The Minimalist Guide To Financial Planning

The Only Two Steps You Need for Financial Success

Key Ideas

  1. Learn how to build wealth and have enough money to retire.
  2. Discover 6 reasons why people fail at financial planning.
  3. Why you need to stop relying on financial experts that only have investments to sell.

Believe it or not, financial planning is so simple it’s ludicrous.

Step 1 – How to Build Wealth:
Spend less than you earn and invest the savings wisely.

Rinse and repeat until step 2…

Step 2 – How to Have Enough to Retire:
Spend less than your investment income and invest the savings wisely.

That’s it. Seriously!

You will enjoy massive financial success if you just run your life from start to finish according to these two sentences. You don’t have to be a financial genius, and you don’t have to learn tons of technical mumbo jumbo. Anyone can do it.

Use this as your minimalist financial planning guide.

It’s so simple it’s a joke. Except for one minor, little detail…

Why So Few Succeed

The obvious question is, “If it’s so simple to achieve financial security, then how come almost nobody succeeds?”

I’m glad you asked. :-)

There are actually many reasons. I’ll start the conversation with a few obvious choices, then I’ll let you finish it by adding any ideas I overlooked in the comments below.

  1. Procrastination: Most people wait until tomorrow to start saving and building wealth. The problem is, eventually there aren’t enough tomorrows left to do the job.
  2. Lack of Discipline: Thomas Huxley said it best: “Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and however early a man’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.”
  3. Short-Term Perspective: The essence of spending less than you earn is delayed gratification. You must view your goals from a 20-30 year perspective so that saving isn’t a sacrifice. Instead, it’s remembering what you truly want (freedom and independence instead of more stuff), and acknowledging it daily with proper action.
  4. No Perspective: Some people simply don’t connect their daily spending habits to long-term implications. Retirement is so far in the future it equates to Neverland. They live unconsciously and spend, spend, spend until there is more month than money. They’re just not paying attention.
  5. Ignorance: They just don’t know any better.
  6. Can’t Invest Wisely: This is the only part of the equation that requires financial skill. It’s not complex. There are simple solutions that work. However, this is the one excuse that legitimately takes fortunes down when everything else is done correctly.

Two Things To Notice

There are two things you should notice from the above list.

  1. All the obstacles except for the the last item on the list (investment skill) are caused by your own mental blocks. More importantly, you have the power to overcome these obstacles since they’re inside you. In other words, anyone can build wealth if they just develop the essential personal skills. It’s not rocket science.
  2. Even though building wealth is a financial goal, notice how only 1 of the 6 causes listed above is financially related! I’m always amazed how achieving financial goals has very little to do with finance and everything to do with you.

As Steven Pressfield wisely wrote, “It may be that the human race is not ready for freedom. The air of liberty may be too rarified for us to breathe… The paradox seems to be, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.”

In other words, freedom is within you. You have the power to choose it (including financial freedom).

How the Financial Services Industry Has Failed

Most studies show 5% or less of working Americans retire with anything remotely close to financial security.

Applying the previous quote, it means 95% are governed by masters other than themselves.

The solution to the problem is simple. However, implementing the solution has proven elusive to the financial services industry because the cause has nothing to do with “financial”, and everything to do with human nature.

The problem is you’ve got a financial services industry trained to sell investment products when the only service most people need is accountability, support  and coaching to do the right thing.

The technical aspects of implementing a financial plan are beyond simple. Anyone who can fog a mirror can get adequate diversification at low cost using ETF’s or mutual funds.

You don’t need an “expert” to do the job. The prescription for a conventional, diversified portfolio is well-documented and requires no serious expertise. You can learn everything necessary to implement the investment side of the wealth building equation in a few hours or less.

People aren’t failing financially because of financial reasons, they’re failing for no other reason than they’re not doing what they know needs to be done.

The Conundrum

Think about it…

People are turning to financial experts for financial guidance. They want help in resolving their financial challenges.

The experts are selling them investment products as the solution.

Unfortunately, investment products are the easiest part of the equation. Nobody needs an expert for that. What they need is an expert for the more complicated, personal stuff that is truly keeping them from building wealth.

In other words, they need help building wealth in the first place, but what they get is a group of financial experts who are only in the business of managing the wealth they already built.

If you don’t believe this is true, just try getting the attention of a high quality financial planner when you have nothing to invest.

The person with nothing to invest needs the most help; yet, the financial planning profession isn’t designed to serve that person. They’re in the business of selling investment products.

Do you see the confusion?

The primary obstacles to wealth are not financially caused. People seek expert guidance. The experts sell them financial solutions.

It’s a mess. It doesn’t work.

That’s why I got in the money coaching business. People need personal solutions, not investment solutions.

As I said in the opening, the financial planning part is simple – spend less than you earn and invest the savings wisely. The problem isn’t in knowing what to do, the problem is getting it done.

It’s time people got the help they really need.

What do you think? Do you see the conundrum? What pieces to the equation did I miss? Please add your thoughts in the comments below…

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Bravo, Todd!Thanks for stressing the importance of personal skills in financial success. We can sell our clients the best products in the world but if they are not ready to use them properly, all the value can be lost.Every financial services firm should have a coach in residence to help clients grow personally.

Richard WM
Richard WM

A couple of very "simple tools" which may help...

1) Pay yourself first by depositing a check into savings before you pay your bills. It just seems that when we try saving something after the bills are paid, there's little or nothing left over to save!


2)  If your company has a Deferred Compensation retirement plan, you can set aside a percentage for deposit into your retirement account. Try to increase the percentage of your contribution as your rate of pay increases.

The 'pay yourself first' savings method requires a little more discipline than the 'automatic deposit' approach. Also, either method may help turn a 'spender' into a 'saver'.


I think building wealth is more habitual than mental. Like you said, you don't need much knowledge. Discipline is more important.

I considered becoming a financial planner, but agree with you that a lot of them are in the business to sell products more than truly help people build wealth.

Joe Stanfield
Joe Stanfield

Todd- In your "coaching" experience how have you dealt with the husband/wife scenario- spender/saver dilemma. Do you believe the spender/saver mentality is a learned behavior or a deeper issue going on there, (maybe personality driven).or simply how people deal with money. What drives one or the other?

thanks for your insight!

Sheila Mayega
Sheila Mayega

Todd, Thank you for adding value to my life.
It is amazing how simple it is to have a healthy financial life.
One might say it is as simple as ABC.Thanks again for hekping me break the limiting beliefs I had.


Great post Todd. Your explanation is so simple and takes the mystery out of the whole process of financial freedom in retirement. These days, spending less than what you take in is a challenge and I would very much like to have a surplus at the end of the month. Then again, I am working on that.

Larry Weber
Larry Weber


This article is a home run. Wealth creation for the most part is a simple process. Finding your way through all the financial fog created by the Wall Street types and changing ourselves is the most difficult part of the financial success equation.

Jeni K
Jeni K

Todd, This is the best article yet! It really is that simple, and those roadblocks are the true roadblocks! Plain and simple, and anybody can follow it.

Garry Davis
Garry Davis

Thanks for keeping it simple for all of us. Something I have learned lately is that "simple" and "easy" are not the same thing. So many of us are looking for an easy solution to the financial issues we all face, much as we do with our health. We go see a doctor, and he or she could tell us to eat better, exercise more, get more sleep, and generally change lifestyle and our health and quality of life will improve. But that's too hard for most of us, so they give us a pill instead.
Just like burning more calories than we take in is simple, and we all know it, so few of us do it. It's the same with our financial lives. We're looking for a pill to solve our financial woes (financial planners, get rich quick schemes, hot stock tips). But pills often have serious side effects and rarely solve underlying problems. Just like we all know we need to exercise more and eat better, we also all know that we need to spend less than we make and invest the difference wisely. We just need to do it!
For the readers: my wife and I have been working with Todd over the past few months, and I can tell you that he is the kind of financial health care professional that sugar coats nothing, challenges everything, and forces his clients to face reality and get serious about making better choices for financial health. He does not offer pills or quick fixes. No get rich quick schemes here, because there is no such thing. What he provides is hard but effective real world education based in experience and reality - life and mind-set changing stuff.
I have to admit that when we started working together, I had a lot of resistance to what he was teaching us. It was not easy to face my true financial self, warts, bulges and all, to really see who I was financially. I have started to come around as Todd has helped me face reality and open my eyes. It's been an emotional and very difficult experience for me, but as we start to head in the right direction, life is starting to become exciting rather than just drudgery in so many ways. And at the end of the day, having an exciting life should be the goal of financial freedom anyway, I think.
Todd did not ask me for this endorsement and I am not being compensated for it in any way. This is the real deal. If you have been thinking about getting some financial education or coaching, I cannot imagine a more effective option than Todd. I highly recommend you give him a chance to show you what he has shown me.
Thanks, Todd.


Mutual funds issued by banks are way to big. Why can't you get a mutual fund that's limited in scope and contains only ten to twenty firms so you cam eliminate losers.

Jeanna Gabellini
Jeanna Gabellini

Maybe you should call yourself the locksmith of financial mental blocks. ;-) Nobody else is addressing the complete package of financial wealth like you, Todd. Can't WAIT for you to roll out some coaching programs. W00T!

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Darren - Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

I want to clarify that I'm NOT stating the financial planning profession is not about helping people. There are wonderful financial planners with hearts of gold who truly care.

Instead, what I'm stating is the nature of the business model is about investment product sales as the solution to financial prosperity... when it is not.

In other words, it is not a criticism of the people who are doing there best to work within a difficult structure. It is a criticism of the nature of the business model and how it conflicts with what people really need to improve their financial situations.

Hope that clarifies.

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Joe - The short answer is "yes", I have dealt successfully with that issue. Unfortunately, I can't give you a simple answer about how to do it in this comment because the issues are complex. It depends on the goals and values of each individual along with many other factors. The bottom line is the dichotomy can be resolved if both husband and wife are committed, but both parties have to be really committed to resolving the issue. It can't be driven by one spouse or it just creates additional division.

Hope that helps...

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@ Sheila - You are welcome... and thank you for taking the time to tell me how the article impacted you. Much appreciated.

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Leigh - Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Larry - Thank you, Larry. I appreciate your participation in this community. It is always good to hear from you.

I also like how you added the component of sorting through all the financial hype and nonsense out there as another obstacle to building wealth. I didn't put that on the list in the article and it is a valuable, required addition.

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Jeni - Thank you for your feedback... and it is great to hear from you again.

I hope you are doing well.

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Garry - Wow! Thank you!

Yes, that was unsolicited... and deeply appreciated.

It is feedback like what you shared that motivates me to continue to develop this business.

You made my day. Thank you.

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Edward - Your question reminds me of the famous Will Rogers quote...

"Don't gamble; take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don't go up, don't buy it."

I wish it were that easy. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.

You can find ETF's and mutual funds that are more "focused" and less diversified, but you cannot eliminate losers.

It is just part of the game.

Hope that helps...

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@ Jeanna - Thanks! I totally appreciate your support and enthusiasm.