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THE MONEY CODEIMPROVE YOUR ENTIRE FINANCIAL LIFE RIGHT NOW
By JOE JOHN DURAN
Greenleaf Book Group PressCopyright © 2013 Joe John Duran
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Problem with Money
Money, by itself, is good for very little. These words may seem odd coming from someone whose career has been rooted in the financial world. But I've learned that our personal views and how we interact with money are what give the almighty dollar the immense power to create happiness or cause suffering.
From the moment we can understand language, we're presented with conflicting views about money. On one hand, it makes the world go 'round, and on the other, it's the root of all evil. If we love money, we're greedy; if we're indifferent to it, we're irresponsible; and if we hate it, we're card-carrying communist party members.
The truth is, most of us were raised without really talking about money or learning how to make decisions involving it. As a result, figuring out what money means to each of us often seems like an impossible task. And more importantly, our uncertainty has forced many of us to find our own way, which has most likely led us to make many mistakes throughout our lives.
MONEY: WHAT'S IT GOOD FOR?
Here's the simple truth about money—it can really only help you do three things in your life:
1. Avoid pain—by protecting you and helping you to take care of what you're afraid might cause pain in the future
2. Feel good—by getting you the things that provide you with happiness and satisfaction
3. Take care of the ones you love—by meeting your obligations to family, community, and society at large
So how do you unravel what money means to you in order to improve your financial life?
First, you need a desire to create lasting change. Second, you need a guide. The fact that you're reading these words points to your motivation to bring about better outcomes, and as far as guidance is concerned, the goal of this book is to provide the lasting financial solutions you've been looking for.
REALIZING THE AMERICAN DREAM, VERSION 2.0
As a whole, the financial services industry is accustomed to talking about money in mathematical terms. No doubt this has improved the lives of people across the country. But the science of numbers and quantity has been insufficient on its own.
In fact, survey after survey reinforces the same fact: People feel that they are not well trained when it comes to making financial decisions. In addition, many feel that the only winners are the big institutions selling investment solutions, and they're convinced that they're not doing as well as others when it comes to money and investing.
As a financial professional, I have firsthand experience with the broad discontent that many people have. Innumerable individuals and families express the following frustrations:
I don't really have control over my financial life.
It feels as though I never have enough money.
I wish I could have a simpler financial life.
Making big financial decisions makes me nervous.
I keep making the same investment mistakes.
I'm sick of arguing about money with those closest to me.
Amazingly, many of these individuals are wealthy and have worked with some type of financial adviser for years.
TIME TO GET HONEST ABOUT MONEY
The core of this book lies in the Money Code, which comprises 5 Money Secrets. The five secrets will provide insights into your decision making and help you evaluate how you think and feel about money and assess the way you make financial decisions. These simple, eternal truths have moved countless individuals and families away from the belief that finance is a strictly intellectual endeavor. More importantly, these five uncompromising truths have put people just like you in the driver's seat of their financial lives, which has given them genuine, lasting control over their money.
The 5 Money Secrets are as follows:
1. Your life will be filled with tough choices.
2. Your entire life is determined by how you make decisions.
3. Your biases will affect every decision you make.
4. You will be distracted by things that really don't matter.
5. You must have a good process to make good decisions.
Our feelings and beliefs about money are highly personal. That's why, in the next chapters, you'll see how the 5 Money Secrets work through the eyes of Jack, a fictional character whose encounter with a benevolent friend dramatically changes how he makes decisions about money. Through Jack's example, you'll understand how the Money Code can play a key role in improving your financial life. In addition, you'll receive a checklist that you can use whenever you're faced with an important financial decision, and you'll discover how to apply the checklist to yourself as well as someone you care about.
This book isn't intended to change your feelings or thoughts about money. Rather, it's meant to help you understand yourself and those around you as well as to provide you with a road map for making sound financial decisions. In the end, you only have one financial life, so why not make the most of it?
Chapter TwoThe Journey of a Lifetime
"Ever since we separated, it's been hard for me to make decisions, especially when it comes to money," Jack said.
"I'm really surprised to hear that because I never thought you worried about money," said Claudia, Jack's younger sister. She was at his house visiting her young niece, who was napping upstairs.
"I didn't, and that's probably one of the biggest reasons behind our split—Olivia got fed up with my lack of discipline when it came to our finances," he said.
Throughout their marriage, Olivia constantly complained about how Jack spent too much and didn't plan enough about saving for the future. At the same time, he dreaded having financial discussions, which would usually become deeply frustrating for both of them. Now the small business owner found himself 40 years old and with a shrunken nest egg, thanks to the separation and a series of bad investment decisions. He knew that from this point on, reaching his financial goals would require him to pay more attention to his spending habits.
"The breakup has really hit me hard. I'm constantly second-guessing myself whenever I have to make decisions—even small ones," Jack confessed. A few weeks ago, he agreed to take a trip with his best friend. He now wondered if he should have said yes so soon. Despite his doubt, however, one thing was for sure: The knot in his stomach was all too familiar.
"You've been talking about visiting Machu Picchu since long before you two separated. So why the worry all of a sudden?" asked Claudia.
Jack couldn't pinpoint the source of his concern. Perhaps he was preoccupied with what Olivia would think about the trip. But at the same time, he really needed to get away in order to gain insight into himself and what had gone wrong in his marriage.
"This is going to sound horrible, but I partly blame Mom and Dad for a lot of the confusion I'm having these days," he said.
"What do you mean?"
"So much of my recent stress boils down to feeling lost when it comes to money," Jack replied. "They never talked to us about it. In fact, the only time I remember hearing about money was when they'd argue. Don't get me wrong, I know that they were pretty amazing parents. But the older I get, the more I'm seeing that for all they taught us, they left us completely unprepared in one crucial way."
He thought about his father, who worried about money incessantly when they were young and still did. Jack vowed never to do the same. Lately, however, his anxieties mirrored his dad's. "Mom and Dad never taught us how to make good financial decisions or even how to think about money and its role in our lives," he said.
Now that he was a parent, Jack felt responsible for teaching his young daughter to make better choices than he did. But he was clueless about how to start.
JACK AND CLAUDIA FIND COMMON GROUND
Claudia considered Jack's observation. "Between the two of us, I always felt like I was the only one who was completely lost when it came to money. Remember the mess I was in a few years ago?" Back then, Claudia's anxieties had reached a tipping point: She was buried under student loans and credit card debt and felt as though there was no way out.
Jack responded, "I remember Mom and Dad telling me that they were worried about you. They even asked me to talk to you. But I didn't want it to seem like your big brother was interfering, so I left it up to you to reach out."
"I nearly asked you for help," Claudia said. "But at the moment when I was barely treading water, someone tossed me a lifesaver, and things haven't been the same since." Claudia shared that she'd met with a guide who had changed her financial life forever. He was called the Alchemist.
"What's up with the name?"
"He has a real one. But he goes by the Alchemist, and I think now's the perfect time for you to meet him," she said.
Jack wasn't sure what was so perfect about the timing. "Can you tell me a little more about this guy first?" he asked.
"The short answer is no. But before I explain why, let me ask you this: Since that time five years ago when everyone was so worried about my future, have you noticed a change in me?" she asked.
Jack reflected on the financial milestones that his sister had reached during the past few years: She took a trip to celebrate paying off her student loans and credit card debt, and she bought a two-bedroom condominium. He also noticed that she seemed happier and more focused and at ease.
"So if I were to say that I had the Alchemist to thank for the major turnaround in my life, would you believe me?" she asked.
"Of course I would. But how does that help me?"
"Because the Alchemist's advice applies to anyone who's ready," she answered.
"How can you be sure about that?" he asked.
"He taught me that for everything we're conditioned to think about money—what it can and can't do, how it's good, how it's evil, how it corrupts, and countless other magical powers we attribute to it—it can really only do three things: help protect us from pain, help us do the things that make us happy, and help us look after the people we love. That's it—everything else is nonessential," she said. "But more importantly, if we don't take control and apply awareness to our thinking, money has the power to take over our lives."
Claudia's explanation intuitively made sense to Jack. He also appreciated that his younger sister was looking out for him. So despite his skepticism, he decided he'd take her up on the offer. Claudia pulled a business card out of her wallet and handed it to him.
It was worn around the edges and had obviously been in Claudia's wallet for a long time.
"No first and last name, not even an email address?" Jack asked. He then flipped over the card.
"What the heck does that mean?" asked Jack.
"That's another thing I didn't tell you. He'll change your life in 60 minutes, but you'll need to do a little work before you meet with him. And one more thing—please don't share the card with anyone until you've had your face-to-face meeting with him," said Claudia.
"Alright, this is getting a little weird," he said.
"Not at all. It just has to do with keeping a promise I made."
"What kind of promise?" Jack asked.
"That I'd keep the card."
"Then are you sure you want to part with it? I can just jot down the number."
Claudia replied, "No, it's yours. In fact, it was meant for you, and you'll find out why later. Besides, I'm happy to finally be teaching you something. Just be sure to tell the Alchemist that I gave you his card when you call."
Although Jack wouldn't admit it to his little sister, his curiosity had been piqued. If nothing else, he was fascinated to find out who had brainwashed her so successfully.
Chapter ThreeThe Background Check
After Claudia left, Jack went to his home office, hopped online, and searched "alchemist." With over 14,000,000 results, he knew it would be impossible to find out more about his sister's mentor. On Wikipedia, however, he did find the following:
"The defining goal of alchemy is often given as the transmutation of common metals into gold."
Jack remembered a book he'd read years ago about an alchemist who learned to create wealth from the wind. A series of doubts crossed his mind: Did his sister line him up for a get-rich-quick scheme or a pyramid sales ploy? Or worse, some weird religious cult? But his hesitation subsided when he reminded himself that it was just one phone call. What was there to be afraid of? After all, he could always end the conversation. He dialed the number on the card. Voicemail picked up:
You've reached the Alchemist. Please leave your name and number, and be sure to state who gave you my card.
Moments after leaving a short message, Jack received a text:
I'll call you in five minutes.
The quick response surprised him, and the nervous feeling inside made him wonder whether this was worth all the effort over a silly trip to Peru.
THE FIRST CONVERSATION
Exactly five minutes later, the Alchemist's phone number glowed on Jack's screen. His blood pressure surged as he debated whether or not to answer. He counted: one ring, two, and then three. Finally on the fourth—the one right before voicemail would pick up—he hit the "Answer Call" button.
"Hi, Jack. It's the Alchemist," the man of mystery said.
"Thanks for your call," Jack said. He decided to be polite rather than express his cynicism over the entire thing.
"I'm glad that Claudia suggested you reach out to me. It's probably been five years since I last spoke with her. How's she doing these days?" he asked.
"Doing well. You may know this already—Claudia's my younger sister," Jack said.
"So I'm speaking to a sibling? Well, you're a lucky brother. I respect Claudia immensely. Almost as much as she respects and cares for you," he said.
The Alchemist's response took him aback. First off, Jack had assumed that his sister had been in regular contact with the Alchemist. So if the two hadn't spoken in half a decade, and he wasn't aware that Jack existed, how did the Alchemist know that Claudia respected him? He guessed it was a canned response that he used for everyone.
"I bet you're wondering how I know that your sister respects you," said the Alchemist.
"Since you didn't know who I was until now, the thought did cross my mind," Jack said. He was slightly disarmed by how the Alchemist was able to navigate a conversation with a stranger with such ease.
"I'll sum it up with this: One person, one hour," he said.
"Hey, that's from your card! What exactly does that mean?" Jack asked.
"This may come as a surprise, but I've only met Claudia once. Although our meeting only lasted an hour, those 60 minutes changed her life forever," he said.
"How's that possible?" Jack asked.
"You'd be surprised by how much you can accomplish when you have a disciplined process. I can't go into detail about it right now, but I promise you'll understand later."
The Alchemist added that after their meeting, he told Claudia to keep his business card and to give it to one other person. That individual needed to be somebody she cared for deeply—a person who would benefit most from the one hour.
"So I'm the one person," said Jack. He thought of all the people whom Claudia could have given the business card to, but instead it had remained in her wallet for five years. Suddenly the call took on greater significance.
"It also explains how I know she respects and cares for you so much. Please forgive me if I sound impolite, but before we move on, I need some basic information from you to see if we're a good fit," he said.
"A good fit?" Jack asked. He thought it presumptuous for the Alchemist to assume that Jack was even interested.
"Are you tired of the way you're making financial decisions?" the Alchemist asked.
"Well ... kind of," Jack said. He wasn't sure where the question was headed, which made him uneasy.
"Is that a yes or a no?" the Alchemist asked.
"Uh, I guess I'd say yes," Jack answered reluctantly, feeling confronted.
"So what you're telling me is that the way you're making decisions is broken," said the Alchemist.
The subject of making decisions struck a nerve. Since his separation from Olivia, Jack constantly doubted his judgment, especially when it came to his finances.
"Look, I really appreciate your time, but your questions are making me uncomfortable. I only contacted you because I was planning a trip to Peru, and Claudia told me to give you a call."
"Before you give up on our talk, I'd like you to answer four simple yes-or-no questions," the Alchemist said. "I call them the 'Four Honest Questions About Your Financial Wellness.' All I ask is that you answer them as truthfully as possible."
Excerpted from THE MONEY CODE by JOE JOHN DURAN Copyright © 2013 by Joe John Duran. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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