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7 Rules For Buying Financial Education That Pays You More Than It Costs

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A Financial Coach’s Tell-All Guide Explaining How to Get the Best Value for Your Money in Coaching, Books, Courses, and Much More…

“There’s a sucker born every minute” according to P.T. Barnum.

Judging by the promotion techniques successfully used at various money coaching and financial mentoring companies I would have to agree.

It’s amazing to watch people spend thousands of dollars every day to learn information you could buy for less than $100 at your local bookstore. Apparently, selling premium priced financial coaching programs is no different than convincing witless consumers that high-priced, brand-name aspirin is superior to generic. Everyone knows it’s not true, but consumers fall prey to marketing tactics like this every day.

This guide is different. It provides you with a businessperson’s perspective on financial education by showing you how to get the best value for your money. It uses logic and business common sense to appeal to smart consumers who want to make informed decisions with their money.

This guide is designed for people who are dedicated to growing their financial intelligence so they can grow their wealth. If you will be buying books, courses and maybe a few seminars or coaching over the years to improve your personal finance and investment skills then this is an important resource. It will show you the right and wrong way to purchase financial education

It could save you thousands of dollars in mistakes…

One Minute Overview…

The most important point to understand about buying financial education is different types of consumers have different needs. One size does not fit all.

That is why this guide starts by categorizing consumers into different groups of buyers with differing needs so that you can see where you fit into the picture. For example, a W2 wage earner has very different needs from an entrepreneur who has very different needs from a passive investor.

The key idea is to figure out which type of consumer you are so that you can match the right educational service at the right price point to your needs. That is the critical factor.

The rest of the guide then looks at all the different ways to build your financial intelligence (books, courses, coaching) and explains which ones represent the best value for the various types of consumers. The answer will depend on where you are in the learning process.

For example, you should never pay $2,000 for a high-priced “boot camp” when a $25 book provides substantially similar information. Your net worth will be much happier if you spend the weekend reading the book and use the savings to invest the difference. Conversely, you shouldn’t continue wasting valuable time reading books in pursuit of more information when the obstacle holding you back from success is a personal issue that has nothing to do with information and can only be solved through coaching. The two situations are as different as night and day and require different services.

“Thanks so much for your guidance. You really have a gift for cutting through the verbal and numeric distractions to make a complex subject clear.”- Mike Bergida, Realtor; Virginia

These are just two examples of the many different types of consumers for financial education illustrated in this guide. Each consumer needs different services at different price points to get the best value for their money. Cheapest isn’t always best, but neither is the most expensive.

I wrote this guide because I love the money coaching business and how it helps many people transform their lives, but I deeply dislike the bad reputation that some of the seminar and coaching hucksters bring to this industry. I want to educate consumers so they can recognize a bad apple a mile away and help themselves by directing their business to the good guys (like me, of course :-) ).

Always remember that education is just information delivered in varying formats. The difference boils down to the price you pay, the quality of the information received, and whether or not it properly matches your needs. Sometimes the education is a great deal, and sometimes it should be avoided regardless of the cost.

Let me explain how this all works in the following tell-all guide…

A Tale of Two Consumers…

There are two broad categories of people who consume financial education. Let’s see which one you fit into…

  • Category 1 – Business Owners and Active Investors: The unique characteristic of this group is they actively place capital at risk every day in an attempt to earn above market returns while managing risk. The active nature of this approach creates a wide variety of leverage points where a few smart (or foolish) decisions can cause dramatically different financial results. Financial education that helps develop these leverage points can easily produce more benefit than it costs regardless of price.
  • Category 2 – Paycheck (W2) Earning Employees and Passive Investors: The defining characteristic of this group is their financial growth is passively determined. Income growth is limited to paycheck growth and investment return is passively determined by the markets. They have few leverage points that will dramatically affect their financial outcome, and most of the financial education they need is well proven, straightforward, and widely available for little or no money. For these reasons their choice in financial education must be carefully targeted and expenses controlled to provide more benefit than cost.

Notice how the focus of the above discussion is to purchase education that produces more value than it costs?

That is the crucible test. If you want to build wealth then a primary principle you will follow is getting good value for your money. It is a defining characteristic of successful wealth builders. How financial education fits into this picture is that it is one of the few products/services you can buy that puts more money in your pocket than it costs. It can be a great value when chosen correctly and a total rip-off when chosen poorly.

Also notice how I’m making gross generalizations in the above two examples to make a point. There are infinite variations on the two consumer themes presented. For example, you could be a paycheck earning employee who is an active investor or a business owner and passive investor. Both of these situations would place you in the first category because either combination gives you an active risk profile with leverage and risk management opportunities.

“Financial freedom seemed like so much work before, but now it seems so much more attainable. What I’ve learned through coaching was that I was already doing a lot of things right and just needed to shift a few things to really make it happen. Now I can see how to make money work for me rather than me work for money.”- Jennifer Dickens, Vice President Sales; Los Angeles, CA

The point is that an active, entrepreneurial approach to income production and investing creates opportunities for financial success (and failure) not enjoyed (or endured) by the passive approach. Neither is better or worse than the other – there is no value judgment here. It is just a statement of fact that these two types of consumers have very different needs that would benefit from very different financial education services. The active approach has a high value-added potential and the passive approach is very limited.

Now let’s examine the different types of financial education services and uncover how these two types of consumers can get the best value for their money…

Three Types of Financial Education to Choose From…

All financial education products deliver information, but they can be distinguished by their varying levels of personalization and corresponding price points. Below are three general models for financial education delivery…

  1. One-on-one financial coaching – most expensive.
  2. Group coaching and mentoring (includes seminars, boot camps, teleclasses) – less expensive.
  3. Books, Ebooks, Audio and Video Courses – least expensive.

Notice how this list is arranged from highest personalization and price point to lowest personalization and lowest price point. Also notice how the greater the personalization the higher the price point. This is simple economics because personalization reduces business leverage for the vendor. This forces a higher price to allow a reasonable business profit. It’s business common sense.

The only exception to this rule is when a marketer gets greedy and attempts to sell a low personalization item at a high price. For example, it is not uncommon for some guru vendors to record and package a weekend seminar into a DVD and audio product. This can provide a great value by saving you travel time and costs… except when they decide to try and sell it for $1,000-$3,000 dollars. That is a high personalization price for a low personalization product. Good for the marketer, but unless the content is so rare and valuable that you can justify the price I generally avoid such offerings. You can usually find similar education for a more reasonable price.

This first observation brings us to our first two rules when buying money coaching and mentoring services:

  • Rule 1: Always buy the lowest personalization, lowest price point product or service that will achieve your objective. That is where the best value lies. For example, if you want to learn a specific “how-to” strategy such as “how to buy real estate using wraps” and it is taught in a book or downloadable course then start there. Don’t pay the premium for the personalization of a “coaching and mentoring service” if the information can be delivered equally well and at lower cost by removing the personalization.
  • Rule 2: There is no relationship (zero, nada, zippo, none) between the quality of information delivered and the price paid. Price is related to leverage in the delivery system and is frequently a marketer’s gimmick used to deceive you into perceiving quality. Price paid has no bearing on the actual value of the information delivered. There are books that offer killer education for $20 and seminars that deliver useless junk for $2,000. Never assume that it is good because it is expensive or well marketed, and don’t dismiss affordable education because it is cheap or unknown. There is zero relationship between price, marketing and value in financial education. I can’t overemphasize that point.

Let’s develop these first two principles more fully by looking in depth at each delivery model and figuring out how smart consumers should build their financial intelligence while respecting their pocket books…

One-On-One Coaching and Mentoring

At the extreme high end of the personalization (and price) scale is one-on-one coaching and mentoring. Be careful, however, because not all one-on-one coaching models are made the same. In fact, there are fundamentally two different approaches to packaging one-on-one coaching that offer very different levels of service…

1. McCoaching: This is the mass customization model used by most large coaching companies. “Mc-Coaching”, as I like to call it, delivers a standardized curriculum designed to teach you how to do something (how to budget, how to buy real estate, how to invest, etc.). It repackages information you could get more affordably from books into McCoaching programs that can be marketed at higher prices and greater profits. This doesn’t make the information they teach bad: it just means you are paying a premium to have your hand held giving you a poor value for your money.

“I wish I would have started financial coaching with Todd two years earlier – before I lost $50,000 following the advice of the “do it my way” gurus. Not only is he helping me create a tailor fit wealth building strategy that suits me, but he also taught me exactly how I went wrong, and why I made those mistakes to begin with – something you don’t get anywhere else. Todd’s wealth building approach is so fundamentally sound that you begin applying it to every area of your life and you are left wondering why none of the gurus are telling you this stuff. His approach is truly refreshing, motivating and empowering. Thanks, Todd.”- Jeff Adams, Investor; Denver, CO

McCoaching is the model followed by many of the big-name gurus in the financial education business because it is the only way they can mass market and make big bucks selling coaching and mentoring services. True personalization is impossible on a large scale. They provide a pre-formatted curriculum that is delivered by a floor of employees stuck inside office cubicles all day with headsets and no direct experience building wealth. The contradiction should be obvious. How is somebody going to mentor you to do something they have no direct experience doing themselves by reciting material that can generally be found in a book?

No thanks!

The problem with blending standardized curriculums with one-on-one coaching is it’s a mismatch of service and price point. The most cost efficient way to deliver standardized curriculums is through books and courses because they provide infinite leverage and low cost. There is no personalization to standardized knowledge so it makes no business sense to pay the high price of personalization to receive it. It’s wasteful. Yet, that is exactly what many big-name guru coaching services provide.

McCoaching can produce acceptable results if the content delivered is an exact match to your needs, but there are usually much more affordable ways to get that knowledge (books and group coaching – see below). With standardized curriculums you are receiving limited information that is personalized to your needs while working with an employee of the company rather than the creator of the content… and you pay a premium for the privilege. It makes no sense.

The majority of financial coaching and mentoring programs you will encounter fit the McCoaching model, and this leads us to our 3rd rule when buying financial education…

  • Rule 3: Never pay a premium for mass-marketed McCoaching services that do little more than repackage information available in books into a standardized curriculum. It is a marketer’s gimmick that represents poor value to the consumer. Buy the books and invest the difference instead. Your net worth will be happier for it.

2. True One-On-One Coaching: The second model for personal financial coaching is far less common. It is what you can buy here at Financial Mentor (don’t worry; I’ll keep the sales pitch to a minimum). In this model you work directly with the expert using a curriculum custom developed to match your personal needs. You develop a personal relationship with your coach resulting in process coaching and unique insights. No two clients have the same experience because the content delivered is unique to your individual situation and reflects the depth of direct experience provided by the coach.

“I just want to say how awesome it is working with you. To find a mentor with actual business experience, real estate, and financial background is huge. Not only that but your value to living a balanced life with your family. In the past I had become frustrated looking for a mentor with just one of these traits, much less to have the ability to teach and really mentor on top of that! I have benefited more in the last year than the first six years in business. We will continue to grow in a controlled manner which I can clearly pin point why we are growing and how we are growing by adding value to our clients! Our financial situation is in awesome shape with monthly savings to retirement accounts, paying ourselves each month, and having reserves in the bank! Our knowledge of purchasing real estate is even unmatched by most realtors. I can honestly say that in this last year I have made 20 times the amount I have paid you, and I fully expect this number to keep growing..”- Dan Cosgrove; President, Mercantile Systems & Surveys; Brentwood, CA

The very nature of this model does not allow mass leverage to support large sales forces and advertising budgets (like the previous model employed by many big-name gurus) because there are few true experts with the qualifications necessary to deliver this level of personalized service. It is a “boutique” business model that trades time for money, lacks leverage, and necessitates a higher price point to allow a reasonable profit.

In fact, that is why it is rarely offered – few are qualified to deliver it, and the price point must be high which narrows the appropriate target market.

This leads us to our fourth rule in purchasing financial education – who should buy real coaching and mentoring services…

  • Rule 4: As a consumer, the only time it makes business sense to purchase expensive, personalized financial coaching services is when it adds more value than it costs. Typically, a consumer will fit into one of the following three categories when that condition is true…
    1. You are a business owner or active investor that has capital at risk every day. To create more value than coaching costs you just need to avoid one bad decision or make one improved decision and you can pay for years of service while getting all the other benefits resulting from coaching thrown in for free. Business owners and active investors frequently find financial coaching is a revenue producer rather than an expense because it helps them make more money than it costs.
    2. You are in a situation where time is more important than money. You want exactly the education you need delivered in the most time efficient manner possible – even if you could find it cheaper elsewhere. You don’t have the time to do all the research yourself and figure it all out on your own, but you do have the money to hire an expert that provides you with the “royal road” through all the confusion. This situation includes successful entrepreneurs or highly compensated professionals as well as people receiving inheritances where they lack the financial expertise to manage their growing wealth. These people can benefit from an expert who helps them manage risk and avoid obvious mistakes with all their money yet whose advice isn’t biased by trying to sell investments (i.e. a broker or adviser: see the difference between financial coaching and financial advice).
    3. Your problem is not information, but the integration of that information. This is where one-on-one financial coaching really shines. You’ve attended seminars and read books thus having all the knowledge necessary; yet, you still have not produced the results you are capable of. No book or educational course will get you over the hump in that situation. Only a highly skilled coach can help you integrate the information into a personal wealth plan and overcome the obstacles that are holding you back from success (known as process coaching). It may be expensive to pay for the service, but anything less won’t get the results desired and is far more costly in the long-run.

I’ve personally coached many clients for more than a decade and all my successful clients fall into one of these three groups. The common thread is the value delivered exceeds the cost – it makes business sense for the consumer to buy the coaching. These are the only situations I know where the value proposition offered by personalized, one-on-one financial coaching makes business sense

The question is, “Do you fit one of these situations?” If the answer is “yes” then you are probably leaving money on the table if you don’t already work with a coach.

In summary, there are two types of personalized financial coaching models: McCoaching and true financial coaching. The only model worth paying for is the second, but most of what you will find is the first. True one-on-one financial coaching is exceedingly rare because it is a boutique business model that can only serve a select few. McCoaching is relatively common because it can be mass marketed thus leveraging the high-profile notoriety of celebrity gurus for massive profits.

If you are going to purchase personalized financial coaching make sure you get what you pay for. Click here for a complete guide that walks you step-by-step through how to select the best money coach for your individual needs.

Books and Ebooks, Audio and Video

If one-on-one financial coaching is the high priced/high personalization extreme for financial education, then books, audio and video are the opposite end of the spectrum. They are the low priced/low personalization mechanism for mass information delivery.

Books, audio and video are low-priced not because there is anything wrong with the education but because they offer infinite leverage to the vendor allowing him to deliver high quality information for less money and still make a reasonable profit. In other words, the author can write it once and sell it a million times. He will expend no more effort when 1,000,000 copies of a book are sold than he does to sell 100 copies.

“I was really impressed by the depth of your writing and the analysis that went through it. Keep up the good work.”- Philip Shah, India

As a consumer I love books because they are your best value in financial education. How do I know that? Because as an author I spend months researching, gathering information, writing and assembling a book so that you get complete coverage of the topic in a succinct, logical, carefully structured package. There is no waste or fluff. You get my best stuff in a highly refined format – all for pennies per hour.

It isn’t personalized, but if the subject is exactly what you need there is no better value for your money.

I also like audio. I download many seminars, teleclasses, and podcasts to my portable computer that I listen to while driving, cooking or stretching after exercising. I call it my “university on wheels” and it is one of the most efficient ways I know to continually educate myself with minimal effort, cost or time.

In short, books and audio are the most cost-efficient and time-efficient way to learn information… which leads us to our next rule when buying financial education…

  • Rule 5: If you want “how to” type information where personalization is irrelevant then start with books. They are your best value in financial education. DVDs and audio run a close second. When you are just beginning in any subject this is the no-brainer place to focus most of your time and money. Higher priced services can be added in later to fill in the gaps as your revenue increases and your education needs become more specialized.

For example, if you look at the ebooks offered on this site you will notice they are all niche “how-to” books that offer specific solutions to specific problems. I’m walking-my-talk by providing those ebooks and not trying to sell you a high-priced coaching program that offers the same. They are the most cost efficient and time efficient way to get that education to you because they provide extremely targeted information without any fluff or unnecessary personalization.

The downside to learning from books is they require more time and effort to consume than one-on-one financial coaching. Audio doesn’t present the same time problem because it can be consumed “on the fly” while doing other things. Either way, it takes time to sort through all the information and find what is relevant to your situation. It takes time to hunt down the best books and audio programs. It takes effort to assimilate the information into a cohesive plan of action. It’s not easy, and that is why so few people do it.

However, when you are looking for how-to information there is no more cost-efficient way to get it. I would never buy how-to type information through a coaching program – it’s wasteful. How-to information is more economically delivered through high-leverage vehicles so that coaching can be reserved for processing and implementing the education. That’s why the content that sells for thousands at many high-priced seminars can be found in bookstores and on the internet for less than a $100.

Shocking, but true… and now you know better.

Between the Extremes – Group Coaching, Teleclasses, and Seminars

Group coaching, teleclasses and seminars provide the middle ground between one-on-one coaching and books. They offer some leverage to the vendor but lack personalization in delivery. The process can be personalized to some degree through forums, office hours, “under-study” coaches and other value added benefits; however, the mass delivery of the content means it cannot be custom tailored to your specific needs.

This creates another group of rules when shopping for group coaching, seminars or boot camps…

  • Rule 6: There are several things to watch out for when shopping for group coaching and seminars…
    • Scrutinize the content carefully before buying to make sure it is a good match to your needs. If it’s not then the program could be a complete waste of time and money.
    • Make sure you can’t find a better value. For example, many group coaching programs are little more than support systems for delivering content found in a book. That is a bad value. Also, some group coaching programs packaged by slick marketer’s are priced too high for the value provided. It makes no sense to pay thousands for group coaching when you could get individual attention from a qualified personal financial coach at a comparable price.
    • Pay special attention to the “add-ons” that round out the program. Mastermind groups, networking, forums, office hours, and Q&A sessions with the expert can represent an extraordinarily good value if you actually use the service and it is priced reasonably.
    • Always pay attention to price. The logical price point is somewhere in between one-on-one coaching and books because the level of service is somewhere in between. Beware of high priced group coaching programs, boot-camps and weekend seminars. There is probably a more affordable way to get similar information and allow you to invest the difference.
    • Beware of pitch-fests and up-sells. Unfortunately, many of the lower cost seminars are little more than pitch-fests where a variety of speakers parade across the stage for an hour or two delivering content designed to up-sell you to their latest high-priced coaching and mentoring program or seminar. These are basically thinly disguised marketing venues and should be avoided.

This is a short-list of things to watch out for when buying a seminar or group coaching. For a longer, more detailed list see Beware of the Dream Merchants explaining other warning signs to watch out for.

I have bought many group coaching programs and usually get good value from the experience. When they are priced in hundreds (not thousands) of dollars and are delivered by a clear expert with uncommon knowledge and include access to the expert then my experience has been consistently positive.

“Todd is a master coach. He is extremely intelligent and resourceful, and will in each session take you to higher and higher levels of personal creativity and financial IQ. Working with him is an investment in your most important asset: yourself.”- Ken Turek, Attorney; San Diego, CA

Financial Mentor offers group financial coaching programs as part of our educational curriculum in an effort to help more people at an affordable price point. Each program adheres to the guidelines mentioned above providing carefully niched content so that you know before buying if it matches your particular needs.

In addition, with Financial Mentor all group coaching content is delivered through automated tools because that is most efficient method of delivery. This allows group calls and office hours to be reserved for processing content, taking the learning to the next level, overcoming obstacles, answering individual questions and other tasks that specifically require personal attention. You should accept nothing less.

In short, group coaching can represent a good value to the consumer if the content delivered is carefully matched to your needs and the add-ons that come with the program provide sufficient support to justify the price.

In Summary…

To bring this discussion full circle I want to share a story from my days in the investment management business…

We dedicated one corner of our office to “The $100,000 Garbage Pile”. It contained all the investment courses and trading strategies we had bought and researched that didn’t work. My job was to buy and test all the stuff on the market and figure out what was good and bad. That is how I learned these lessons – from the school of hard knocks. Some of the best education came out of $20 books, and some of the worst ideas came out of $3,000 courses. Amazing!

There was zero relationship between the price I paid for information and how useful it was.

As a financial coach I sit on the other side of the table selling books, group coaching, and personal financial coaching. Hopefully the lessons I share from having experienced both sides of the table can help save you from needlessly wasting money on your own personal $100,000 garbage pile.

To help you achieve that objective here is a quick summary of the main principles learned…

  • A common characteristic of successful wealth builders is they focus on getting great value for their money. Always ask yourself if there is a more affordable, convenient way for you to gain the financial intelligence you seek when shopping for financial education. Don’t pay a premium for generic content because of some slick marketer with guru status.
  • Don’t judge a product or service by its price tag because there is no relationship between price and quality in the financial education business. Just because something costs 10 times more does not make it better. Some high priced products are junk and some low priced products are golden. Judge quality independently then relate it back to price to determine if it is a good value.
  • W2 employees and passive investors rarely have a need to pay premium prices for premium financial education. The reason is simple – their situation is so straightforward and the actions they can take to build wealth are so limited by their situation that lower priced models (books and group coaching) are all that is necessary. They would be wise to save the money and invest the difference. Their focus should be on budgeting, saving and frugality (or changing their situation to become an active investor or entrepreneur to increase leverage) if financial freedom is their goal because that is how they can make the biggest difference in their financial situation. Buying high priced courses won’t help if you’ve got your financial life configured in a way that limits your ability to implement the lessons learned.
  • If you want how-to type information then books and audio teleclasses represent your best value. Don’t buy one-on-one McCoaching because it is an inefficient and expensive delivery model for how-to content.
  • True one-on-one coaching is best utilized when you fit one of the three situations where personalized attention can provide more value than it costs. When you fit these situations there is no better alternative than personal financial coaching making it the only viable choice.
  • Group coaching can be a good value when the content is highly specialized (i.e. not available in books) and taught by a clear expert with direct experience. Pay attention to the bonuses such as office hours, Q&A calls, forums and individual attention provided directly by the expert which can represent a greater value than the price of the program.
  • Always watch for marketing gimmicks as a red flag. For example, avoid seminars that turn into pitch-a-thons by emphasizing backend sales. Be wary if the marketing materials are short on substance and long on emotional appeal. If anyone uses hard-sell or aggressive tactics then close your wallet and exit stage left.

“When we started financial coaching Todd assessed our personal situation and helped us realize our goals were within reach now. We thought we needed to take five steps to get there, but instead we just focused and got it done. In less than six months we had our first major deal and we have a realistic plan to be financially free within two years or less. Todd’s coaching was invaluable, and best of all it never really cost us anything because just one tip he gave us on our last deal saved more than enough money to pay for all the coaching thus far.”- Eric and Jeni Kurowski; Owners, CCR Storage; Willis, TX

Finally, recognize that financial education is only as valuable as you make it. You must use the content by putting the lessons into practice in order to get the value out of what you learn. In short, you have to do the hard work because no education will produce results without your taking action.

Similarly, don’t become a seminar junkie or info-maniac who learns everything but does nothing. It is a waste of time and money. Action is where the rubber meets the road and converts valuable learning into profitable results. Financial coaching can help if this is one of your challenges.

Always remember there is no Holy Grail to building wealth. Anybody who claims otherwise is a deceptive marketer and should be avoided. The “secret” is there are no secrets. Most everything you need to know already exists and most of the best stuff that really works has been around for ages and is public domain knowledge. This leads to our seventh and final rule…

  • Rule 7: Establish your educational foundation by starting with low-cost books and free public domain content. For example, the Top 50 articles section of this site contains over 1,000 printed pages of free financial education. When you start with free first you learn the foundational material for the lowest cost and only pay for refinements to your education when they make good business sense. Don’t pay a premium for the basic stuff. Then as your profits and success grow you can afford to invest in additional education through more expensive specialty services because the return will be well worth the cost at that point. When you follow this formula of “free first for the basics followed by paying for refinements that help you implement the education” you will find that growing your financial literacy is a revenue producer rather than an expense.

Your best investment is in yourself. Financial education can be extremely valuable when purchased wisely and put into action. When you become a smart consumer of financial education you have taken an important step to retiring early and wealthy.

I hope this guide helps you get the best value for your educational dollar, and when you spread the word by telling others about this information you do your part to help clean up the financial education business.

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