Jason interviews Joe Saul-Sehy from Stacking Benjamins.
Joe Saul-Sehy is the creator and co-host of the Stacking Benjamins podcast, which was just last week awarded the title Best Business Podcast 2017 at the Academy of Podcasters award show in Anaheim, California, over big competitors like Tim Ferriss and the NPR show Planet Money. Kiplinger magazine also called Stacking Benjamins their top podcast of 2016 in their December issue…. but don’t let those accolades fool you. Stacking Benjamins is meant for beginners, broadcasts live from his mom’s half finished basement, and often is more entertainment than education.
To learn more visit: www.stackingbenjamins.com
Below is the full transcript:
Announcer: Welcome back America, to Sound Retirement Radio, where we bring you concepts, ideas, and strategies designed to help you achieve clarity, confidence, and freedom as you prepare for and transition through retirement. And now, here is your host, Jason Parker.
Jason: America, welcome back to another round of Sound Retirement Radio, I’m so glad to have you tuning in. As you know, we’re always looking to bring experts onto the program who we believe can add significant, meaningful value to your life, as you’re getting ready to transition into and through retirement. As you know, we like to get the morning started right, and we do that two ways. First, by renewing our mind, and then to share a joke with you. So the verse that I have for us this morning comes to us from Deuteronomy 31:8, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you, he will never leave you, nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.”
All right, and then it’s my good fortune, I’m so happy, my friend Astri, she works with me here, she had a joke this morning so I asked her to come in and share the joke with our listeners. Astri, take it away.
Astri: Thank you, and since it is back to school time I thought this one was pretty fitting. What did the buffalo tell his son when he left for college?
Jason: I don’t know, what did he tell him?
Jason: Thanks Astri. This is what we do around here. You know, somebody once told me I had no sense of humor, so I started adding these corny jokes, and now everybody around here is bringing them in.
Okay folks, you’re listening to episode 143, it is my good fortune to bring Joe Saul-Sehy onto the program. He is the creator and cohost of Stacking Benjamins podcast, which was just last week awarded the Best Business Podcast 2017 at the Academy of Podcasters award show in Anaheim, California, and they won this over big competitors, like Tim Ferris, and NPR show Planet Money. Kiplinger magazine also called Stacking Benjamins their top podcast of 2016 in their December issue. Don’t let the accolades fool you, Stacking Benjamins is meant for beginners. Joe likes to broadcast live from his mom’s half-finished basement, and the show is often more entertainment than education, and boy that is true. Joe, welcome to Sound Retirement Radio.
Joe: Am I really here?
Jason: This is it man, this is the big time.
Joe: I can’t believe … I should have said, “Over huge shows like Sound Retirement,” that’s what you should have said. Absolutely.
Jason: Boy, you know, you’re just knocking the socks off the podcast world with your show. I had the good fortune to be a guest on your program and I have to tell you man, you guys do a great job. It is so entertaining, so much fun. It almost reminds me of Car Talk, did you ever listen to those guys?
Joe: It’s funny because for a long time people told me, Jason, that I should have a podcast, and I’d listen to podcasts for a long time and I thought, “I have nothing to say that other people aren’t saying better than me, so no, I don’t wanna have one.” And I was actually listening to Car Talk when I realized there was nobody doing Car Talk … Which, for those people that don’t know Car Talk, it’s these two guys, Click and Clack, on NPR, and you don’t learn anything about a car listening to Car Talk. And I thought, “There’s nobody doing finance where you don’t learn anything about finance, but you just get more interested,” you know what I’m saying? My goal is to bring people to the table, so that then they discover people like you, Jason, who are more of the last word. Our goal is kind of discovery platform.
Jason: Well, it’s like the Jerry Seinfeld, the show about nothing, and that’s … But you guys, I mean, it is a lot of fun. But I wanna learn more about your story this morning, because, you know, you were working as a financial adviser, and you decided to leaver that world to pursue this podcasting thing. So, will you take just a quick minute, maybe help our listeners understand more about what that looked like before, when you were working in this industry, and why you made the transition the way that you did?
Joe: Well, even before that, just getting into the industry, I wasn’t the average person that becomes a financial adviser, because I knew very little about money. Like a lot of people listening to the show, my parents never talked about money; you didn’t talk about anything when the kids entered the room, right? They’d have a heated money discussion, my brother and I would walk into the room, or my baby sister, and immediately they would shut that off, and we had to leave the room so they could talk money. Which I think is really sad, but it was sad for me because when I went to college … I was at a military college, The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and I walked into the student union called Mark Clark Hall, and American Express had a table there, where I got … I don’t even remember what I got Jason, I think I got like a stadium blanket, or maybe a Frisbee, if I signed up for an American Express card, right?
So I sign up for this card, and not even thinking about the fact that I’m in a military college, I can’t have a job, what do I need credit for, because we don’t get much leave, much time away. When we finally got time away three weeks later, because of course they gave me a card, we go out to the mall, I buy a sweater. I don’t know where I’m gonna wear a sweater, ’cause I’m wearing military uniforms all the time. And I took all my friends to lunch, and I paid for it. And I didn’t realize the problem with any of that until the bill came about three weeks later, and I went, “Holy cow, how am I gonna pay for this?” Like, it was the first time I ever thought that I’d have to pay for this stuff.
Jason: You just thought that is on American Express, huh?
Joe: Yeah. And two months later my card was taken away, because I didn’t pay the bill. And so, that began my life in finance on the wrong foot, and I really felt like, when I started as a financial adviser, that I wanted to make sure that people didn’t go through those same issues that I went through. But of course, as a beginning financial adviser, I didn’t learn any of that. I learned how to sell [inaudible 00:06:07] sometimes people didn’t need, and I had to really work through this whole concept that you know very well, being a fiduciary for my clients, and so I transitioned from what was a commission based practice into much more of a fee based practice, and really became my clients’ age, and realized that having a good financial planner in your corner can be the difference between success and failure.
And I also learned that really wealthy people I work with were wealthy because they focused on the things that they were great at, and had great help in their corner. They didn’t delegate everything to the financial adviser, they still had to know the basics, they had to know what they were doing, but man, to have great people in their corner … Wealthy people always had great people in their corner, whether it was their finances, their taxes, even somebody who they bought their cars from. They just had great coaches.
Jason: Boy, that’s a great point. You know, it reminds me, as somebody once said to me, he told me, and he’s brilliant, he’s a client of ours, but he said, “Jason, you know, I could do what you do,” and he said, “I could probably do it better than you.” And I’m not gonna argue with the guy, he’s brilliant. But he said that he came to the realization that once he spends his time, he never gets it back, and so that’s the reason that he ended up hiring us, is just because he valued his time more than he did the extra little bit that he thought he might be able to outperform or do better what we were doing for him. So that’s interesting that …
Joe: Yeah, it always frustrates me when I hear people say, “Well, you know, I’m not gonna have a financial adviser because, you know, because I need to do this all myself.” And I thought, “Wow, time is not an unlimited quality, focus on what you do best.” Exactly what you’re saying. I worked with people … My office in Detroit was down the road from Chrysler headquarter, I worked with, the person negotiated with the IRS, it was one of their top tax people. She was a client of mine, she clearly understands tax law. Like, her job was to go back and forth with the IRS on where tax law was. She understood investment, she understood tax law, she had advanced degrees there. She hired me. She didn’t hire me because she didn’t, to your point, not because she didn’t know what she was doing, she hired me because she can’t focus on everything, and she needed somebody who watched it while she wasn’t able to.
And she also liked having somebody disagree with her, and I think that’s an important point. You know, I have coaches, and I always try to hire coaches that are different than me, that will argue with me, and argue with me as somebody who’s on my team, but will say, “You know what Joe? I don’t think you’re looking at the whole picture here. You really need to focus on this.” And man, then I end up with fewer blind spots, which is, you know, I think the reason why I’ve been able to have some success myself.
Jason: So I’m fascinated, I mean, you had this, obviously a great practice, a great financial advisory firm, you were working as a fiduciary for your clients, and did you end up selling the business and walking away from it just to be able to spend more time in your mom’s basement? Is that the …
Joe: Right. No, it wasn’t that straight. Like, yes, if I can be a dingy basement like we are now, that would be fantastic. No, I had this guy, who is a mentor of mine, and in the business I worked with a fairly large firm, and in that business people would never write a letter that they were leaving. You know, you leave at midnight, like Jerry Maguire. You leave at midnight, and you take all the client files with you, and then the next morning everybody’s calling the client to see whether the client stays or goes. It was that type of a firm.
But this guy wrote a letter saying he was leaving, and it was surprising that he wrote that, and he said, “I like this, but I don’t love it, and I work too many hours to know what I really do love, so I’m leaving without a real plan, but knowing that I have other mountains to climb.” And that was an exact quote, he has other mountains to climb. And it turned out that Chris, when he left, Chris climbed Mount Everest twice after that, and he now owns an adventure travel company. And I thought, “What a switch.” And then I started looking at my life, I’m 39 years old at that point, I’m looking at my life and I’m going, “You know what, I’m in the same spot. I really like this, I don’t love it, and I work enough hours doing this that I don’t know what else there is out there.” And unless Shirley MacLaine’s right and I can live twice, right? Reincarnation. Unless I’m gonna be reincarnated and can do this again, I really wanna see what else I can do. So I did.
I sold my business at 39, at 40 I moved to Tex Arcana, Texas, and I went to school to become a high school teacher, because I thought that I love teaching kids, and I really wanna do that. So, during my classes I was a little bored, and I started writing, because I did media for the company I was with, I started writing scripts, I started writing spots that some of my friends that were on television did, or on the radio did. I started ghostwriting client newsletters for advisers, and I was making as much as a first year teacher made, but I was doing it in shorts and a T-shirt, and I was having a blast. And that’s when I realized that it was the media part that I really like, so I formed a blog, that blog became, later on, the Stacking Benjamins podcast, and light and fun.
Jason: Light and fun. Folks, if you’re just joining us, you’re driving down the road this morning in Seattle, you’re listening to episode 143, I have Joe Saul-Sehy on the program. He is the creator and cohost of Stacking Benjamins, just an awesome, really fun podcast.
Joe, I wanna talk a little bit more about money. We talked about your mistake there, with the credit card, what’s been a big win? What was a positive here, as you’ve learned these lessons about money?
Joe: You know, the biggest win, I think, came from a really big client of mine, meaning he had grown his net worth from very small to very large, and I told him one day, I said, “You must have been disciplined with money your whole life. Like, I’m glad that I’m on your team, and I think this is fantastic, but you have to be this disciplined guy.” Goes, “No, no, no, that’s not it at all. I’m not disciplined at all.” And all of a sudden I woke up, right? ‘Cause that wasn’t what I expected to hear. Instead he said, “All I have to be able to do, and anybody can do this, all I have to be able to do is recognize when I make a good move. And when I make a good move, then I go back and say, ‘What was the system that created that good move, and how can I replicate it so I can make that good move over and over again, but not think about it the next time?'”
So, and that’s when I realized … On our show, on Friday’s, we have a FinTech segment, I love some of these apps that are out there that people can use, that help them automate some of the good decisions that they have and put them in front of them. But it doesn’t have to be apps, Jason, as you know. Direct deposit, right? Is awesome. And I’ll give everybody one great move, which is, everyone uses direct deposit, and they direct deposit into their checking account. Why do we marry the amount of money that we make from work, why do we marry that amount to the amount that we spend by putting it in our checking account? What if we decided how much money we needed to spend, and that was separate than the amount we made? ‘Cause it really is, they’re two different things.
And then, I direct deposit all of my money to a savings account that’s hard to get to, and then I use an automatic transfer to transfer just the money I need between that savings account and the checking account, to spend. So now the amount of money I make is a completely different number than the amount I spend, and I hooked my money up that way, money just automatically started getting saved into the savings account, and then I set up, you know, more advanced stuff. But just this whole idea of, what I make is not the same as what I spend, was this huge “Aha!” and made an automation through direct depositing the right way, made me able to save where before I had trouble saving.
Jason: Boy, that’s awesome. It reminds me of the book The Millionaire Next Door, where he talks about, the millionaire next door is somebody who, they create artificial scarcity often times, and that’s a really cool way to do it, is just focus on the money that you’re spending. And I like that you brought up apps, many of our listeners know that we created the Retirement Budget Calculator as an online tool to help people figure out where all their spending’s going.
But I wanted to come back to something you talked about early on, where you mentioned walking into the room as a kid and your parents didn’t talk about money. I don’t know if you have kids or not Joe, but is there … Have you changed that for your own family, in terms of how money’s discussed, or do you teach about how money’s discussed with families?
Joe: Absolutely. We had a family money meeting, and we have it once a week, and the meetings started on Sundays, and that was because I have twins, they’re 22 now, but when they were little, Jason, we’d have the meeting on Sundays because it was a time when Cheryl and I could be together and the kids were takings a nap, right? And for our meeting … Your meeting doesn’t have to have wine, ours had wine. And that goes, I think wine and twins kind of go together. But anyway.
So the meeting, really … And people go, “Once a week? Oh, that’s overkill.” Well, the meeting was really short, and what I found was that where a paper budget is fine, communicating early and often about money was even better, because especially if you’re in a relationship, or you’re budgeting with somebody, you’re married, one person generally knows what’s going on, and the other person is in a place I like to call fantasy land, where they think everything’s going on, but they don’t know all the numbers, they’re not really sure. And that’s where the fight starts, is when one person comes home with shopping bags and the other person goes, “Whoa, we can afford that?” and that you’re not on the same page.
So here’s what we do. We look at all the bills that came in that week together, and it used to be easier to do that because we’d have a basket by the door, and now that’s all automated, so now we keep a separate folder in e-mail that’s all of the statements for bills that came in, and we look at those at the same time. And what we find is that there’s mistakes in the bills, we also start talking about, “Do we really need this level of cable TV?” that type of thing. The cellphone, “Do we need this plan?” So we look at those, that’s very quick. Then we talk about what upcoming expenses are coming up the next week.
Once a quarter we’ll take a look at all of our investments, but that’s not every meeting, just once a quarter. We’ll look at our investments, that’s a longer meeting. And then we talk about the big goals that we have, and are we on track for those goals. So, very, you know, the meeting itself takes 15 or 20 minutes, but I’ll tell you, because we have that meeting, we end up talking about it the rest of the week-
Jason: That’s awesome.
Joe: In a lot of weeks, and that helps a lot. We involve the kids in those now, we started involve the kids in some parts of the meeting starting at about eight years old. We started with the utility bills, because I would come home from work, and every parent’s gonna nod their head at this one, I come home from work and every flipping light in my house is on, and everybody’s outside, right? Nobody’s in the house.
Jason: I thought you were gonna talk about the kids taking a four hour shower, but yeah, the lights on, that’s another one too.
Joe: Well that one too. No, no, no, but, well that’s not the only one. How about this one, both televisions are on, nobody’s watching them, right? And so, we just played this little game I created on graph paper, I created a grid, and we started involving them in the utility bills, where the utility bill would come and we’d look at how much we paid on the utility bill, and so, this was the first thing I involved the kids in, and the whole family had a goal to make the utility bill lower. Which was funny, when I complained about the lights being on nobody wanted to turn them off, but once we made it into a game that the whole family’s playing together, I mean, I would walk in a room and I would turn the light on, and I would go out over to the refrigerator to get something, and I’d come back and my sons already got the light back off, going, “Dad, you gotta turn the light off okay.”
Jason: That’s awesome. You know, one of the things we deal with, because we do the old fashioned envelope budgeting system, we find that that really helps create that artificial scarcity for us, when we’re spending real dollars instead of just swiping the debit card. But when we bring, you know, I pay myself a salary just like all of my employees, but when I bring that money home, that cash home, I hand it to either my son or my daughter, and then I let them take the money and put it into the envelopes, so that we’re teaching them early on what it looks like to have a budget, so that that’s just a normal part of their life growing up. Because that wasn’t something that was taught to me as a kid, you know, money was for spending, and so I was really good at running down to the store to buy a candy bar or something, but wasn’t a great saver as a kid.
Joe: I absolutely love that. We have just one more thing about apps; a problem that we’re seeing now, when we talk to people, is that kids don’t live in a cash lifestyle, and even if we want kids to live in a cash lifestyles, increasingly, you know, if somebody has a baby today, the chance that they’re gonna have cash in their hand ten years from now, when they start really experiencing, it’s going to be plastic whether we want it to be or not.
So, there’s a cool app I like out there, called FamZoo, which is really neat. There’s a small fee for these prepaid debit cards, but the debit cards aren’t real cards, they’re actually attached to mom and dad’s account. And you can freeze it, you can send your allowance there, you can have them develop a budget first and put it on the app, and then you approve the expense. So one friend of mine, as an example, instead of having a straight out allowance, they have a job board, and kids can apply for the job, and they have to write a description about how they’re gonna get the job done, hands it to mom. The mom, who is my friend Shannon, she then releases the funds to the kid once they do the job.
Jason: Boy, that’s awesome. That is really great. You have a course that you teach this, or you just gotta plug in to Stacking Benjamins.
Joe: No, no, that’d be too easy.
Jason: Yeah, I know. Well there you go, your next million dollar idea.
Joe: We have had Bill on the show a couple times thought, if you just go to our search at StackingBenjamins.com and put in FamZoo, F-A-M, like family zoo, put in FamZoo, you’ll come to the episode where he’s on the show.
Jason: Awesome. I wanna ask you about retirement planning, because Sound Retirement Radio is all about helping people make that transition from their working lives, and just having a really awesome retirement. You had the opportunity to work with real people and help them make that transition, so what did you learn working with people from a retirement planning standpoint?
Joe: I learned that people don’t think about a couple things. I mean, there’s one thing that you know, because it’s big in the planning community, that people don’t know, and that’s the whole longevity problem, right? We’re gonna live longer than we think we’re gonna live, Jason, I think that’s a huge issue.
Jason: Yeah, that’s actually pretty exciting. Have you watched … What’s the, I’m trying to remember the gentleman that works at Google. Boy, I can’t … I’m drawing a blank on his name right now, but he’s written several books about longevity and medicine, and how fast the world’s changing there, and what life expectancy could look like in the future. I mean, he’s saying that people could live to be 120 years old, and that, you know, that’s the new 60.
Joe: Gail Sheehy has done some of those studies that show that if you’re, you know, 30 years old right now, you have a one in three chance of living to be 130. So-
Jason: Oh, Ray Kurzweil, I think. Ray Kurzweil, I think that’s the name I was thinking.
Joe: I have not, no.
Jason: Okay. Yeah, but it’s just fascinating, yeah, longevity’s a real issue.
Joe: It is. Which means that when it comes to saving, we’re kind of saving differently. And I think the big problem is, people save for retirement as if they are going to spend all the money the day they retire, and we really need to think about the fact that we wanna have money left when we’re 75, when we’re 85, when we’re 95. We show up at those ages, we need to have money that still is in that long term bucket, so personally I think that a lot of people get too conservative, and it’s partly because they use rules of thumb instead of just going through the planning, which isn’t nearly as hard as they think that it is, of figuring out, “Okay, based on my lifestyle and my income streams, how do I put together a plan that really works for me?” So, where everybody concentrates on putting money into a 401k let’s say, or a Roth IRA, the plan of, “How the heck am I gonna take this money out?” I think is where people lose a lot of money, because they don’t spend enough time on that side of the equation.
Jason: I love that, awesome. We have about a minute, but what’s your most fun story of somebody transitioning into retirement?
Joe: Oh my goodness … Oh, you know what, I can’t tell the story in a minute, but basically, this guy was telling me, I was asking him what his retirement vision was, and he talked about a trip to Lowe’s, and he went to the tractor section and there were some tractors that were way up high, and he thinks, “Well, I gotta get one of those down and I wanna take it with me,” and he sees a guy with a push broom, and he goes to yell at the guy, and the guy pushes the broom faster in the opposite direction. And so he can’t find the guy, he ends up going up to the service desk and says, “Yeah, I need somebody to help me take these tractors down,” and they bring over the guy with the push broom, who’s been trying to, easily Jason, trying to avoid him.
And the guy goes back with him, he goes, “I need you to take this down,” and the guy looks at him and goes, “You know we have delivery.” And he said, “No, I really, I wanna put it in my truck, I wanna take it today.” The guy looks at him again, looks up at the tractor, and goes, “You know, we have delivery.” And he goes, “No, I really want it right now.” And anyway, my client turns to me and he goes, “You know what? That guy’s name was Earl, in my retirement I wanna be Earl. I totally wanna have a job at Lowe’s, that I’m avoiding all work.” He goes, “I’m stressed out all the time, I would love to be the guy with the push broom that avoids doing any work but I’m still getting paid.” That was my favorite story about retirement planning.
Jason: Joe, we’re out of time, thank you for being a guest, thanks for the great work that you’re doing.
Joe: Yeah, thanks a ton for having me, this was fun.
Jason: All right, take care.
Announcer: Information and opinions expressed here are believed to be accurate and complete for general information only, and should not be construed as specific tax, legal, or financial advice for any individual, and does not constitute a solicitation for any securities or insurance products. Please consult with your financial professional before taking action on anything discussed in this program. Parker Financial, its representatives, or its affiliates, have no liability for investment decisions or other actions taken or made by you based on the information provided in this program. All insurance related discussions are a subject to the claims paying ability of the company. Investing involves risk. Jason Parker is the president of Parker Financial, an independent, fee based wealth management firm located at 9057 Washington Avenue North West, Silverdale, Washington. For additional information call 1-800-514-5046, or visit us online at SoundRetirementPlanning.com.