I have two teenage boys at home. When they play computer games, they want to find the “cheat codes”—special keyboard tricks that allow them to advance to the next level without going through the steps of the game. Cheat codes often are put into a game by the developers to help them test their program, and are sometimes left there as a kind of “Easter Egg.”
People are often obsessed with finding cheat codes in their lives: interview tricks to help land a job; test-taking techniques to improve SAT scores; magic foods to help lose weight. When I was in college some students bought fully-written term papers to help them with their classes on Shakespeare or Aristotle. An entire industry has emerged around buying and selling various “cheats.”
Are there cheat codes to wealth? It’s tempting to think so. Lottery sales or casino ads play on this hope. But it’s deceptive. There are only three ways to get rich: marriage, inheritance, or savings. The first two approaches aren’t available to most folks. But the third is always there—you can usually find a way to control your spending.
Cheat codes are a feature of many computer games, but don’t expect to find them in the real world. Good grades demand study; good health depends on diet and exercise. And wealth is built through disciplined saving and careful investment. “Cheating” money is fleeting money.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer