In Ep. 88, Tim talks with Cary Siegel. Cary is the author of the book ‘Why Didn’t They Teach Me This In School? 99 Money Management Tips to Live By’. They discuss what made Cary write the book, his beliefs on educating kids on proper money management from a young age, and some of Cary’s favorite, somewhat unconventional tips in the book. This book is designed to help readers take action and slowly, but surely, get their financial life on track.
Cary Siegel – Why Didn’t They Teach Me This In School? – Transcript
Tim Mullooly: Welcome back to Living With Money, this is Tim Mullooly. On today’s episode I’m joined by Cary Siegel. Cary is the author of the book Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School? 99 Personal Money Management Tips to Live By. Cary, thanks for coming on the podcast.
Cary Siegel: Thank you very much, Tim. It’ll be pleasure talking to you.
Tim Mullooly: So before we dive into the book and all the tips that you talk about in there, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, a little bit about you and your background, your career leading up to writing this book?
Cary Siegel: Sure, I went to a small college in upstate New York, SUNY Binghamton for undergrad and then went right through to University of Chicago and got my MBA in marketing and finance. And then stepped out of the finance world and went into brand management, general management, sales, marketing, and ending my career actually at a pretty young age, as a chief development officer and chief marketing officer for my last organization at the age of 45 because I was traveling way too much and had five kids. And had enough to make sure that I could be happy with them.
Tim Mullooly: Makes sense, I always like to ask the guests what their relationship with money was like growing up. I feel like at the time it’s hard to know, but kind of looking back, how did your relationship with money growing up kind of shape the way you view finance and your personal finances today?
Cary Siegel: It’s interesting, I would say probably the same as everyone else. Everyone’s got their own nuances and the key was that I sort of picked up, was everyone told me that money was important. Just like they told everybody, you knew it, right? You knew it at a really young age and everybody told you that you needed to earn it. The thing that was interesting to me as I sort of evolved learning, as I got older was, no one really taught me how to manage it.
I always worked to save for something. It was always I wanted to get a car, so I saved, I got a job when I was 14 and promoted to dishwasher, that’s how bad the job was. And just kept working and saving money. I think I realized at the beginning that I needed to have money, but it took a long time to understand that I needed to figure out how to manage it.
Tim Mullooly: I remember back when I was in high school, obviously you had math, you had science, and then I think for us at our school, when you got to junior year, that’s when you could take an elective, which was personal finance. And that was the first time you ever took a class like that. So was it a similar thing for you? Did you ever have any sort of personal finance classes or anything in school?
Cary Siegel: No and I never had that aha until even after graduate school. So I mean I had finance classes, corporate finance, all sorts of business, nothing on personal money management. And still to this day, that’s part of the why I wrote the book, which I’ll get into, there’s maybe less than 10% of the population get some sort of money management class. I ask the question, I present across the country on this subject and I ask the question of my audience all the time, I asked them, it’s funny because you sort of lead into it, when I ask them first off, “Hey, you’ve taken a lot of classes in school, through your career, through your life, whatever it is, math, science, how many have done that?” They raised their hands, raise their hands.
“Okay, stand up if you want to be financially successful in life and I don’t mean rich, I mean being able to manage your money.” And they all stand up. Then I say, “How many of you have taken even one class?” And you know what? In a room of 75, maybe two will stand up. And when it’s qualified, they really don’t, long answer to that. But they didn’t back then for sure. Now they’re taking some inroads to do it, but you just, over time and when I started coming out of school and had so much debt, I had to figure it out.
Geez, I was a finance major. I better know it. The most amazing thing that I see when I talk to people, and I talk to a lot of people on this, you’ve got a lot of very wealthy people that have no idea. They just think if I earn enough money, it doesn’t matter. And they’re the ones that get killed the worst because they don’t know how to manage it effectively.
Tim Mullooly: Yeah and there’s an entire other side to that equation. Bringing in money and then there’s a complete other part to the equation that they don’t take into account. Is all of this kind of the reason that made you want to sit down and write this book?
Cary Siegel: You know, it’s very funny. I didn’t sit down to write a book. I sat down and said, over the years I’ve traveled a lot for business. I had offices in different cities that I would be managing and I would write down little things to remember to tell my children. I have five children. They’re not children any more, they’re in college or working. I wanted to give them the knowledge that I had, the mistakes that I’ve made, information in a very, like when I was doing it, I was writing these tips and I was like, “They’re not going to read… One, they’re not listening to me. Two is, they’re not going to read this long finance book.” So I wanted to put it in a form that was intelligent for them to read and to listen to, to really take it in. But I had it in a pamphlet and I was talking to somebody that said, “Why don’t you just make it into a book?” I said, “Yeah, but you know what? It’ll look better for them.”
I made it into a book for them, totally for them. I put it on Amazon. People started buying it, which is pretty cool because I’ve met so many people and I think helped a lot of people. I help people with budget management. You’re in investment advising, people think that’s what I do, but I don’t do that at all. I help them on the other end of it. And on the part that is, you have this money, now how do you manage it so you’re not the person who has $5 million and ends up losing it all, who makes $5 million a year, but spends 10 or the person that makes 40, but spends 70? That’s where the answer lies to being successful in financial management. Someone making 40 spending 30 is probably living a better life than someone who’s making five and spending 10 because they’ll be able to do it for a long time.
Tim Mullooly: Right, learning how to manage that and like you said, budget management, such basic things that pretty much everyone out there needs. So it was something that started for your kids, but has morphed into something a lot larger. I mean, the book was published in 2013, but we were talking before we started recording, that a workbook was actually published in 2017. Do you want to talk about that and what kind of spurred the need for the workbook as well?
Cary Siegel: Yeah, I started getting calls. I put my phone number on my website and whenever just anybody who wants information, I love talking about stuff and you can tell, I just get passionate about it. And I started finding out that universities were using it to teach their students and the same with high schools. And I was going across the country talking to people, I, believe it or not, did several presentations for the very wealthy, over 500 million in net worth, also the homeless. So there’s this is need to understand.
So they were using it and actually the army was using it out in Colorado to help train people, not train, to help people who were leaving the army to learn how to manage their life. So I said, well they’re giving them information. What if I provided a workbook that could help them do things? So it’s something that adds value and that’s what I’m trying to do, sort of my second life is, career life is just add value for people. It’s sort of evolved from there. Now I do a lot of presentations at universities and such. So it’s nice.
Tim Mullooly: Yeah and that’s really remarkable that like you were saying, people who make millions of dollars and then people who are homeless, it seems like the umbrella for people that can use all of these tips is so broad.
Cary Siegel: Yeah and the idea, Tim too is, as I tell them, when I talk to them or anyone I speak with is, it’s fine to one, go to a presentation, read a book or whatever. My goal is to motivate you to take the next step in financial and money management because if you don’t do it, you’re not going to learn it by somebody talking to you for 45 minutes in a presentation or reading one book. You have to make it the way you live your life and that scares a lot of people because numbers are involved.
So I try to do it and I think it’s important for people to do it and understand it in a non-numbers way. It’s how you live your life? Do you live below your means? Do you have a budget? Do you do the things that are important? Do you spend an hour a week learning about money in some way, shape or form? And it’s not just going to happen magically because believe me, no one’s going to teach it to you. So that’s been my focus from the beginning and as you can tell, it gets me very excited to get people to understand it.
Tim Mullooly: Yeah, absolutely, so would you say that getting people to not only read the book, but then also want to take action, would that be the biggest takeaway that you can have someone have from your book or are there a couple of other things that you would hope that someone could take away from reading the book?
Cary Siegel: That’s rewarding for me, but it’s so rewarding for them to actually be able to look and say, “I’m either changing when I’m starting out.” I’ve got a couple of kids that are starting out in their life. When you see them and go, “Hey, this is what you need to do to start your credit in a positive manner. How do you change your credit?” And I did this when I was working, I used to take anybody who started working for me and ask them, “How much debt you have?” And it wasn’t any of my business, but I said, “We’re going to change that in a year.” Because nobody knows and understands how. So if you can get them to understand it, get them motivated and get them going to the next stage and get them not psyched out, okay, from it.
My biggest thing that I want them to understand, it’s their responsibility. I sat with parents over the years and heard them blaming, especially because you got to remember I lived through the financial crisis of 2007, 2008, 2009, blaming everyone else for what they did wrong, okay and it was their fault. You can’t point it at your parents. You can’t point it at the credit card companies, the banks, you’ve got to take responsibility. So that’s probably, that’s why I say it’s a combination of motivating people, but the motivation is that them realizing that this is their responsibility,. No one’s going to do it for them and it’s a huge thing to change, as you know, that’s something that people don’t feel, they feel, “I should just be able to spend and I should do what I want.”
Tim Mullooly: Right, yeah, it’s tough to kind of rein in people’s emotions and spending habits and everything like that, but I think the way that the book is broken down is not intimidating to the everyday person. And I like the way that you, there’s 99 tips for money management, but it’s broken down into eight different groups. Do you want to talk to the listeners a little bit about where the lessons start and the different sections that you broke it down into and the thought behind choosing those different sections?
Cary Siegel: Sure, you actually hit the nail on the head when you asked the question, I just wanted to make a book that wasn’t intimidating. So I simplified it into quick principles that were simple. I mean these are one to two pages, but they get you going, “Ah, okay, maybe I’ll do that. Yeah, I need to do this now, next, whatever it may be.” I want it to be easy to understand, a bit interesting. As you see some of the things in there are very, “Oh that’s… is that? Yeah, I guess so.”
If someone would think to themselves, and I actually separated them into the groups after I wrote it. I never wrote a book. I’m not an author, so to speak, so after I did, I said, “What makes sense?” I wanted to definitely have a saving section, a spending section, sort of one of them’s group, I believe I call it life because it’s really in general life investing. Even though I’m not an investment counselor. They all came naturally and then if you notice, at the end of the book, there’s a bunch of quick tips. Quick tips were, okay, where do I put them?
Tim Mullooly: Miscellaneous tips, yeah.
Cary Siegel: That’ll show you my thought process. But it’s very interesting too and I will get, by the way, they’re my thoughts and I think that’s important. Everyone has their own ideas and look, some of them may or may not be right. In terms of how somebody wants to live their life, but if I can add some value and you can say, “You know what, no, I’m going to do it this way.” That’s fine. I have debates with people all the time and I don’t care. It’s up to them whether they want to use some of them or not.
Tim Mullooly: Right, so are a lot of these tips derived from your own personal experience and what you went through with your own money?
Cary Siegel: Yeah, pretty much, yeah or I’ve seen other people, I’ve seen some interesting things happen. The neat thing is, as you get older you can tell a lot of stories about a lot of things, including yourself and other people that you wouldn’t believe.
Tim Mullooly: Right, yeah. Well, I mean that’s part of why they call it personal finance. Everyone has their own way of doing things and we were talking before we started recording. It’s always good to hear other people’s opinions and consider different ways to do stuff. So I think that, that’s really valuable. And like I mentioned before, the book was initially published in 2013, so it’s been a handful of years. Over the years, have you noticed any lessons that were left out of the book or that you thought of afterwards, or maybe some lessons that are in the book that might’ve changed since you wrote the book?
Cary Siegel: Yeah, and one of them is a big one, that I should go back and change to tell you the truth, because I probably learned it mostly in the last couple of years. I say in the book, “Don’t have a credit card when you’re in college.” Remember, this comes from my belief and what I did, I saw so many people just go in debt and I’ve helped people get out of debt that I knew, who all of it was from college. But now I see my kids coming out of college. You sort of have to get a credit card when you’re in college because it’s so hard to get a credit card afterwards.
But if you have one when you’re in it, it’ll help you get one when you’re out of it. What I would recommend though is two things, a number of things. One is, you have the credit card and by the way, a credit card also is better to put things on because of fraud protection and other reasons versus a debit card. But it has to be managed effectively.
That’s the problem, that you get an 18 or 19-year-old who goes in and says, “Hey, I can spend, I can do whatever.” And nobody knows what they’re doing and they don’t know what they’re doing and all of a sudden they come out with debt of $5,000 because they didn’t pay it off on time. The credit card can be the most amazing thing in the world.
The way I’ve used it my entire life is, “Hey, I’m using their money, the credit card company’s, all month and then I’m paying them back 15 days later, which means I’ve used their money for 45 days sometimes, but I pay them every single time, the full amount.” And that’s what needs to be taught to these students. They should be taught and made sure of whenever they get a credit card and even credit card companies in some way should and they are doing it. When I’ve seen some of the ones that my kids have gotten, they’re giving them some sort of help because otherwise, everyone came out and they were in trouble from the beginning, so that’s probably the biggest one.
Tim Mullooly: So you would just kind of add the caveat there, don’t get a credit card unless you know how to properly manage it first because that’s where the trouble can come in. I definitely agree with you on that one. In the book, I mean there’s 99 different tips.
Did you have any personal favorites in the book? Maybe something that’s not traditionally talked about when discussing people’s finances, that makes a big impact for people.
Cary Siegel: Yeah, I mean, as you can tell, I’m pretty passionate about it. You can ask me any of these. I could say, “Yeah, they’re awesome, they’re…” But they are there. But there’s one that I don’t think anyone’s ever thought of or done and it’s sort of a unique, that I do and I’ve done every year. And my wife thought I was insane when she met me because I do it, is I have an emergency month every January. And the reason I have an emergency month every January is because I’ll make a comparison. People eat like crazy November, December, right because the holidays, they also spend like crazy, right? “Oh yeah, we got to go to this party. Oh, I’ve got to get this person a gift. Oh, we got to go on this vacation.” And all of a sudden you get to January and people start dieting, right?
Same thing should happen with their spending because what it does is a couple things. One, it gets you down below the norm if you do it and I’ll tell you what the emergency month is exactly. But it gets you down below what you were spending before, so that you know what? When you start spending at the regular levels, “I’m okay, I’m good.”
And when I say an emergency month, it’s like, you know what? Pretend if you’re 40 years old, you’re like you’re in college or like you’re in high school, if you didn’t go to college, spend like that. Although now a lot of college kids spend a little bit more than I was able to. But basically you don’t go out for dinner. You actually use your Netflix, you don’t go out to movies, you don’t go out for entertainment. You find your own entertainment.
You go to a park, you do things that actually gets you closer with whoever you’re around. It makes you actually think a little bit more on things. Every bill that you get, you question whether you need that. You change your behavior just for that month and it’s pretty cool because every time I’ve done it, I found, by the way, I mean, I reduce just about, I’d say 30% of the bills that I have. And you can say, “Well, why would you have to do that? You’re retired, you haven’t…” One, that’s why I’m retired, there’s two parts to the equation, saving and spending, okay. If you monitor and manage both of those effectively, you’re in good shape. So that emergency month comes in very handy. So that’s one of my favorite, unique ones that I like.
Tim Mullooly: yeah, I like that idea a lot and it kind of averages things out a little bit in terms of, like you said, you spend so much at the end of the year and it’s always a good time, people are making New Year’s resolutions, they’re starting other things as well. You might as well include your own finances in that too. And like you were saying, going out and spending more time with people that you love and that you enjoy spending time with. So it kind of serves purposes on multiple fronts there. I like that a lot.
Cary Siegel: And by the way, if you’re young and you’re dating, whatever, you may find out that the other person is different than you thought because you were so wrapped up in everything else that you were doing. Spending and doing things and going away on the weekends and whatever it may be. You go, “Wait a second, this is what my life’s going to be.” And sort of like a little bit, because you don’t spend like you do, that’s another one. That’s one of my favorite is the I always ask people at a presentation, “What’s the number one thing that married people fight over?”
Everybody says money because obviously if I’m in this seminar and I’m teaching it, that’s going to be the answer. But it’s very interesting to me because when you’re dating, you spend a lot of money because you’re sort of, “I’ll get you a gift, I’ll do this, I’ll do that.” And it’s the last thing, questions you’re going to get into. You’re not going to go, “Okay, well what’s your net worth?” But you better figure that stuff out before you’re married. Because if that person is a saver and you’re a spender, man, there’s going to be a ton of clashes.
Tim Mullooly: A lot of these tips in the book are geared, I feel like more for adults or people getting out, like in college age, just finishing college. So I wanted to ask you, at what age do you think majority of these lessons should be introduced to people? And do you think that there is a right or wrong time to start teaching kids or adults about their personal finances?
Cary Siegel: I think as young as possible, as young as they can comprehend. I can tell you stories about all sorts of different ages where I’ve taught, like I always do high school presentations. I always do middle-school presentations. But starting even earlier, understanding when you’re going to get ice cream from the ice cream truck, here’s the money, but here’s how mom or dad earned it. And having discussions like that early on. In the schools, there’s definitely call it a class you could do in elementary school that will help them. I believe there’s a lot of places that are starting to do it in middle school.
They’re actually doing this, called almost, where they do almost a model of how you would spend money.
And they talk to that. In high school, my belief, I don’t understand why my kids have taken three calculus courses, yet they come out never having taken a money management course. There should be at least mandatory and I don’t think one year, I think mandatory two electives on personal money management. And one of them should be a basic personal money management, simplistic and the other one more advanced, maybe into different areas. In college, the same thing, they teach a… I won’t say which universities, but they’ll teach classes, they’ll have you come in early to take a class on life, called life management or life at college. Yet there’s not even a section on there on money management.
Tim Mullooly: That’s incredible.
Cary Siegel: It’s amazing, right? But we know it and the shame of it is, and I’ll pick on doctors for a second. For example, I’m awful at science. I had no interest in science whatsoever. So I took as little as possible. That wasn’t my forte, that led me to where I was. The same can be said for doctors and dentists, not all of them. Someone will get mad at me if I say that, but that’s not their forte. So they’re like, “You know what? I’ll make a lot of money and I’ll leave it to my investment analyst to do it.”
Yeah, you can do that for them, but you can’t tell them, “Here’s how much money you can spend.” You can tell them, but if they don’t know how to do it and manage it, they’re in trouble. So they need to be taught that, that should be a mandatory, I’ll tell you, this’ll be quick. They should teach that in medical school, in any graduate type of level. Because these are people that are going to be making significant money. And I mean you see it everyday, you see ball players making $10 million and they go bankrupt. Same thing with all professions.
Tim Mullooly: So I wanted to ask you real quick about the last principle that’s in the investing section because I found it pretty intriguing. It talks about not investing with friends and family. I wanted to get your opinion on why you think it’s important to kind of stay away from investing or loaning money to family and friends. Because I feel like a lot of people know that it’s a bad idea, but then when it comes time for them to actually take part in something like that, a lot of people still do it anyway.
Cary Siegel: Okay, sure. First I want to clarify because it’s funny because I’ve had relatives ask me this. And I’m like I want to clarify. It doesn’t mean I won’t help them if something’s wrong, I won’t. But I don’t look at it like for example, I’ll call it like loans or investment. I would never consider a loan, when I’m loaning somebody like personal money. Understand that, that money is gone. Maybe they’ll pay you back. So that’s sort of part of the investing equation. But understand when you’re dealing with family and friends, if you’re going to give them money, it’s not an investment, it’s not whatever, you’re giving them money, it’s gone, okay?
Now if you’re lucky, something happens, whatever. Just don’t expect payment in return. Here’s the reason, one, I did get burned by an old relative, it’s in my book and that doesn’t happen all the time. But no matter what, even if you go in and invest with a relative or a good friend, there’s always risks that an investment goes bad, okay? And then the blame game starts. Everything’s fine when they tell you, because you remember, “Hey, you should do this, here’s why.” And they might even qualify. Say, “Look, it’s an investment. I’m not certain.”
But at the end of the day, it’ll be like they invested with you, it was your investment. So now all of a sudden it’s your fault. When they make it, it’s like anything, it’s like you win the game, “Hey, wasn’t I great?” You lose the game, “This other guy didn’t do it.” So that’s the reason and again, this is my belief, anybody could do what they want, but why mix the two? Why mix the two? Now it’s different if you have family members, you go in business with your father, you go in business with someone. That’s a whole different thing. But to make a single investment and to put money into something, I would stay away from it.
Tim Mullooly: Yeah and I feel like you can have that conversation ahead of time, when you make the investment. Like here are the potential consequences and you’ll be like, “Yeah, sounds good. That won’t affect anything.” But then when it actually happens, it’s different. And it’s hard not to make things personal and have bitter feelings. I agree with you, it’s just worth it.
Cary Siegel: Yeah and it depends upon your relationship too. I mean a lot of it depends on that.
Tim Mullooly: So there was another tip in the housing section that I think you don’t typically see too often about renting. Do you want to explain your thoughts on the debate that goes back and forth about renting a place versus buying a place?
Cary Siegel: Sure, yup and funny I just was asked this question by a Duke MBA at one of my recent presentations and I went through it with him. My advice and if you look at what I wrote, it’s for actually probably definitely younger people and actually a lot of older people. It’s my advice to people who aren’t settled in yet, okay. Younger people and older people often fit into that area. They aren’t settled because they’re most likely going to move into a different city or they might realize they want to live in another part of town relatively soon. For young people that may be, I mean most people in their 20s will move two or three times.
And there’s transaction costs that are associated with owning and there’s also moving costs and there’s all, that eat up the profit. And that’s one money and part of when I talk about money, it’s lifestyle too. Because the second part in this is me, but I think a lot of young people, home ownership is costly and it’s a hassle and you need to be around for it and that’s a time of life, my belief, unless you’re settled down and you have a partner or you’re married, whatever it may be. Unless you’re stable and none of us are really mentally stable I guess over time. But if you’re physically stable, you go, “You know what? I think I’m pretty certain I’m going to live in this area for the next five to seven years, then yeah, you know what?
You probably buy something. The expectation and I’ve seen it so many people, expectation, of course my house is going to go up in value. It’s not the case, when you put in transaction costs, you put everything, it’s not always going to happen. Now we’ve had a great run, but I can tell you I lost money on a house because I had bought one before the housing crisis, the last one dropped. Okay, I point, you plan for it, you understand. But if you’re young and again, you one, understand the fact that you may be moving, “Hey, it’s okay.” Okay, I would advise against it. That’s what I’ve told my kids, who are all in that sort of age group.
Tim Mullooly: So another lesson in the book that kind of goes against the grain or against people’s natural desire is you say to get rich slowly. Can you explain what you mean by that? Especially because everyone loves to get rich quick. So what do you mean by get rich slowly?
Cary Siegel: Okay and I want to clarify it too, because some people will look at that and say, “Oh, this is a book about money management, I can get rich.” My book isn’t about getting rich, nor is good money management. It’s a huge misconception about money management. And in my presentation, I think I mentioned that, I explained my idea financial success is being able to manage your money and live a good life within your economic means. And that’s the key, whether you’re an investment banker or park ranger, you make a choice. And you know what you’re going to make. And if you live within that, you can be happier than heck. You can have this horrible life if you’re spending incorrectly in either of those areas. In reference to getting rich slowly, there are very few people who do it quickly, okay? I’ll ask in my presentations, “How many of you have somebody that they’re close to who have won the lottery for over $1 million? How many have won $5 million in a casino?”
Doesn’t happen, a startup takes years and years, even though people see them millions and millions. And the people that do it quickly, if that’s their sole goal, they’re going to miss out on life, okay? They’re going to miss out on life because they’re saying, “I want to get rich fast.” Mine is, “You know what? One, it’s not rich, it’s being able to manage your money effectively, but enjoy the ride as you’re doing it. Enjoy what you’re doing.”
Because if you’re just out there for the money aspect, yeah, you can put your whole heart and soul behind it. And we all know people who’ve done that, but they’re miserable and you’ve got to do it the right way. And that’s, I think I told you, I have another book on life and that’s what I sort of get into in life, is how do you manage your life effectively, so that you can have a good life? Because that’s the other thing they don’t teach you in school. Life, money and health are probably the most important things as you grow up. And health is one that at least they talk to a bit. But that’s-
Tim Mullooly: Yeah, briefly, yeah.
Cary Siegel: Briefly, right.
Tim Mullooly: Yeah, yeah, it’s remarkable. I mean the three things that you just touched on there, like you said, are probably the three most important. When you ask people as adults, “List out your priorities in life.” We don’t get taught that. So other than giving people your books to read, every student gets issued one of these books. What are some other ways that would best be able to kind of start working money management principles into the school curriculum for kids?
Cary Siegel: I think what I said a little bit earlier in terms of having at least two years of high school and one semester in college that gives them the basics and in the earlier grades, including it, having people come in and talk to it, whatever it may be or having a module on it. But it needs to be mandatory. It needs to be something you don’t get out of school without. There’s colleges now that you don’t get out with all sorts of things.
But you have to have music, but you’re not even going to come close to… You like listening to music, but it’s I took music cultures of the world because I needed to take a elective on that. This should be something that’s required. Even things like, I think one of the things that in middle school, even and I might just talk to somebody, talk to one of your relatives and ask them how do they make their money? Like what do they… some of them think make money means make money, the basic, just get them thinking and going and whatever it may be.
Tim Mullooly: We were talking about in the beginning, about how you wrote this book initially for your five kids and it’s kind of ballooned from there. What has been your favorite piece of feedback that you received since the book was published? If it was from someone else, or maybe it was from your kids, did they get out of it what you intended when you first started putting all these tips together?
Cary Siegel: Yeah, yeah, that’s great question. I think their friends got more than they did, maybe because I’m their dad. So it’s like they do, they’ve read it and they repeat things. And I know that it’s in there, but will they admit that it was their dad that they learned it from? I don’t know. But I think the biggest thing is, I think I told you when we talked earlier for the podcast, the whole thing’s amazed me. It sounds like I’m bragging when I say there’s 100,000 books out there, which means there’s probably a half a million people that have learned something from this.
So my most amazing piece of feedback is I get emails, I’ll get calls, I’ve helped somebody with a budget where I know that they’ve changed their life. So it’s the fact that I’ve motivated them to take steps to change their financial life. And that’s not one person, there hasn’t been one comment. It’s been more like, “Wow, I can’t believe that.” Yeah, sure, and your audience will need it, if somebody has a question, send me an email, I love to answer. I love trying to help and I think some of it that’s really amazed me is the older people.
That they can’t make it and they’ve got questions and you go, “Did you ever think of this?” I’ve had somebody who I gave a bunch of tools, “Well, I can’t do that. I’m just not going to do it.” Well, they have no money now. I know that for a fact. You have to take the step. So anyhow, I’ll ramble on this, but it’s basically everything. Something that was supposed to be for my five kids, who are now in college or working, expanded to something a lot more.
Tim Mullooly: Yeah, that’s really remarkable from something that started so intimate to now, like you said, probably over half a million people have read these tips. So that’s truly amazing and great because these are really important tips that everyone needs to know about. So I just had a couple more questions for you. For you, personally, over the span of your career, from writing this book to working, your career before this as well. What would you say has been the most impactful financial lesson that you’ve learned that has positively effected your own financial life?
Cary Siegel: It’s real simple. Always live below your means, okay. And what that means is simple, is you’ve got certain amount coming in through your salary, whatever it may be, your business and your investments, always live below that. You can never get in trouble. You can’t get in trouble financially, If you do that. And by the way, then it builds and builds to a point where you know what? You can make decisions on your own.
What I always tell people is look, you either take control of your money or your money’s going to take control of you. There’s no in between and it’s real simple.
Tim Mullooly: Yeah, absolutely. I feel like that’s one of the foundational concepts that everyone should grasp onto. The last question I always like to wrap up each episode by asking the guest, whether it’s a personal thing or professional or maybe a little bit of both. What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received?
Cary Siegel: This is great, I love the question because I got a great answer for you.
Tim Mullooly: Awesome.
Cary Siegel: So I went to school for 19 years, right? My 19th year was my second year in business school. My second semester and I went to every class because I was paying for it. So I was there, listening and the professor, it was a accounting professor.
He goes, “Look, you guys are going to come out of school and you’ll earn some money, whatever it may be. After the first year, maybe earlier, maybe later, they’re going to tap you on the shoulder and say, ‘Hey, you’ve done a good job. Here’s some more money.’ Or you’re going to find another job and they’re going to give you some more money.
Every time they do that, take half of it, live a little bit better because you were living okay, whatever it may be, whether you’re living, wherever you’re living, you’re doing okay. Okay, that makes sense. Take the other half and save and invest it. Whether you need to save it, you want to invest it, split, whatever.” He said, “And what’s going to happen over time is you’re going to live better and better. You’re going to be able to live better longer in terms of you’re going to have more money in the long run. You’ll be able to do what you want.”
The best advice hands down and at points in my life. And that’s why every time they do that, I might live 5% better and the other 95% goes away. And you take those two things, always live below your means and do this. It’s a rocket ship, doesn’t matter if you’re making $30,000 a year or 3 million. You’re going to be able to live your life well and you’re not going to have to worry about people telling you what to do down the road. I wish I knew where the guy was now because it was very smart, what he said.
Tim Mullooly: Yeah, absolutely. I feel like that’s a great piece of advice to get, especially early on in your career and also just to pass along to the listeners as well. So, Cary, that was all the questions I had for you today. Thanks for coming on the podcast and talking about personal finance with me.
Cary Siegel: No problem, good luck with everything and I hope people learn something from this also.
Tim Mullooly: Great, so for the listeners out there, I’ll link in the show notes to where you can find Cary’s book, Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School? 99 Personal Money Management Tips to Live By. And the other books that we mentioned as well, we’ll put an email address if you have questions, you want to contact Cary.
So thanks for tuning into this episode and we will see on the next one.
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