The Personal Ponzi Scheme

Blog / Produced by The High Calling

“I’ve decided that life is a Ponzi scheme.”

I give my friend a quizzical look.

“Do you know what that is?”

“Yeah, sure, sort of. Isn’t that what Bernie Madoff got in all that trouble for?”

She nods her head rapidly.

Yes,” she says. “It’s smoke and mirrors—like convincing others that you have this great thing to buy into…”

I’m still puzzled, but I’m listening. Wasn’t this what Bernard Madoff had done? Bilked hundreds out of millions by convincing them to invest in his fraudulent scheme?

I sit up straighter.

My friend is getting her MBA, so she is always enlightening me—stretching my world bigger. The way her mind works amazes me. While we dine in my small office at work, she has educated me as to how the world is flat, given me insights about the international business world, and helped me understand the virtues of certain marketing strategies.

But a Ponzi scheme?

I listen to my friend expound on her theory.

She explains that she has stumbled on a new source of self-confidence.

The Ponzi scheme.

Most people get their Ponzi schemes from their parents. As they’re growing up, they’re told they’re wonderful, or special…you know? They get this unconditional love that they build their world on and…and they totally buy into, right? So they grow up feeling good about themselves…”

I am on the edge of my seat. And then she says this:

“And since I was raised by crazy people, I didn’t get my Ponzi scheme.”

My eyes widen.

“I didn’t either!”

We talk more about developing our Ponzi schemes—how to use this concept to build our self-esteem.

I love it. It makes sense. Sort of a self-investment. Building myself up.

That’s good, right?

I am so impressed with our new theory that I tell my husband about it when I get home.

“Isn’t that neat? I mean, if I buy into the scheme that I am a self-confident, all together woman, and act accordingly—then…I am. I just have to buy into it and then others do, too.”

Before I am finished, he is shaking his head.


I don’t want to have to pretend to be something I’m not, he explains calmly. I’m sick of all the Ponzi schemes. I’m sick of all the falseness in the world. I don’t want to invest in anything but the Truth.

Can you say ‘deflated’?

Still, not willing to let go, I looked up Ponzi scheme on Wikipedia and this is what I found:

”A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to investors from their own money or money paid by subsequent investors rather than from any actual profit earned. The Ponzi scheme usually offers returns that other investments cannot guarantee in order to entice new investors, in the form of short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent. The perpetuation of the returns that a Ponzi scheme advertises and pays requires an ever-increasing flow of money from investors in order to keep the scheme going.”

Reading just a bit further, these words jumped out at me:

“The system is destined to collapse (emphasis mine) because the earnings, if any, are less than the payments. Usually, the scheme is interrupted by legal authorities before it collapses because a Ponzi scheme is suspected or because the promoter is selling unregistered securities. As more investors become involved, the likelihood of the scheme coming to the attention of authorities increases.”

Destined to collapse.


It’s not looking so good for the personal Ponzi scheme.

Sadly, I relay my husband’s words to my friend at work the next day.

“He just says it’s not based on the truth…”

She tilts her head to one side, eyes sparkling with mischief.

“But what is truth?”

And then it’s my turn.

Image by Evan Leeson. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Laura J. Boggess.

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