Faith, Patience, Discipline: A Coach’s Gameplan for Winning at Money and Life
Some moments change your life, and you don’t even know it’s happening.
When I was a freshman in college, I came home for Christmas break to visit my parents. I was a world-class minimalist long before it was trendy, so I’m sure I only brought my big Puma tennis bag stuffed with some laundry. I drove a crappy little two-door Ford EXP that was barely big enough to hold my tennis equipment. At the time, my life’s possessions consisted of my very limited wardrobe, maybe 10 pairs of tennis shoes, some rackets, and a bunch of other gear to help me stay in shape and show why I deserved that tennis scholarship.
At some point during the break, my dad handed me an orange paperback book. It was so skinny that calling it a book at all was generous. It was really more of a pamphlet.
I looked at the cover and tried not to shrug. Common Sense: A Simple Plan for Financial Independence, by Art Williams.
“Uh…thanks?” I mean, what a great gift. More reading.
“This book is filled with things you need to know. Read it, and let me know if you have any questions.” My dad is not a man of many words, and his military experience definitely taught him to cut to the chase.
He was always a better doer than a sayer. As in, “Watch what I do, not what I say.” He and my mom both went to college on military scholarships and worked hard their whole lives. We moved around the country and overseas, never living anywhere fancy or expensive. They did make sure that we got great experiences growing up, but show-off spending wasn’t high on their list of priorities.
I didn’t connect the dots until years later that the basic advice in this little orange book had changed my parents’ lives. They diligently lived within their means, saved money for emergencies, and regularly invested in their retirement funds. My parents worked hard to make sure they were financially secure and could live a life they loved, and now my dad was passing that same wisdom on to me.
I was a dumb seventeen year old, so I didn’t get it then. I tossed the book in my Puma bag and headed back to school. But at some point, I read that orange booklet. It made me see my parents in a new light, as I realized that they had been making smart money decisions my whole life. It opened the door to some conversations with my dad, and it shaped the way I would approach my finances—and, in some ways, my life in general—for the future.
My dad handed me wisdom that day. Maybe a parent or mentor handed you this book, with the same goal in mind: to put into words all the advice they want you to have about reaching your financial goals—which is really just the foundation for reaching your life goals.
I get it if you want to roll your eyes. (I know I did.) But if you take it seriously, the lessons in this book can change your life.
You just might not know it yet.
What They Don’t Teach You in School
When you get to college, you suddenly realize that there’s so much stuff they didn’t teach you in high school. And when you graduate college and get to real life, you start to notice all the things no one bothered to tell you in college. Some of that is natural, because the best learning comes from experience. But some of it points to a legitimate problem in our country when it comes to financial and career education.
I graduated high school with good grades and learned what I needed to learn. I went to college, and—after a rocky start—graduated with honors and a business degree. Then I went and got a master’s degree. You would think that with all that education, I would have been told something about money, right?
Even as a business major, I was never taught about the basics of how things like saving, investing, and debt worked. Money is a very important piece of our culture, our country, and our life. You can’t live without it, and not a day goes by that you don’t have to engage in the economy at some level—even if it means just grabbing a coffee with a friend. Add up all those cups of coffee and zoom out to bigger purchases like houses, cars, health insurance, childcare, and retirement, and it amounts to a huge gap in your education.
And, unlike calculus and Latin, this is something you actually need in your everyday life.
Getting good advice is never easy, and it’s even worse today, with advertisements bombarding you everywhere you turn. All those tweets and blog posts may look like a good source of information, but you really need to consider the source. What are they trying to sell you?
I wrote this book to fill the gap. Just as my dad did for me, I want to make sure that you have all the knowledge and tools you need to make smart financial decisions—choices that will set the stage for you to live the life you want. And if someone gave this book to you, that’s what they want for you, too.
And what about that life, anyway? Do you have an idea of what your big dreams look like? What do you want to do now that you’re finally striking out on your own?
As they say, money isn’t everything—but it definitely helps. That’s why your financial goals depend on your life goals, and your life goals depend on your financial goals. It’s all tied together.
So let’s start some learning about the things that really matter—the things that have the power to change your life.
What This Book Will Do for You
There’s no secret formula to getting rich or to being happy. So drop the notion that this book is some kind of get-rich-quick guide with hot stock tips or a blueprint to earn your first million before you turn twenty-five. If that were true, I would be a magician, not a coach.
As your coach, I will share some sound, simple principles that will get you off to a good start in life. We’ll start by addressing your mindset to make sure you know what you want out of life—and how to achieve it by setting useful goals and a plan to work toward them. We’ll talk about goals for how you want to live as well as how you can build the wealth it will take to get you there.
We’ll also dig into the basics of personal finance: how to live within your means, build your savings, and avoid one of the biggest but most common pitfalls in life: debt. I’ll share lots of practical advice to help you get started with your money from the moment you start your first job. (And I promise not to get too boring with the math along the way.)
Finally, we’ll take a look at the next level to help you move forward into the rest of your life. That includes a deeper dive into the world of investing to make the most of your money. We’ll also talk about real estate, career advancement, and the importance of getting good advice when you need it most.
If that all sounds a little too simple, that’s okay. The best advice usually is. We live in a world where a lot of people intentionally make things complicated. They want to scare you into thinking you can’t do things on your own so you’ll buy into whatever they’re selling.
But the truth is that there is no secret society and no magic bullet. What I share with you here will work, but it does take effort. It also takes time, but you can accelerate the process by making good decisions from the get-go. Mistakes—whether in your career, your finances, or your personal life—are costly. You can save yourself a lot of grief by learning some important principles and acting on them today.
Meet Your Coach
I’ve been a coach since I was 19 years old. When I finished my freshman year at college, I headed to the Poconos to teach tennis at a summer camp for rich city kids whose parents wanted them to get some fresh air. I was only five years older than the kids I was coaching, and no one gave me any instructions on how to work with a group of teens.
So I dove in and did my best impression of my own favorite coach from my high school in South Korea. This guy was so passionate about the sport that he made me love it too. He was the type who would study video footage of matches and really dig into the details to learn everything he could. Then he would enthusiastically share what he knew.
His passion rubbed off on me, and soon I was doing the same, experimenting with different ways to teach these city kids to serve and return. Not everything worked, but when it did, it was incredible. When you have a skill and you can share it to give someone else the gift of your success, well—that’s a gift in itself.
So I kept right on learning, and—after realizing that I was never going to win Wimbledon or the US Open—took jobs coaching first at the collegiate levels and then as a tennis pro at the Four Seasons in Dallas.
But when I got sidelined with an injury, I knew it was time to shift gears. Later in life I became a financial planner—and it turns out that this job, at its heart, also involves a lot of teaching. I became a coach of a different sort, connecting with people on a personal level to understand their hopes and dreams before developing a financial strategy to get them there.
I also did a lot of remedial education to teach the basics of saving, investing, and debt reduction. These people didn’t just need a money manager. They needed to learn. So—armed with the basics from my dad’s orange book, my Certified Financial Planner credentials, and a whole lot of life experience as a landlord and investor—I set out to make sure young people could get the knowledge they need to start their lives off right.
The result is this book, in which I share what I know in a way that you can actually understand. No confusing jargon or long, boring lectures. I’ll share real stories of success—and some of my failures, too—along with clear, simple advice that you can put into action right now.
Sound good? Then let’s get started on the first part of that journey—developing a mindset for success in every aspect of your life.