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In kung fu, as in all martial arts and any type of war or battle, it is crucial to study your enemy.

Because the more you understand your enemy—their favorite strategies and tactics, their key players and moves, their strengths and weaknesses—the more likely you are to win the most important battle of your life—the battle for your financial independence.

This is one reason why I spend so much time discussing the many enemies to your money here on Kung Fu Finance.

And make no mistake; in the battle for your hard-earned money you are literally surrounded by enemies.

They come at you from all sides and in all different guises—some are obvious and easy to avoid, while others are seemingly harmless…stealthy, cunning wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.

I’m sure you can think of a few right off the bat…

(Let’s see…inflation, taxes, your government, your central bank, the “big banks”, Wall Street, specific “leaders” (e.g. Ben Bernanke), your well-meaning-but-clueless financial advisor, the entire retail complex that attempts to separate you from your money…I could go on and on!)

But how well do you really know them? Do you know what their strongest moves are? Their favored “go-to” punches that they pull in the clutch? Their greatest weaknesses? Their pain points? Their preferred fighting style? What keeps them up at night? What they eat for breakfast?

(I hear Jamie Dimon eats banks for breakfast…Seriously, the top 10 banks in America now own 77% of all U.S. banking assets, up from 55% in 2002, according to Bloomberg.)

As Sun Tzu famously said in The Art of War, written in 500 B.C.,

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.

If you know yourself, but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.

If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War, p. 51

This one quote alone could spawn a million individual articles, but today I want to focus on the last two sentences, because this is where the majority of us are — at best treading water (one step forward, one step back) and at worst, succumbing in every battle.

In fact, the U.S. Federal Reserve recently published some extremely disturbing data that says the median net worth of families plunged by 39 percent in just three years, from 2007 to 2010, wiping out nearly twenty years of wealth for middle-class Americans.

This puts Americans roughly on par with where we were way back in 1992, and the rest of the world isn’t faring much better.

That’s treading water all right…for twenty years!

Perhaps, as Sun Tzu wisely opined so many years ago, we simply do not understand our enemies well enough.

(Heck, most of us are just waking up to the fact that those whom we thought were supposed to protect us and guide us were instead interested solely in lining their own pockets, in the most expeditious way possible!).

This. Must. Change.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting mad. (Make that more mad—I’ve been growing steadily angrier and angrier over the past ten years!)

It’s time to truly study our enemies so that we can win the biggest battle of our lives—the battle for our financial independence, and for our very freedom itself.

Let’s start with enemy #1 (the first in a long, long list…): Wall Street.

“Wall Street” is literally a street in lower Manhattan that is the original home of the New York Stock Exchange, but is used far more expansively to refer to the entire U.S. financial and investment community, including stock exchanges, large banks and brokerages, and securities and underwriting firms…basically, the largest and most influential financiers in the U.S.

A quick competitive analysis gives us the following:

Strengths

  • Collusion with the Federal Reserve
  • Collusion with the U.S. government
  • Monopoly of banking industry (77%…)
  • Untold riches and wealth with which to fight

Weaknesses

  • Vast hubris / pride / egos / arrogance
  • Belief that they are “above the law”
  • Belief that we “the sheeple” (or “muppets”, as they like to call us…) will never “get it”

Preferred Strategies and Tactics

  • Excessive fees
  • Complex jargon
  • Extreme boredom-inducing “products”
  • Complex structures (derivatives, CDO’s, etc.)
  • Instill FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) into the minds of their customers (you) as to your ability to understand (“This is too hard for you; just give all your money to us and we’ll “take care of it”)

But luckily, we the “sheeple” are starting to get it.

In fact, Matt Taibbi (of Rolling Stone and Goldman Sachs “vampire squid” fame) and Yves Smith (Naked Capitalism) recently went on the Bill Moyers show to discuss how the big banks (Wall Street) are truly the new mafia — I highly encourage you to watch it.

It’s a 28 minute video, and when I watched it this morning it had only received 14,000 views. It deserves much more:

(If you are pressed for time and prefer to read vs. watch, you can read the transcript here.)

In addition to the video, Matt Taibbi also wrote another scathing article in Rolling Stone magazine, entitled, “The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia“:

Rolling Stone Wall Street Mafia

Here is what he said:

“The banks achieved this gigantic rip-off by secretly colluding to rig the public bids on municipal bonds, a business worth $3.7 trillion. By conspiring to lower the interest rates that towns earn on these investments, the banks systematically stole from schools, hospitals, libraries and nursing homes – from “virtually every state, district and territory in the United States.”

Are you getting mad yet?

Thankfully, I’m not the only one wising up to the enemies of our financial independence.

And I am firmly convinced that the better we know them, the better we will be able to defeat them and achieve financial independence and freedom.

It’s time to channel that anger into ACTION!

Remember, knowledge is power, and by simply KNOWING your enemy and being aware of his moves, you are already better-positioned to profit.

Who do you see as the biggest financial threats/enemies to your financial independence? Please let me know in the comments!

To your financial success,

— Kung Fu Girl