An interview with CNBC Financial Editor Jeff Cox, co-author of "The 30-Minute Millionaire."
“One million dollars” has long been the benchmark of financial success. Getting to that first million is the tricky bit. The title of a new book, “The 30-Minute Millionaire” suggests a short-term, get-rich-quick fantasy. Far from it; the book’s subtitle is the reality check: “The Smart Way to Achieve Financial Freedom.” And that way involves planning, discipline, and a judicious allotment of time spent on your investments. That’s where the 30-minutes come in. A half hour is how long the book’s authors, CNBC Finance Editor Jeff Cox and Peter Tanous, who previously collaborated on “Debt, Deficits, and the Demise of the American Economy,” believe that investors should spend weekly on their investments while “adopting a relatively simple investment strategy that will see you through for years to come.”
“We’re not trying to sell people snake oil, quite the opposite,” Cox said in a phone interview with Millionaire Corner. “We want to get people to think about the long-term picture and get away from the idea that you can get rich quick. Even though there are so many stories nowadays--you come up with a great idea for an app and, boom, you sell it to Facebook and you’re an instant millionaire-- for most of us that’s just not the path. We’re looking for responsible ways to build for the future. The book is a blueprint for that. And it’s really a timely message because the market is about to undergo some pretty significant changes.”
The book is written in an accessible, reader-friendly style.The core audience, Cox states, “is somebody who’s got a little bit of dry powder they’re willing to put to work, who is modestly financially literate and not someone who buries their nose in the Journal every day; someone looking for a plain language guide (to building a lucrative nest egg)."
"The 30-Minute Millionaire” opens with six basic investing rules that are fleshed throughout the book:
· Successful investing works best over the long term
· Asset allocation is really important
· Don’t buy stocks (let a professional do it for you)
· Own (some) commodities
· Reconsider bonds
· Understand risk
At one point in the book, Cox and Tanous quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, who observed, “There are many things of which a wise man might wish to remain ignorant.” In the case of the modern-day investor, Cox suggests, one of those things is the indiscriminate glut of information bombarding consumers of financial media in print, on television and on the Internet. “There is so much temptation to follow every piece of information,” Cox observes. “That’s what we’re trying to discourage. The book is intended in part to be a cautionary flag for those who are invested to get out of the short-term mindset and out of this temptation to react to all the things that come in over the transom and to build for a longer-term future.”
Which is not to say investors should avoid opportunities to improve their financial knowledge. Cox also sees the book as a primer for those wanting to get into investing. “We don’t want to get too heavy," Cox reassures. "There are a couple of chapters where we tell the reader if they are not really interested in monetary policy to skip to the next chapter.”
Investors whose portfolios reach the million dollar stage are referred to the chapter, “Do I Need an Advisor?” The authors address the “fiduciary standard” and the “suitability standard,” explain the desired designations of Chartered Financial Analyst and Certified Financial Planner, and discuss pricing formulas for investment services such as asset-based pricing and hourly pressing. Those who choose to work with a financial advisor should “make sure your decision matches your personality, history, and financial needs,” the authors write.
One million dollars is an enduring benchmark of the American Dream, Cox observes. “So much of life is based on confidence. That level of $1 million makes you feel like you made your place in the world.”
One achieves that benchmark with planning and with discipline, Cox emphasizes. “You have to know what your goals are and come up with a plan and stick to that plan. We prescribe in the book how much of your income you should be putting aside towards your investments. That’s not easy; there are so many temptations that can pull you in the wrong direction. We talk about panic—‘My portfolio is down 10 percent, I should start selling or changing my allocation.’ The other side of that equation is what happens when you’re up 10-15 percent and you think, ‘I’m doing really well, maybe I’ll go out and buy that boat. There’s discipline needed on that side, too. We don’t want investors to get too cocky about their gains just as we don’t want them to start panicking about their losses.”
“The 30-Minute Millionaire” packs a lot of information in its 166 pages. When asked what chapters Cox feels are the most significant, he replies, “The ‘Fear the Fed’ chapter. I so want people to understand the Fed, it’s so important to get. And while it’s not the sexiest subject in the world, the chapter about Exchange Traded Funds is really important, as that is the direction investing is heading. And Peter does a really good job of laying out the information in Chapter One, “Investing: What Works, and What Doesn’t.”
The key message Cox hopes readers take away from the book is an empowering one: “It’s never too late to start investing,” he proclaims. “We’re not asking people to leap over all buildings. This is a workable, doable plan. Don’t be intimidated by investing. You can do this.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.