The Psychology of Money: CPA and Radio Host Alan Olsen – Lessons From Top Business Leaders

Episode: 197
Guest: Alan Olsen
Originally Aired: July 5, 2017

The Lange Money Hour - Where Smart Money Talks

The Lange Money Hour: Where Smart Money Talks
James Lange, CPA/Attorney
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TOPICS COVERED:

  1. Introduction of Alan Olsen
  2. Money Is Simply a Tool to Accomplish Your Goals
  3. Two Mindsets: The Spenders and the Savers
  4. What You Give Away Comes Back in Other Ways
  5. Giving to a Charity Creates a Relationship
  6. Universal Giving Is Like a Crowdfunding for Charity
  7. Rotary and Boy Scouts Put Service before Self
  8. True Leaders Connect With Others on a Spiritual Level
  9. Real Leaders Driven by Their Power to Create Solutions
  10. Passion Is More Important Than Business Smarts

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Welcome to The Lange Money Hour: Where Smart Money Talks with expert advice from Jim Lange, Pittsburgh-based CPA, attorney, and retirement and estate planning expert. Jim is also the author of Retire Secure! Pay Taxes Later. To find out more about his book, his practice, Lange Financial Group, and how to secure Jim as a speaker for your next event, visit his website at paytaxeslater.com. Now get ready to talk smart money.


1. Introduction of Alan Olsen

Dan Weinberg: And welcome to The Lange Money Hour. I’m Dan Weinberg, alongside CPA and Attorney Jim Lange, and this week, we welcome CPA Alan Olsen to the show. Alan is managing partner at Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen & Co., or GROCO, and is a respected leader in the accounting field. Alan’s CPA firm resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and serves some of the most influential venture capitalists in the world. GROCO’s core competency is advising high net-worth individual clients in tax and financial strategies. In October 2008, his firm was recognized as one of the Top 25 Best Managed CPA firms in the nation by INSIDE Public Accounting. Alan is a current member of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, the goal of which is to improve long-term economic policy. He also — and this is important for tonight’s program — hosts his own radio show, called American Dreams, where he’s interviewed many of the top names in business, and over the next hour, Jim and Alan will talk about some of the lessons that Alan has learned from interviewing many of those best and brightest entrepreneurs and business leaders. So it should be a great hour, and let’s get right to it by welcoming Jim Lange and Alan Olsen.

Alan Olsen: Thanks, Jim. Good to be here.

Jim Lange: So, Alan is a member of a group called the Strategic Coach, which I also belong to, and we were talking at lunch one day and I learned that he has this fabulous radio show where he himself is the host. So, we’re going to switch roles. Instead of him interviewing other people, I’m going to interview him. He himself is a big-time CPA with a consulting practice, and he also has interviewed really some of the top business owners in the country, as well as a lot of other people of interest that I thought would be very interesting to pick his brain and learn some of the lessons that he has picked up over the years. I know that’s one of the great things about doing the show for me is that I get some of the top people in the country and I learn a lot. But Alan, one of the things that I’m very interested in, and you did a show with Megan Lathrop called “The Psychology of Money.” Can you tell our listeners a little bit about what you have learned from Megan, and then also your own opinion on, let’s call it, the broad topic of the psychology of money?

 


2. Money Is Simply a Tool to Accomplish Your Goals

Alan Olsen: Well, I think Megan’s very unique. In fact, at the time that we met, she had come in, and she’s a financial advisor, and basically, we work with a lot of different financial advisors. So she kind of stood out in terms of her ability to reach out and to connect with people, and when it comes down to working with money, oftentimes, everyone has their own view and their opinion of what money means to them, and I think one of the unique things that Megan’s able to do is to bring it out and say, “How are you going to use what you have, the resources, and apply it towards enabling you to come back and reach your goals?” She’s fairly young in her career, but she’s done a fabulous job of being able to help her clients and enable them to use the money for the things that they consider to be important. She uses the word that each of us has unconscious feeling about money which, at times, can prevent us from accomplishing what we want to do in life, and Megan basically calls herself a “finanseer,” the old fortune-teller thing. She tries to help the individuals have a vision about what it is that they want to have, and I tend to agree with the fact that as we all go through life, we only get one shot at each age. We’re 20, we’re 30, we’re 40, we’re 50, and so we’re all in this time continuum, and so the person that says, “I’m going to just save for my retirement when I’m 65 years old,” and they’re, like, 20, 30, 40, I mean, that’s like 25 years of life ahead of them, and then you get to be 65 and all those years that you saved for are gone. So, it’s all about living life and making sure that you do the things that you want to do and how money can enable you to reach your goals in the lifestyle that you set.

Jim Lange: Well, it’s interesting that you say that, Alan, because one of the things that I have noticed in my practice, and I tend to attract people who are probably in their 60s and older, is that a lot of people come with what I’ll call the “Depression-era mentality,” and they really don’t even know how much they could afford to spend, and one of the things that we like to do, and our big thing —by the way, I think I would agree with Megan, everybody is a snowflake. There is no group that you can lump people into and do a really good job, but we like to run the numbers and show people what they can afford to do, and then I listen very closely if somebody’s talking about vacations, or my big thing is funding family vacations, but I have noticed that a lot of people significantly underspend what they could afford to, even using conservative safe withdrawal rates, and I do think that that’s one of the goals that somebody should have by going to a financial advisor to actually find out what their options are, and I don’t know if this is the kind of thinking that Megan does, and I know you’re really more in the CPA business than in the financial business. On the other hand, frankly, I suspect that you bring a lot of psychology to your practice also.

 


3. Two Mindsets: The Spenders and the Savers

Alan Olsen: Well, yeah, psychology coming in there, you know, there’s two mind-sets in life, typically, for individuals. One is that you have the spenders and you have the savers, and interestingly enough, the spenders will often want what they have in front of them. They want to do the vacations. They want to drive the cars. They want to live in the right neighborhoods. And then, the flipside is the savers are always worried about, “Well, what if something catastrophic happens?” And they tend to save and they hold onto all of those pennies, and is one right over the other? No, but I would say this: I’d say that, from a lifestyle standpoint, there’s a saying, “Do I have enough for my needs?” And in the world of financial planning, we deal with, in addition to the radio show, we have around 1,400 to 1,500 relationships that we deal with, and every single relationship has their own unique financial goals and plans, and I come down to this: When we’re living life, make sure that you get to do the things that you really want to do. Don’t make it about the money, but make it about the experience and the things that you want to see take place in front of you.

Jim Lange: Well, I think that that is great advice, and sometimes, even though, frankly, I’m in business and I’m always trying to grow my business, sometimes some of the best moments don’t cost anything. For me, I like to get on a bicycle and bike a lot of miles, or get in the woods and go for a hike, or get in the river and kayak down the river, and none of those things cost a lot of money. So sometimes I think it’s a good idea to think about, “Well gee, what does the money mean, and what should I be planning for it?” So I think that that is very helpful.

 


4. What You Give Away Comes Back in Other Ways

Alan Olsen: Yeah, money, in that sense, becomes a tool. One of my colleagues, 20 years ago, he turned 50 years old, and he walked into my office and he said, “Alan, I’m 50 years old, and so the first 50 years of my life, I spent going to school, getting a foundation, building my education and my business. Now that I’m 50 years old, I’ve acquired this wealth. So now, I’m going to retire and step out of it, and for the next 50 years, or however long I have left, I’m going to end up giving it away through philanthropy and service hours.” And the interesting thing is, as he started this, he did quit his job. He was the founder of a major venture capital firm out here in Silicon Valley. He came back the following year and he had given millions out. But I looked at his tax-return information coming in and he had made more money than he had given away, and I said to him, “I thought you were trying to give this money away.” He said, “You know, I think I’m learning something here. It’s kind of like that bread cast on the water. What I’m giving away, it all seems to come back in different ways.” And after he’d been through this experience in giving money away for over 20 years, he actually has more money today than he started out with. So, therein lies the lesson of life about I think whatever we set our mind out to do, if we’re doing it for the right reason, the money becomes secondary to the causes that we get behind.

Jim Lange: It’s so interesting that you say that because I have a mentor named Dan Kennedy, and what he says is, “Take a certain percentage,” and he doesn’t even care what percentage, but at least 1 percent — and this is of gross, not net — and I am doing this, and I actually think it’s working, “and right off the top, whatever that percentage is, 1, 2, 3, 5, but let’s even just start with 1, 1 percent goes to charity, or 2 or 3 or whatever it is, but a certain percentage goes to charity, a certain percentage goes to savings, and you do that off the top.” And this is what he said, and he’s not a woo-woo type guy. He’s a very practical, pragmatic guy. He says, “I can’t understand it, but if you do that, you’re actually going to make more.” So, that’s perfectly consistent with what your friend’s experience was.

So, speaking of philanthropy, I notice that you had multiple interviews with people talking about philanthropy. So, for example, you had Ted Taub on, who talks about the art of philanthropy, and you had Pamela Hawley, who talks about UniversalGiving. Could you tell our listeners some of the lessons that you have learned, either from them or in your own, I don’t know, 30-year plus years of experience with people who some are more philanthropic than others?

 


5. Giving to a Charity Creates a Relationship

Alan Olsen: Sure, well, starting with Ted, Ted Taub is a big philanthropist out in the San Francisco Bay Area, and he had been managing upwards of a billion dollars in philanthropic funds, putting them to different causes, and he’s been awarded several awards for some of the notable projects that he’s done. One of his big passions is preserving the Jewish heritage for what happened in the Holocaust, and he’s worked a lot with getting behind causes over in Poland and Auschwitz and making sure that the Holocaust is not forgotten, and that it will never happen again. In addition to that, Ted serves on several boards, and he looks at the underprivileged kids for inner cities, and how do you lift and how do you build those individuals to break the cycle of poverty? And so he’s come and he’s worked with the Warriors, the Golden State Warriors organization Hoops for Kids, giving those kids some great experiences. He’s also worked on Stanford with the athletics program. He built a tennis stadium for them. There’s a lot of programs that Ted has worked in over the years, and so, in the interview, we talked about the art of philanthropy, and Ted had brought out what his causes are and I said, “Well, how do you know you’re doing the right things?” And he said, “Well, basically, whenever you’re doing a philanthropic cause, once you write that check, you’re entering into a partnership, and as their partner, you want to make sure that you have a firm understanding of what the goals and objectives are and running it just like a business for the philanthropic funds, with the causes that you’re trying to overcome.” He’s a very bright individual and has really made his mark with several of the charitable organizations here, primarily in the Bay Area, but also, he has a special passion for his homeland, Poland, for the things that happened over there.

Jim Lange: Well, I think that’s a great thing. I’m on the professional advisory committee of the Jewish Pittsburgh Foundation, and the idea there is, frankly, awareness, so a lot of people in the Jewish community aren’t even necessarily aware of the foundation. But the thing that you said that I liked was that it’s not just writing a check and forgetting about it, but actually wanting to know what’s going to happen with the money. So, in our estate-planning practice, for example, let’s say somebody wants to leave a sizable amount of money to a charity, whether it’s a Jewish cause if they happen to be Jewish, or the church, or hunger, or Blue Cross, or the university or whatever it is, but if the amount that you’re leaving is going to be good enough, you can actually meet with the development director of charity of these different groups and find out what the options are.

So, for example, a professor might be interested in providing money for scholarships and he doesn’t want to see that money used for administration, or if somebody is interested in a particular charity, like maybe one of Ted’s clients might want something for the Holocaust Memorial, but doesn’t want something for Jewish veterans, for example. So, I think that’s a great, great thing, and by the way, as long as we’re talking about causes, I can’t help but put in a little plug for the Pittsburgh Jewish Foundation that, right now, is having kind of a special, if you will, that if you fund charity through life insurance that they will actually match the premium, which is pretty interesting. It’s an interesting way of leaving a large chunk of money, and it’s all tax deductible, and then when the policy matures, in other words, when people die, the charity gets a lot of money, and now that is being matched.

Well, what are some of the things that you might have learned from Pam Hawley, who talked about UniversalGiving?

 


6. Universal Giving Is Like a Crowdfunding for Charity

Alan Olsen: Well, Pamela, at a very young age, she had the experience of going down on a work project into Mexico and helping some of the disadvantaged families down there to put up a home, and the experience really impacted her, and after the experience, she came out of that and she said, “You know, I look at what I have in life and my situation that I was born into, and not everyone has an equal platform for succeeding in life.” And so, she went to a different course in her career path. Rather than go the normal where you go to the 8 to 5 job or you start a company, she decided that she would become a social entrepreneur, and that she would work with charities and causes in UniversalGiving, and soon she’s contacting organizations and saying, “You know, if I give 5 dollars, I want to make sure that all of my money is going to the project or the charity of my choice.” And think of it in terms of what UniversalGiving has become. It’s like a crowdfunding for charity. So, if there’s a well in Africa, or some type of project, UniversalGiving will consolidate through the website several small projects, and then allow individuals to give at very low levels — $5, $10, $15 — towards the project that they want to see implemented, and 100 percent of that donation will go into the project. There’s no overhead, nothing off the top. It all goes to the philanthropic causes, and she said, “Well, how can you support an organization where you’re giving all the money away?”

And Pam, the model which she’s done is, there’s two objects to her company: Number one is the people coming to the website to give the money for the causes that they choose, but the second part, how she underwrites it is that she has contracts with some very large public companies, their corporate social-responsibility funds, that help to underwrite overhead costs, and that’s entirely separate from the philanthropic causes of these small charities. So the crowdfunding for charities is the best way I can describe what UniversalGiving is about. I serve on the board, and they’ve done some wonderful projects over the years for UniversalGiving. I mean, where else can you take a $5 donation and see that you’re really making an impact and knowing that it doesn’t go to overhead, but it will go to building that well or putting that child through education in a specific area.

Jim Lange: Well, that’s pretty impressive. So, before we take our break, I suspect that some of our listeners might be interested in finding a place where they can have a choice of causes and knowing that 100 percent of their money is going to the cause rather than the administration, because I was going to say, how does Pam eat? Who pays the accountant, everything else? But apparently, she’s developed some corporate sponsors and some good guys like you who are willing to sit on the board, and I assume that that’s with no compensation. Could you give us a website or some contact information in the event that our listeners are interested?

Alan Olsen: Sure. It’s www.universalgiving.org. And then you’ll see, when you come to the website, there’ll be 177 opportunities to give, fund a project or volunteer, and also, if you have a project, you can also post your own cause and your own project up there that you want to put a gift for, but it will give some idea about some of the things that some people, rather than funding, they want to spend time and volunteer, which they can. They go over to Ethiopia and spend a little bit of time with the people over there. There’s also working on mosquito nets for saving lives in Africa. For $10, you can get a mosquito net. Lots of different projects that are out there and lots of causes, so this gives a venue for people to do basic crowdfunding for their charitable projects.

Jim Lange: And the radio show American Dreams is a wonderful show, especially for people interested in business, and if you are interested in just hearing a lot of great information, and, like my website, Alan has lists of all of the guests that he’s had. You can download the sound file, the audio file. The other thing that Alan does, which we do also, is that you can actually read the transcript of the show. So, he has a short description of maybe the title of the show and then who the person that he has interviewed and he just does a great job.

So, Alan, I noticed that you had multiple interviews with the heads of different Rotary chapters, or maybe even people close to the top at the Rotary, and I also noticed that you have interviewed people that were involved with the Boy Scouts. Is the Rotary a special interest to you, and would you recommend that our listeners become involved with either the Rotary or, if they have young boys, the Boy Scouts?

 


7. Rotary and Boy Scouts Put Service before Self

Alan Olsen: Well, the Rotary’s a great program, and it gives a venue for people to look at, you know, life is not all about business and put service above self. Yeah, we’ve had a couple of the International Rotary presidents come on the show, Richard King, Cliff Dochtorman, and give their experiences. How do we become that leader? And over the course of time, as I’ve done well over 500 interviews, there’s a common trait that I find in that of leadership, and the true leader is able to make their life about others and less about themselves, lifting, building, enabling, and moving people to accomplish certain causes. So, absolutely, Rotary gives a great venue because one of the things that they teach you in those weekly meetings when you come in is, hey, it’s about the other people in the room, not about you, and then here are some of the things that we want to get involved with in our own individual communities to further causes and to make the places that we live in better. So, the Boy Scouts, likewise, yeah, we’ve had several of the national leaders come onto the show, and that’s all about training young men to be leaders, and they have a process and a program that’s been around for over a hundred years where, essentially, from a young age — they start at 7 in the Cub Scouts then move up at 11 to becoming a Boy Scout — where they try to give a variety of skill sets, life skills, and those Scouts are leading other boys. And so, it’s a great cause. The Boy Scouts, all of my boys have been involved with it. I was a Boy Scout. My dad was a Boy Scout. It’s a generational thing that, you know, it’s a cause that I believe in, and yeah, we’ve had several of the Scout leaders come on and talk about some of the things that they’re working on to build programs for boys as they grow.

Jim Lange: Well, it’s interesting. There’s kind of a common theme that you just actually identified, which is that the successful people, the successful CEOs, the people like Ted Taub and Pamela Hawley who are actually trying to help people, and that really is the most satisfying thing. I was on a bicycle ride two days ago, and I wanted to bicycle my age, which was 60 miles, but that wasn’t the main accomplishment of the day. The main accomplishment was I was biking along and a little kid jumped out in front of me, and luckily, I don’t listen to headphones. I actually pay attention on my bicycle, and I was able to move to the right of the trail and avoid an accident, and that was the biggest thrill for me of the day. It wasn’t about me; it was preventing an accident, and then the mom just kind of looked at me because she knew that I prevented it. So, I think that that’s just some great information, and that that is really what makes us feel good, which is to help other people, and you mentioned a number of ways to do it through philanthropy. We talked about the company that you’re involved in, and then also Rotary and the Boy Scouts that are both great organizations, and by the way, I’ll put in a little plug for the Westinghouse SURE group. That was one of President Bush’s “thousand points of light.” They have, I think, several million volunteer hours. So, my hat’s off to the Westinghouse retirees.

So, speaking of managing people, I know that one of your guests was a big shot celebrity in the management area, and that’s Ken Blanchard, who is the author of The One Minute Manager. What did you learn from Ken?

 


8. True Leaders Connect With Others on a Spiritual Level

Alan Olsen: Well, Ken has 5 million Twitter followers and is quite a unique individual. He has over 19 million books in circulation. He’s most noted for being the author of the book called The One Minute Manager, and Ken had put that out some years ago and really, The One Minute Manager was all about “Make up your mind, make a decision, know where you’re going, but don’t just continue to analyze and think about it, make the decision and move on.” So, Ken, when he came on the show, he’s very articulate in his interview and the things that he had to say, but he handed me his business card, and the business card said, “Chief Spiritual Leader of the Ken Blanchard Companies,” and I’m, like, “This is interesting. What does that mean?” And Ken then went on to say, “Well, from what I’ve learned in leadership is it’s not about you, but it’s about how you connect with those around you. Are you lifting? Are you building? Are you enabling? The more I’ve done this, I find that the words “leader servant” is more appropriate rather than being a leader, but it’s more serving others, and I get a much better feeling when I can go into a relationship and know that after leaving that relationship that I had bettered the individual and that individual had bettered me.”

Jim Lange: It’s interesting the choice of words you said, because that was the second time you used the word “relationships,” so when you were describing your firm, you didn’t say, “Well, I have 1,400 clients,” you said, “We have 1,400 relationships,” and I think that that’s actually a very good way of looking at it. In other words, it’s not just like a pure service where they come in and you do a tax return, or you give them business-consulting advice, or whatever you might do, but it is actually a true relationship and you’re trying to improve their lives. So, I thought that was a very good choice of words.

Alan Olsen: Thank you. I would just say, along the area of relationships, if somebody comes in and wants to just focus in on price, that usually doesn’t work. You never have a foundation in relationships about how much are things. I look at the things, you know, there’s a three-prong formula that I use: know you, like you, trust you, and vice versa. They know you, you know them, they like you, you like them, they trust you, you trust them. And so, price doesn’t work into it because if the trust is there, they know that you’re going to treat them well and give them the value that they’re looking for in excess of whatever the cost is.

Jim Lange: Well, I think that that’s a great way to look at it. I look for the same thing, and I sometimes say I’m at the age and stage where all I want is pleasant relationships. So, I’m not necessarily looking for somebody who’s trying to squeeze the last dollar out of me, but rather somebody who could recognize that I could provide a lot of value, and then enjoy a good relationship, and, in fact, we retain 97 percent of our assets under management clients, which is way ahead of the industry average, and I think it is that reason. I haven’t put it in those terms. What is it again? Know you, like you and trust you?

Alan Olsen: And trust you, yeah.

Jim Lange: And then you know them, you like them and you trust them, which I think is a great way of looking at it.

So, I noticed another person that you interviewed that was of interest to me, a guy named Prasad Kaipa, who’s actually a coach to CEOs. So, there’s all kinds of “coaches” out there, but not that many people who literally are coaches to … so, if basically, like Ken Blanchard said, which is you’re kind of the relationship coach if you are the leader, then who do the leaders go to for coaching? And it’s this guy Prasad Kaipa. So, what did Prasad teach you about coaching CEOs that might be of interest to our audience?

Alan Olsen: Well, you know, what Prasad teaches is, he’s been on TED Talks and he actually has a Ph.D. in physics, and then he went into advising around 120 C-level executives of Fortune 500 companies. Prasad uses a very unique approach in working with clients, and he helps them to find a spiritual connection with the individuals that he serves with, and the two things often that are frowned upon in the business place, or relationships with others, is talking about religion and talking about politics because it’s polarizing. Well, Prasad says, “Look, within every one of us are inherent gifts that we need to bring out in interacting with others, and if we don’t allow that to happen, then we’re missing some of the greatest opportunities in life.” So, he calls it moving from smart to wise, and how to bring out spirituality within the workplace, connecting with individuals and helping them move to the next level.

Jim Lange: All right, so when you’re talking about spirituality, you’re not talking about Christianity or Judaism or anything like that. You’re talking about more of a feeling? Is that fair?

 


9. Real Leaders Driven by Their Power to Create Solutions

Alan Olsen: You know, it’s the inherent power of the human in itself. It’s like the things that we can accomplish when we put our minds behind different causes, you think about how do little companies get to be big? One of the guests that I had come on my show, John Maytham, was telling a story about he had started a public company. I said, “John, what was your inspiration for doing this?” He said, “I had a dream one night, and I knew exactly what I needed to do to start this new company. And so in the morning, I got up and I called my buddy and I said, ‘We’re going to go build a new company.’” And then he set out with his vision, and precisely knowing where he wanted to go with it, he was able to develop technology that brought the news media online, Reuter’s and venues for CNN and different agencies, and basically did it by implementing a technology that was not currently in place, and this company eventually went public. So there was a vision that a person had and moving through and getting others to connect back with him. It had little to do with the dollars, the monetary sense, and most of the individuals that have reached the greatest pinnacles of success have done it not because of the dollars involved and getting themselves rich — in fact, that was an afterthought — but they’ve done it because of the power within them to create the solutions that would create a disruptive change.

Jim Lange: So, Alan has a show called American Dreams, which is just a terrific radio show. He has a wide variety of guests, probably more entrepreneurs and CEOs and people in the business world, where we tend to concentrate more on people in the financial world, but it’s a great show, and, like me, on his website, www.groco.com, he has literally a list of, I don’t know, something like 500 radio shows, and it has who he has interviewed and just a little brief summary of the interview, and then you have the choice of either reading the transcript, or you could actually listen to the show, or you can download it as a podcast. So, I think he’s doing a great service and it gets a wide listenership, and the other thing that he has mentioned during the show is that he is sitting on the board of a charity that was formed by Pamela Hawley, and her idea is to not only give people some very specific choices of where the money goes, but to know that 100 percent of the money actually goes to that cause, which is pretty unusual today, and the way she does that is she has different companies that are actually funding, if you will, the overhead and some of the accounting and some of the administration of the charity. So, that is a good one that, if you might be interested, can be reached at www.universalgiving.org.

So, Alan, right before we took a break, you were talking about a man who has a vision to buy a sports team and improve it, and they took the Golden Warriors from basically a losing team to a winning team, but I also noticed that you interviewed other athletes, including Vida Blue. What are some of the lessons that you have learned from some of these great athletes?

Alan Olsen: Well, Vida is one of the baseball heroes I grew up watching as a young boy. Vida’s a six-time All Star, three-time World Series champion MVP, Cy Young Award winner, and quite a baseball legend during the tenure that he played for the Oakland A’s. You know, back in the days when Vida stepped into baseball, he was 23 years old when he signed his contract with the Oakland A’s, and he had a love for baseball. But one thing, baseball back then didn’t really pay as well as it does today. It was good money back then. He was making in the high 60s, and after Vida had won all these awards, MVP, Cy Young Award winner, world champion, he went up to the owner of the A’s and said, “Hey, how about I get a raise to $80,000 a year?” And he said that the owner looked at him and just laughed. He said, “You’re nuts! You’ve got to be kidding me.” And Vida took it back that his love of the game was more important than the money. He continued to go on and put his head down and focused on his passion. Well, as his life went on, as it does with all of us, his experiences eventually rolled out into doing something different, and today, Vida works with inner-city youths, disadvantaged kids, and teaches them the importance of never giving up and putting back. So, I spoke to Vida on the show. You know, the interesting thing is, he has this legendary name, and Vida said, “You know, I didn’t have a lot of money in my career. So, I’m not a very wealthy man, but I have a lot of wealth in the things that I’m doing. That’s the youth that I’m working with and helping them to succeed in life.”

Jim Lange: So, just to put this in perspective, how much do you think Vida Blue, let’s say, if he had an agent who was a hard negotiator, how much money do you think if he was playing at the level that he was then, if he was playing now, how much money do you think he would be making?

Alan Olsen: Oh, today? The bottom of the barrel for an average Major League Baseball salary is $350,000 a year, and Vida was at $67,000 when he was playing, and he was at the very top end, so he could’ve commanded a multimillion dollar contract. But that part of life went by.

Jim Lange: Well, it’s interesting. Maybe he has more satisfaction helping underprivileged youth than sitting in his mansion smoking Cuban cigars.

Alan Olsen: Mm-hmm.

Jim Lange: Of course, I wouldn’t mind doing a combination of those, but …

Alan Olsen: But I think he has no regrets at all, and he said the charitable work that he does gives him a lot of energy, knowing that he’s influencing and helping some of these kids get some direction within their lives.

Jim Lange: Well, that’s a great quote. Like the French singer Edith Piaf, who used to sing “Je ne regrette rien” — I have no regrets.

Alan Olsen: Mm-hmm.

Jim Lange: So, Alan, you have a CPA firm with 1,400 relationships, and you have interviewed, let’s say, 500 of some of the top minds in the country, and have experienced just so much in your career. What are some of the broad lessons that you think that you could share with our listeners that we have not talked about yet?

 


10. Passion Is More Important Than Business Smarts

Alan Olsen: Well, I think, in the area of leadership, you know, it’s what drives people to do the things that they do, and you try to take a common characteristic or a trait of, you know, how come individuals are able to accomplish so much? Rarely does it come down to how smart they are, but it has more to do with the passion that they feel within their individual lives to find a solution to disruptive problems. There was an individual that came on, in fact, he’s given me an exclusive interview, and this guy has disrupted the retail market. At the time that you had national chain stores, JC Penney’s and Macy’s and closing down stores, this guy is expanding like crazy in a disruptive model, and he has over 80,000 consultants and over a billion dollars in revenue’s been coming through within his third calendar year, and before he began, he was a cement contractor and his wife was a seamstress, and it was interesting that to find such a pinnacle of success happened more because they saw a disruption, a solution that needed to be put into a market. They found that, in today’s society, when you have both spouses working, they come home, they’re exhausted, they’re making dinner, they’re picking the kids up, they’re managing lives. He said, “And then it used to be, years ago, that people would have the opportunity on the weekends to go down and do a lot of strolling in the malls and shopping, but the time has disappeared. So, why not put a solution in there that allows ladies to shop in a different way?” And so he put a program together where ladies can call their friends and they all come over. They try dresses on and they can put their orders in right there, but the rack of clothes is there that they can try on. They have all their friends together, and it’s working, and they’ve been able to find a lot of success in the marketplace that they do. So, there you go. There’s a cement contractor, the wife’s a seamstress, building a disruptive business.

We’ve seen other individuals that have come. I’ve had Scott McNealy come on the show and tell a story about how when he started Sun Microsystems, that he tussled for the CEO role with Vinod Khosla, and Scott eventually won and took the helm of Sun Microsystems, which, at that time, was kind of like the premier computer company for the internet servers. But Scott says, “I was a good businessman, but it was always in the market as, you know, Scott McNealy at Sun versus Larry Ellison at Oracle. I was a good businessman but Larry Ellison was a great businessman,” and eventually he was the one who acquired Sun and won out. But Scott’s gone on. He’s now doing other ventures, and he’s still very active with entrepreneurial ventures out here in Silicon Valley. So, 50 percent of the venture money in the world is right here in Silicon Valley. We still have a lot of disruptive solutions. I’ve had the guy who started the Google car, the self-driving car, on the radio. Now, he’s working on a project that’s self-flying drones, which as the driver of those drones, you’ll one day have the vision of the old George Jetson getting into a drone and flying. There’s actually some models that have begun to be released working through Google, and the best is yet to come.

Jim Lange: Well, Alan, this has been a terrific hour, and for listeners who are interested in hearing more of Alan, I would recommend going to his website, which is www.groco.com. Alan is the host of a radio show called American Dreams. He has an inventory, if you will, of about 500 shows with the name of the guest and a short description, and you have the choice of either downloading the audio file or actually reading the transcript. So, Alan, again, thank you for a great hour, and again, listeners, for more, go to www.groco.com.

Dan Weinberg: All right, and thanks Alan, and, of course, thanks as always to Jim Lange, and listeners, if you’d like a chance to meet Jim in person, give the Lange Financial Group a call at (412) 521-2732 to see if you qualify for the Lange Second Opinion Service. That’s (412) 521-2732, or connect with Jim’s office through his website at www.paytaxeslater.com. While you’re there, you can also get a free digital copy of Jim’s latest book, The Ultimate Retirement and Estate Plan for Your Million-Dollar IRA. For now, I’m Dan Weinberg. For Jim Lange, thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you next time for another edition of The Lange Money Hour, Where Smart Money Talks.

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