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How Money Works Educator - Derrick Gan

Derrick Gan

HowMoneyWorks Educator

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November 23, 2021

The Scandal of the American Financial Education System

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Face it. You’re a Sucker

September 30, 2021

Face it. You’re a Sucker

Most people don’t know how money works.

In 2018, a global survey asked over 100,000 people in 15 different countries 3 simple questions about interest, inflation, and risk diversification. 70% failed to answer all three basic questions correctly.1

The cumulative effect of that lack of knowledge can result in some sketchy decision making. So are you wondering how you’d do? See if you know the answers to the following questions…

• How much interest will you pay over the life of your car loan? • What about over the life of your mortgage? • How much life insurance do you need to protect your family financially? • How much do you need to save for retirement? • Are you on track with that? • If you’re not on track, at what age will your money run out? • How much will Social Security pay you each month? • How much monthly income will your 401(k) provide? • How old will you be when it runs out?

If you can’t answer questions like these, ask yourself if you’re like so many others who assume there will always be enough and hope everything will turn out OK.

How is that possible?

A lifetime of wild guesses and blissful ignorance explains why so many people facing retirement panic when they see how little they’ll be forced to live on for the rest of their days. Is this true for you? If so, you could find yourself saying “Wow! I thought it’d be a whole lot more.”

It’s time to face it. You’re a sucker.

Does that offend you? Good, it should. Let it be a wake-up call. When you don’t know how money works, you can be taken advantage of time and time again.

You’re a sucker. Own it and you’ve taken the first step toward not being one.

Being financially illiterate sucks. But knowing how money works will help you transition from sucker to student and from student to master. The whole point is never to be fooled again.

Not by banks.

Not by credit card companies.

Not by online offers.

Not by employers.

Not by family or friends.

Not even by the number one person in your life responsible for making money—YOU!

But how do you transition from sucker to student? Well, every student needs a teacher. YouTube videos and online tutorials are great if you need a quick fix around the home. But unless you’re REALLY handy, would you try to tackle a major plumbing job in your house based on a video you watched online? Of course not. It’s too involved and too important. You need someone with experience who does that sort of thing for a living—in other words, you need a plumber. In the long run, your personal finances are even more important than a busted pipe in your home. That’s why it’s critical to work with a licensed and qualified financial professional, who can help you repair your finances and keep them flowing smoothly.

Also, consider shadowing a money mentor. Who do you know that’s financially successful? Become their friend so you can discover what they did (and do) right. Observe their daily habits and how they make decisions. What time do they wake up? How do they use credit cards, if at all? Where do they put their money? Do they make financial decisions with their partner or separately? What you could learn from a financially-savvy friend could pay dividends down the road.

And if you need a beginner’s guide, consider the HowMoneyWorks: Stop Being a Sucker book. It’s a super-readable crash course on the basics of financial literacy that you can read in an hour but think about for a week. Just ask me how you can get a copy!

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¹ “The New Social Contract: a Blueprint For Retirement in the 21st Century —The Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey 2018,” Aegon—Center for Longevity and Retirement, May 2018, https://www.aegon.com/contentassets/6724d008b6e14fa1a4cedb41811f748a/retirement-readiness-survey-2018.pdf

Why Everyone Wants Your Money NOW

September 15, 2021

Why Everyone Wants Your Money NOW

Instant Gratification Has Overtaken Your Financial Power.

“Waiting sucks!” Like weeds in a field, this wealth-strangling lie can overtake every financially illiterate mind. If you don’t know how money works, you may succumb to society’s financially destructive desire for instant gratification.

It’s time to learn how money works, Old MacDonald, because a field overtaken with weeds produces no harvest. Start pulling up the weeds of instant gratification by asking yourself this…

In today’s world you can buy now, one click order, get no interest down, and enjoy same day shipping—but have you asked why? Why is it so ridiculously easy for you to spend your money?

Is it…

A. Because they’re committed to your convenience? (You’re not that naive.) B. Because you’ll buy from their competitor if they don’t? (Getting closer.) C. Because they want your money, they want it all, and they want it now?

Know the answer? It’s “C.” Understand that your need for instant gratification is a conditioned response. From birth, you’ve been brainwashed to want everything ASAP. They know this—THEY’RE THE ONES who brainwashed you. Why? Because they want your money—all of it! Picture a tiny stopwatch inside every dollar you own. When the start button is pressed, the dollar starts earning interest. Each dollar is ticking away, earning money for someone. Is it you, or is it the institution that has your savings account, car loan, mortgage, student loan, paycheck, or your next pumpkin spice latte? Every dollar that passes through your hands will earn money for either you or someone else. Every time you put your hard earned cash in the hands of someone else, you’re handing out little money stopwatches that never stop ticking.

It’s time to reclaim the earning power stolen by your need for instant gratification.

Money you put to work today has the potential to earn more interest than money you put to work tomorrow. Why? Because it has more time to grow. Those who know how money works never want to waste a single day of earning potential.

Did you think it’s a coincidence that taxes are taken out of paychecks now but tax refunds are not paid until the next year? Ever wondered why financial companies hold funds for a few days rather than release them to you immediately? They pay it out only after they’ve squeezed out every possible day of earning.

They’re not doing anything wrong. They’re just taking full advantage of the Time Value of Money. It’s time you did too.

It’s good if this makes you mad. You should be—you’ve been treated like a sucker. Your logical mind and personal finances are covered with the weeds of instant gratification. This threatens ALL your goals for the future.

Start ripping the weeds out by reading HowMoneyWorks: Stop Being a Sucker today. Ask your HowMoneyWorks financial educator how you can get a copy immediately.

The book coupled with guidance from your licensed and qualified financial professional can help you increase your financial literacy, stop the counterproductive behaviors of instant gratification, and start thinking—and acting—like the wealthy.

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Can You Teach Your Kids How Money Works? (Yes!)

August 23, 2021

Can You Teach Your Kids How Money Works? (Yes!)

Who will teach your kids how money really works? Don’t count on school!

Only 21 states in the U.S. require a financial literacy course to graduate from high school, and 4 of those states have some of the worst financial literacy levels in the country!¹,² It’s no wonder that only 28% of college students were able to answer 3 basic money questions about inflation, compound interest, and risk diversification.³ Think about it; many kids who don’t understand the fundamentals of money are also pulling out huge student loans that they have no clue how to handle. They’re getting taken advantage of before they even graduate!

Think that’s scary? Here’s where things get even scarier. The simple fact is that many people don’t start learning about money until they’re already in deep debt and sense a looming crisis. By that time, even if it’s not too late to avoid a catastrophe, many of those people can face a lifelong struggle to achieve robust financial health. What’s the solution? People should start learning how money works in their twenties? Nope. As teenagers? No way. People need to start learning how money works as kids—long before they’re in charge of their own personal finances.

Researchers from Cambridge discovered that our money habits are basically formed by age seven.4 The deeply indebted college freshmen of today spending 50 bucks a month on lattes and energy drinks are the result of financial under-development. It’s like tossing the keys of a $200,000 sports car to a teenager with zero driving experience and saying, “enjoy.” The most likely result down the road—disaster. ($200,000 also happens to be the cost of a 4 year private college in America: tuition plus room and board.5)

So what are your kids learning about money?

First, ask yourself what they are learning from YOU. If you’re like many Americans, your kids may think that money is supposed to be spent on what makes them feel good—right now. They might be completely unaware of the full power their money possesses to grow and build wealth and help them achieve their dreams.

Many parents do talk to their kids about working hard and earning money. They can, however, fail to bring them into the process of creating personal finance goals and showing them how to protect and grow their money to hit those goals.

Roll up your sleeves and consider showing your kids how money really works while their minds are little sponges and they haven’t made any money mistakes yet.

Here are nine tips to get you started:

  1. Read the book, HowMoneyWorks: Stop Being a Sucker, together.
  2. Discuss the concepts and 7 Money Milestones in the book.
  3. Let your kids in on some of your financial decisions and share a bit about your home budget with them so they understand the decisions you make for the family.
  4. Help them figure out ways to make money, save it, protect it, and watch it grow.
  5. Show them that putting all their money into a savings account is an opportunity for the bank to make money—not them.
  6. Explore smart tactics to avoid the impact of procrastination, inflation, losses, and taxes with their money.
  7. Use imaginary money and investment scenarios to teach them financial principles.
  8. Open an account for them with real money and take them through the entire process. Watch the money together each month as the balance changes.
  9. Have them accompany you to your next meeting with your financial professional, so they can ask a few questions of their own.

Perhaps your kids are older or maybe even have kids of their own. Know this—it’s never too late to start learning about how money works and teaching your kids about it too—no matter how old they are.

Let me know if you don’t have a copy of the book, How Money Works: Stop Being A Sucker. I’ll get you one ASAP! It’s packed with all the information you need to jumpstart your family’s financial literacy journey.

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¹ “How many states require students to take a personal finance course before graduating from high school? Is it 6 or is it 21?,” Tim Ranzetta, Next Gen Personal Finance, Feb 12, 2020, https://www.ngpf.org/blog/advocacy/how-many-states-require-students-to-take-a-personal-finance-course-before-graduating-from-high-school-is-it-6-or-is-it-21/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzdDgiKnL6wIV0_HjBx0h7ALCEAAYASAAEgItWvD_BwE

² “How Financially Lit(erate) Is Your State?,” The Ascent, July 20, 2019, https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/research/financial-literacy-by-state/

³ “Financial and student loan (il)literacy among US college students,” Johnathan G. Conzelmann and T. Austin Lacy, Brookings, Oct. 15, 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2018/10/15/financial-and-student-loan-illiteracy-among-us-college-students/#:~:text=Overall%2C%20undergraduate%20students%20in%20the,percent%20got%20all%20three%20correct.

⁴ “The 5 Most Important Money Lessons To Teach Your Kids,” Laura Shin, Forbes, Oct 15, 2013, https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2013/10/15/the-5-most-important-money-lessons-to-teach-your-kids/#4a5f97006826

⁵ “How Much Does College Cost?,” CollegeData, 2020, https://www.collegedata.com/en/pay-your-way/college-sticker-shock/how-much-does-college-cost/whats-the-price-tag-for-a-college-education/

“FL 101” - Financial Literacy For College Freshmen

“FL 101” - Financial Literacy For College Freshmen

College can be a lot of things. Fun. Scary. Exciting. Confusing.

But one thing is for certain—it’s that time of life when students finally break away from their parents and start making their own decisions—like how to spend their money.

And it turns out they have no clue what they’re doing in that department—statistically speaking.

Only 35% of students entering university have received any previous financial education.¹ Is not knowing how money works the major reason why freshmen blindly contribute to the $1.5 trillion of total student loan debt that exists?² Of course it is. But taking on giant loans without understanding the full magnitude of their decision isn’t the only financial mine lying in wait for undergrads. According to Sallie Mae, in 2019 the average college student had $1,183 in credit card debt—a 31% increase from 2016!³

Massive student loans and thousands in credit card debt don’t position students well for post college success, prompting many of them to take a job they don’t care about, in a field they don’t want, for a boss they don’t like. The obligation to make debt payments, which the student once thought was far in the future, now robs them of their freedom to explore, grow, and develop.

If only they had been given a true financial education in high school—or even before, they would have learned the following financial literacy basics for college freshmen…

1. Manage your debt. Student loans help millions of students fund an education that, on average, is worth about $2.8 million over the course of their lives.⁴ But it’s important to highlight that debt is nothing to take on lightly. Many students are unaware of the heavy burden they’re acquiring in the form of student loans and credit card balances.

The company Student Loan Planner reports that roughly 90% of borrowers experience significant anxiety due to their loan burden.⁵ Couple that with a 2015 survey by Equifax that revealed 55.7% of students listed ‘student loan debt’ as their top reason for not being able to afford their first home.⁶

Along with student loan debt, the average college student holds a credit card balance of $1,183. Credit cards for students are often justified as a necessary lifeline to cover living expenses. In reality, they’re often used for frivolous, impulse purchases that contribute to 49% of students being saddled with permanent credit card debt in addition to their student loans.¹

If you can’t avoid using student loans and credit cards to afford your education and living expenses, follow these guidelines to help remove debt swiftly after graduation. With your psychological and financial future at stake, the key is to reduce your debt before an onslaught of new expenses (i.e., your mortgage, children, car payments) make it even harder to pay off.

First, get a part-time job or side-hustle if you haven’t already. Second, identify your credit card with the lowest balance. Third, put as much of your income towards eliminating that debt as you can. Once that’s done, move on to the next lowest card. Repeat until your credit card debt is a hazy memory.

2. Identify a money mentor. There are two ways to gain wisdom. You can either make mistakes or learn from someone else’s. Finances are no different. Never again will you have such a perfect opportunity to find a money mentor than when you’re attending university. It’s like a learning shortcut where you get access to a whole lifetime of experience without a lifetime of making mistakes. You just have to keep an open mind and be willing to establish a real relationship with someone with financial know-how.

Your money mentor could be a parent, a grandparent, an uncle or aunt, the parent of a friend, a professor, or even a responsible upperclassman. Once you’ve identified your mentor, ask hard questions about how to spend and manage money. Pick your mentor’s brain for how they built their wealth, mistakes they made along the way, and advice for specific challenges you face. Show them your budget and have them hold you accountable for your spending decisions. Be willing to put in the work of being open, scheduling and spending time with your mentor, and implementing their advice. The connections and networks you build today will serve you long after you graduate!

3. Start building wealth NOW. Look at your bank account. Then look at your income. They might not seem like much, but they’re the humble beginnings of your future wealth—if you play your cards right! Your money has more growth potential right now than it ever will again. Allow me to demonstrate.

Let’s assume you’re 20 and want to retire at 67 with a million dollars. You find an account with a 9% annual interest rate, compounded monthly. It would only take saving $113 per month to crush that goal. What’s more, you wouldn’t have to increase your saving as you get older to retire as a millionaire. Want to retire with more? Increase it. If you start saving $226 each month now—without ever increasing the amount—you’d have $2 million. If you’ve got the flow, and you want $4 million at retirement—make it $452 each month. Starting young is the most affordable way to build wealth with compound interest.

What if you didn’t start young? What if you decided to wait until you’re 35 to start saving? Those 15 years of procrastination means you’ll have to stash away $451 monthly just to reach your million dollar retirement goal. $452 monthly now for $4 million or $451 monthly starting at 35 for $1 million. You don’t need the wealth of a king or queen to enjoy the freedoms of royalty in retirement—if you start building wealth NOW. It’s your decision whether time robs you or robes you. Even if you start saving with less than these amounts, start the habit now to set aside a regular sum of money for your future.

4. Use a budgeting app. Budgeting is important. It can also be a huge pain if you don’t know what you’re doing. Punching in numbers, setting up spreadsheet formulas, and stressing if that pizza delivery tip counts towards groceries can make tracking your expenses such an aggravating process that you don’t even bother. Fortunately, there are some excellent apps and websites out there that can take the hassle out of money management. Mint and Pocketguard, for example, are free budgeting apps that sync to your bank account and credit cards to allow for real time updates to your spending and saving goals. And it’s all conveniently located on your phone, just a few taps away. Scrap the spreadsheet, do a little research, and download a headache-reducing app ASAP.

A financial education isn’t like a sociology or history class. Those last for a few months, you learn tons of facts, you pass a test, and you move on with your life. Learning how money works is a lifelong process that will impact almost all of your daily decisions and future experiences. Few other skills will open your eyes to the exciting possibilities that life can offer. So hit the books (the How Money Works, Stop Being a Sucker book, to be precise) and start being a student of personal finance TODAY.

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¹ “2019 Money Matters On Campus,” Daniel Zapp, EVERFI, https://everfi.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/MoneyMatters-2019.pdf

² “Student Loan Debt Statistics In 2019: A $1.5 Trillion Crisis,” Zack Friedman, Forbes, Feb 25, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2019/02/25/student-loan-debt-statistics-2019/#50430199133f

³ “Majoring in Money 2019,” Sallie Mae and Ipsos, https://www.salliemae.com/about/leading-research/majoring-in-money/

⁴ “The College Payoff: Education, Occupation, And Lifetime Earnings,” Georgetown University Center On Education And The Workforce, https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/the-college-payoff/

⁵ “Mental Health Survey: 1 in 15 High Student Debt Borrowers Considered Suicide,” Melanie Lockert, Student Loan Planner, Sept 4, 2019, https://www.studentloanplanner.com/mental-health-awareness-survey/

⁶ “Millennials, Mortgages and Student Debt,” Rosie Biundo, Equifax, July 14, 2015, https://insight.equifax.com/millennials-mortgages-and-student-debt/

Two Strategies To Destroy Debt

Two Strategies To Destroy Debt

Lugging around, on average, $38,000 of personal debt is exhausting.¹

It can deplete the power of your personal income until you barely have enough left to cover the monthly bills. You know it’s not a matter of IF you should eliminate debt. It’s a matter of HOW.

You have two basic debt destroying strategies at your disposal, each with different strengths and weaknesses. They’re called the Debt Avalanche and the Debt Snowball.

The Debt Avalanche. The Debt Avalanche starts with a bang. Identify the debt with the highest interest rate and immediately begin to pay it down. Make the minimum payments on all your other loans, but direct everything you can at eliminating the largest financial threat you’re facing. Once it’s paid off, take that extra money you’ve freed up and move on to the next highest interest rate debt. You’ll kickstart an unstoppable force of tumbling debt that will carry you all the way down to your smallest payment—and then zero debt.

Technically speaking, the debt avalanche is the most effective way to become debt-free. The math speaks for itself; paying off that high interest loan should free up a significant chunk of cash that can then be used to even more rapidly wipe out the next debt. The smaller rates won’t stand a chance against your newly freed up cash flow and will be swept away in your debt-removal path.

The Debt Snowball. But following the math isn’t always the best strategy. High interest debts can appear overwhelming and it’s easy to get discouraged if you don’t quickly see a dent. All the number-crunching in the world won’t help if you abandon your debt management strategy before you make any significant progress! That’s why the debt snowball leverages the power of psychology. Find your smallest debt on the list (regardless of the interest rate) and pay it down as quickly as possible. You’ll feel good about your accomplishment, as you get the ball rolling. Use whatever cash you freed up from eliminating the smallest debt to go towards the next smallest. Start working your way up until you’re ready to confront your largest loan. By that time you can use the free cash at your disposal to dispatch the final debt boss as quickly as possible!

The debt snowball uses your brain’s wiring to respond to rapid rewards. Crushing a goal feels good! Knocking out that first loan, as little as it may be, motivates you to move on. Is the Debt Snowball a slower process than the Debt Avalanche? Maybe. But it might be a more successful, manageable strategy if you’re intimidated by the largest debt that towers over your personal finances.

It’s always wise to seek guidance from a licensed and qualified financial professional when drawing out your debt reduction battle plans. They’ll help you prepare an emergency fund, identify the best strategy for you, and refine your budget to free up as much cash as possible!

Then suit up with your mittens, coat, and beanie—it’s time to trigger an avalanche or get the snowball rolling!

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¹ “Planning And Progress Study 2018,” Northwestern Mutual, https://news.northwesternmutual.com/planning-and-progress-2018

Your Emergency Fund: What you need to know.

Your Emergency Fund: What you need to know.

It really isn’t a question on whether or not you need an emergency fund.

(You do.) It’s the first line of defense when unexpected expenses show up (and they will—have kids?). Unforeseen emergencies threaten to undo your hard work and careful financial planning.

But what exactly is an emergency fund? What should it look like? And how do you start building one if you don’t have a sack of cash lying around?

What’s an emergency fund… and why do you need one? <br> An emergency fund is a dedicated amount of money to cover unplanned, unavoidable expenses. Establishing one is an important milestone on your journey to achieving financial independence! But why is it such a big deal?

Emergencies are a part of life. Nobody schedules a busted transmission or a broken arm, but you’ll need a way to pay for them when they happen. Who would have guessed that a global pandemic would force most of us to stay at home and cost millions of Americans their jobs? So it’s not a question of if you’ll need to cover something unexpected but how you’ll cover it. Without an emergency fund, you’ll be forced to either dip into your long-term savings (assuming you have them) or go into debt. For most people, either option can seriously throw off long-term financial plans. An emergency fund gives you the power to overcome sudden obstacles without sacrificing your retirement or piling up credit card bills.

Emergency fund ins and outs <br> One critical thing to grasp is that an emergency fund isn’t the same as your savings. Establishing a solid emergency fund is not a long-term goal that’s built over years or decades. Once the emergency fund is full, then you move on to other money milestones like conquering debt and saving for the future.

So how do you know you have enough in your fund? That depends on how much you make. A good rule of thumb is that an emergency fund should cover 3 to 6 months of income. That provides a buffer if you have an unexpected car repair, medical emergency, or if you’re temporarily unemployed due to an unprecedented global pandemic!

But what if you don’t have that much cash just lying around? <br> 3 to 6 months of income might seem like a lot of money to set aside, especially if you’re currently living paycheck to paycheck. Building an emergency fund will take time and budgeting. Start with a goal of saving 2 weeks of pay. Then shoot for 1 month, then 2 months, etc., until you reach your goal.

The 2 Rules of Emergency Funds

Rule 1: An emergency fund is only, ONLY to be used in case of actual emergencies. It’s not for last minute getaways, much needed spa days, or killer video game sales. If those kinds of things come along, you can use a “fun fund”, which of course is part of your regular budget!

Rule 2: The emergency fund needs to be easily accessible. Make sure it’s in an account where you won’t incur fees for withdrawals when your car breaks down or you suddenly need a new AC unit. That’s why it’s there. Just remember to refill it as soon as the emergency has passed.

Once you’ve built your emergency fund and you know the rules, you’re ready to move on to the next stages of building wealth. Congratulations!You’re officially not broke and in the perfect position to chase your financial future!

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Amplifying the Financial Literacy Message through National Media

Amplifying the Financial Literacy Message through National Media

Our mission is simple, singular in focus, and massive in scope: End financial illiteracy in America.

Ambitious? Yes. Impossible? No. In fact, with enough educators in force, an easy to understand guide book from which to teach, and the passion Americans have to control their own financial futures, we feel as though the odds are in our favor.

Yet even with thousands of energetic, excited educators, we realized from the beginning that our dream would require years, maybe even decades, to accomplish.

That wasn’t acceptable.

So we brainstormed. We lost sleep. We pushed ourselves for an answer, and then we finally realized what we needed to do, which was to amplify our message through the mass media. Not just social media, but mass media, meaning TV, radio, print, and online. We realized that with the implied endorsement and megaphone of the media, our dream could be attained in 10 years or less.

The question was: Would the biggest players in the press embrace the HowMoneyWorks book?

CNBC was first out of the gate to fact check the book and lend their support. ABC/WOR radio New York was next, calling it an “instant financial classic.”

In the opening months of the book’s release, the media has celebrated it at every turn. We’ve appeared on many TV shows, radio programs, and had hundreds of citations online.

As in any massive undertaking, one of the key requirements is credibility. People want to know that what they’re doing is widely accepted by experts with no financial connection to the product. After all, if you’re going to put your heart and soul into something, you want to be sure that it’s worthwhile. Fortunately, the press has responded exactly as we expected—with overwhelming coverage and support.

We’re predicting that the press coverage for this book will last until we end the scourge of financial illiteracy. This is when every American will be educated in the basics of personal finance, and will be fully equipped to chart their own course to financial independence and a comfortable retirement.


– Steve Siebold


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