Good morning! Today I am delighted to welcome Jason Hull from Hull Financial Planning. I’ll let him introduce himself and his new Winning with Money course, a course that will help you lay down your financial goals and achieve them in due time. Jason was kind enough to give away one course (worth $397) to a lucky reader, and I am throwing a $25 Amazon gift card as well, so you can get a copy of the Total Money Makeover or whatever you fancy. You can check the giveaway widget at the end of the post to learn more. Take it away, Jason!
Over at Make Money Your Way, Tonya from the Budget & the Beach shares how she made money as a TV extra and how it really is behind the scenes.
Can you please introduce yourself to the readers who are not familiar with you and tell us what you are doing?
My name is Jason Hull, and besides being a fortunate frequent guest in the Carnival of Financial Independence, I am a financial planner. I haven’t always been a financial planner. In my career, I have been an officer in the U.S. Army, the manager of call center technology investments for Capital One, and the co-founder of a software development company. After selling my company, I became a financial planner and passed the Certified Financial Planner exam.
I’ve wanted to be a financial planner for a long time. When I was an Army officer, I saw my soldiers getting some terrible advice and being sold high commission mutual fund and insurance products by salesmen who had recently been their peers or their supervisors. I thought that there was a better way to provide financial information than charging a 5.9% front load in a mutual fund. However, I also didn’t think that I’d have any credibility just becoming a planner when I got out of the Army; I wanted to be successful in another field and become financially independent before I became a financial planner. To me, it’s more credible to hear advice from someone who has already been down the road and become successful than to hear it from a wet-behind-the-ears salesperson who is smiling and dialing all day long hoping to find the great whale. That’s why, in my opinion, your site is so successful; you’re sharing tips on financial independence, and you’re living off of your investments!
Deep down in my heart, though, I am a do-it-yourself person, at least when it comes to personal finance. I managed to reach financial independence without the aid of a financial planner, but I also spent probably hundreds, if not thousands, of hours researching and figuring things out. When I took the prerequisite courses for the Certified Financial Planner exam, I realized that most of the content simply didn’t apply to people like you and me (well, at least the U.S. version of you). If I achieve the wealth needed to require a GRAT or a SLAT (two types of wealth preservation trusts), I’ve worked far too long!
In providing planning for clients, I have a goal of making sure that they are educated and know the thinking behind the recommendations I make so that they don’t need to come back to me. I started to realize that, when I was developing plans, a lot of the work I was doing was the same for each client. I figured rather than having my clients pay me for the hours it took to provide the plans, it would be better if I provided that information in a course. I’m a DIY person, so I wanted to create a DIY course for people, which I have called Winning With Money.
What I aimed to do in the course was to short-circuit the time required to learn the financial lessons of life. Yes, most of the information in my course is available if you have great Googling skills, but when you find information, you have to also ensure that you trust the credibility of the provider. This course not only provides credibility and all of the important information in one place, but it also provides worksheets and calculators that you can use to come up with your own answers. Thus, when you’ve completed the course, you should have almost all of the answers you need to be comfortable with the path you need to take to achieve your financial goals.
What is the Winning with money course and what do you offer?
The course is meant to encapsulate 95% of what I provide in my financial planning engagements for a fraction of the price. To me, the biggest problem with getting useful financial planning out to people is the price. Most financial planners charge 1% of your investable assets EACH AND EVERY YEAR, which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars over your lifetime and rarely do they provide that amount of value. The ones who tell you that they can consistently beat the market are almost certainly deluding themselves; the statistics do not support claims of skill, but they do support that those people are lucky and it’s probably not sustainable.
Another alternative is to pay a one-time fee to a financial planner like me, who charges by the hour. Most of the time, that will run you between $1,800 and $2,400, which is (tooting my own horn) a much better deal than paying 1% of your net worth each and every year.
However, that’s still a lot of money for many people. If you are the type of really needs hand-holding or you’ll never do anything, it’s the way to go, as it’s much better than continuing to do nothing and get the results that one can expect from doing nothing.
But, for the people who have the mentality of “just show me what I need to do, point me in the right direction, and I’ll get there,” it’s not a particularly appealing choice either. That’s why I developed the course. I’m one of those people!
The course is 20 lessons which build on each other. They answer the how-tos from the basics of budgeting to more complex questions like how much will it cost to raise children and send them to school and how much money do I need to have to retire and how much do I need to save between now and then. There are also eight worksheets along with in-lesson exercises that allow you to apply the knowledge to your specific situation. I even share some of the lessons I’ve learned both as a successful entrepreneur and real estate investor. The course is designed to be evergreen so that you can continue to refer to the lessons as time passes and as you achieve some of your financial goals.
What would you say are the three biggest barriers that prevent people from achieving their goals?
- Their goals don’t align with their values. This is like the story of the person who became a doctor because her parents were doctors and their grandparents were doctors, and every night at dinner, the parents would talk about how she was going to become a doctor. What if she hated the sight of blood and passed out at getting a vaccine? When you set a goal that doesn’t align with what’s truly important to you, then there’s a battle inside of your head called cognitive dissonance. You either have to change the narrative of who you are to align with the goal (“I really do want to be a doctor”) or you have to change the goal (“I want to be an architect”). When there is alignment and harmony with your goals and your values, then your motivation becomes internal. Once you have intrinsic motivation, then you’re much more likely to reach your goals and to have the inner strength to overcome obstacles along the way.
- The goals seem too large or too far away. Let’s say that you’re a 25 year old who runs the calculator in Lesson 13 and determines that you need $1.75 million to retire at age 55. You currently have $0 net worth. $1.75 million is an enormous number and 30 years seems like some point in the next millennium. That’s why you have to make the goals more tangible and visual. If you can create a narrative of that retirement and you know that you need to save, for example, $1,000 per month to get there, then you have both the mental motivator – the picture of the retirement – and the specific steps you need to take – save $1,000 per month – to help you reach the goals. Someone who is 100 pounds overweight and sets the goal of “lose 100 pounds” will not succeed. They need to set interim goals, such as “lose 10 pounds in the next two months” along the path, or, after two months, when they’ve not lost 100 pounds, they’ll give up.
- They have to think about the goals too much. I’m a huge fan of automating as much of your life as possible. Each time you have to say no to something, you deplete your reserve of inner strength. It’s a phenomenon called ego depletion. If you’ve ever bought that expensive pair of shoes right before you were going to leave the shop, you’ve experienced ego depletion. You were good for two hours, saying no to every sale or every piece of clothing that would look just right on you, but eventually, you ran out of “no”s in your arsenal, and you said “yes” right at the inopportune time. Thus, the fewer decisions that you have to make, the more likely you are to not make a mistake along the way.
Who is Monkey Brain?
There are two main parts of each person’s brain. There’s the prefrontal cortex in the front of your head. That’s the part that you use when you actually think. It’s the refined version of our brains – what separates us from all of the other animals in the animal kingdom. There’s another part of our brain called the limbic system. It’s what we share with monkeys and other primates. It was developed a long time ago, when we lived in caves and ran from woolly mammoths. Since we, back then, were only concerned with our survival from day to day, it was very useful. The limbic system is where our emotions come from, since those cause us to react more quickly than cold, calculating, rational thought does. If you hear a boom or a loud roar, you don’t want to have a five minute debate with yourself about the best course of action. You just want to run.
The limbic system is what makes monkeys do what they do, and that’s why I call it Monkey Brain. The problem that we, as thinking, rational humans have with Monkey Brain is that Monkey Brain doesn’t care one bit about the future. He only wants pleasure, and he wants it right now. Future pleasure isn’t nearly as valuable to him as current pleasure, and so he’ll do anything to have fun now, regardless of the consequences in the future. To get what he wants, he constantly whispers in your ear, causing you to come up with rationalizations about your behavior to justify doing something that your prefrontal cortex knows isn’t the best course of action.
I’ll give you an example of Monkey Brain in action. I just came back from a vacation. While I was on vacation, I ate way too much food that wasn’t good for me (and have the extra six pounds to show for it). I knew I shouldn’t go to the Coldstone Creamery (a delicious ice cream shop). FOR THE THIRD TIME. But, hey, I was on vacation, and Monkey Brain told me that calories on vacation don’t really count because I can go to the gym when I get back and work them off. The reality is that it would have been much easier to eat well on vacation and not have the extra pounds to shed when I got back, but I allowed Monkey Brain to use vacation as an excuse to eat like a starved pig at a trough full of fresh slop.
How big of a weight has psychology in your financial planning advice?
It’s extremely important. You can know the numbers cold and have a well-designed plan, but if you never do anything, then you’ll get the results that doing nothing deserves. That’s why the first two lessons deal with psychology and motivation. If you don’t have the understanding of how your behaviors can sabotage your plans, then going through the rest of the course doesn’t matter. It’s like being the underemployed Starbucks barista who had straight As in high school. You can have all of the book learning in the world, but if you don’t act on that knowledge, it doesn’t do you any good.
The reality is that personal finance is not rocket science. Spend less than you earn, save some, and plan ahead, and you’ll probably turn out pretty well. We all know that deep down inside; yet, how many of us struggle to make ends meet or to watch our retirement accounts grow? It’s much easier to consign our future selves the task of saving and taking care of things while we live a carpe diem mindset. The problem is that, in the future, we’ll want pleasure and fun just as much as we do now. That’s why psychology is so important. If you don’t understand what Monkey Brain is doing to you, you’ll just keep mortgaging your future until one day you reach the point that you can no longer put off those decisions. By that time, you probably won’t be able to work much more (if any), and the day of reckoning will be very painful.
Why don’t you talk about debt?
Hah! While I was on vacation, I wrote a note to myself to write a future article about why I don’t talk about debt! Ninjaed!
Honestly, if you’re neck deep in debt, the best advice I’ve ever seen is Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. While I have serious disagreements with his advice once you get out of debt, namely because of conflicts he has that lead him to lead to recommendations that can deeply hamstring your retirement and investments, his debt advice is spot on. If you have consumer debt, you have an emergency, and you need to treat it like an emergency. It’s behavioral. Nobody put a gun to anyone’s head and made them get into debt. I’ve been there. I had significant five digit credit card debt. I acted like my hair was on fire, worked extra, and threw everything at the debt just like Ramsey suggests. It worked. I’m a graduate of the Baby Steps. He understands psychology and his process – as opposed to paying highest interest large debts first – is proven academically to be more powerful than the mathematically correct version of paying down debt because he knows that you have to slap Monkey Brain silly to get out of debt.
Thus, why should I simply rehash what Ramsey says when it comes to getting out of debt? If you’re in debt, go check out a copy of The Total Money Makeover from your local library or buy a copy on Amazon. Why pay me to tell you the exact same thing that Ramsey would tell you for free or nearly so?
My focus, and the focus of the course, is to accelerate your retirement once you’re at ground zero and don’t have consumer debt. At that point, my advice differs greatly from Mr. Ramsey.
What is the secret to building wealth and retiring comfortably?
There is no secret. Most people already know what they need to do, or at least have a general idea of what they need to do – spend less than you earn, earn more, and save more. What’s missing is a more concrete plan. It’s understanding what’s important in your life and then taking the actions necessary to align your life with what’s truly important to you. As long as there’s misalignment, you’ll wander aimlessly from scheme to scheme. When there’s alignment, then you’re centered and focused and can act in accordance with your values. It’s more than simply plugging numbers into a spreadsheet or a computer program and having the program spit numbers back at you. Investment advisers who want to charge you 1% of your net worth each year miss that critical piece. They tell you what to do without telling you why it’s important. Plus, they overcharge you!
One area where I do see people struggle is when they increase their spending each time they increase their incomes. People who were living just fine on their incomes get a 10% pay raise and suddenly, their spending jumps 10% as well. They expect that their happiness will increase as they acquire more things, and that’s simply not the case. First, you start with a Ford Focus. Then you buy a BMW 323. Pretty soon, you look at the guy next to you who has a Porsche, and you buy one of those. Then, Monkey Brain tells you that you need a Maserati. You’re caught in a vicious cycle, and when you can no longer work, you won’t be able to afford anything but the Ford Focus because you spent all along the way.
This isn’t to say that you should live like a miserable pauper and make sweaters out of dryer lint and recycle your soap shavings. Frugality isn’t a goal. It’s a means to a goal. However, when you do spend, spend intentionally. Squeeze all the value out of your spending that you can, and don’t just spend more because you can. Make it meaningful. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with a house full of crap, want more crap because the crap you have doesn’t make you happy, and wonder how you got there.
If I think I am doing ok today with my finances, what will the Winning with money course bring me?
It will bring you certainty, and it will save you time. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, there are known knowns and unknown unknowns. There’s a difference between thinking that you’re doing OK with your finances and knowing that you’re taking the right steps with your money. Plus, there are probably some topics covered in the course that you just didn’t know about. Who should take Social Security first? What accounts should you draw down first in retirement? How much will it cost to send your child to a public university in Indiana in 8 years? What do you need to look for in a disability insurance policy? How much should you expect your newborn to cost you in 12 years? You may think you know some or most of the answers to those questions, but after taking the course, you’ll know you know the answers.
Do the tasks below to enter the giveaway, and if you would like to enroll in the Winning with money course, you can do so here and enjoy a $50 OFF COUPON until October 20th.
Reachfinancialindependence.com and Hull Financial Planning have a written affiliate agreement where Reachfinancialindependence.com will be paid 10% of all sales generated from the Winning With Money course link above. The fee does not change the cost of the course offered by Hull Financial Planning. The Hull Financial Planning Form ADV is available by clicking here.
This post was featured on the Debt Roundup, Yakezie Carnival, Eyes on the Dollar, Married with Debt, Financial Planning Carnival, Young Adult Money, Carnival of Financial Camaderie, Hull Financial Planning, thank you!
Taynia | The Fiscal Flamingo says
I like that you address lifestyle inflation as a problem. I was guilty of it long ago. And I admit, I struggle a bit with it still. But resisting has reaped benefits a thousand fold. Sounds like you have a great product.
Jason Hull says
I’m not against lifestyle inflation, per se, but I am very much against mindless lifestyle inflation. We’ve had lifestyle inflation; otherwise, we’d still be living in a postage stamp sized apartment and eating Chicken Voila! like we did when I was in grad school. The three questions people have to ask themselves about lifestyle inflation are:
1. How will this affect my retirement savings plan?
2. How will this affect my retirement expenses?
3. How will the answers to 1 and 2 affect my retirement timeline?
Once armed, they can make a decision.
We still feel the pull of Monkey Brain trying to get us to needlessly expand our lifestyles, too. We recently moved to an apartment in the middle of downtown, and now we’re surrounded by great restaurants and fabulous bars. Monkey Brain (and Monkey Jason) want to go out to eat EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. That’s a habit which is unhealthy for both the wallet and the waistline, but I also calculated out how much more passive income we’d need to cover the lifestyle expansion. So, my wife and I have reached a compromise: Wino Wednesdays in addition to our usual cheat day on Saturdays (see The Four Hour Body about cheat days).
Taynia | The Fiscal Flamingo says
Couldn’t have said it better Jason!
DC @ Young Adult Money says
Awesome giveaway! Can’t wait to win 😉
Jason Hull says
Thanks! Fingers crossed!
Matt Becker says
Sounds like a great course Jason. I totally agree with you that the important financial advice is relatively simple and applicable to most people, but that distilling all of the information out their to just that important advice can be daunting. This sounds like a great way to get just the information that’s important in a quick and concise format.
Jason Hull says
Thanks, Matt! I’m sure you had some similar feelings while going through the coursework to sit for the CFP exam. I admit that I took the spec and dump (http://www.west-point.org/academy/malo-wa/inspirations/buglenotes.html) approach to some of the testable topics.
Matt Becker says
Yeah, the coursework was incredibly broad and dense. Lots of valuable information, but as you said a lot of it really isn’t applicable to normal people or people looking for early FI. Something like what you’re offering can be an incredibly valuable resource.
Joe @ Stacking Benjamins says
….and here all the time I thought YOU were monkey brain….imagine my disappointment. 😉 I’m now headed to the trash with all of my favorite sweaters made from dryer lint.
Jason Hull says
Hah! I’m everyone’s monkey.
Don’t throw that sweater away. I’m sure there’s someone who will claim it. Maybe it’s the next prize for the Stacking Benjamins giveaway?
Looks like a great course I first saw you on control your cash. Your financial planning advice has always been clear and upfront with readers. Hope this helps beat monkey brain.
Jason Hull says
Hey, Charles – Thanks for the kind words; I appreciate them!
Jake @ Ca$h Funny says
This sounds like an excellent course. I’m actually co-teaching the Dave Ramsey FPU course right now. It’s amazing how simple, but useful, a lot of the advice is. Sometimes people just need to be reminded of what they are supposed to be doing.
Jason Hull says
Hey, Jake – thanks for the comment! I actually went through FPU when he offered it free to veterans on Veterans Day back in…I think it was 2008. I used to subscribe to his podcast as well. I think, as I mentioned in the interview, that he gives great advice for getting people to ground zero where they have no consumer debt. After that, we veer in quite different directions, as I describe here: http://www.hullfinancialplanning.com/six-areas-where-i-disagree-with-dave-ramseys-investing-and-retirement-withdrawal-advice/.
Still, people who do nothing and learn nothing are much worse off than those who do FPU. I just think he leaves a lot on the table when it comes to advice that doesn’t relate to debt, but I did use FPU as the measuring stick for my course – was I, in my opinion, more comprehensive and actionable than what was provided in FPU?
I love that you named monkey brain. I am going to use that all the time. Great advice. I hope I win the giveaway. I totally agree that I would rather have financial advice from someone who has walked the walk. I’ve talked to some so called financial planners who are struggling to get by. What does that say about their plans?
Jason Hull says
Hey Kim – If you can name it, you can tame it, right? 🙂
I had the mantra of “do as I say, not as I do” drilled into me at West Point. While it’s not possible for a four star general to do everything he or she asks of their soldiers, it’s quite possible for a financial planner and for young lieutenants to do so. I would think it hypocritical if I told someone to, for example, be out of consumer debt, when I was drowning in it.
Fingers crossed on the drawing!
Mark Ross says
I also like the part where you talk about the monkey brain. It’s pretty amazing that you know a lot about a lot of things and I was able to get some good ideas from you. Thanks man!
Jason Hull says
Hey, Mark – glad you enjoyed the interview!
Love that term, monkey brain. It fits! Your article has so many good pointers. You mentioned investment advisors that charge 1% of the portfolio value … I’ve seen rates as high as 3% in my area. I guess paying a 1% fee could be worth it if the advisor was good and if you had no interest in doing any of the research or work yourself. I prefer to do my own research, though. I also agree with earlier comments … pay attention to how successful anyone is who is trying to you sell financial advice. If they can’t manage and pay their own bills, they probably aren’t selling the best of advice, either.
Jason Hull says
Hey, Patti – Thanks for the kind words! There are a few cases where it does make sense for someone to manage your money for you, a subject of a forthcoming article that will be out on my site in mid-October. However, paying even 1% (much less 3%…holy cow!) is ridiculous (see . For those people who need or want someone else to manage their money for them, they should look at a manager that charges a flat annual fee, such as James Osborne (http://www.basonasset.com/our-fee-structure/).
Hi Jason, What would you recommend I try doing with an IUL that I want to get out of?
Great article. Thank you for sharing this information. This is beneficial for me
Woolloongabba accountant says
Money is very important to be budgeted properly. You will need a good financial adviser or an accountant to keep you on track.