David Bach left Morgan Stanley to pursue being a personal finance expert — but it didn’t happen overnight.
9 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
David Bach has a lot to teach entrepreneurs about transitioning from practicing industry leader to teaching industry expert. After all, you probably recognize him from his more than 100 appearances as a financial expert on NBC’s Today Show.
Before becoming a financial author and keynote speaker, he was a Morgan Stanley financial planner for almost a decade. This expertise created the foundation on which he built the Finish Rich franchise, an empire that has nine New York Times bestseller titles, live seminars, online courses and more. He is one of the only authors in history to have four books simultaneously on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Businessweek and USA Today bestseller lists. He is also the co-founder of AE Wealth Management, one of America’s fastest growing RIA’s with over $3.7 billion in total platform assets as of June 1.
If you want to transition from working within your industry with clients and customers to writing and teaching your industry expertise on a larger scale, read on for Bach’s best tips.
Stay in your day job for as long as you can.
Even after Bach had two bestsellers under his belt, he kept his Morgan Stanley business alive and well. His literary agent continuously encouraged him, “Don’t quit … you have a huge advantage right now. You actually have a going career. Build [your Finish Rich platform] on the side while you’ve got an existing business.”
Bach agrees on that advice for most entrepreneurs. He shared that he started Finish Rich Media at his kitchen table with $1,000 and time. Like many of the bestselling authors I’ve featured, he worked when he could, usually between 4:30 a.m. and 7 a.m.
“Literally, I wrote Smart Women Finish Rich before I went to the office and after I came home. I started it with nothing, and I did not leave Morgan Stanley until I had a million dollars worth of income coming in to Finish Rich Media. Because I’m a money guy, conservative, but I also loved what I was doing at Morgan Stanley.”
He wanted to add that even with his finances in order, he was terrified. Expect to be scared.
“It was the scariest decision of my life because I was walking away from a business I had spent nine years building. I knew I would have financial security for life in that business, and I didn’t know if this would work. And, by the way, when I got to New York, I had those moments that any entrepreneur has which is like, Oh my god, what did I do? But then it started working.”
Find a “why” beyond yourself.
Many entrepreneurs love the idea of expert status: keynote speeches, book deals and hundreds of thousands of instagram followers. However, the most successful influencers I’ve studied have been incredibly mission-focused. Having a vision beyond yourself keeps you going past the roadblocks, setbacks, failures and haters that await an aspiring expert. Bach had helped so many widows, divorcées and other smart capable women who simply hadn’t been taught about personal finance.
“My bigger purpose was, to go out and teach a million women to be smarter with money. That’s what lead to Smart Women Finish Rich, and my seminars, and my first PBS show, was this purpose to go help more people.”
Remember, the expert business is still business.
“You got to treat your business like it’s a business before it’s a business.” Your first steps should still be to set up an LLC, a bookkeeper, a separate business credit card and, Bach adds, an SEP IRA account for yourself.
“You also need to be paying yourself first,” he says. “It needs to be a cornerstone of why you’re doing what you do, so that you can pay yourself first and you can put yourself first. And if you have a family, you have kids, and you’re an entrepreneur … actually even if you’re not an entrepreneur, you need to be going out and getting yourself a term insurance policy. Not a whole life policy, I’m not talking about anything that’s going to have a huge commission in it. I’m talking about go online and buy a term insurance policy to protect your family.”
He shared that he knows many people with multimillion-dollar business with no profit at the end of the year. Some entrepreneurs are proud of this fact, with the car and lifestyle to prove it.
“But … make a list of everything that can go wrong and then make a longer list. I’m a huge believer in financial security. One of the ways to get through difficult times is to have a bunch of cash.”
Another key point to building a successful business: actually serving the customer. You may be passionate about your message but does anyone want to hear it? Bach’s expert journey began after his female clients were asking for more help and referring their friends.
“So much of [my work] was just listening to my readers, and sometimes, my readers telling me, ‘I need something different than what you gave me.’ That’s what lead to the Automatic Millionaire. People kept asking for me to tell me the ‘one thing.’ And that’s what lead to the Automatic Millionaire, because I just kept answering that over and over again.”
Model other experts …
Bach’s vision was born out of his desire to help women and his belief that he could do what other franchise authors had done. He thought to himself that he could do what Tony Robbins was doing in motivation, what Stephen Covey was doing in time management, etc. He saw that he could create a series of books from the start, which helped him land his agent and his first book deal.
“I worked backwards. How would I touch a million? I can do what these guys are doing, in personal finance. So then I started modeling, what did these people do?” he explained. He went to the bookstore and looked at the acknowledgement section of authors he wanted to model, and found out who their agents and publishers were. He then reached out to his top picks from that group. “I was very systematic about it. “
… Which will probably include writing a book.
Is writing a book still vital to positioning oneself as an expert? Probably. Does it have to be a traditionally published New York Times bestseller? Definitely not, but a finished, printed book still sets you apart. If you follow a lot of authors and influencers, it may seem like “everyone writes book now” — so publishing a book is not as seemingly valuable. The reality, however, is that most of the world is not an aspiring expert. Most consumers are still impressed by the amount of knowledge, research, dedication and follow-through publishing a book requires. Books still require all of those things, by the way, even ebooks.
Simply put, Bach said, “Yeah. You have to do this thing called writing.”
If you are self-publishing and have trouble motivating yourself to write, announce a publish date to your community, or build in external motivators using writing groups or an accountability partner.
“Due dates are what get me to get things done, I sit down and I have a goal every morning to get 1,000 or 1,500 words done. I get up early, I write most of my books in libraries. I look at like, you’ve got 60,000 to 80,000 words to get done, and you need to do it over 90 days, and let’s go.”
Be prepared for the grind.
“I used to have to fly all over the country. I was staying in the Motel 6’s all over America and doing every college radio show. It always looks glamorous by the time you see the person on the Today Show or wherever … It took a lot of not glamorous time.” Bach shared that he had events with only 10 people, and even a signing with only one attendee, who didn’t buy the book. The key, he explained, was that he loved every minute of it.
Now he’s building online courses and hosting virtual book signings, which may be your plan as well. It does take a lot fewer live events to build an audience these days, but digital work is still a grind. Instead of hours on the road, you may be spending hours writing at a library, editing “ums” out of podcasts, researching speaking opportunities, trying to fix a WordPress issue, etc.
Stay true to your values.
Bach’s core financial advice from his books also works for entrepreneurs and influencers. List out your five core values to guide your life. Then look at your time, energy, talents and resources.
“Look at your life and ask yourself, are you spending money in a way that matches up with your values?”
Learn more from Bach in his full interview on The Kelsey Show on YouTube.