In this instalment of “A penny for your thoughts”, we ask Fynn Kliemann about his current bank balance, whether money worries have ever kept him awake at night and seven other very personal, finance-related questions.
Fynn, what is the biggest mistake you have ever made when it comes to money, and did you learn anything from it?
Luckily, I haven’t really made any massive mistakes because I soon realized how money works for me: all I need it for is to turn ideas into reality. Whenever I tried to use it for other things, such as trying to make a fast buck, I fell flat on my face. Crypto bot trading, for example, turned out to be a flop in the end! But whenever I’ve invested money in myself, my plans and my visions, so far something good and useful has come out of it in 100% of the cases and that’s all I care about.
I’m not a fan of investments and don’t own anything simply because it could potentially increase in value over time. No watches, cars or any silly stuff like that. I just want everything to work and to allow me to work. If it does that, then I didn't spend too much or too little on it. If I had the feeling that it was worth the price, then I’m never annoyed when I later find out that I paid “too much” for something. Maybe I’ve just changed the rules for myself. But as long as it teaches you not to get worked up about money, it doesn’t matter at the end of the day anyway.
Are you ever afraid of losing everything that you have built up?
When I became self-employed after my apprenticeship, there was a moment when, after a few months, I chose to stop paying into my unemployment insurance. Something just clicked and I realized that I would never be out of work. There are so many things on my to-do list that I wouldn’t be able to cram them into even 10 lives! I was making music, filming videos, and creating things before Instagram. The only difference back then was that no one was watching me doing it! And if you take away Instagram, YouTube, and the rest of it, then I’d still be doing it, but I’d just be a lot quieter about it all. Even if I get fed up with the whole hustle at some point, I would find a new job in two minutes and just do one of the many things I love doing for someone else. I think there are quite a few things I’m really good at. At the moment, I’m only doing them for Kliemannsland, ODERSO, LDGG etc. But I could easily do them for someone else too.
Have you ever had sleepless nights over money?
Of course. Money is a pain. Not having it is stressful and, strangely enough, having it is stressful too. I never thought that would be the case in the past, but money should be spent. It needs to be invested or spent in other ways. I've never had that problem though as that’s something I do for companies. We’re lucky in that we always have ten times as many projects as we have money. I only ever see money as a means to an end and its actual value doesn’t interest me in the slightest. I’m just interested in all the things I can do with it, who I can bring into my team with it and what it allows me to do. Unfortunately, it has taken up a large part of my life lately and I’m currently trying to change that as quickly as possible. I’ve started handing over the management of the business, staying out of meetings with our tax advisors wherever possible and am trying to just focus on the creative side of things. Money isn't part of that process. That’s my goal for the next 12 months: to keep myself out of the money aspect and just think about the future from now on.
How does it feel to have financial responsibility for others?
When our first employee told us she was pregnant, I thought to myself: “Oh shit, now all this nonsense we’re doing here has to feed a family. But I actually ended up feeling quite proud and now that the kid has started kindergarten, I’m totally relaxed. I strongly believe that I have the best team in the world around me and have never seen such good and committed employees anywhere else. And if I ever really manage to mess things up, after a day of phoning around I would soon be able to find new jobs for them all somewhere else. Other companies are already constantly trying to lure them away! (laughing)
One of the first search results when you google your name is the question about your wealth. Why do you think people want to know whether you’re rich or not – and because we’re all interested, can you give us a few figures?
I totally get that. Money is something that everyone is interested in – and not just mine either! I bet everyone would google their friends and colleagues if they knew that their bank balance could be found somewhere on the internet. For people in the public eye, we always try to work it out from their number of clicks, followers etc. But it’s a bit more complicated in my case as I don’t do any advertising on YouTube or testimonial deals. So there’s nothing to base it on because I don’t earn anything with all that stuff. For 11 years now I’ve been employed by herrlich media where I earn €2,479.59 a month, but because I’m self-employed I have to pay all my insurances etc. from that – so I would say that I’m left with around half. I don’t really need anything anyway.
All I have to pay out each month is a small amount for our house, tobacco and groceries. I am neither employed at Kliemannsland, nor at LDGG or anywhere else for that matter. Having my own private fortune is the least aspirational thing I can think of. The only ones who need money are the companies that I try to do incredible things with. And, logically, these companies also pay for everything that I need in order to work. As I just work for them, I don’t need to have a private fortune myself. German TV chef Tim Mälzer once asked me whether I already have a million in the bank. I replied: “I’m not stupid! Only stupid or uninspired people have a million euros just lying around in their account.” He nodded and said: “Very good, I totally agree. Money needs to be spent.”
What can money do that talent can’t?
Money can definitely make talent more visible, and it also gives you independence. It makes you independent from the people who don’t believe in you and your ideas. In everyday life, money is my way of giving the finger because it allows me to just go ahead and do what I want and then say afterwards: “Told you so!”. It’s also the language of the capitalists we’re surrounded by every day. So, to really make a difference in our capitalist world or to fulfil your own potential, you need to speak that language.
Would you say that you are you just really fearless when it comes to money, or does privilege play a role? And by that, I mean do you come from a well-off family?
People on Reddit forums are always talking about how much I’ve inherited and who from.... Apart from the fact that I, as a white German man, have had a completely different start in life than so many other people out there, I started off with just as little as most people I know. For the first two years we paid ourselves just €400 a month even though we were programming seven days a week, 12 hours a day from a friend’s basement. Since then, I have just really enjoyed working – if you can call what I do work – and I prioritize it over everything else. I’ve always preferred staying home on a Saturday night, writing concepts, working on designs or fine-tuning beats, rather than hanging around clubs. I don’t really have any friends, just colleagues. That might sound a bit harsh, but everyone I spend time with is also someone I work with and apart from them, I don’t really have room for anyone else in my life. I don’t like having spare time and never just hang around. I don’t go anywhere unless it’s absolutely necessary, or if I can kill ten birds with one stone. I’ve set up the perfect infrastructure for myself here. We have everything we need; everyone has come to us. And you can’t get much more effective than that.
How many of your ideas were successful and how many have failed?
I am pretty proud to say that everything I have done on my own so far has worked out. I just don’t stop until it works. That’s a simple tactic. If you just keep going until it works, then you’ll never fail.
Now let’s get down to brass tacks: would you be willing to reveal your current bank balance to us, along with the value of the real estate you own and other investments?
Phew! In my private account I have €4,781.67. Most of my properties still belong to the Sparkasse bank, but they’re certainly worth a few million. It’s hard for me to estimate how much my stakes in companies are worth, but I did manage to jump on the crypto bandwagon early on! (grinning)