Investing is the New Punk Rock

By Greg Fields

Investing isn’t pop; it’s punk.

“The sonic equivalent of being roughed up in a back alley” was one music critic’s impression upon his first spin of The Clash’s 1979 now seminal album, “Give ‘Em Enough Rope”. Today, we’re accustomed to hearing iconic punk rock anthems like “Blitzkrieg Bop” underneath our ads for GoPro and other big brands. But in the late 70s, visceral, raw, guitar-roaring punk was a threatening shock to the system that only existed out on the far-flung fringes of pop culture. Bands like The Sex Pistols became synonymous with flaunting authority and rejection of blindly accepted norms. Punk was sonic superweapon shot at the heart of a bloated, decadent music industry.

But the music business was merely reflecting the spendthrift times. The Regan Era was endemic of the conspicuously consumptive consumer economy. Credit cards with usurious interest rates allowed “regular” people to indulge their impulses to buy now and (maybe) save later. This instant gratification creeped into mortgages in the 2000s. We all know how that ended. And today, with FOMO technology (read: iPhone) vacuuming out our wallets and luxury brand influencers stroking our eyeballs on Instagram, the temptations to spend instead of save are greater than ever.

But spending is pop; saving is punk.

To succeed with your financial life, it’s a bad idea to live like a pop star. Act like a shrewd punk rock star instead. What’s the difference? Pop stars bleed money on all-you-can-spend trips to Vegas, champagne parties, private jets and other excesses I can’t list here. Punk rock stars, some of whom purposely avoided alcohol and drugs, despised the extravagant pop star lifestyle. Punk rock stars weren’t as wealthy as their pop counterparts, but bottomless consumption just wasn’t cool and didn’t fit the contrarian ethos of their music. It’s a good lesson for those of us trying to save money. Do you really need the latest iPhone? Not really. Can you wait couple months for those shoes to go on sale? You should.

Pop stars are complacent. They find a formula that works and simply repeat it again and again without stretching their creative capacity. Punk rock stars take risks. They challenge their assumptions and limited musical abilities. Similarly, as investors, we should constantly reassess where we are in our financial life. Are we being stagnant or are we growing towards achieving our goals? Are we living within our means? Are we saving enough? Be a punk and question authority – especially your own.

Pop bands have “lead singers” and “lead guitarists”. Punk bands tended to be more egalitarian and democratic. There were no “stars” in these original bands. Everyone contributed something and worked together as a team. They generally weren’t great musicians, but they had idiosyncrasies essential to the band’s signature sound. Then they worked very hard as a unit and took pride in being proficient performers. Ever hear any gaffes at a Pixies show? Nope. That’s because they practice and prepare constantly.

Just as in pop music, going “solo” or taking a DIY approach to investing is ultimately going to fail. Assembling a diligent team with specialized skills - financial advisor, tax expert and in some cases, an attorney - is essential to becoming a successful investor. This team will help keep you honest, prevent you from indulging in pop star excesses and make you stick to the song list (i.e., stay on track with your strategy and goals).

That’s why investing – as counter-intuitive as it sounds - is the new punk rock.

Greg Fields is a Financial Advisor of Santa Monica, Calif-based Gerber Kawasaki Inc., an SEC-registered investment firm with approximately $800 million in assets under management as of 7/04/18. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which course of action may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor. No strategy assures success or protects against loss. Readers shouldn’t buy any investment without doing their own research to determine if the investments are suitable to their situation. “All investments involve risk and one should consult a financial advisor before making any investments. Past performance is not indicative of future results.”