Back in college I interviewed a man in New York City who worked for a small company that promoted get-rich-quick schemes. Now—this is important—in his line or work, they don’t refer to their “products” as get-rich-quick schemes, but by some other more socially acceptable handle that escapes me at the moment. No matter, he gave me a wealth of information and insight into the world of get-rich-quick.
Every scheme—er, eh, program–is possible, at least in theory. The “in theory” caveat means that you’d have to be a person with such extraordinary talent, energy level and boldness that you’d probably succeed at anything you try anyhow. For everyone else—which is to say, the very type of people who would buy the schemes at all—it was mostly a promise. An empty promise.
The promise was then neatly wrapped in a package of recurring themes that you probably recognize: the get-rich-quick guru came from humble beginnings and/or lost all he had early in life; he re-started with nothing and is now a multi-millionaire; he loves God, he loves America, he loves his family and deep in his heart, he’s just like you and me!
That packaging is critical. Its purpose is to show that our get-rich-quick hero has values—that he has higher beliefs—that he believes what we do, or at least what we aspire to. Think of it as appealing to our better selves.
Sadly, it’s pure marketing pitch. The “plan” and the packaging are both aimed at the weak spots in our human armor. And it seems to work.
I suspect that the appeal of get-rich-quick is much wider than we’re comfortable admitting. Ad pitches are all over TV, radio and the internet, hawking everything from business ideas to investment schemes. There are enough ads out there that we can know with some certainty that somebody somewhere is buying in. Most likely, many somebodies.
The subtle power of Get Rich Quick
What is it that draws people to get-rich-quick? I’m not a marketing genius, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the time honored draw of the something for nothing concept. Deep in our hearts and minds we know it isn’t possible—or at least it isn’t common—but there’s something deeply satisfying on an emotional level about the very possibility that it may be attainable.
Then there’s greed. There may be at least a small part of each of us that secretly longs to be rich. After all, turn on your TV and what do you see? A great big bunch of rich people living The Life. Do they ever work? If they do, we never see it. Not unless they’re lawyers or doctors, two professions which by their very nature conjure up still more visions of riches. We want that too.
Finally, we have the human hope factor. It’s the whole reason people buy lottery tickets. Get-rich-quick works on the same principal, except that is gives some sense of control, or even of merit. After all, get-rich-quick schemes usually require us to buy something (a book, CD or DVD) and to take some minimal form of action (reading the book, listening to the CD or watching the DVD). It just seems so much less random than buying a lottery ticket.
Get-Rich-Quick in a bad economy
Get-rich-quick becomes more effective in a bad economy. The harder it is to get a job the easier it is to sell get rich quick schemes. Get-rich-quick plays on desperation. The person who has been out of work for a year or more is willing to try anything if it will bring in some money. He becomes a natural customer for the industry.
When there’s no opportunity to make money, you can make money by selling people programs about how to make money. Simple—and it works like magic for the promoters. That’s where the only money in get-rich-quick is. The part you’re buying is pure marketing spin.
The consumer of get-rich-quick probably knows better, but his circumstances have him in bargain-with-the-Devil mode. He might think, “OK, I know I won’t make a million dollars with this program—that’s ridiculous—but all I need is $50,000 and if only I could…”
If you’ve ever been in this situation don’t kick yourself; desperation makes people do things they wouldn’t do otherwise.
If you really need to make more money…
If you’re doing OK with your finances and just fishing around get-rich-quick schemes looking for ways to make some extra money, have at it—it might even be fun. But if you’re doing it because you’re looking for a way out of your financial troubles, stay away from get-rich-quick and seek answers closer to home.
Trust in God. This can seem like a cliché to a person struggling with long term financial problems, but it’s also one of those times when we most need to draw closer to our loving Father.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. —Philippians 4:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. —Deuteronomy 31:6
Seek help anywhere you can find it. If you need money, a new career or both, seek the counsel of others. Not only can people you know help, but you may find groups set up at your church or in your community that can help you identify a new career path and move into it, as well as providing some needed financial resources to help you with the transition. Real people will be more help to you than TV or internet pitch men.
Pursue your passions. You don’t need a get-rich-quick program to help you decide what it is you want to do with the rest of your life—that’s a pure play on money. God has given each of us talents and desires—how can you blend the two to find what it is you were meant to do with your life? It’s often what it is we dare not do that’s exactly what it is we need to be doing. And sometimes the lack of enthusiasm you have for your current career is a major reason for financial problems.
Consider Apprenticeships. One way to make more money or to enter a new career is through the time-honored system of apprenticeships. If you can identify a business or career you’d like to enter, find someone who’s doing it right now, and approach them about a mentoring program. One way to do this is to offer to work for free—your compensation will be the skills you learn. Another is to work at reduced wages. Decide that you’ll do what ever it is you need to do to start a new career, then throw yourself into it and do what ever it takes. In truth, if you were to follow a get-rich-quick scheme to the letter, that’s exactly what you’d be doing. Why not try doing it in something real, something you’d actually like to do?
When we need to make more money—what ever the reason—the answer to our dilemma can usually be found somewhere in the real world right outside the front door. We don’t need silver-tongued pitchmen with convincing infomercials or websites to show us the way forward.
Have you ever purchased a get-rich-quick program? How did it work out? What would you advise someone who’s considering one? Don’t be bashful—I’ve known some pretty smart people who have gotten into them at one time or another. Meet me in the comments!