Our culture values hard work above all else. We're told over and over again that if we just grind away, get shit done, and don't waste time that eventually we'll experience the joys of wealth and success.
But as we all know, that is bullshit. Basically everyone I know works until their fingers are raw, yet still don't have enough to scrape together to get a bag of chips at the bar on Friday afternoon—whereas there are loads of people who get thousands and thousands of dollars for doing fuck all.
I tracked down some people who have received a shit-ton of money without doing any actual work, to find out how you can get rich without having a job.
DAN, DINNER MONEY SAVER TURNED APPLE INVESTOR
VICE: What's your story, Dan?
Dan: Basically, I started saving money when I was a little kid. I was non-consumerist, growing up with grunge—like, why would I buy anything? I was thinking about that when I was six years old, so it's always been a part of me. I would go to school, and my mom would give me six dollars for lunch, and I would have a small lunch and save one dollar or something. Or birthday gifts: I would save away these pennies, quarters, dollars, and never really spent much money. So by the time I got to be like 22 or so, I had about $2,000—15 years of having no job doesn't get you much, but enough. I'm not interested in money or interest, which is fortunate for me. I'd tried to understand the stock market—look at it, hear about it, even tried to make a fake portfolio—but I never gave a shit. Then I thought, The only way I'm gonna figure this out is if I put some skin in the game. I like to do things that are morally justifiable—I wasn't gonna be investing in Exxon or anything like that.
Sure. Fuck those guys.
At that time, I was living in Japan. We got all these subscriptions to English-speaking magazines like the Economist, TIME, and things like that. And on the cover of this one TIME was the first iPhone. It was before it had come out. It's probably the first product Apple have announced before they were going to sell it. It was six months or ten months before it came out, and I was reading it thinking, This is great. I'd always used Apple products because my dad is in the art and advertising industry, and I spoke to my friend Amir and he said, "This is going to redefine what a phone is." So all these things culminated, and I called up my dad—who is great with this sort of stuff—and had him set up a brokerage account. Then thought, I'm gonna put two-thirds of the $2,000 into Google and one-third into Apple. My dad said, "I like your ideas, I like what you're thinking, you've done good analysis into them—but Apple produces stuff other than intellectual property. So why don't you flip that?"
Already I am seeing how I would not be able to do this. But your dad sounds smart.
Yeah, and this was 2006 or 2007, something like that. So I ended up doing that. So I got into stocks, started following them. A good rule of thumb for investing is 10 percent return per year is a really good, solid investment. My Apple investment, including dividends, has gone up over 1,000 percent. So it's averaged over 100 percent a year. So that $2,000 has turned into $30,000 or more, or something like that. That's astronomically more than anybody could expect.
What has it enabled you to do?
Travel. I don't want to have no money. If I didn't have the investment, I'd be working more. I've invested more in Apple, too. Also, as a doctor, it has enabled me to work my hours and jobs that I want to work.
Who is your next scoop, then, for people wanting to make big money? Who gives you that Apple feeling?
That's tricky, because right now it's a world of startups. So these companies are massively over-valued. The best thing is personal experience. If you see something amazing that you really like, that your friends really like, which isn't everywhere yet, invest in that. Those are the advantages that you as an individual have. You need to try and see what other people don't see. Saying that, I still say Apple is a solid investment: It's under-valued for what it is, makes loads of money, pays a good dividends rate… but it's not going to have that exponential growth ever again.
MARY*, LOTTERY WINNER
VICE: Can you describe what happened to you, your initial reactions, and how you felt about the whole thing?
Mary: It was November, 1994, and the second ever National Lottery draw, so everyone was buying tickets, but no one really knew how it worked. My husband bought a ticket with a line for each member of the family, and he made up the numbers in a random way. We thought it was just a good way to contribute to the good causes and never thought for a second we would win much over a tenner.
For this reason, we never watched the big Saturday night show, but our kids were full of enthusiasm, and we were at a friend's home having dinner when they asked if they could check the numbers. After a while they burst in saying, "We've won some money!" But we were pretty much dampening their expectations. Then when we checked, we discovered that we had five numbers and the bonus ball. Still having no real idea of the value of the win, we phoned the lottery hotline and were staggered to discover that it was a considerable sum.
We called all our friends, told them to come over, and bought every bottle of fizzy wine in the liquor store and partied for a long while. Then followed a tense Sunday where we were terrified that we would mislay the ticket before Monday, when we went to the Camelot local office where they gave us a check. They offered financial advice and counseling, but we elected to be anonymous so no begging letters came.
In what ways has the sum impacted on your life?
It was enough money to be life-changing, without being enough to give up work and travel the world or buy fancy cars. We bought our house with the largest amount, paid off our credit cards and overdraft, bought a modest car for me, went on vacation to Africa and New Zealand and gave a bit away here and there.
So how much did you win?
Over £200,000 [$250,000].
And how long did it last?
We made all the major purchases within a couple of years, but some of them were investments.
What was the biggest difference between your life before and after the win?
We were like most other people who have families, in that we were always close to overdraft at the end of every month. That changed. Moving was a big change, but we always tried to keep our home life and the way we lived much as it had been. We were not really any cash richer after we won, so we still had to save to go on vacation, buy the kids cars, and so on.
Finally, Mary, do you still play the lottery?
My husband, Paul, still plays as part of a syndicate of guys, and they win enough to be able to go out for a drink now and again.
VICE: What happened to you, Jonathan?
Jonathan: I was 15 years old and a few weeks away from getting my braces off after two years of that shit. I was walking my girlfriend home, and there was a large group of about 15 lads down the road, roughly the same age. As we got nearer, they crossed the road and approached us, basically encircling us and accusing me of "chatting shit about them." I knew a few of them from school, and they thought I was cool, so I managed to calm it down. But then we got about a minute further up the road when three of them came jogging up and start getting loud again. One of them was right up in my face and his friend sucker punched me out of nowhere, straight in the teeth. Pretty much as soon as he hit me they all just turned and ran away.
Next thing I know I'm in an ambulance, and I really clearly remember trying to answer the paramedics' questions, but not being able to because my teeth were all fucked up. They took a look in my mouth, and I'll never forget the woman's reaction, just sheer "oh holy fuck" horror. Then she said: "If you hadn't had braces when he hit you, your teeth would have been on the floor." Not so great an evening.
That sounds nasty.
It was all pretty horrible for a while and really fucked me up, but luckily they saved my teeth, and the police arrived on the scene and quickly apprehended the dude who punched me. Because he was convicted of GBH [grievous bodily harm] I found out I was entitled to Criminal Injuries Compensation, which I didn't even know existed.
That's so horrible to hear. What did you get awarded?
I think I was awarded about £3,800 [$4,700] in the end.
What did that money enable you to do?
I was actually really bloody sensible with it. I took about £200 [$250] to treat myself with and frittered that away on long-forgotten nice things, and put the rest away in an ISA with a view that one day I'd need it for future dental procedures. It's been quite a life-changing amount of money, actually. Although the intention was to save it for dental stuff, I ended up using about £1,000 [$1,200] to get through college, so I could afford to eat more than just toast. Then I spent another £1,000 on living costs while doing an internship with the National Trust, which led to me being able to get a career in nature conservation. Finally, I spent about £1,500 [$1,800] on buying and insuring my first car. Looking back, I spent pretty much all of it on furthering a career I love, which is nice.
How do you look back on what happened now?
Honestly, I was pretty damaged for a long time after. About five months into college I saw my attacker on the campus and found out he was studying there, too. I was really quite depressed and suffered social anxiety, which I must admit wasn't great.
This may sound bad, but was it worth it?
Asking me ten years after it happened, I'm like: yes. That money has helped in a lot of ways. But if you'd asked me a few years after it happened, I would have probably have told you to fuck off and die. I was a pretty angsty teen.
OLLY, BORN INTO IT
VICE: So Olly, you were born into wealth, as it were. What is your family's story?
Olly: My dad has always been into business—some of my earliest memories include those of him going away to Hong Kong for weeks at a time. He began trading on his dad's market stall at age 16, owned his first house by 18, has since had the role of commercial director for multiple large-scale companies before landing where he is currently, running his own businesses.
How has this had an impact on you?
It wasn't until now, by reflecting on my past, that I truly realize what had been at my disposal. We lived in a five-bedroom house with a swimming pool, an actual full-on home cinema, I had my own soundproof recording studio and rehearsal room, and we had too many cars for the four garages we owned. It felt like I was always witnessing unconscious spending of money left, right, and center on things that I always considered to be completely pointless—disgustingly expensive watches, designer clothes, the latest gadgets and technology. Since living away from my parents, it has become very clear to me that I have not missed one aspect of what some people might call "living the dream." While having access to these pleasures might seem like the perfect life, it was in fact far from it.
Did you feel a pressure to be successful?
I always put pressure on myself to be successful, not because I wanted to re-live my childhood as an adult or wipe my ass with 24-carat toilet paper, but because I wanted to fulfill my dream of being a professional musician. My dad would always encourage me to do whichever option resulted in the most potential financial gain, but I'd always convince myself there were better ways of doing things. I finally had the guts to move out two years ago, and have not had a relationship with my dad in this time. Since moving out and now living in a quaint little cottage in a village with my girlfriend and kitty cat, I have learned not to measure success by how much money you earn, but by how happy you are with your life. Money won't buy you a smile, but a smile sure can make you feel like a million bucks.
Yeah, but, you know, it did provide you with a massive safety blanket and presumably made you feel freer in your ambitions?
While the main point I'm trying to make here is that you don't need money to be able to do what you love and be successful at it, it is of course undeniable that money is still extremely important. Yes, I could still play guitar and be with my girlfriend if I lived in a cardboard box at the side of the road, but where am I going to boil the water for the coffee I can't even afford? I've been working full-time for about 80 percent of this year, and even though I've been paid fairly for it, I can't deny that I have needed to borrow money. The amount required simply to administer the application process to rent our cottage was well over what I could afford at the time, and so at moments like those where time was not of the virtue, I was extremely grateful to my mom for helping make it possible.
How would you be a different person if you weren't born into the situation you were?
It's incredibly difficult to know. So much of what makes someone them is to do with the people they meet at school and their interests. Would I still be passionate about music if it hadn't been played to me on a stupidly expensive hi-fi from a young age? Almost definitely. Would I be more driven to be financially successful if I'd not been exposed to money from a young age? Almost definitely not.
My life so far has been all about discovery, and while there are still things to be discovered, I feel pretty lucky to have experienced success in happiness at such a young age, and I may not have noticed how happy I could be if I'd not experienced the aggravation money can bring to your family.
I feel like I'm already living the life of someone who wasn't born into the same situation as me. I've put my old life of swimming in the yard and eating out at pricey restaurants four nights a week behind me, and now make music in my rented cottage, in my little home studio—which is really a spare bedroom—with my cat, and I could not be happier.
*Some names have been changed.
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