Interview: Aaron Clarey Talks Bachelor Pad Economics
“Bachelor Pad Economics,” Aaron Clarey tells me about his new book in our latest podcast interview, is focused upon “maximizing your amount of time on this planet to spend on you and leisure and not be slaving away eighty hours at the office and just so you can afford that big mansion in the suburbs or the BMW SUV.” Clarey stresses the importance of minimalism in his financial planning. “Material wealth really doesn't matter,” he tells me. “I'm the biggest capitalist there ever was. But truthfully, the only thing that really matters, the true source of happiness is other humans. And the great thing about humans is they're free.”
Is it possible to enjoy America’s decline from your swank bachelor’s pad, knowing that you're financially prepared to ride out the worst of the remaining years of the Obama era? Yes we can, shouts Clarey, the self described “Captain Capitalist” and “the only motorcycling, fossil-hunting, tornado-chasing, book-writing, ballroom-dancing, economist in the world,” in Bachelor Pad Economics. Clarey’s new book brings financial planning to the themes of his previous title, last year’s Blogosphere hit, Enjoy the Decline.
During our nearly 19-minute long interview, Aaron will explore:
● The only source of happiness in a period of national decline.
● What is the chief underlying cause of American decline?
● The importance of minimalism as a financial strategy.
● How did Aaron make the jump from financial analyst to new-media maven?
● How to survive the higher-education bubble.
● What role does real estate play in Bachelor Pad Economics?
● What is the infamous "Smith & Wesson Retirement Plan"?
And much more. Click here to listen:
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Transcript of our interview begins on the following page; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.
MR. DRISCOLL: This is Ed Driscoll for PJ Media.com, and we’re talking today with Aaron Clarey, the self-described Captain Capitalism, who blogs and podcasts at Captain Capitalism.blogspot.com, is the author of the 2013 Blogosphere hit Enjoy the Decline, and is the author of the new book, Bachelor Pad Economics. And Aaron, thanks for stopping by today.
MR. CLAREY: Thanks for having me, Ed.
MR. DRISCOLL: Aaron, most financial and self-help books have rather grandiose titles dating back to Napoleon Hill's classic 1937 book Think and Grow Rich. In contrast, Bachelor Pad Economics, at least going by its title, sounds like a more modest approach to finances. So what constitutes the economics of the bachelor pad?
MR. CLAREY: Well, there's several traits or qualities, I guess, or strategies. But probably the most important one, or the underlying one, is minimalism. And the reason I start focusing on minimalism is not just because I was brought up poor and it was by force, but as time goes on, especially in the Western civilization we rely on stock markets and capital gains and stock valuation for our retirement, you have a bubble with primarily baby boomer retirement dollars driving up the price of stocks. And so when they withdraw their money, I foresee at least a stagnation in stock prices in terms of real rates of return.
And that is going to put the onus or put the focus on personal budgeting and cost control and spending as little as possible. So there's that financial aspect.
And then the other aspect or minimalism that kind of underlines the book is that material wealth really doesn't matter. I'm the biggest capitalist there ever was. But truthfully, the only thing that really matters, the true source of happiness is other humans. And the great thing about humans is they're free.
So, you know, your family, your friends, your loved ones, those people willingly hang out with you and are going to provide a higher rate of return, a higher quality of life than a Ferrari or anything like that.
So Bachelor Pad Economics is ‑‑ you know, there's certain other aspects like the education and career and all this other stuff, but it is focusing on maximizing your amount of time on this planet to spend on you and leisure and not be slaving away eighty hours at the office and just so you can afford that big mansion in the suburbs or the BMW SUV.
MR. DRISCOLL: Your Twitter profile describes you as "the only motorcycling, fossil-hunting, tornado-chasing, book-writing, ballroom-dancing, economist in the world." Could you talk about your background in economics and how you made the jump to writing and new media?
MR. CLAREY: It was all accidental, truthfully. I majored in finance at the University of Minnesota and ended up becoming credit analyst. And kind of to the buildup of the housing bubble, it wasn't accounting or financial statements that was where the threat was coming from. The threat was coming through valuations, through loan-to-values, through economics. And I had minored in economics. I always loved economics and it was my original major, but it just wasn't practical in terms of employment.
However, as the housing bubble grew larger and larger and larger, I was forced more and more into analyzing the economy and housing market than I was people's financial statements or companies' income statements. And that kind of sent me on another trajectory where the next bank I worked at had me more in a role of an economist. And then I also wrote a book about the housing bubble. And that along with just banking being just so horrendously corrupt and inept, I couldn't tolerate it anymore.
And slowly but surely, my writing career ended up taking off, especially with the advent of the Internet and Amazon. And yeah, when it came down to the choice, [I thought], do I want to blog and write from my laptop on a beach or at Yellowstone National Park, or while I'm riding a motorcycle up to Alaska? Do I want to do that, or do I want to sit in this cubicle analyzing financial statements?
So I cut the string about, oh, two years ago, and have not looked back.
MR. DRISCOLL: The timing of Enjoy the Decline, your previous book, was excellent, coming as it did in early 2013, shortly after Americans voted for another four years of Mr. Decline himself, Barack Obama.
Let's break the title down to its two halves, particularly since you expand upon these themes in the new book, Bachelor Pad Economics.
Could you start by explaining how America wound up in its current period of decline?
MR. CLAREY: Yeah. Basically, the quality and caliber of the people has declined. You look at people today ‑‑ you know, a perfect example to me, going around the Internet there's a picture of a World War II vet who is 26, and then a picture of Pajama Boy, who is 26. And that basically sums it up right there.
The country is only going to be as good as its people. You're going to get the government you deserve. And that's where the decline comes in. So that's the primary thing.
And then the symptoms that you see are government debt, government deficits, spending per pupil. [In] Glenn Reynolds' new book, he's got some great charts in there showing that spending per pupil adjusted for inflation has gone up four-fold, but the performance has stagnated. All these things show that it's the Roman Empire version 2.0. And that's where the decline aspect comes in.
MR. DRISCOLL: And if America is in a protracted, possibly irreparable, period of decline, what are some ways to enjoy it?
MR. CLAREY: Well, the first thing is to accept reality. And Enjoy the Decline doesn't parallel perfectly the five or six stages of grief, but it's the same process. Everyone grew up with the United States. We love it. And we were told what to believe, Ronald Reagan, rah, rah, rah, all that other stuff. But the key to enjoying it is to first accept reality. Because if you live in denial, every decision you make based on that denial is not going to be effective.
So we first have to realize that the United States is at least in a declining state or at minimum, stagnation. The prospects do not look good for the future. I don't see us turning around. And you have to also admit that no matter what, the United States is not special. Every empire collapses. Every one throughout the history of the world does.
So you got to say, okay, I'm here and alive now. I don't want to believe in flowers and puppies and unicorns. So given that the United States is in decline, what decisions can I make that will still make the best of a bad situation?
MR. DRISCOLL: Well, you mentioned Glenn Reynolds' books on the higher education bubble. Do you recommend spending large amounts of cash for higher education and advanced degrees, majoring in arcane subjects to get ahead in the 21st century America?
MR. CLAREY: Not ‑‑ not arcane subjects. If you want to become a surgeon, maybe. And even with Obamacare, that's doubtful. But it really does depend.
I had another book called Worthless that was basically the young person's indispensible guide to choosing the right major. And it really does depend. It's very simple. Ask people what they want to buy, what they want to purchase, what they're going to purchase, and then go major in something that builds that. That's how simple it is.
So if you want to major in English in an English-speaking country, that's pretty stupid. If you want to major in feelings and emotion or you want to major in your skin color, or your ethnicity ‑‑ Chicano-American studies [for example], that's stupid.
But if you want to major in chemical engineering, electrical engineering, stuff like that, [then] yes, it's worth spending the money, but get your bang for your buck. I don't know how people can think dropping six figures on a master's or an advanced degree in the liberal arts is wise or sane.
MR. DRISCOLL: What role does real estate play in Bachelor Pad Economics?
MR. CLAREY: Ed, it's kind of a love-hate relationship, and it really depends on the individual. If you're a family man, yeah, you probably want to get a house if you're going to raise a family. Some people can do the corporate thing. I can't do the corporate thing. I just can't. I'm too independent-minded and I've got two hemispheres of a brain.
But for those people who can reliably be employed for 20 years, 30 years, the life of a mortgage, sure, go ahead and get housing. But at the same time, realize that local governments are just as socialist or trending socialist as the federal and state governments. So you're buying the right to pay property taxes. And in some towns, especially like Detroit and Minneapolis, Chicago, the property taxes get so high, that you're paying more on property taxes than you are principal or amortization on your -- on your mortgage.
But outside of the family man, living in pretty conservative suburbs and rural areas, I really don't like real estate in terms of an investment, because especially as a bachelor, especially if you're going to be doing the minimalist route, a house is just pointless, especially with telecommuting and everything nowadays. You're anchored to that property. I think Peter Schiff and I share some of the same views of this. You've got to maintain the home. It just isn't worth it.
It is so much easier and so much freeing of your life to rent and have a landlord deal with the maintenance issues and everything else, than becoming a homeowner. So it really does depend on the individual and what you want to achieve in life.
MR. DRISCOLL: Well, given the title of both books, what is the relationship of having kids and having financial freedom?
MR. CLAREY: A negative correlation.
MR. DRISCOLL: Okay.
MR. CLAREY: Not necessarily ‑‑ I mean, financial freedom is one thing, but happiness is a completely different ball of wax. Kids are humans, and they're probably the single-most source of happiness and joy that loving, good parents will ever have. And they can also be the worst experience ever, if you're not prepared to raise them.
But definitely in terms of money, absolutely, children are the number one cause of poverty. That's just a fact. And if you have a kid, well, your income per capita has immediately dropped by half.
I'm not saying don't have kids. I know people that have kids, and they're wonderful kids and [when I see them], I kind of say, god, maybe I should [have kids].
And then I see the crying, screaming kids that are throwing rocks through windows, and they're my windows. And I'm like, get that kid out of here before I call the child services. And so again, it does depend on the individual and what they want in life.
MR. DRISCOLL: Aaron, I believe that both of your recent books rather infamously reference “the Smith and Wesson Retirement Plan.” Most of us would rather not, to quote Pete Townshend, “fire the pistol at the wrong end of the race.” While recommending much about Bachelor Pad Economics, in a post at PJ Media earlier this month, Dr. Helen Smith, who helped champion your books, took strong offense at your suggestion. Could you elaborate on your reasoning?
MR. CLAREY: Well, the reasoning is economic. And it is secular. I won't deny that. So people who are religious or even traditional, they obviously would be against that. And I take no umbrage and no offense to it.
But from a purely economic point of view, and even a humanitarian point of view, there are some times where you're terminally ill -- pick your poison: cancer, a brain tumor, whatever. And you're not coming back, you are going to die, and the remaining two weeks, three months, whatever your life, are going to be absolutely in pain and misery.
I think it's wise or humane or ‑‑ what's the word I'm looking for ‑‑ compassionate to, you know, somehow kill yourself, not necessarily with a Smith & Wesson, but some kind of euthanasia. And it not only puts you out of your misery, but it also saves a ton of money. I mean, I forget what the statistics are, but a plurality of your health expenses are incurred in the last six months of life.
So you want to talk about, you know, saving your family the grief of watching you just decay and, whatever, mentally, physically, what have you, or be in pain; not to mention save the finances for a future generation. It's not for everybody. I'm not saying you have to do it, I'm just saying it is an option.
MR. DRISCOLL: Well, barring that approach, how would you recommend planning for retirement in today's economy?
MR. CLAREY: Oh, it really depends. I would get some money outside of the United States so it cannot be confiscated like Argentina or Cyprus. I would definitely contribute to a 401(k) and an IRA, even though I'm not a big fan of retirement plans.
And especially if, let's say, in your 401(k) or 403 you have a match. Absolutely, because that's free money. But then maybe have some exposure in property. Not necessarily something that you'd live in, but through a real estate investment trust, because real estate is a pretty good hedge against inflation, and it does grow with the population, as long as your population is growing. At least there's some intrinsic value there. I also recommend having gold and silver, not necessarily for investment purposes, but more inflation insurance reasons.
But then, in terms of other asset groups, there really isn't a lot of growth. I mean, it's not just the United States baby boomers that are retiring, but boomers of all the western nations where most of the capital is. And these retirement dollars have driven up stock valuation everywhere. This is why your dividend yield is like a paltry two percent. This is why ‑‑ well for other reasons, the Central Bank and your government bond or your saving account pays less than one percent.
So I don't see a lot of hope. I don't see a lot of up and coming economies. I mean, maybe Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, for a safety bet. But that would be more like investing in a blue chip stock. You're really not going to have a ton of twenty percent annual gains over the course of ten years.
MR. DRISCOLL: And speaking of bachelor pad-related questions. I have to ask, how did the photos of various lovely young women reading your books appear on your Web site?
MR. CLAREY: The ‑‑ wait. Which ‑‑ the ladies? Which one ‑‑ are you talking ‑‑ oh, the models?
MR. DRISCOLL: There's the photo that's currently on the right-hand sidebar of your blog, of a very attractive young woman reading ‑‑
MR. CLAREY: Oh, yeah! Well, I have friends of the female persuasion. And let's say ballroom dancing and knowing how to salsa helps. And watching Victor Borge, Walter Matthau movies and Cary Grant movies, and maybe plagiarizing some of their sayings and words, and building up some charm, might have a say in that. But yeah, most of them are friends. All of them are friends. And we'll leave it at that. They are friends.
MR. DRISCOLL: Your blog makes several reference to the "Manosphere." I what the Blogosphere is, but what is the Manosphere?
MR. CLAREY: Well, the Manosphere is kind of…I'm not trying to tout it, but it's just the truth. It's this up and coming backlash to feminism, I guess, is the best way to put it. You've had, essentially, two-and-a-half generations of men brought up without dads. Even if the dad was present, they've been emasculated. I'm trying to be succinct with my description.
Basically, boys like girls, men like women. It's probably the most important thing in our lives, especially when we're younger. And the amount of lies and baloney we were fed about how to approach women, the nature of the sexes, blah, blah, blah, is wrong. It was all couched in feminism or heavily influenced by ‘60s, ‘70s feminism.
The Manosphere is basically the older brother or the father you never had, who says, all right, look junior, here's the deal. No, girls don't like nice, sweet men. They don't like it when you write them poems; and they don't like it when you give them flowers. They like it when you hit the gym, lift weights, show up on your motorcycle, and then don't call them back for a week. It may not be pretty. It may not be nice. It may be completely politically incorrect. But it's truth. It's reality.
And so you have a lot of guys who are now turning to this older brother kind of Manosphere where you compare notes. Say, hey, did this work? No. Did that work? No. Did this work? Yeah, that worked.
So I got an entire chapter about girls, and it's heavily influenced by the Manosphere, especially in terms of sexual market value. So we apply some economics there to describe the dynamic and the relationship between men and women, and specifically and practically how to use that to your advantage to woo the young ladies.
MR. DRISCOLL: And Aaron, last question: Your books are predicated on this nation being permanently hosed. Is that a reasonable assumption, or is there any hope for America yet?
MR. CLAREY: Oh, there's always hope. I see some glimmers of hope. For example, and this gets, again, to the Manosphere. You could say I'm crass and direct and blunt and very politically incorrect. A disproportionate amount of my readership and viewership for my blog and my podcasts or my YouTube channel ‑‑ are minorities, especially black males and Hispanic males.
And the reason there's hope is because these guys are sick and tired of being lied to their entire lives by primarily leftist politicians. And here's a guy who's like, hey, you know what? I don't care about your feelings. I don't care about your race. Here's how it is. This is why you're poor. Here's a practical way to get out of it.
And I have a very loyal following from minorities. So when I see a lot of the Hispanic and black males becoming even more conservative, more libertarian than I am even, that kind of gives me hope.
But in general, that's a niche of the Blogosphere that I'm in, where I see some hope. But my books are predicated on the U.S. collapsing, because if the U.S. didn't collapse and it boomed, well, that's not hard to adapt to. You just enjoy the incline. But what does take some doing is learning how to maximize your utility, enjoy your life to the limits, in a poor environment.
MR. DRISCOLL: This is Ed Driscoll and we've been talking today with Aaron Clarey of Captain Capitalism.blogspot.com and the author of the new book Bachelor Pad Economics. And Aaron, thanks for stopping by PJ Media.com today.
MR. CLAREY: Thank you very much, Ed.
(End of recording; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.)
Transcribed by eScribers.net, with minor revisions (including hyperlinks) by Ed Driscoll. Artwork created using elements from Shutterstock.com.