Today I spoke with Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach, to learn about her journey as an entrepreneur to seek her expert financial advice for our customers and readers. I know you’ll enjoy the interview!
Bill Hendricks: How long have you been The Money Coach, giving people financial advice?
Lynnette Khalfani-Cox: I’ve been a financial news journalist for over 20 years. I struck out on my own as The Money Coach in 2003.
BH: What was your motivation to become an entrepreneur?
LKC: It started out of necessity. In 2003 I was a journalist working for Dow Jones (I was a Wall Street Journal reporter for CNBC). I was downsized along with 200 other people. The media landscape was rapidly changing then, especially for print companies. Advertising revenue was down and companies we’re struggling to make a profit. I loved my career and wanted to continue it. My last day on the air for CNBC was March 1, 2003 and I started my own company later than same month. It’s been fun and I haven’t looked back since!
BH: That’s a very inspiring story! What is your proudest professional accomplishment over the past 11 years?
LKC: I am most proud of two things:
First, for making it on to the New York Times Best Sellers list for my book Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom. Not for the reasons you would think, though. Sure, the financial outcome was great, but I am most proud of it from an entrepreneurial perspective. I self-published the book. Now this is common place, but back then that was rare and difficult to do. People told us (my husband and business partner, Earl) that we’d never get the reviews and publicity required for the book to succeed. That made us want to succeed that much more, to prove them wrong. So I got my first book, Investing Success, reviewed by USA Today, which led to more media. With Zero Debt, I appeared on Dr. Phil and the Jane Pauley show the same week. That catapulted us onto the Best Sellers list. That helped validate our belief that we could be successful entrepreneurs.
Secondly, I am very proud of the fact that we’ve sustained our business this long. You know the statistics, 90% of new companies fail. We’ve built a strong brand and a good business.
BH: I’d be very proud of those, too. What are the toughest challenges you've faced along the way?
LKC: As you know, all business are cyclical and ever changing. The media business is particularly fluid these days. The strategies and tactics that worked few years don’t work now. Clients come and go. New platforms seem to pop every day. You have to make peace with the instability and adapt to survive.
BH: What's the most important advice you can give to millennials and people who aren't used to thinking about their finances?
LKC: Don’t try to “keep up with the Joneses.” It’s an easy trap to fall into these days given how much information we share with each other. Your friends are probably posting pictures of their vacations, expensive meals, and new cars. Resist the urge spend more than you earn and try to be as anti-materialistic as possible. Save at least 10% of your salary. If you can figure out how to live within your means, it will impact your life in so many positive ways beyond money. You’ll have more flexibility with your career, and you’ll be healthier and happier.
BH: College is becoming increasingly expensive. What advice can you give students and their parents to manage the cost?
LKC: Don’t forget about the hidden costs of college. People see the upfront costs (tuition, fees, room and board). But they don’t see things like fraternity/sorority dues, studying abroad, or even parking. It can cost up to $1,000 a year just to park a car on some campuses! Not to mention gas, maintenance, and so on. I write about this and more in my new book, College Secrets: How to Save Money, Cut College Costs and Graduate Debt Free.
BH: What can we expect from you in 2015?
LKC: I’ll be doing a major push for the College Secrets book, touring universities and teaching people how to navigate the costs of higher education. We’ll be simultaneously promoting the companion book in the series, called College Secrets for Teens: Money-Saving Ideas for the Pre-College Years. I’ll also be doing lots of TV and speaking engagements. January and February are usually my busiest months. People make financially related New Year’s resolutions and often have “debt hangover” from the holidays, and in general people are more interested in finances earlier in the year than later.
BH: Thanks Lynnette!
Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach, is a personal finance expert, television and radio personality, and the author of numerous books, including the New York Times bestseller Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom. Her website is http://askthemoneycoach.com and you can follow her on Twitter @themoneycoach.