Considering this thread on the relative “fitness” of the rabbit-approach to financial success (high-leverage, take risk, cheat, …) vs the turtle-approach to financial success (work hard, be persistent, save, …), it is interesting to consider the breeding strategies of rabbits vs turtles.

For turtles it is a massive endeavor. It takes many years to reach breeding age and individual turtles live to old age. Turtles focus on the quality of their offspring. Their hard shell, etc.

Rabbits breed constantly presumably because many rabbits get eaten. Rabbits focus on the quantity of their offspring.

Both strategies are successful for the species, but what is really important is how successful the strategy is for the individual turtle or rabbit. Individual turtles are successful because they’re “high quality”. Individual rabbits, on the other hand is a whole other story.

This comes down to K-selection vs R-selection. Actually there was a section planned and half-written for the ERE book about this, but it was cut.

Now, you can consider various personal finance strategies.

The “Get rich quick”-scheme is successful for the rabbit _species_ and a good part of its success is its authors’ ability to promote it heavily to create as much offspring as they can. This will ensure the survival of a few rabbits. These rabbits will then illustrate the success of the strategy, which in turn can be used to “breed” new rabbits. (“There’s a sucker born every minute!”) All the dead rabbits don’t matter. For this strategy to survive it requires a combination of author-promotion multiplied by the small fraction of survivors. If this exceeds a critical point, the species/strategy survives. (And the get rich quick promoter gets incredibly rich.)

Now you understand how heavily promoted get rich quick and easy schemes work. I’d love to mention my favorite example of this strategy, but I want to keep a civil tone 😉

(However, if you have any concern or empathy for individuals, you might be concerned about the ethics of turning individuals into rabbits without at least informing them about the downsides. Fatality! I note that successful marketeers never do this though. If the individual rabbits somehow became aware that they are likely individually screwed, they might opt out immediately.)

The “Get rich slow”-scheme is successful for the turtle _species_ AND the turtle _individuals_. However, it takes longer by virtue of design. The overall success depends on the quality of the turtle-design. Author promotion has little to do with this. No critical mass is needed to ensure the survival of the species. The size of the species is strictly determined by how many “seeds are sown” and by how many choose to become turtles when also presented with the flashy rabbit alternative.

Originally posted 2011-04-17 09:43:13.