Expensive is the new cheap

“Charlie Sheen’s a friend of mine. I like Charlie, but I don’t want to be Charlie… I’ve never seen a guy go through hundreds of millions of dollars the way Charlie — it’s like the opposite of investing wisely… but he’s basically a decent guy and he makes me laugh.” — Jay Leno


Jay Leno was talking to a friend of his who works in the financial services industry and they were both talking about the comedy business and then he starts talking about Charlie Sheen and it just reminded me about some old friends and acquaintances of mine. About how they blow through all this money and I can’t figure out how they do it.

Anywho, you know the old saying used to be “you get what you pay for”? I still think that’s true in some cases but in many others, you just pay and pay and pay but you get subpar service or products. I mean, I’ve seen folks pay tens of thousands of dollars for stuff and it just plain sucks. Like, the stuff they bought was really just very mediocre and I couldn’t figure out why it cost so much. But, people do it. They just keep spending money like there’s no tomorrow.

And then there’s stuff that some of my friends have gotten for free. Not a thin dime spent, but… amazing quality. I’ve been lucky enough to score some great stuff like that as well.

Example: my wife found me a new office desk made of solid pine on some website where people give stuff away for free because they don’t want it anymore. 

The desk was made in the 1950s or ‘60s by a master carpenter. The ladies who inherited it just plain didn’t want it anymore. The desk top is a solid 1” thick. It’s 5 feet long and more than 3 and a half feet wide. Just a huge piece of solid wood. Areas where you would normally see flimsy particle board instead use honest-to-God plywood — three pieces of thick solid wood glued together.

I’m not even sure if you can buy real plywood anymore from anywhere at any price.

It’s funny because when I was searching for a new office desk, I scoured high and low and even some of the high-end, super-expensive, office desks on the market still used cheap particle board in some areas. That’s the other thing — a lot of the old-growth wood in America (and elsewhere) is gone. It’s just gone. We used it all to build homes and furniture decades and centuries ago. So, it’s been replaced with fast-growth wood which is arguably lower quality. 

So even if people wanted hard woods and higher quality soft woods, they can’t have them. They’re just plain not there. 

Anywho, point is, lots and lots of stuff is made cheaply and sold expensively because there’s a demand for it. Cheap materials with a secksy finish sell just as fast and in just as high volume as expensive stuff and consumers have become more accepting of products that degrade and break. And hell… if people are willing to pay good money for it… I can see how some businesses would be like “OK, why not?”

A lot of what passes for “high quality” these days simply ain’t. Now, don’t get me wrong. High quality is still out there. And there’s plenty of times when I’ve had to pay a lot of money to get good quality stuff. But, these days, you really have to hunt for it. It’s not like high quality goods and services are everywhere. By definition, most things are average.

This, of course, is applicable to investments, too. You have to take a good hard look at the numbers to see if you’re being compensated for the risks you’re taking. Most investments are average… even the ones that appear great on the surface. A lot of times, it’s just veneer. Well, I suppose you don’t HAVE to do due diligence before you invest, but that’s my take on it. If it were my money, I would. 

David Lewis, AKA The Rogue Agent, has been a life insurance agent since 2004, and has worked with some of the oldest and most respected mutual life insurance companies in the U.S. during that time. To learn more about him and his business, go here.