Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of sitting down with financial expert and author David Bach. You probably know David from his amazing personal finance books, which include The Automatic Millionaire, Start Late, Finish Rich, and Smart Couples Finish Rich.
As a keynote speaker at FinCon this year, Bach made his way to Dallas to share his wisdom with money nerds like me.
This was a surreal experience for me because I’ve admired or, better said, had a “man crush” on David for several years because of his transition from a financial advisor to a globally recognized author and speaker.
Essentially, he has laid the stepping stones for a journey that I’m right in the middle of. So to meet him in person AND get some 1-on-1 time had me in a wonderfully giddy state. 😊
Here’s what you’ll learn in the interview:
- How I first was introduced to David Bach in 2005 while on tour in Iraq. Because when you’re deployed, the only things you do in your free time are workout, play poker and read.
- How David’s childhood really paved the path for his understanding and interest in the financial advising world.
- Hear what the turning point was for David transitioning from the financial advising segment of his career to chasing his passion.
- How did the actual transition take place to pursue his dream? Hear what the process looked like with the realities life has… providing for your family, taking care of your wife, moving across the country, etc.
- How David was able to reach his goal of teaching 1 million people.
- What by-products came from chasing his passion that really were not planned, but certainly are a bonus today. (This is the GOOD STUFF!)
- How when you’re passionate about something, you really never get tired of teaching about it.
- How taking a year or more sabbatical to rest and reflect is actually a really terrifying decision to make… but the single greatest thing David can recommend to anyone.
- How you can plan and prepare to take a sabbatical in the coming year.
- Hear what would be a success over the next three years for David and how he’s setting those goals now.
You can watch the interview here:
And if you want a free copy of David’s best-selling book The Automatic Millionaire, I’m giving away 10 copies. Holla!
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Or you can read the interview transcription below. Enjoy!
Interview with David Bach
Jeff Rose: When you’re in Iraq and you have downtime, you either work out, play poker, or read books. I took a lot of books with me, probably because I was on a John Grisham kick at the time. I took every single John Grisham book with me and read them all before looking for other books to read.
The cool thing is, soldiers were getting books all the time. So, all the other units that were there before us left books for us to read, too. I saw this book called The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach. I had heard of the book, but never had the time to read it until I was on deployment.
David Bach: Wow!
Jeff Rose: If I recall correctly, I read it all in about a day and a half. I just absorbed it.
David Bach: That’s fantastic. The goal of that book was to make it so anybody could read it in a really short amount of time. That way, they could easily go and act on it.
Jeff Rose: I remember I read it and then everyone that was deployed with me knew I was a financial advisor. So, people would tell me they wanted to get a handle on their finances and ask me what book they should read. I started telling them about your book. This was 2005.
David Bach: That’s amazing.
Jeff Rose: Yes, that was the first time I was introduced to you and your ideas like “the latte factor.” I just wanted to say “thank you” for encouraging me and inspiring others how to handle their money differently.
David Bach: I just got chills. I didn’t know this was coming, so thank you. It really makes me feel good. First of all, thank you again for your service. It makes me feel good to know that it was reaching you in Iraq. I just had the privilege of speaking to a group of people who were transitioning out of the military, and we gave everybody copies of The Automatic Millionaire. I also gave a talk. You guys do such a service for our country and financial education is so important when you make the transition from the military to the civilian world. I’m glad I could help you and I’m glad I could help some of your friends.
How David Started His Career as a Financial Advisor
Jeff Rose: Yeah, that’s awesome. I kind of want to take a step back. You’re a New York Times Bestselling Author. You’ve written a lot of content and put a lot of amazing advice out there. Before that, you were a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley. Can you tell me a little bit about how that started? What made you want to become a financial advisor?
David Bach: I don’t know how much of my story you know, but I grew up in the business. My dad was a financial advisor. They used to call them stockbrokers. I still remember walking into my dad’s office. They had ticker tapes. Most of you who are watching this have absolutely no idea what a ticker tape is.
Before there was this thing called the internet, before there was a Quotron machine and stock quotes came off of a ticker tape machine. You would actually go into a stockbroker’s office to find out where the stocks were trading. You don’t even know what I’m talking about.
Jeff Rose: I’ve seen the movies. 🙂
David Bach: They would tear a piece of paper off. As a three or four-year-old kid, I remember going and getting those pieces of paper and bringing them to my dad’s office. I remember when the computer came out and the Quotron was the first machine to give you a stock quote. My grandmother helped me buy my first stock at age seven. It was in McDonald’s. She taught me how to become an investor one day at McDonald’s. She took the Wall Street Journal, circled the stock, showed me MCD, put me in front of the TV, and taught me how to read the stock quotes going across the bottom of the screen. I started investing at seven. At age nine, my dad started teaching retirement classes.
When I was nine, my mom told my dad he needed to bring me to the class so I could at least see him one night a week. He did and he dressed me up in a suit and tie. I sat in the back of the room. During the breaks, his students would come up and tell me what they learned from my father that changed their life.
In 1993, I joined the business and went through training. I also started teaching classes right away. Eventually, I started teaching classes that taught women how to manage money. That happened because, in a very short period of time, I set in multiple meetings with widows. I met with three in a month. They were very unprepared.
Financially, they were okay and they were lucky because my dad was their advisor, but they knew very little about money. I was sort of shocked. I thought,
“I’m going to do something and create a class for women and money.”
That’s what started my passion. I started teaching these classes until they became more popular. As my classes became more and more popular, I wanted to reach more people.
The Scariest Career Jump of His Life
Jeff Rose: Your business is thriving. You’re teaching seminars. You’re kind of reaching this point where you have a higher calling, like there’s something bigger here than just managing money. We were just talking about how you were in the Strategic Coaching program, which is something I was in for five years. I listened to an interview that you did with Dan Sullivan. I’m not sure how long ago this was, but I remember it was a CD that I listened to in my car.
I still have it, but what I remember about the interview is that you said you were sitting in your office and I think you had a client call in that was trying to get their dividend check deposited while traveling overseas.
You kind of had this out-of-body experience where you wondered if it was your life’s calling to make sure your client’s dividend check was deposited while they were traveling. I think we’ve all kind of had moments like that. I’m curious because many people want to chase their calling and their passion forever. You have a thriving business. You’ve got no reason to not continue to do that.
David Bach: Everybody told me that I was out of my mind. I was nine years into Morgan Stanley. At the time, I think I had around $700 million in our management. I had built a fee-based business. Anybody who is listening to this knows that is the holy grail. I was doing financial planning and fee-based business and this was the 90’s. People looked at me like I was crazy when I said I was going to change gears.
“You’re going to move to New York and write books and try to help a million people? What are you going to do if that doesn’t work?”
Jeff Rose: Can you talk a little bit about that? Just making that bold leap. How do you go from a fee-based business that’s on autopilot for the most part and to turn your back on that and say, “I want to do something else?”
David Bach: There were multiple parts to this. Interestingly enough, Strategic Coach was also a part of that. I started Strategic Coach in 1997. I had gone through Tony Robbins program in the early 90’s. I was in real estate first. At a Tony Robbins seminar, I kind of came up with my overarching big mission, which I wrote in a journal:
“I want to go out and teach a million women to be smarter with their money so they can protect their families and teach their kids.”
I became crystal clear on what I felt like I was here to do with my life.
The problem is, having a calling can really complicate your life. Let’s just be totally honest, right? I was set living in the Bay Area with a beautiful home, a country club membership, and a great career. I decided to throw all that away so I could help other people.
I’ve had lots and lots of success, but none of it’s been easy. What did I actually do to make the transition? I went through a lot of pain.
First, I went through the realization that I wanted something different. That’s where that story that you’re talking about with Dan Sullivan came in. I had that moment – a lightbulb moment. Basically, I built this great business with Morgan Stanley and I had succeeded as a financial advisor. The more you succeed as a financial advisor, you start to work with wealthier and wealthier clients. It’s part of the way the business is set up. I’m going to work with wealthier and wealthier clients. I’m going to work with fewer of them. Once I was in my late 20’s, I could start to see the rest of my life. Basically, for the next 20 years I’m going to work with a hundred or fewer wealthy families and that’s all I’m going to do? By the way, I’m not judging anybody if that’s what they do for a living. I know people who work with 10 families and they have the greatest life ever.
But, I wanted to go around and teach more people. I was teaching people Smart Women Finish Rich, which was my first book. Then I did some more, and I was flying all over the country. My wife was super supportive, but I was gone a lot.
Jeff Rose: You’re still in your practice at this point?
David Bach: I’m still in my practice. It’s like working three jobs. I’m running a practice and I’m promoting these books and I’m promoting the seminars. I was flying back and forth from California to New York a lot because that’s where all the TV is. I was very blessed. I kept getting asked to go back on The View over and over again. I’m on The View with Barbara Walters for a long time, like an eight-minute segment. She just kept talking and talking with me. I’m like, “Oh my God, I’m on The View with Barbara Walters.” If my grandmother would have been alive to see this, she would be so proud.
I got back in the car and I said to my wife, “This was amazing. That was the best show I’ve ever done. I just spent two days traveling to be on TV for seven minutes. If I’m going to really do this, we need to move to New York.”
She said, “If that’s what you really want to do, then let’s do it.”
I hired a coach and I kind of worked through what would it take for me to make that transition. I didn’t just wake up and do it one day. The transition was probably about a 12 to 18-month period of time where I really worked it all out. I worked it out financially. I worked it out mentally. I worked it out with my family and then I did it.
Then 9/11 happened. I told all my clients I was basically retiring and moving to New York. It wasn’t retirement, though. I was going to move to New York and try to teach millions of people. I did that in June, July, and August and 9/11 rolled around. I rushed into the office and started calling all of my clients.
They said, “Well, you’re not going now, right? You’re not going to New York now?”
Not only did we go to New York, but we moved downtown. We moved to New York in November 2001.
Hitting the New York Times Best Seller’s List
Jeff Rose: You made the move and made the transition. Now you’re writing more books and doing more workshops. When did you actually make the New York Times Best Seller list? Was that your second book?
David Bach: Smart Women hit the Best Seller list, but not until eight or nine months after it came out. I did a PBS special. The PBS special on Smart Women Finish Rich started airing everywhere and I was running all over the country. Then I starting having financial advisors teaching my seminars. We licensed Smart Women Finish Rich.
I packaged up my intellectual property. I took what I was already doing, that I knew would work, and I trained other financial advisors to go do it. When I did that, I started to scale things up.
At one point, we had 100,000 people a year going through seminars I wasn’t teaching. It was all my content. All these people are getting great, free help and then the advisors were getting clients from it. Everybody won. That’s how I ultimately reached a million people.
Jeff Rose: You reached your million people. That was one of your goals.
David Bach: I did. It took seven years. I’m not just measuring books. Between live events and books, we reached well over a million people. Kind of from the way I was measuring it, it was a seven-year timeframe.
Oprah vs. New York Times – Who Wins?
Jeff Rose: What was more exciting for you – hitting number one on The New York Times Best Seller list or being on Oprah?
David Bach: Wow. Being on Oprah. I have dreamed of being on Oprah and seen it in my mind for 10 years. I have letters. I came to Morgan Stanley in 1993 and started sending letters telling her she should have me on the show. I had no idea what I was talking about. I had never been on TV. I had no books. I tell this story on stage all the time. How did I get on Oprah? It just took 10 years, five books, and me doing every single media in the world other than Oprah.
There’s a moral behind that. By the time I was on Oprah with her, I was ready. If you go back to why I wanted to be on Oprah, I wanted to be on Oprah because I wanted to inspire 10 million people across America to pay themselves first. One hour a day, automatically, for life. That was my mission.
If you look at why I am sitting here at the Sheraton in Dallas, which is 14 years after that show aired, and I’m here because I updated this book and I’m still doing all this stuff because I’m still obsessed with the same exact thing I was obsessed with back then. I decided I wanted to reach the millennials and make one more push before I’m done here.
Being on Oprah was amazing because I knew I was going to reach 10 million people with that show. We taped that show. The next day they called me and said it was the last taping of the year. It doesn’t air live. At least the show I did didn’t air live. It was taped in November. It’s supposed to air the first week of January. The book was launched on the show.
They tell you not to tell anybody until it airs. Until it airs, it’s not airing. The day after this show taped, they called me and they said, “If this show does for America what it just did at Harpo, this show’s going to be a home-run.” I said, “What happened?”
She said, “So many people signed up for the 401(k) plan after you left Harpo. They either signed up or they increased their 401(k) contributions.” If that can happen on Harpo, when this show airs in America, it’s going to be transformational. That’s what happened.
Jeff Rose: That’s awesome. I remember hearing that. I don’t know if you did an interview with somebody else, but the number of people that signed up afterwards, that has impact. People actually took action, which is awesome.
David Bach: My passion hasn’t changed since then. I just did a speech for the parent company of Advisor Excel. They have over 500 employees. I just did The Automatic Millionaire presentation for all the employees. I said to the founders, “Look, guys. I’m going to be there. Let me go do the speech for everybody who works here.”
They were, “Most people are signed up for the 401(k) plan. They’re doing pretty well.” I’m like, “Well, let’s make them do better.” I said, “Let’s track it.” Within five days of me doing the speech, 133 people increased their 401(k) contributions. That’s life changing.
When you love what you teach, it doesn’t get old. When you start to hear the stories and the transformation that people have, it gives you more fuel.
Strategic By-products of Making the Leap
Jeff Rose: Yeah. You leave Morgan Stanley, you’re writing books, and you’re still teaching. You’re living the mission that you set out to do. You kind of had things in a vision, I guess – things that you thought were going to happen, things you wanted to happen. Was there anything that did happen that was a strategic byproduct or some sort of unexpected partnership that came along that you didn’t see?
David Bach: That’s a classic Strategi