I almost fell for a Pyramid Scheme


Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

How was I so stupid?

Okay I might have stretched the truth a little bit. I didn’t almost fall for a Pyramid Scheme, I was almost recruited into an MLM (Multi-Level-Marketing). Pretty much, a Pyramid Scheme that just barely fits within the loopholes our legal systems have.

Let me tell you the story. I’d just applied for a job I’d seen online (I’m looking for a bit of a career change) and the Job description was pretty cool. B2B Marketing and sales with leading clients around the country. The successful applicant would be in charge of helping boost sales for one of their clients. The whole job was focused around helping clients boost sales and there was a lot of training offered as well as great upward momentum. I wrote up a cover letter and sent that off with my resume and not 1 hour later I had a missed call, a text message and 2 emails from them. Sounded great. I pumped my self up in the car ready to call back and the first RED FLAG!

She answered the phone with, “Hello?” . . . . Not, “Hello this is Blah blah from woop woop how can I help you.” Just a measly, “Hello?” So we got passed that and she talked about a few things about my profile she wanted to update before we move further along in the process and then asked if I’d be able to come in for an interview some time soon. I agreed and she said that tomorrow there were 3 sessions. Second RED FLAG. I agreed to come in in the afternoon and that was the end of the phone-call.

Wanting to prepare for my interview the next day, I decided to do some research about the company on a website called glassdoor.com. (I highly recommend this site to anyone looking to research their future jobs) Most of the reviews were pretty good and happy go lucky but the bad reviews tipped me to become very sceptical. A few reviews on that website mentioned that this company was a Pyramid Scheme which they so vehemently defended against claiming that they couldn’t possibly be a Pyramid scheme as those are illegal. It turns out that this job I was applying for was an MLM where the bottom of the chain sold raffle tickets on the streets and in shopping centres. A far cry from what the job description said.

I then inspected their website and that only confirmed my worst fears about them. On every page they talked about their goals, their achievements and how you can join the team. Their entire website was geared around getting people to come work for them and nothing, I mean absolutely nothing was said about the services they provide. Not a, “We can be your marketing solution,” or , “Contact us for a free quote about our sales and marketing solutions.” It was all, we are so good, we make lots of money, if you want to make lots of money then join us too! Nothing, about the services they provided. Which really cemented the fact that the lady I had just spoken to on the phone was really trying to recruit me into an MLM or Direct Sales or Community Sales or however they try as they might to cover up the dirty name of MLM.

LiveChat Partner Program

What the F*** is an MLM?

The above image should be information enough. An MLM is a company that has a product or a service that they sell, but instead of more traditional methods of sale, do the above. You buy into an MLM for a small start up cost and you are given items to sell to customers, but anyone who is worth their salt will realise that you can’t make much money selling products for an MLM. Instead, you recruit people below you to sell the items for you. You buy the item from your superior and then sell it to your recruits at an inflated price. They can then do the exact same thing you just did. Recruit someone to sell the items for them. They buy it off you and sell it to their recruits. So you buy it off your boss, sell it to your recruits and they sell it to their recruits and they sell it to the public. Hey presto, that’s MLM. As you can see the money isn’t made by selling the product to the public, the money is made by having as many people working under you that you can. The moral problem with this though is that the person at the bottom is nearly always going to be running at a loss unless they recruit people.

There are a lot of articles, forum posts and videos all over the internet talking about the risks and dangers of MLMs and what exactly they entail. John Oliver does an excellent segment about it if you have the 30 minutes to spare watching it.

MLM can be done in a legitimate way but there would need to be a few changes. Firstly, work based 100% on commission is pretty shady, especially if you are selling low cost products. For my opinion to change on MLM’s there would need to be a base rate plus commission. Secondly, the focus of the entire business shouldn’t be centred around getting more recruits to sign up to the MLM, it should be about selling the product that is on offer. The MLM part of it should be an afterthought as a marketing avenue.

Just Quickly

If you are ever approached by or accidentally apply to what you suspect is an MLM, make sure you do your research about the company, what products they are trying to sell and what training they offer as well as any fees that may apply. Usually they won’t tell you about any of the fees until after they try to hard sell you on becoming part of the team so look that stuff up online. People can be successful in MLMs, it’s not a complete scam. It just isn’t what it appears to be on the surface and morally I can’t bring my self to support them or work for them, even if they offer valuable experience and growth. I can’t morally agree with a business structure that leaves the bottom rung of the ladder out of pocket most of the time.

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Disclaimer

This post contains affiliate links.

How the f**k do I budget!?

You’ve told me a thousand times!

You have probably heard this more than once. Maybe from your mother or grandmother or that weird aunt that won’t eat bread but loves toast.

“Make a budget and stick to it.”

– Aunt who wont eat bread

They always, very conveniently leave out the ‘how’ part of the equation like it should be some intrinsic knowledge we all have. Look I’m not going to tell you like I’ve got the key. Budgets are easy but sort of not so without rambling on, I’ll just go ahead and get into it.

1: Figure out your cash-flow.

This step is the most complicated of them all, but because it’s the first step it turns a lot of people away. Trust me though, after this step, everything gets a lot easier.

So what is cash-flow? In simple terms, cash-flow is the money that is actually yours. Cash-flow is the money you have left after you pay your dues such as bills and mortgage. Figuring out your cash-flow is the next part so read along slowly and make sure you understand, if you get confused then just go back to the top and read it again.

You want to figure out how much money you make whether that be from investments, your salary or your monthly bank robbery. (For legal reasons, that’s a joke) Figure out how much money you much money you make every month and write it down.

That’s your income

Now you need to figure out how much of that money you owe to other people. Lets say your monthly income is $3k and you owe the following.

(Don’t forget to add in expenses that span over a few months, just break them down)

  • $1.1k Mortgage
  • $400 Utilities
  • $400 Fuel
  • $250 Land Rates
  • $80 Car Registration
  • $120 Insurance
  • $20 Netflix
  • $15 Gym
  • $500 Groceries

All up, you’ve got an expense of $2885 a month which means your cash-flow is $115 a month. That’s all of the money that you don’t owe anyone. What you do with that money is up to you. A lot of people just spend it on movies and eating out or other activities and end up living paycheck to paycheck.

Now you’ll here this from every personal finance guru (Which legally I am not, I write blogs) If you aren’t using your Gym membership, cancel it. That goes for any membership service you have that you don’t use. Don’t pay for it if it doesn’t provide any value. You could save hundreds of dollars a year if you cancel unused memberships.

Insurance. Shop around, this goes for all of your regular bills and utilities. Make sure you are getting the best deal possible. Shopping for better deals again could save you hundreds every year.

Land-rates. . . Sorry I can’t help you there. Tax is tax.

Groceries. Try buying home brand goods in stead of brand name. You’ll be surprised how quickly a $160 shopping bill can go down to $100 when you are paying $1-$2 less on every Item.

You could turn that measly $115 monthly cash flow into $500 or even $1000 if you’re diligent.

What to take away

I don’t know if much of what I’ve said here will help you but hopefully you’ve learned at least enough to figure out your cash flow and maybe some tips on reducing your expenses. There are troves of information about budgeting and what does and doesn’t work. If you are searching for a budget type then remember that the most important budget is one that works for you.

Personally, I have a zeroed out budget or as some call it, ‘give every dollar a name’ but that’s a story for another time.