Interview on SuperFastBusiness Podcast with James Schramko: Part One

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This is the first part of a series with author, entrepreneur and business coach, James Schramko. James runs two highly successful coaching businesses, SilverCircle and SuperFastBusiness, the second of which his long-running podcast is named after. I recently had the pleasure of appearing on episode 850 for part one of our series. James and I share similar values in terms of the importance of wealth building and how breaking away from conventional thinking is often what gets you the biggest gains.

Q: What are our backgrounds, and what is my background with James?

  • I’m a chartered accountant and work for a large corporate firm. I’ve had training in being a property investor, and I’ve since built out my own wealth portfolio. It’s exciting to figure out how the cogs turn and how the buttons flick, and thanks to the accounting background, I can sometimes see things that other people can’t see.
  • James and I have both had podcasts with Tyrone Shum and that’s how we caught each other’s attention. You might remember James having been on my podcast before, discussing his perspective on wealth building.
  • James also worked a corporate career but left that to do his own thing – more of a passion alignment helping businesses grow their business.
  • You could say we have a kindred spirit, but we also have a mutual interest: to continue to grow wealth. We’re probably both at a point where we don’t have to do all the things we do, but we want to do them, and we quite enjoy it.

Q: What have you noticed about wealth building between spouses?

  • Personally, going into investing wasn’t something that I did on purpose. My husband actually had a much bigger interest in it than I did, and I would blindly sign things he put in front of me. It was only when I started to say, “Well, maybe I should understand what I’m signing,” that I really lit up and began to see the power of it. And I teasingly said to him, “Step aside, I’ll take it from here,” and he was like, “Yeah, go for it!”
  • A typical scenario in a marriage or relationship is often where one partner might be fairly involved in the financial, and the other partner may not – whether man or woman on either side of the spectrum. 
  • Unfortunately, the stereotype is of women who have felt that finances weren’t their area of expertise, passion, or interest. They’ve left the money management and wealth-building to their spouses. Then, they get into the second half of their lives and have to start from scratch.
  • I try to encourage people to participate in the wealth journey as a couple regardless of their age. There’s no question when you have a  partnership of any variety where you’re both rowing in the same direction, you will get there ten times faster than if one person is trying to do it alone.
  • James agrees that some of the language he sees online in local area groups of parents and so forth hints at covert operations happening regarding finances: people buying things and keeping it a secret. One party might be growing in a different direction but not necessarily telling their partner. 
  • James says he and his wife can move forward with ease, both knowing what they’re attempting to do. He puts this down to having a close relationship where they regularly talk about finances.

Q: What disclosures are necessary before providing information?

  • If you’re doing anything around money, you’ve got to get proper professional advice before taking action. 
  • A metaphor for how I see my own role in the work that I do is to imagine you’re going to Disney World, and there are all these great rides. If you just run in and get on all the rides, then you’ll probably be sick. My job is more of a guide, and that’s how I like to describe myself. I hope you enjoy Disney World and enjoy the rides, but make sure you stay safe, and I encourage you to be conservative in the rides that you choose. 
  • The wealth creation journey is fraught with pitfalls and complexity, so my role is to try and simplify and make it more palatable for people. 
  • James agrees that there are many sharks out there, and he’s had investments that didn’t work out great from earlier years where he went down some pathways that were probably in the best interests of the person who was proposing things. 
  • Ultimately, we have to take responsibility for our own financial well-being. If some of the things we talk about stimulate or compel you to research further or to go and seek help from professionals, then that’s great! But, we’re not giving advice. We’re just probing, asking questions and sharing our own opinion on things. 
  • James elaborates by saying, some of the things he talks about are what he’s done personally. They’re suitable for him and his journey, but they may not fit someone else. People listening to our shows are at different stages in their life and business cycle. Each person is responsible for picking their own path and being responsible for it. 

Q: Using the theme park guide metaphor, what happens when people come in the gates and make all the wrong choices? What do I wish people would grasp or understand to help them for the rest of their lives to build wealth?

  • The biggest challenge that modern-day business owners and others face is that there’s too much information out there – there’s an information overload.
  • At the heart of really good wealth creation principles is a concept which I think is a dying word, in Australia anyway, which is that of stewardship. It’s used more frequently overseas, but I think if you can’t get your stewardship of money right, it’s tough to springboard into the realms of talking about wealth. 
  • In particular, many business owners have good incomes, and they confuse a good income with being wealthy. 
  • I work with people who have bought lots of properties and have a high net worth. They’ve only got there through the sheer force of having earned a tonne of money. When you look at where they are now and maybe what they’ve earned, it’s a bit out of whack: they should be a lot further ahead of where they are. 
  • How you care for money, look after it and manage it is the cornerstone of wealth-building and stewardship. Stewardship isn’t about coveting, or squirrelling your money away, or operating from a place of scarcity. It’s about having a healthy relationship with money and knowing how to look after and respect it.

Q: After mentioning Australia, it’s worth asking, are the fundamentals of wealth building universal?

  • I think where people often go wrong is that they’re focused on the tactics: “What’s the next deal? What’s the investment?” 
  • The Australian real estate market is quite unique in many ways. It’s one of the best in the world – and one of the worst, with lots of different aspects to it. But I think the fundamentals of wealth building are completely universal. Whether you live in Europe or the Americas or Australasia, it’s stewardship. 
  • If you can’t learn how to, number one, live within your means and, number two, learn how to take a dollar and amplify it to turn it into assets that generate income, then you’re sort of screwed.

Q: We mentioned before that some people confuse cash flow with wealth. How can one manage and maintain their wealth effectively?

  • Some people confuse Instagram pictures of rented Lamborghinis and watches as wealth. The problem here is that they’re missing an entire step: some of these people haven’t generated a high income yet. 
  • James told a story of someone he knows who earns $1,000,000 a month selling information on how to do a particular business model. He asked him if he does that particular business model personally, and he said no, it’s too hard. 
  • We’re in a situation where a whole bunch of people are still in that very early phase where they’re not even able to figure out the “how to make money” part. And, that is a very hard part. 
  • It’s essential to focus on your offer. Get an offer that converts absolutely. You’ve got to get the money coming in before you have the problem of how to deal with it. 
  • The next phase is a fascinating one. Can you take the money you earn from your business and put it to work to generate an income that is independent of the business?

Q: So, how can one take responsibility for their own wealth destiny?

  • There are plenty of listeners here who have a pot of money, have equity in a home, or have built up access to some kind of liquidity that may not know what to do with it. What do you do with your money? Do you buy crypto? Do you put it all into rental properties? Do you put it into mutual funds? Do you invest directly in a Share Account? 
  • Part of the reason why business owners go into business is because they want to have some degree of control about what they earn, how they earn, and how they work. Unfortunately, many of the people I’ve worked with over the last 12 years end up in a high-paying job in Australia, but I would say it’s a problem universally, and they think that trying to build a high net worth is the goal. 
  • There’s a huge difference between aspiring to be a high net worth individual versus aspiring to build a capital base that you can carefully and strategically convert into annuities or income streams.
  • My number one rule for investing is, do not invest in something you don’t understand. If you don’t understand it, just don’t touch it! 
  • I’ve worked with several people who have jumped into some kind of get rich quick scheme, or they’ve invested in something that they didn’t quite understand, but their friend told them it was a really good thing, or they mid life just decide to pivot into something like hospitality when they’ve had no experience in that.
  • They all come back to this same principle, which is you’ve got to have a game plan. The execution of the game plan and what particular investments will align becomes clearer when you know where you’re trying to get to. 
  • If you know that you want to get to this point, with this level of passive income, in this period of time, then it’s straightforward to say, well, these investments are congruent with that game plan, and these are not. 
  • Part of the challenge that most business owners face is there’s an avalanche of information out there. How do you tell if this is not your area of expertise? How do you tell what’s real and what’s not? What’s hype, and what’s political? How do you know what to do with your money? 
  • James told a story about an army veteran who spent $150,000 with some internet marketers building a funnel to run a webinar that produced zero results. He put his entire savings into something while having no knowledge of the market. He should not have been in that space, and the people selling it shouldn’t have sold it. 
  • James says that he himself was also put in a position once where looking back, although he blames himself, he can also pat himself on the back for recognising an overzealous person by his technique of stroking the greed gland and how it was causing a reaction. He stepped away and moved his business elsewhere. Since then, this individual has been arrested and sent to jail for fraud.
  • In every single industry, there are baddies, and there are goodies.
  • James says that he’s always taken a pretty low-risk approach to things. He has fundamental beliefs that he should spend less than he makes and doesn’t mind playing the long game. 
  • Many people get stuck because they’re just trying not to pay tax. It’s like selling SEO: people say, “Can we just put text on the page and then make it white, so it’s invisible?” or, “Could we get a domain name that starts with ‘A’ so that it ranks higher?” or even, “Can’t we just put the keyword on the page a lot?” 
  • And that’s like most people when they start coming into money. They’re like, “How do I just not pay any tax? Should I just go offshore? Should I buy an ostrich farm and write off all my tax that way?” 
  • When James was at Mercedes-Benz as a general manager, the police came regularly asking for files and folders for court cases for embezzlement and fraud. They were tracking offshore accounts, and you can be sure that nothing slips through them. 
  • At some point, we have to decide our position on risk tolerance and our time frame. How much responsibility do we want to take for our own wealth destiny, and who do we want to get help from?

Q: How important is it to find people you can trust with your wealth?

  • The biggest challenge people face is knowing who to trust. One of the things that I know 100% is that if you are paid on both sides of the ledger, it’s tough to put trust in that person. 
  • One of the things that you should be asking the people that you rely on to make decisions around your investing is: “How do you get paid?”
  • If I get paid based on what you invest in, there’s immediately a conflict of interest, and a lot of people in the wealth creation space make money because you invest in what they tell you to invest in, not because they are actually any good at investing.
  • There are some really great financial planners out there, but there are also a lot of people who position themselves as being on top of the wealth advice tree that don’t make money because they’re good investors – they make money because they get paid based on what you invest in, as mentioned. 
  • One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is abdicating decision making around their investments to somebody else because they think it’s too hard or they don’t have time. 
  • The cadence around running a business is different to the cadence around building wealth. Running a business is constantly about putting out fires, refining and fixing, documenting and managing a team. 
  • The cadence around wealth creation isn’t like that. What I’m trying to create with the work that I do is to take the complexity out of it. I’m trying to make it fun and enjoyable.
  • You know that you’ve got a plan. You know that you’ve got access to the right kinds of investments. You know that the person who’s on the journey with you doesn’t have a conflict of interest. The goal is to create a position of autonomy. Whether you’ve got the choice around if you work in your business or not, that is life-changing wealth because you know you’re taking control of the decisions yourself.
  • That’s why we did the disclaimer that we’re not giving advice. People say to me, Salena, are you gonna tell me what to put my money in? My response to that is no because you won’t want my opinion by the time you understand everything that I think you need to understand. You’ll know what to do.
  • The concept around finding people you can trust is in part to do with understanding how they get remunerated. 
  • James agrees that he often has to guide clients to a level of awareness where they’re in a perfect position to make their own informed choices that minimise risk. He can paint a great picture for them, but they ultimately have to move forward with it – and they’re responsible for it.
  • Remember, you can’t expect people to educate you for free. You have to pay somehow, but there is a difference between paying through a trailing commission for a product they recommend versus paying a fee for their coaching or guidance.
  • There’s a global phenomenon of hidden commissions and kickbacks and things that don’t get declared, but luckily that’s starting to change. They’re starting to really shine the torch on that and say that that’s not OK. 
  • In James’ case, they put a notice on their website that some of the content on the site can generate income for them. They list the partners on their page. 
  • People who listen to this should know that some of the guests may be an interest for me if they go well, but I want them to go well, too. James states that he’s been burnt by financial people before, so he’s extremely careful with who he trusts. Before connecting with me, he chatted to Tyrone and did his Google research. We chatted on several occasions, exchanged information, and we’ve been through some dealings already that gave us confidence.
  • The Important thing here is, do your own research. Don’t rely on me. I know there’s an implied trust because someone is on my show, but I don’t want that responsibility. I’m only responsible for myself.

Key Takeaways 

  • We should always take responsibility for our financial destiny. We should be very careful about where we get advice from or how they get paid for that advice. 
  • We should be thinking beyond just making money and think about how we can put that money to work so that we don’t have to work in the future because our income is working for us. 
  • We have to develop our own risk profile and our own picture of how long it will take. And it may not take as long as some people might think. 
  • If you are a tradesperson and you are saving a little bit slowly and putting it in the bank and eventually waiting to put a deposit on your first home, and you spend all your income on that, it might be a very slow way to wealth. 
  • It could be a possible way, but there are other things you could do, and I’m sure we’ll talk about some of those in future episodes. 

 

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