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It All Adds Up

Adapted From It All Adds Up: Designing Your Game Plan for Financial Success by Devon Kennard

Improving your financial literacy is the first—and probably the most—important step to achieving the life you want. What you learn and how fast you learn it will determine how long it takes to get to where you want to go. Once you start making money, you need to know what you will do with it other than sticking it in a checking or savings account and letting it baste. Without the right financial know-how, your money will be gone in a heartbeat. Then you’ll be back to square one. Now is the time to create positive financial habits. It might be tough, but the payoff will be huge.

(Spoiler alert: Learning never ends. You will always be learning something new about your money as you get older.)

But Devon, my financial situation is hopeless.

Change how you think about your situation. In a podcast interview, Emmy and Grammy Award–winning actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish opened up about her early struggles in the foster care system. Once she aged out, she was homeless and living in her car while trying to break into the entertainment industry. It was fellow comedian Kevin Hart who helped her turn things around. He gave her a few hundred dollars and told her to get a place to stay for a week. Hart suggested the following to her: “Put your goals out in front of you so you know what they are.” She cried when she talked about how she didn’t have parents to teach her about money, but that didn’t stop her from learning on her own. Today, she is a multimillionaire and is working on giving back by opening up grocery stores in communities where they were lacking. She is also working on improving financial literacy so that no child has to go through what she went through, with no one to guide her.

It’s never too late to turn your circumstances around.

But Devon, I’m too busy.

Maybe you are busy working, caring for the kids or aging parents, but if you can tell me what’s going on with the latest episode of The Bachelor, something needs to change. If you’re sitting on the couch watching every MLB game or playing hours of Call of Duty with your friends, something needs to change. If you don’t know the difference between a will and a trust or what the different life insurance options are, something needs to change. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck and in a boatload of debt, you must find the time to change something, anything!

Don’t complain that your life isn’t going the way you want it to go if you’re not actually doing something about it. You can find the time to work on improving your financial health, but not if you’re spending every second of it doing something else. Financial literacy must be a priority no matter how busy you are.

Make it a priority to learn and grow so you have a positive relationship with money—even if you just learn a little at a time. Get up early and read books and magazines. Or listen to podcasts on a commute to work, while you’re jogging, or at night after the kids go to bed. Take free online courses or check with your local library for free financial programs they might offer.

But Devon, I will hire someone to handle this for me.

You need financial professionals on your team at some point— an accountant, certified financial planner, and attorney for starters. But like I said, “Nobody’s going to care about your money more than you!” I learned this lesson the hard way, which is why I never forgot it.

Once I started my third season with the New York Giants, I began investing in syndicated real estate deals (for example, residential, commercial, industrial, storage, hotels).

I thoroughly enjoy investing in syndications. As I write this, I am in more than thirty syndications. At one point, however, I had so much on my plate that I wasn’t paying attention to the numbers. I also bought more investment properties and had multiple stocks that I needed to keep an eye on, not to mention my football career.

Turns out I was taking on too much.

Although thankful to be making more money, I got so wrapped up in everything that I started straying away from my own financial habits. I had hired financial advisers just as I should have, but I depended on them and trusted them way too much. I wasn’t following up and occasionally eyeballing my numbers to see what was going on with my money. Big mistake! At one point, I couldn’t even name the investments I was in or tell you how they were performing. When I finally did look, two of them had been severely underperforming for almost six months. I hadn’t even noticed! At that point, I realized I had to rein in what I was doing and take back control.

From that point on, I made sure I fully understood every investment I was part of. I told my team to provide me with quarterly updates on my entire portfolio. Don’t give anyone else more knowledge and control of your money than you would have if doing it alone. Imagine how much money I would have lost if I had continued to be so negligent.

Stay on top of where your money is going, no matter how much money you have.

If you want financial independence, the barrier to entry is financial literacy, so take the time to learn about finances and make it a priority in your life! You can only do this by building habits into your life that makes it automatic. Decide on something you can do daily, weekly, and monthly that will help you improve your financial literacy.


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