Stop whining and get a life: Larry Winget on personal responsibility and America’s financial mess
By Paul Wilson
Larry Winget, also known as the pit bull of personal development, is a bestselling author and a regular contributor on a variety of news shows on topics such as money, personal success, and business. He’s also the closing keynote speaker at Senior Market Advisor Expo 2011.
To quote his website, “He is caustic, straight-forward, hilarious, never minces words and offers solid advice for improving your life and your business.”
He also has a few suggestions for advisors.
Paul Wilson: Your book titles include “Broke Because You Want to Be,” “Shut Up, Stop Whining and Get a Life,” and “People Are Idiots and I Can Prove It.” As I know you’ve been asked before, why are you so mean?
Larry Winget: (laughter) You know, I don’t consider it mean and actually, I kind of think it’s a shame we have reached that place in society when straight talk is actually considered mean.
I do believe that life’s your own fault. I do believe you’re broke because you want to be. And all I do is tell people the truth, and I just don’t mince many words in doing it.
I have another book that’s sort of a compilation of all my others and it’s called “No Time for Tact” and that pretty much sums it up. I don’t have any time for tact. I just tell it like it is and people seem to appreciate it and respond well to that.
PW: Why do you think you and your message are so popular?
LW: Well, it’s such a contradiction to what most people have heard for so many years from most speakers. And in the personal development industry, we’re used to being kind of handled with kid gloves, saying, “As long as you have a good positive attitude and feel good about yourself, everything is going to be ok.”
Well guess what? We’ve been feeling too good about ourselves and our attitude has been too positive. Look at the disastrous mess we are in, from an economic standpoint to the way our kids have turned out, with a sense of entitlement, to the fact that people don’t have any money and businesses aren’t doing well.
I believe that everything you’re achieving right now, every element of your results, they’re all your fault. I mean, it was your actions that created the results you’re living. And so what I’ve done is strip all that away and people, I believe, are happy to hear somebody say, “Look, you made this mess. You did it, what are you going to do about it?” And that’s my approach. PW: And that ties into my next question. Do you believe there has been a fundamental change in the financial discipline and saving habits of Americans in recent years?
LW: Absolutely. I also have a parenting book called, “Your Kids Are Your Own Fault,” and I believe it’s because we didn’t teach our children the importance of saving and investing and not living above your means.
When you have a society where 40 percent spend more money than they make, that’s a problem. We have 50 percent of society who are on some sort of government program. That’s a problem. And that has changed from the old days back when I was a kid and when your parents were working and they had to be responsible for everything that’s going on in life and they achieved what they had in life based on how hard they worked at life.
PW: You often mention the importance of taking responsibility for your own actions. Where do financial advisors fit within that strategy?
LW: I think financial advisors would agree about the personal responsibility issue. I shot my own television series for a few years on A&E called “Big Spender” where I took it to the next level. As far as I know, I’m the only personal finance guy out there who really talks about the importance of remorse.
See, I want people to feel really bad for their stupid mistakes. That’s why I’m all for imposing consequences. I want people to cry and feel bad, have a Jimmy Swaggart moment where they look to the heavens and say, “Oh Lord, I have been an idiot!”
I’ve just discovered that when people tie some sort of emotion to their stupidity, that their likelihood of getting past it and really turning things around is much higher. So I believe very much in personal responsibility, then feeling bad about what you did and then going to work to fix it.
PW: I read recently that investors don’t think their wealth managers demonstrate enough empathy. What’s your reaction to that?
LW: (laughter) I disagree. I believe that there’s plenty of empathy out there. What people need to be reminded of is responsibility.
PW: Do you believe members of the financial services industry are too easy on their clients?
LW: Well, I can’t speak for the entire financial services industry but I will say that I think people need to be reminded that they are responsible, ultimately, for whatever happens to them. You can’t always blame the government or your financial advisor or what’s going on in the banking industry. You have to take some responsibility for your retirement and your investments.
So anything that reminds people, ultimately, everything that’s going wrong in your life is your own fault, I’m for that. I think we can have so much empathy that we allow people to lay blame outside of themselves. Ultimately, it’s always going to come down to you. PW: How can advisers take a page from your book and speak plainly to their clients while still maintaining and building trust?
LW: Well, I think people will trust you more when you shoot ‘em straight and so that is the element of trust. Tell me the truth. If it’s bad, tell me it’s bad. Tell me what I should have done differently and what we can do now to fix it. The most important question when facing any situation is, “What are we going to do next?” It really comes down to “next.” That’s an important four-letter word.
If you really want to build trust with a client, regardless of what industry you’re in, you tell them the truth all the time, every time. That’s what clients are looking for, is to build trust based on honest communication.
PW: You may have just covered this. If you could give one piece of advice to America’s financial advisors, what would it be?
LW: (laughter) Tell the truth. Open, honest communication. Don’t sugar-coat it, don’t make promises you can’t keep. I’ve discovered in the financial services in my limited experience that there’s no guarantee on anything.
A few years ago, we told people: “Real estate, that’s a guaranteed positive place to put your money. You’re always going to make money long-term in real estate.” Well guess what? That didn’t exactly turn out to be true. So there are no guarantees. Tell people that. Shoot ‘em straight. Tell them that all you can do is stack the deck in your favor, and all we’re doing by putting your money here or there or doing whatever we’re about to do is stacking the deck in our favor.
To listen to the complete interview, click here.