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Elementality Podcast

An Advisor’s Role as Teacher With Mike Johnson

The role of teacher hasn’t changed much over time. Teachers help learners master new concepts—something every advisor needs to do as well. Taking something that is complicated and making it appear simple is in many ways the essence of great teaching. And an advisor who teaches their clients well witnesses first hand the results of their efforts—that “aha moment” in a client’s eyes.

On this Elementality, Carl and Mike Johnson, of Teacher Wealth, explore why “teaching” is integral to inspiring positive change. As an advisor, you want to motivate people to gain more control over their financial lives. Learn how better understanding your role as a teacher helps you reach that goal.

Show Notes
TeacherWealth.com

 


Podcast Transcript

Mike Johnson:
I never thought of myself as a great great teacher but I always led with passion meaning they were taking economics class which maybe didn’t have a good… Oh, economics. They maybe heard some bad stories from their parents or whatever but I wanted them to understand that this is, especially the personal finance part, this is relevant unlike their math class or at least from their perspective or their English class from their perspective, they will be using this stuff. And then when I was helping adults having the same kind of conversations even like, “Hey, here’s a Roth IRA versus a traditional IRA.” Students know it’s important but they’re still students and when you talk to an adult and they’re like, “Oh I’ve never… I’ve always heard of those terms, I’ve never understood it.” I found that maybe my teaching skills makes things simpler for an adult too.

Jordan Haines:
Hey Elementality listeners, it’s Jordan Haynes. As more advisors implement elements into their financial planning service models, we decided to interview a few of them to see what challenges have come up plus what successes they’ve enjoyed while using elements. We believe learning from other advisors will help you see how elements can revolutionize planning for you. Enjoy.

Carl Richards:
Greetings. I’m Carl Richards and welcome to the Elementality podcast. Super excited to be here today with Mike Johnson. Mike, welcome to the podcast.

Mike Johnson:
Thank you, it’s good to be here.

Carl Richards:
Yeah. Let’s do this, let’s back… I would love to start at the beginning, maybe origin story style. Tell me why did you get into this profession of giving financial advice for a living?

Mike Johnson:
Yeah, I guess I could start back, I read a book and it was about financial… Personal finance back in college or I guess right after college and which kind of changed my view, oh I have control over this and learned a lot and oh, I have a lot of interest and so I had this in my mind that maybe I’d want to help some people with money but I was working to be… I went to college to be a teacher. I ended up getting a teaching job, taught social studies, I ended up being the economics teacher. By that time I had read a ton of personal finance books and so yeah. Before it was kind of mandated and cool to do, I put a lot of financial literacy and personal finance in my class and grew a passion of just helping young people, mostly seniors in high school learn about finances and how to be successful, what to do, what not to do and that became a big passion of mine. And then I found the CFP program and then I… Well, maybe I want to help adults and so then I… After I became a CFP or at least took the test, I had no credit yet but after I got all that coursework stuff done, then it was, what do I do now? And I found a local advisor who was willing to take me on part-time.

Mike Johnson:
I did that for about three and a half years while I was working full-time teaching. Then I left and went and got with him full-time. I reluctantly left teaching, I wasn’t a teacher who really wanted to get out but… Because like I said, I had this passion of helping young adults and… But I had two passions now and they were kind of each of them was getting in the way of the others I would argue. When you look at, I got a wife and four kids and want to be around for them and so yeah, that’s kind of… I’m a teacher at heart and so it came to just wanting to help people and help people on the path of less anxiety and more control over their lives and money touches all that.

Carl Richards:
Yeah it’s… Tell me, you used the word passion a couple of times. Why were you so passionate about teaching people about how to have less anxiety around money, why so much passion?

Mike Johnson:
Well, I just… Ultimately I want to make a difference and I saw how getting that stuff under control in my life is great and can have lasting impact. I saw it in my students and I saw it in just helping people get control. Yeah. I never thought of myself as a great great teacher but I always led with passion, meaning they were taking my economics class which maybe didn’t have a good… Oh, economics. They maybe heard some bad stories from their parents or whatever but I wanted them to understand that this is, especially the personal finance part, this is relevant unlike their math class or at least from their perspective or their English class from their perspective, they will be using this stuff.

Mike Johnson:
And then when I was helping adults having the same kind of conversations even like, “Hey, here is a Roth IRA versus a traditional IRA.” Students know it’s important but they’re still students and when you talk to an adult and they’re like, “Oh, I’ve never… I’ve always heard those terms, I’ve never understood it.” I found that maybe my teaching skills makes things simpler for the adults who in this world of crazy, complicated, at least from their perspective, finance.

Carl Richards:
You mentioned earlier, you said that you had seen in your own life how getting these things under control, what a difference it made. Tell me a little bit about that, what did you see in your own life can you tell… Share a story maybe just a little bit of background or experience about money in your own life.

Mike Johnson:
Just the idea of becoming a saver and and being an investor and at a young age putting money away instead of spending it, we became no debt people. We weren’t going to do credit cards. I saw when we got married we did a lot of… Like a lot of people, pre-marriage prep and we got a book together about our finances and about a marriage and we talked about those things multiple times leading into our marriage and we saw that we didn’t have as many issues…

Carl Richards:
Wait, this is… Wait, you talked about money before you got married? This is crazy Mike, is that allowed? I didn’t know that was allowed.

Mike Johnson:
It is, it is, it’s a… Yeah it’s ideal actually. And we’re two different people, I love talking about money every day and my wife doesn’t and so there’s clearly differences but we knew each other’s… Where we came from, our histories and our families’ histories with money. So we at least we kind of knew where we were coming from so when there’s a conflict, you come together and yeah maybe you have a different conversation because you’re not reacting to the thing because you know maybe why those behaviors that are happening, she knows why I have certain opinions or have tendencies to do things.

Carl Richards:
Yeah, yeah amazing. Tell me a little bit about who your work is for now, who’s your work for now?

Mike Johnson:
So, yeah I serve teachers in Iowa and so two years ago I left that firm that I… That was… Graciously to find a way to get into the business so to speak, great mentors but I really wanted to serve just average teachers like myself. I felt like that’s not what most really good financial planners do because it takes time and there’s the… How do you serve with making money type thing, but it’s a very underserved market so the people serving teachers maybe are more commissioned type advisors. They’re not doing full financial planning but they need help just like everybody else, if not more.

Carl Richards:
Yeah. So teachers, is it… Teachers maybe high school, elementary, university is there a specific group of teachers?

Mike Johnson:
Pretty much K-12 and I don’t really get into the professors or anything, but yeah K-12 yeah. Public school mostly but I have some clients that are private school teachers as well.

Carl Richards:
Yeah, before I move on to ask more questions, I wanted to just mention a word that you keep… I want to ask you about a word you keep using, so you keep using a word ‘serve’ and that feels intentional to me, tell me about this use of this word ‘serve’, “I serve teachers, I want to serve more people,” tell me about the use of that word.

Mike Johnson:
To me, that’s what both a teacher does and also a financial planner does, they serve their client’s needs. There’s a lot of things that that can fall under the umbrella of but ultimately it’s not my financial plan, it’s their financial plan or not their… It’s not my financial planning, it’s their financial planning the way I’d like to say it but, yeah.

[overlapping conversation]

Carl Richards:
I just want to highlight that’s… When you think of Wall Street, when you think of money, when you think of investing, you don’t typically think of people walking around using the word serve and I notice this a lot with really good financial planners is that they got into this, there’s a service-oriented mindset of how can I help, how can I serve more people? Not, how can I sell more product but how can I serve more people and I was curious about how that… How did that develop for you? Is that just always the word you’ve used?

Mike Johnson:
Maybe, I don’t know. I never came from… Like a lot of people, I didn’t come from the product sales world, I came from the teacher world and so I think a lot of younger advisors when they’re learning the craft however they get there, they’re coming at it from the right motives versus throwing in models that were… Business models that were… They might be throwing in a business model but they struggle with that. I never really had to worry about that I was a teacher, I… The aha moment was important to me, getting people to understand and do and succeed. So it’s kind of the same thing just with adults about specifically money.

Jordan Haines:
Hey Elementality listeners, it’s Jordan. The Elements Financial Monitoring System is revolutionizing how you attract, onboard, and deliver ongoing advice to clients so you can scale your business far beyond traditional limits. If you want to profitably help more people make smart financial decisions, head over to getelements.com/demo and schedule a time to see it in action today.

[music]

Carl Richards:
Yeah, so good. So let’s circle back to teachers for a minute. You serve teachers. What do you find unique about teachers and their relationship with money?

Mike Johnson:
About how I serve them or just them in general?

Carl Richards:
No, them. What have you noticed in working with teachers? What have you noticed that’s unique about the way they approach money, the way they think about money?

Mike Johnson:
Gotcha. Well, they have a little… Public school teachers are a little different, they all have… Most of my clients have pensions and so I think… So they have this kind of backstop and they might not even know about it, right? So there’s a wealth… They probably are more wealthy than they think they are assuming they’re a public school teacher. I think a lot of teachers are always in the position as a teacher to be the expert. And so it’s very hard for them to be vulnerable and admit that they don’t understand a topic and so when they come to a topic like money and their finances and they don’t feel they’re doing well, there’s a lot of hiding, trying not to… Just try not to show that I’m not very good from their eyes. They’re not confident and these are generalities of course.

Mike Johnson:
Those that are maybe more confident they tackle it like a teacher, they do a lot of reading, they do a lot of study, they read books and those tend to be more confident but the majority don’t have time or basically time to do that even if they wanted to and so yeah they’re maybe a little harder to be vulnerable. And I would say that… Again, generalizing here again, they’re price conscious which from… If I’m trying to get fees to run a business and to feed my family you’ve got to structure your business in a certain way and so that can be a challenge.

Carl Richards:
Yeah.

Mike Johnson:
A lot of them don’t have assets so if you’re trying to run a financial planning firm that’s AUM that’s maybe more difficult than another type of client base. I think that’s one reason why they are neglected as well. So these are just challenges but I guess I’ve tried to figure out how to solve those problems.

Carl Richards:
Yeah. Maybe is there an example or an experience you’ve had recently that could help me understand, what does your work do for the people that you serve?

Mike Johnson:
Well, I think the first thing is just to make sure that they understand where they’re at, ultimately there’s this chaos that they see their finances in generally. The typical person, the typical teacher, probably not just teachers but the typical person is like, “I don’t know, what… Am I doing okay? I’m saving some or maybe not. I know I’m not doing the greatest,” to put that in context, to do that I think with visuals helps. So I’ve always tried to… The sketch guy here, I think that’s a good example. That’s making things understandable in a quick sketch or some way is very powerful and so that’s what I try to do first and then it’s like, okay, well here’s what we need to… What do we need to do about it?

Mike Johnson:
Whatever it is, most of the time the meeting ends with, yeah I just feel much better, because they know more, they understand more and they’ve talked things out and whether it’s good or bad their situation financially speaking, objectively they’re… They probably feel better just understanding than go in there and getting some help.

Carl Richards:
Yeah I love that, I love a couple of things, one is just understanding where they’re at and you use the word chaos. It’s so true we. We all, all of us it’s the… Just getting clear about where you actually are, it seems that’s… It sounds almost silly to say out loud but it’s really true the value and benefit of just understanding where I am actually and it’s harder than it sounds because every time you touch anything related to money, it’s complicated. If you tried getting a mortgage, it’s like everything you touch is complicated and then the other thing that you mentioned that I love is, am I doing okay? It seems to be the question, am I okay?

Mike Johnson:
Agreed.

Carl Richards:
Am I okay? And then making things that might feel a little complex a little simpler and creating that space for those conversations, super, super valuable. Can you think of a story, an interaction with clients recently, a conversation that you had that stuck out in your mind around any of those topics?

Mike Johnson:
Just yesterday I guess where I was… What I’ve been doing is emailing my clients just their savings rates score and saying here’s where it is and I’d love to talk to you about it. And so I’ve had some conversations just recently about that and it’s one part of their finances but it’s an important part and we want to make sure that they’re on the right track when it comes to that. And then that leads into other questions and other discussions and so I guess that is what comes to mind.

Carl Richards:
Yeah. Yeah, it’s interesting. Savings rate is just a really fundamental… I was going to use the word basic, I don’t mean it that way, a fundamental concept of just how much money of your income, how much are you saving? Just the confidence that comes with getting a handle around that is super valuable.

Mike Johnson:
Yeah, I guess the other thing that comes to mind, I’ve been spending all my time the last two months talking about student loans with teachers and the public service loan forgiveness and the PSLF waiver and it’s shocking to me how… I guess it’s not shocking to me but it’s disappointing to me how so many people can be helped by that and there was this deadline and I even made a… Had a presentation in a school, a few presentations back to back to back then the day of the waiver ending and a lot of the people sitting out there could take advantage of it and they had no idea what I was talking about. And so people were scrambling and scrambling about what do I need to do, right at the last minute and so it’s things like that that when I focus on teachers, it’s just, you are… There are certain things you need to understand.

Carl Richards:
Yeah. Yeah and again, you can just hear that whole service model come out too, trying to help people get to a better spot. Well, let’s end with this, here is what I’m curious about, Mike, is if we were looking back, let’s pretend it’s three years from today and you’re looking back and you’re happy, you’re satisfied with the impact that you’ve had, what would have had to have happened for you to be happy about that past three years?

Mike Johnson:
So looking back from three years…

Carl Richards:
Yeah. Pretend we are three years from today, what do you hope happens over the next three years in terms of the impact you’ve made?

Mike Johnson:
Yeah, so I would say that word impact is the key. I, at this point could change, I want to stay a solo advisor. I have a pretty much full client base so I can’t add too many more comprehensive financial planning clients and so I don’t want to just help 50 or 60 families and… I look back at teaching, I was helping 300 kids every year and then they’d graduate and then a new 300 would come in. Those are silly things to compare those numbers. It’s not apples to apples but there’s something about that, I just want to have more impact and so yes, it’s that and so I’ve been trying to put things into place how can I help more teachers and so that’s where doing hourly financial planning comes in. That’s where I’m just about to launch a membership site for teachers. So that’s hopefully going to go well and I’ll have… Three years from now have lots of people under that and touching a lot more teachers in Iowa.

Carl Richards:
It’s so good, so good. Well, Mike thanks for chatting with us. I’m looking forward to looking back with you three years from now at that impact. So thank you for taking the time today.

Mike Johnson:
Great, thanks. Good to be here.

Carl Richards:
Yeah. Cheers Mike.

Jordan Haines:
Next time on Elementality.

Reese Harper:
We shouldn’t be saying things like, let’s save up for a rainy day. We should be saying, a rainy day is this and save up means this. Are you below or above that benchmark or at it and then we should be not okay with being below a minimum level of what we define as rainy day and then we should manage to that benchmark as opposed to just being like, yeah. I don’t know, we told them. We said save up for rainy day. We said it was raining, right?

Abby Morton:
You can learn more about the Elements Financial Monitoring System at getelements.com/demo and schedule a time to talk with one of our friendly financial planning experts. Elementality’s executive creators are Reese Harper and Carl Richards. Elementality is produced by Abby Morton and directed by Jordan Haynes. Have a good one.

 

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