If I was broke in 2024, here’s exactly what I’d do… (feat. James Altucher)

Added: May 15, 2024

In this podcast episode, James Altucher, a hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, and author, delves into his tumultuous financial journey, sharing both his successes and significant setbacks. Altucher, known for his candidness about his failures, believes in the power of vulnerability and honesty in a world where many hide their shortcomings.

Key takeaways


James Altucher emphasizes the power of being open about failures and setbacks. He believes that vulnerability and honesty can lead to personal growth and stronger connections in a world where many hide their shortcomings.


Altucher shares his experience of losing $15 million and hitting rock bottom, highlighting the emotional and psychological toll of financial collapse. This experience underscores the importance of resilience and the ability to rebuild after significant setbacks.


Altucher adopted a mindset of daily self-improvement, focusing on physical, emotional, creative, and spiritual well-being. Writing down 10 ideas every day was a key practice that helped him spark creativity and open up new opportunities.


Altucher advocates for embracing experimentation and taking risks. His unconventional living arrangements, such as moving from Airbnb to Airbnb, allowed him to explore new ideas and adventures, demonstrating the value of stepping out of one's comfort zone.


Altucher and the host discuss strategies to break the cycle of poverty, emphasizing skill accumulation in high-paying trades and entrepreneurship. They highlight the importance of surrounding oneself with financially successful individuals and continuously learning and adapting.

Financial Collapse and Rock Bottom

Altucher recounts his devastating experience of losing $15 million and hitting rock bottom financially. He vividly remembers the moment he checked his bank account to find only $193 left, a stark contrast to the millions he once had. This financial collapse brought immense fear and uncertainty about his ability to provide for his children, leading him to dark thoughts, including contemplating suicide.

Daily Self-Improvement Through Idea Generation

To navigate his financial crisis, Altucher adopted a mindset centered on daily self-improvement. He focused on enhancing his physical, emotional, creative, and spiritual well-being each day. One of the key practices that helped him during this time was writing down 10 ideas every day. While most of these ideas were not groundbreaking, the process of generating ideas sparked creativity and opened up new opportunities for Altucher. This practice eventually led to writing gigs, speaking engagements, and business opportunities.

Embracing experimentation and risk-taking

Altucher emphasizes the importance of being open to experimentation and taking risks. He shares how he lived in a hotel for a couple of years and later moved from Airbnb to Airbnb to avoid dealing with rent and ownership. These experiences allowed him to explore different living arrangements and sparked new ideas and adventures.

Embracing Life as a Quest

Altucher's approach to life involves embarking on quests rather than simply setting goals. He views quests as challenging and often impossible tasks that lead to personal growth and self-discovery. For example, his quest to buy Greenland, though unconventional and ultimately unsuccessful, garnered attention, connections, and valuable experiences.

Educational Disparities

Altucher reveals that a kindergartener from the bottom 25% of socioeconomic status with top test scores has a 31% chance of earning a college degree and a job that pays over $35,000 by age 25. Conversely, a kindergartener from the top 25% of socioeconomic status with bottom test scores has a 71% chance of achieving the same milestone.

Financial struggles among adults

The conversation then shifts to adults who are poor, with Altucher sharing that 18.2% of the US adult population provided unpaid care to an adult relative in 2015. They also touch on the fact that 73% of consumers die in debt, and 46% of Americans die without $10,000 in savings. Altucher emphasizes that most millionaires inherited nothing, debunking the myth that wealth is solely passed down through generations.

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Altucher and the host stress the importance of not taking money advice from broke people and surrounding oneself with individuals who have the financial outcomes one desires. They propose two paths to break the cycle of poverty. The first path involves skill accumulation in high-paying trade positions such as elevator mechanic, power plant operator, radiation therapist, nuclear medicine technician, and dental hygienist. These positions offer salaries ranging from $75,000 to $200,000 a year.

Entrepreneurship and Business Building

The second path focuses on entrepreneurship and building a business. Altucher suggests starting a side hustle or small business to generate additional income and eventually transition into full-time entrepreneurship. He highlights the importance of finding a niche, solving a problem, and providing value to customers. He also emphasizes the need to continuously learn and adapt in the ever-changing business landscape.

Maximizing Earning Potential in Sales

Another strategy Altucher outlines is to find a job that rewards performance rather than hourly pay, such as a sales position. By studying and emulating the top performers in the company, individuals can maximize their earning potential and learning opportunities. He advises staying in the job for 1 to 3 years, continuously striving to exceed expectations and seeking opportunities for advancement. If a promotion is not forthcoming, he recommends seeking a higher-paying position elsewhere, leveraging the experience and skills gained in the current role.

Frontloading Hard Work for Financial Stability

Altucher stresses the importance of frontloading pain and hard work to achieve long-term financial stability. He shares his personal journey of starting with a modest salary at Vanguard and gradually climbing the corporate ladder by consistently outperforming his peers and seeking new opportunities for growth. By following a similar path of continuous learning, earning, and advancement, individuals can break the cycle of poverty and secure a comfortable financial future.

Financial Challenges and Debt Caution

Altucher also highlights the financial challenges faced by individuals living in poverty, such as the high cost of living, limited access to affordable resources, and the burden of student loan debt. He cautions against taking on unnecessary debt, particularly in the form of high-interest loans, payday loans, or student loans. He advises against pursuing graduate school unless it offers a significant increase in earning potential and cautions against relying on debt to finance education or other expenses.

Identifying Institutions Perpetuating Financial Hardship

Altucher identifies five institutions that can perpetuate poverty and financial hardship, including colleges, high-interest lenders, casinos, pawn shops, and buy-now-pay-later schemes. He emphasizes the need to prioritize financial stability and avoid unnecessary expenses or debt that can hinder long-term financial success. He shares personal anecdotes of overcoming financial challenges, such as living at home to save money and taking on multiple jobs to increase income.

Overcoming Financial Constraints Through Discipline

Altucher and the host discuss their experiences of being broke and the challenges of breaking free from financial constraints. They reflect on the temptation of impulsive purchases, such as Amazon buys, and the importance of retraining the brain to prioritize long-term financial goals over immediate gratification. Altucher encourages listeners to have difficult conversations with family members about financial constraints and the need to prioritize personal financial stability.


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