...to wealth. So many people, in desperate bids to get financially independent, or filthy stinkin' rich, fall prey to scams and pyramid schemes. So what, really, is at the heart of these gimmicks that would cause otherwise-rational and intelligent people to become suckered in?
I believe it is false hope; it is selling the dream, and the "promise of the good life," as Dateline's expose on one pyramid scheme puts it. It is the desire for something better in life, that you have to do "virtually nothing" to get. The idea is that if you invest "a little" now, you will reap bountiful returns in the future without having to work so hard. The only caveat is this: you will have to work very very hard right now, and/or invest hard-earned money up front.
So why do people leap at these "opportunities?" Personally, I think it is rooted in the deep-set dissatisfaction that some people have with their lives. Some hate their jobs, others hate their social status, and all of them want more free time in their day to spend with loved ones, and more money in their pockets to spend. These scams play on that dissatisfaction and on human nature's greedy desire to get something for virtually nothing. They then create false expectations that those who get involved will one day get their dreams realized. These normally-intelligent, rational people then willfully suspend their critical thinking skills and, in blind faith, follow after the gurus espousing these claims, investing both time and money in an organization where only the rich guys behind the business will actually get rich.
Recently, we were approached about a financial opportunity that would create for us passive income (up to $30,000/month, plus year-end bonuses!). We only had to sign up to become IBO's (independent business owners), buy Costco-esque quantities of household products and wares from "ourselves" (supplied by Amway affiliates), and get others we know to join our "team." We declined this "amazing opportunity."
So what made us refuse, when so many quite eagerly leap at such offers? Heck, we'd love more income, and we certainly would not balk at having more free time.
The answer is this: we are satisfied with our lives. Hubbs and I don't hate our jobs; we could honestly work in our respective professions until retirement and still be passionately happy with what we do. We make decent coin doing it, too.
We also like our friends; we don't believe in "friendly solicitation" for the purposes of "building our business" and generating income off the backs of those we care about. We value others for who they are as people, not as potential moneymakers for us. As a result, anything remotely pyramidal holds no appeal to us.
We are also critical (and cynical) thinkers; we research everything, and we consider multiple perspectives on the same thing before forming our own opinions. The schemes we have been approached with (two big ones to date) have always advised us against looking them up online, with the rationalization that there are people who are paid to slander these "opportunities" who will post anything on the Web just to ruin the companies involved. To us, that is a red flag in and of itself. Any self-imposed ignorance to the "other side" and alternate opinions and perspectives suggests that there is something to hide, and also that the people involved in these operations are too biased to fairly speak to the reputability of their schemes.
Finally, we have lived long enough to know that there is no easy way to "think and grow rich" a la "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" (books oft quoted by these pyramidal schemes). There is only hard work, wise investing, and informed spending. No money tree is suddenly going to sprout in our backyard, and no $30K/month will be coming our way from simply buying toilet paper from ourselves and signing up (and potentially alienating) all of our friends into this false hope scheme.
To all of you out there who have whole-heartedly bought into these schemes, good luck. You will need it.
To those of you whose eyes are opened to these scams for what they are, keep thinking and keep asking questions and never lose your ability to be a critical consumer. This ability to use your brain will ultimately protect you, and your hard-earned savings, from monetary poachers like those involved in these scams.
Incidentally, if you are currently involved in a pyramid or MLM scheme, and you know me personally, please do not approach Hubbs or I with your "amazing opportunities." We will most certainly decline.