that he put in place for Singapore, which is a modern economic miracle, and I really love this one, I hope you do too, no corruption. Zero tolerance for corruption. Corruption which bedevils most of the societies in the world today that are among our poorest.

Really appreciate those points by Blair about Lee Kuan Yew. Martin, I feel like that’s speaking to you some, as well. Something else that will speak to you as I near my close here, Kevin Kelly of whom I’m a big fan, the co-founder of Wired, wrote this about America’s roots. He wrote in his book, The Inevitable, and I quote, “America’s roots spring from documents, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and indirectly, the Bible. The country’s success depended on high levels of literacy, a robust free press, allegiance to the rule of law found in books, and a common language across a continent. American prosperity and liberty grew out of a culture of reading and writing. We became,” Kevin Kelly wrote, “people of the book.” The good work that you are doing, Martin, the good work that each of us is doing, especially as an English major, I’m a sucker for literature making a real difference in our lives, fiction and non-fiction. Here we’ll stick with non-fiction. I’m a huge fan of education.

When we started The Motley Fool, the first day on AOL, August 4th of 1994, sometimes we celebrate that as The Motley Fool’s birthday, that’ll be next month. We debuted on August 4th of 1994. I think 60 people clicked into our AOL keyword that first day right there on the front of our screen. It said The Motley Fool, to educate, to amuse, and to enrich. We’re focused here on educate. But yes, there’s always some amuse, and I hope some enrich too when you interact with The Motley Fool. In concluding, congratulations, Martin on your burgeoning enterprise and the work that you’re doing. In conclusion, I’ve talked some about this over the years, but this week, it makes sense to just echo it one more time. We often determine what our core values are for organizations. You probably, dear listener, may work or have worked for an organization that says, what are our core values? We have those at The Motley Fool.

For profit and not for profit, a lot of organizations are driven by values. Sometimes they’re not as driven as you’d think if they’re just laminated and put up somewhere and no one really knows them or is abiding by them, I wouldn’t describe that as a good use of value-driven, purpose-driven life, but I think a lot of organizations recognize and respect the benefit of stating their core values. We’ve certainly benefited from that at The Motley Fool. I’ve sometimes asked in the past, what are America’s core values? It’s a conversation you could have with anyone. Before the fireworks this week or over a barbecue this weekend, you can say, what do you think are America’s core values? There’s no judgment here. It’s inquisitive, it’s a positive inquiry, and it’s really interesting.

I love hearing back from people what they view as America’s core values. I’ll give you mine, which I’ve provided on this podcast in the past, but these are just thought starters for you. You’re welcome to challenge me, we do have a mailbag at the end of every month, if you’d like to write in, [email protected]. But having thought a lot about this over the years, there’s no perfect list, of course, but I think America has five core values. I would say liberty, justice, enterprise, resilience, and kindness. Each one of those strikes me as inherently American, and when someone behaves against those things, I would say that’s un-American. If you are unkind, if you’re cowardly, if you’re against enterprise, if you support injustice or if you don’t love freedom, I would describe that as un-American. That’s just my view of things, you might like that or not. But what I want to underline in particular is that first one this week, that has been our subject, and that is our overall theme, what you’ve done to create financial freedom echoing like a Liberty Bell. What a delight it was to connect your words and your stories, dear listeners, with some great authors and some great Americans to remind us of why we’re doing what we’re doing and how we can do it better. Happy 4th. Fool on.



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