For a guy with a national radio program, a cable TV show, online chat sessions, newspaper columns to write, newsletters to edit, books to promote and $900 million of investors's money to manage, Ric Edelman is a pretty easy person to get ahold of.
Actually, Edelman is a master of multitasking, the art of doing several things at once, as one can quickly tell from the frequent interruptions from bustling assistants and competing phone calls. It's only his self-imposed role as America's premier educator on the subject of money that makes him more accessible than most. Money is a simple concept to grasp, he believes, and the rules for making more of it are ones he is glad to share.
In an admirable example of deferred gratification, Edelman took a few moments away from making yet more money to talk with SBN.
You write in your new book, "The Truth About Money" [HarperCollins] that "Few subjects are as intimidating as money." Why is that so?
Two reasons. First, we receive no formal education about money. Think about it. In all your years of schooling, in how many did you have classes about money? Zero. And we tend to be scared and intimidated about things we don't understand. The lack of education helps bolster that.
The second reason I think is more psychological. I tend to spend a lot of time with the psychology of money, because we find that many of the decisions people make that are financially oriented often have to do with their own feelings of self worth, their culture, their upbringing.
We find that people are often intimidated about money because there is a misconception about what money is. Sometimes people feel bad about having money. Or they feel empowered to spend money. People often have a poor relationship with money and intimidation is often one of those feelings.
How would you advise people who feel intimidated by money to overcome that feeling?
It's remarkably easy. All you have to do is learn how money works, which is what my book is all about. Once you understand how it works-and it isn't hard to understand, you don't need a college degree to understand money, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure this out-the fundamental principles of money are really very simple. And once you understand them, you'll begin to realize how easy it is to achieve financial success, how easy it is to do the things that are helpful and beneficial as opposed to destructive. And much of the fear factor, the intimidation, will go away. Knowledge is power.
If you had $1 million you could invest in just one financial instrument for just one year, what would it be?
If you had $1 million you could invest for just five years?
A balanced mutual fund.
For 20 years?
A stock mutual fund.
If you could enact or repeal one federal law or regulation pertaining to money, what would it be?
I'd repeal the estate tax completely.
Have you ever been cheated on an investment deal?
No, I've never been defrauded. However, I've certainly made investments that have failed to do what I expected or hoped from them. If you perform proper due diligence when making the investment decision, you never will be defrauded.
If you were starting a new business right now, what would it be?
If we're excluding the financial services industry, I would build a business in information services.
Broadly speaking, there are two elements: hardware and software. Hardware could be computers, a radio or TV station, a highway. I prefer software. In other words, what are you going to put on the air on the radio show, what's the television programming? You can build a movie theater or you can make movies.
Again, knowledge is power. People will pay for information, they will pay for knowledge. That means I'd rather write a software program than manufacture a computer chip. I'd rather make a movie than buy a movie theater. I'd rather build a car than a highway.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten?
"If at first you don't succeed, try another way," from my father.
What's the title of the last book you finished reading?
"The Professor and the Madman." It's the story of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. It's really very fascinating. The professor was the senior editor of the book. The compilation took 70 years and he died before it was finished. Because they knew no one person could complete this, the OED editors sent an open letter to the English-speaking world, asking everyone who reads books to send words and context so the usage would be complete.
There was this Dr. Minor who sent them lots of entries and ended up being the most prolific, key contributor to the finished work. And Dr. Minor was in an insane asylum for murder the whole time. It's a fascinating story of this professor and the madman, and the relationship between them, and the contributions they made.
What is your favorite virtue in others?
What's the highest compliment you've ever been paid and by whom?
I gave a seminar in Chicago recently, and at the end, one of the participants came up to tell me he's just getting started trying to learn about money, and he's been listening to my radio show for quite a long time, and he's read both of my books, and wanted to come to the seminar. He said he just wanted to thank me for providing him information he could understand and teaching him how to make the changes he needs to make in his life for the benefit of his family. And he just wanted to thank me and ask me to keep on doing it. That's pretty humbling when someone says that to you.
What personal vice or habit would you most like to break or give up?
The need for eight hours of sleep. Actually, I try not to dwell on what my vices and habits are. I use bad language more than I should.
What's your guiltiest pleasure?
I'd say chocolate, but I don't feel guilty about it. Rather, it's doing something completely unproductive or nonproductive.
Complete this sentence: "I always thought I'd make a darn good...."
If your life were an episode of "The Jerry Springer Show," what would it be called?
"Who Do You Think You're Kidding?" I think the people who knew me years ago would be astounded at the level of success that the company has enjoyed so far. Maybe instead call it, "You've Got to be Kidding."
What living person do you most admire?
Name three people, living or dead, you'd most like to have home for dinner?
Moses, without question No. 1. Lots of questions I'd like to ask him. The others are lots of different toss-ups. By using Moses, I almost feel that Jesus is unnecessary, but that's not really fair. And Jesus has to be on the list, because he's Jesus, you know, he has to be on the list. They'd be redundant, I fear; it'd be like having both of George Bush's sons over.
I'd also do Thomas Edison and Thomas Jefferson. It's a toss-up between him and Galileo. I'll go with Jefferson.
If you had to choose, which would you rather be, rich or famous?
I'd rather be rich.