The household I grew up in wasn't financially literate, so despite my father working incredibly hard as both a firefighter at his main job and a construction worker at his second job on days "off," we didn't have much.
I didn't realize it at first, and still didn't think much about it once I did, but by around sixth grade, the difference between our financial status and that of families of some of the kids I went to school with, it really started to set in. Kids are ruthless, and the bullying I received for being poor was relentless and brutal, but I don't regret it because it drove me to build a different life for myself and my own future family. That's what eventually led me to become an entrepreneur.
From a relatively young age, I became passionate about financial literacy and consumed every piece of information I could find on the topic.
But over the last several years, what I've learned about our financial system has completely changed the way I look at financial literacy — and not in a good way. It's that our financial system does not work at all like we've been taught once you scratch just below the surface, and we're all being screwed as a result.
The truth is that ownership of assets — homes, businesses, precious metals, securities, and other assets that can retain and appreciate in value over time — has always been the foundation of wealth creation and the American Dream, and the most certain path to financial success. But that is in peril today because of people and organizations that most people have never even heard of.
This is exactly what You Will Own Nothing (HarperCollins, 2023) by my friend, Carol Roth, is all about.
Roth is known for her financial expertise, and was an investment banker before going out on her own as an entrepreneur and author. She is also a regular guest on most of the major financial news shows, and is regularly cited in the media because of her expertise.
During a conversation last year, she told me about her plans for her newest book and shared some of the details about what she had uncovered, and it blew my mind. Then, I had an opportunity to read an early copy of the book, which was first terrifying, then inspiring as I worked my way through it.
You Will Own Nothing opens with the topic of a war that's coming, but this isn't one that will be fought with bullets and bombs—it will be fought monetarily.
In the past, war meant killing people and destroying things, but humans are incredibly effective at evolving, so we have evolved in how we approach "war" today too. Don't get me wrong, the traditional type of war still exists and probably always will to some degree, but today, fifth-generation warfare plays a much more significant and impactful role. This is warfare conducted primarily through non-kinetic military action, such as financial policy, social engineering, misinformation, cyberattacks, and artificial intelligence.
As the book discusses, the financial war we are in today is, in part, by the American government, along with several other entities, against our own citizens. This makes the ludicrous policy decisions we see our elected officials implementing more understandable because they're not about fixing the problems, they're about extracting the wealth of ordinary citizens for their own benefit. Hence the massive spending, inflation, and devaluation of our currency, among other evidence. This is also what's driving a majority of the censorship we see from Big Tech, and the deluge of particular messages, coordinated across most major media outlets.
While this might sound crazy, all of the entities noted have been very open about the fact that they are working towards exactly that, and if you've sat through a 7th grade history class, you already know that this kind of thing has happened in every empire throughout history. It's human nature.
One of the weapons in this war is an acronym you may have heard of called ESG, also known as environmental, social, and corporate governance. While ESG is presented as a sort of score card for positive action, Roth calls it "business social credit" and notes that it is in many ways, a weaponized and constantly changing "rule book" designed to control behavior to enrich those wielding it. To see this in action, we can look at Tesla, which was held up as a paragon of environmentalism virtually from day one, but as soon as Musk started talking about buying Twitter to make it a free speech platform, suddenly, Tesla's ESG score plummeted. It was a punishment handed down for speaking out.
The book recounts a story where Maggie Dorn, head of ESG Indices North America at S&P Dow Jones Indices, who decides which companies are put in and removed from the index, wrote in a post about Tesla's removal, "A few of the factors contributing to its 2021 S&P DJI ESG Score were a decline in criteria level scores related to Tesla's (lack of) low carbon strategy and codes of business conduct."
Roth says, "The 'codes of business conduct' part sounds an awful lot like they disapprove of Elon's stances and affirm the notion that ESG is a corporate social credit score."
Roth makes the argument that like many bad (and inherently dangerous) ideas, ESG sounds good on the surface. She explains that most people would agree that we want to protect the environment, and on the social and governance side, it makes sense to treat employees well and incorporate diversity, but where ESG goes off the rails is in its execution.
She also says that ESG concepts make sense in theory, but once they're co-opted by people with their own agendas, they become bastardized and guided to central planning outcomes. And if we've learned anything from history, it's that this kind of behavior never ends well.
Roth says, "Imagine a bunch of entitled elites and bad actors sitting around a conference table and asking, 'How can we give businesses a social credit score so that they do what we want them to do instead of what's in the best interests of their shareholders, customers, and business model?' That's ESG at its core."
But it's not all doom and gloom. I often describe Roth as one of the smartest financial minds you'll ever encounter, and while her book, You Will Own Nothing, unpacks a horrifying and bleak situation, it also lays out a clear path back.
In fact, the strategies outlined in this book to reverse course and rebuild a financial world that works for ordinary people are also just as applicable to thriving through a challenging economy—which every entrepreneur today is facing, with near record inflation, plummeting consumer confidence, and tightening credit markets.
She outlines some strategies that should be common sense, but most people still aren't applying in their lives, as well as a lot of strategies that most have never considered. This section of the book breaks down exactly how to invest, and in what, as well as reducing debt, to fortify your financial stability and increase your wealth, then goes into a deep dive on business strategy, covering finance and marketing advice, while showing you exactly how to capitalize on emerging opportunities and advantages that others will overlook.
Some of the most important advice Roth shares in the final chapter includes what types of assets to invest in in order to build wealth while protecting your economic freedom and the American Dream. She also discusses the types of "assets" to avoid.
At the foundation of the strategies outlined here, is financial literacy, which most Americans today , unfortunately, lack. This includes maximizing your income in numerous ways — many of which do not require much, if any additional work on your part, properly utilizing debt, and hedging against risk and inflation, to name a few tactics. She also explains how to identify the "investments" that fuel ESG so that you can avoid them. But it's not just about what to do, or not do, with your money. It's also about fighting back against the tools, like social media, payment processors, and software platforms, used to enforce the ideology of those trying to steal our financial freedom.
Essentially, it's a blueprint for today well into the future.
Charles Payne, noted financial expert and host of the hit TV show, Making Money with Charles Payne, says, “I’ve been in the financial industry for close to four decades. I've seen countless authors and analysts share their views on the future of the American Dream, but Carol Roth's You Will Own Nothing stands out because its provocative title is right on the mark. No pussyfooting around. The nation is in the grips of a battle that could forever derail the American Dream and Promise.”
He went on to say, “The book is plain English and yet provides a deeply insightful explanation of the changing landscape of the economy, ownership, and financial freedom in America today. She takes aim at crony capitalism and the underhanded tactics that enable it, like ESG. I'm a solutions-driven person and Carol doesn't just point out the problems — she also offers solutions. The latter part of the book is filled with actionable steps that individuals, communities, and policymakers can take to ensure that the promise of the American Dream remains viable for future generations.”
Personally, I believe these issues are on par with any of the biggest crises we've faced throughout our history, and they need to be addressed quickly and aggressively if we want to fix both our own and America's financial future. An added bonus is that the steps needed to fix this will also help you to build a stronger and more resilient business and become more financially independent in general, so this is a powerful book that everyone can benefit from — but only if you read, understand, and apply the information contained in it.
Jeremy Knauff is an entrepreneur, author, and the founder of the real estate-focused PR firm, Spartan Media.
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