I was raised in a small town in the beautiful state of Iowa. My upbringing was rather normal, but as always there were a few obstacles. My mother died of breast cancer when I was two. As you might imagine, my father had difficulties dealing with this tragedy, but he paid the bills and made sure my basic needs were met. I endured the experience, struggles and all.
I survived high school with no clue about what I was going to do with the rest of my life. One day my father decided to give me a push. He walked right up to me and said, “You are going to have to find another place to live before the year is out.” My jaw dropped. Within a month I signed up for the United States Army.
The little bird was being pushed out of the nest. It was my chance to fly. I was entering a world where money was earned, spent, and sometimes saved by people who looked a lot like me, except there was a problem. I knew nothing about money and how to manage it.
After completing my army training, I was sent to my first duty station. This was my first opportunity to handle money, My money! I spent plenty, saved what was left, and basically just did what most of my buddies were doing. Winging it.
One day a supervisor told me I should consider investing my money. I agreed and off we went to a “free” dinner. She introduced me to a sharp looking fella, and he said he would “help” me. Within no time at all, I was an investor. Then I was ushered over to another gentleman who looked just as impressive. This life insurance agent quickly signed me up with a whole life policy. I was now an investor in stocks and insurance. I was going to be rich!
By the spring of 1986 my paycheck had gotten bigger and that meant it was time to buy a better car. (That is the American way, right?) As I stepped onto the new car lot, the salesman flew over to greet me. He asked me what I could afford to fork over on a monthly basis. Soon after, I was the new owner of a brand new car. I was living the American Dream!
The Army decided to send me to Germany in 1989. What does a young man do when he has free time on his hands? I could have spent my time at the local bars chasing the pretty girls and enjoying the German beer, but I chose a different option. I chose to read. Before long I was finishing off two books a week after my workday was finished (if you are ever going to become financially literate you will have to do it on your own time).
One day one of my buddies stopped me and asked if I was investing in the stock market. I stuck my chest out and YES. He asked if he could come over some evening to learn how to do this investing “stuff.” I agreed to his request. The evening came, and my friend was full of questions. Sadly, I had no answers. After all of these years, I was still financially dumb.
The next day I headed straight to the bookstore. What was I looking for? I didn’t know, but I had to start somewhere. I found a book, Wealth Without Risk, by Charles Givens. I picked it up, ruffled through it, said what the hell, and paid the lady at the counter $20.
I took that book home and read it. What did I learn? Mr. Givens taught me thatI could be my own financial advisor. Yes, little ole me, the kid from Iowa. I am the answer, and if my financial life was going to improve, then I had to improve, and that meant educating myself NOW.
After finishing that book, I picked up another one and then another and then another. Slowly, I was starting to “connect the dots,” and that meant I was becoming financially educated. After a few months it was time to start taking action. The first place I started was the net worth statement.
I had never heard of this net worth statement before, but I knew I needed one. What did I find out when I completed it? I was 25 years old and broke. Financial illiteracy got me to this point, and if I was ever going to get out of this situation, I had to change. I did.
My next stop was the broker. I walked in to his office and politely told him to redeem my shares in the high commissioned and high fee managed mutual fund. The life insurance agent was next. I told him to cancel the policy that I did not need.
The debt was next. I stopped everything I was doing (cut back on the extra’s in life so I could deal with what was holding me back) and paid off my car loan and credit card debt. My life was changing.
I kept doing what was smart and efficient for myself financially. I had to learn to just say NO to the sharks and charlatans of the world (not to mention the advertising messages). Gradually, my financial life was trending upward as I patiently continued my journey.
Let’s fast forward to the age of 45. That was the year I retired. I had reached financial freedom! Financial literacy followed by action took me far, but that is not the end of the story. There is more to life than money.
I am here to share what I know. I am here to help. Are you skeptical? Good. Stay that way as you and I form a relationship of trust over time. I will be here 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Let’s get started.