Three years ago, I attended a remarkable seminar. The speaker was the best salesman I have ever seen. He had the audience spellbound, picturing the sports cars and mansions that awaited them. Even I was half-convinced that I was going to throw in the whole journalism thing and become a foreign exchange-trading squillionaire.
I asked a few hard questions of the speaker, and he invited me to take the course for free. I decided to accept his offer, do the training, put my own cash on the line, and document the whole process in a series of articles.
Eight tips for getting cheap rental cars. That series ended up falling down a very strange rabbit hole, and I never finished it. I wish I had, because it might have saved a lot of people from wasting their time and money.
The Financial Markets Authority receives more complaints about foreign exchange schemes than any other type of financial service provider. Unfortunately, its hands are often tied. Most of the companies are overseas operators, which means the best it can do is issue warnings and urge the public to use their common sense.
Here's the fundamental problem with currency trading. Let's say you have a hunch that the greenback is on the rise, so you sell NZ dollars to buy US dollars. The person on the other side of that transaction has an equal and opposite view.
Your win is someone else's loss, and vice-versa. There's no value being created and you don't own any productive assets, which makes it pure speculation. This sounds a lot like a zero-sum game, where no-one can win unless it's at the expense of someone else. It's actually even worse than that. You have to pay brokerage on your transactions, pay for the fancy proprietary trading software, and pay through the nose for the slick training courses and coaching. The only way you can win is by being consistently right more than 50 per cent of the time.
You might think you're smarter than the average punter, but your opponents are George Soros, Vladimir Putin, and the giant trading banks. You're playing against the collective intelligence of the entire market at once, and you are a tiny little fish. If you're not convinced by the simple maths, chew on this. If anyone possessed secret methods and algorithms for making megabucks in a few minutes, why on earth would they go around teaching them to all and sundry? It's easy to look past these obvious problems, because we want the fantasy to be true.
I didn't understand how people could get sucked into these sort of schemes until I saw just how hypnotising they were. The salesmen are expert persuaders. They use wealth porn to get the juices flowing, with inspirational anecdotes about how they transformed their lives and stepped away from the nine to five.
They then layer on the pop psychology about how anyone can do it, if you only choose to move away from Fear and towards Love. One of the exercises on the course I attended was literally writing down all the cool stuff we would buy once we were rich. For those who feel desperate or trapped in their day-to-day lives, forex trading and other get-rich-quick schemes are incredibly seductive.
I understand the fascination I've even been there once or twice before. Retiring young or becoming a millionaire is entirely possible. But you'll have to do it through frugality and hard work, rather than wasting precious time and money on snake-oil and silver bullets.
Email Budget Buster at richard. You can also find links to previous Budget Busters here. Small fortunes hiding in old New Zealand stamp collections. Jackson's movie museum threat. Curries hinder home search.
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