Blog: James Studinger

James Studinger is the owner of the JPStudinger Group, a wealth-management company. James was an instrumental advisor on Michigan's new 529 College Savings Plan and is the author of Wealth Is a Choice. James will be writing about building wealth through and outside business in Michigan's tough economy.

James Studinger - Post 1: Write What You Know

I recently wrote Wealth Is a Choice, a book designed to help give people the "secrets" of what I believe it takes to become wealthy. Yesterday I received an email from a local Michigander that asked, "Is your subtitle But Poverty Is Thrust Upon You?"

It certainly feels that way around here these days.  

There is no question that in today, in our state’s and even our global economy there is much to fear. Yet tomorrow will come and there will be those who lead, prosper and help take us into that new world. To paraphrase one of my favorite Robert Deniro movies, Ronin, "You are either part of the solution, part of the problem, or just the landscape."  

A number of years ago I realized that the financial services industry needs to be improved, and there is much that people need to understand.  

We are an industrious society, but we don’t make enough great decisions with our money. Case in point, back in 2003 Michigan residents were given a gift - a fifty year historically low fixed mortgage interest rates. We should be basking in the comfort of having secured our humble abodes. Instead, fast forward just 5 years later and we are in a world wide mortgage and financial crisis. There are many places to point the finger: the consumer, the broker, the lender, the investor and the government. Each has their role. 

Writing was my solution 

So I began writing about the principles of money, as if I were leaving advice behind to my own children. I shared the experiences I’ve had in the industry and realized that my beliefs are direct answers to many of the questions I’ve heard from clients and others every day for years. After many late night writing sessions, an exhaustive learning curve of the book industry (which I found Michigan is a hotbed for world class printers), and much editing, finally Wealth Is a Choice was published and stands as my modest solution to today’s financial problems, improving my industry and my business at the same time. 

We’re all looking for ways to improve our business and stand out (positively) in Michigan and this troubling economy.

Here’s one, write.

Writing about your business/job has multiple positive affects, and here’s why - if you really want to understand something, then teach it. For all of us, whether we’re business owners or employees, there are a couple of things that help drive success. Be very good at your trade, and let others know about it. No matter how good or natural you believe you are in what you do, when you sit down and spend days crafting the specifics, you get better. It’s not required that you end up with a 300 page book; it might be that you dust off and rewrite your business plan or work goals.  

Know that values determine decisions.

I liken this to shooting a bow and arrow. There are three important points that when in unison yield a successful shot - the target, my angle of the bow, and my anchor point (values). I need the target in order to know what angle to hold the bow. I need to hold the proper angle in order for my arrow to reach the target. And I need a strong anchor point to ensure that I’ll have consistency in my shots.  

I’ll keep with personal finances for a real life example. For as diligent as we are with careers, it’s puzzling that we’re ineffectual when establishing more personal goals such as how much money to have saved for retirement, college or other aspirations. That’s the target. If we do not identify where it is we are headed, then how is it possible to evaluate the quality of the strategies we’re using to get there? How do we evaluate the real cost of buying a house? How much money to budget toward savings? Which car to buy? What investments to use? Should we have life insurance? Should we have a trust, or is a will sufficient? Should we take the buyout? If we take the buyout, what do we do with it? We need to lift our heads above the dust swirling from the battle of trying to move in any direction, and make sure we are actually headed in the correct direction. 

For the days that follow

Throughout the rest of this week I’ll write about some of the other principles I've established in my book, for my clients and in my own life. These principles are solid in any environment, but when we are facing such dire circumstances here in Michigan, it’s more important than ever to be on top of your game.

Many employees in Southeast Michigan are facing layoffs and talking about self employment. I'll talk about building wealth through business, and to also how to build wealth outside of business. And, in recognizing the pain of the local economy, I’ll share with you steps you can take to help improve cash flow. 

I hope you enjoy, and please send me your thoughts, personal stories and ideas! I’m looking forward to our dialogue.