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J. Steve Miller -
educator, investor, entrepreneur, and speaker -
has taught audiences from Atlanta to Moscow. He’s known for drawing
practical wisdom from serious research and communicating it in
accessible, unforgettable ways.
Steve is the founder and president of Legacy
Educational Resources, providing global resources for teachers of
life skills in public schools and service organizations at
www.character-education.info. A self-styled "wisdom broker," Steve
collects wisdom from many fields and packages it for teachers and
writers via his published books and the Web. His wife, Cherie, and their
seven sons continually remind him what works and what doesn’t. Connect
with him at www.jstevemiller.com.
(See television interview with Steve
Q: Steve, what motivated you to write this book?
A: First, people are hurting with their finances.
According to recent surveys:
- Twenty-five percent of American adults live
paycheck to paycheck. They fear going under and desperately need to
- Ninety-eight percent of middle-aged people
reported regret at how they spent their money in the light of how
much they could have saved.
- Today's college students graduate with, on
average, over $22,000 in debt. Their first job out of college
doesn't pay what they expected. They want to get out of debt and
accumulate enough wealth to purchase a house.
- Personal debt is reaching record highs as
personal savings reach all time lows (under zero percent average
savings in 2006). How will people ever get ahead?
B. Second, to get more personal, Cherie and I are
raising seven boys, from 14-year-old twins to a 27-year-old. I don't
want them to live their lives experiencing the misery of financial
bondage. This book sums up what we're trying to teach them about finding
Q: Bookstores offer shelves of books on personal money
management. Why write another one?
A: Some of those books are really good. I read
wheelbarrows' full of them in my research and recommend many of them
throughout my book and Web-based resources (www.enjoyyourmoney.org). But
I thought a different approach was in order, something that could help
people totally rethink the way our culture has taught them to manage
their money. So I wrote a book with these distinctives:
- Well researched and documented, ensuring that
the advice is solid.
- Story form to grab and hold attention
- Multi-Cultural (Afro-American, Hispanic,
Oriental, White Anglo-Saxon)
- Multi-Generational, including characters from
eighteen to eighty
- Defies stereotypes
- Likeable characters
- Neither talks down to students nor ridicules
- Encourages learning from one another and
- Includes building knowledge, skills and
- Fosters giving as well as getting
- Encourages those with learning disabilities
- Includes reviews, thought questions and
- Broad use of real people stories
Q: The story line reminds me of the
movie The Breakfast Club, where high school students from different
parts of the school culture broke through the stereotypes to find that
they weren't so different after all.
A: Great observation! That movie was a
part of my inspiration. So I've got this white cheerleader, an
Afro-American muscle car enthusiast, a Hispanic do-gooder and an Asian
low achiever. They meet at "In School Suspension" and discover that
they've got at least one thing in common: their parents stink at
personal finances and it hurts their families. They desperately want to
do better, but they first must overcome their demons.
Amy, Antonio, Akashi and James
Akashi suffers from undiagnosed disabilities, making her
the black sheep of her high achieving siblings. Can a "C" student get
any better than a "C" vocation and a "C" life? Antonio loves outdoor
adventures and serving the less fortunate. But can he make enough of a
living to support a family while working in a potentially low-paying
career? James wants to make a million dollars before age 40, but no
matter how much he works, he can't seem to save a cent.
They're introduced to Mrs. Kramer, an eccentric teacher
who's unusually successful with her finances. She meets with them each
Saturday morning for breakfast to discuss money management.
The resulting package includes adventure, romance and
fascinating people - everything you'd never expect in a financial book.
Q: Is this book is more about people than
A: Yes! And not only about my fictional
characters, but about real people who've succeeded marvelously with
their money. Kramer introduces them to Oseola McCarty, who washed
clothes for a living the old fashioned way - boiling them in a kettle
over a fire. After arthritis forced her into retirement, she shocked the
world by giving a $150,000 gift to a college to allow deserving students
to get the education she never had. How did she save $280,000 dollars
while working such a low-paying job?
Young Warren Buffett started making money with lemonade
stands, finding and selling golf balls, and running paper routes. With
jobs that anybody could do, he ended up making more than his teachers
while he was in high school. Then he multiplied that money into
billions. What were his secrets?
The answers aren't hard to comprehend; they're just
counterintuitive - not what you'd expect. The book introduces the reader
to a host of interesting people and their finances, from Thomas
Jefferson to Mark Twain to Sam Walton.
I think that principles of finances are more easily
understood and applied when you learn them in the context of people
Q: With the story line, I assume your
target audience is high school seniors?
A: My characters range from 18 to 80 years old. Warren
Buffett started investing at age 11. My grandmother started saving and
investing at age sixty-five. At age 101, with her sharp mind intact,
she's accumulated a small fortune. If the interest is there, I think
that any age would enjoy it and reap the benefit.
Q: You've been handing out advance
copies to get input. What has been the response?
A: I'll just read off some of the
advance comments, letting them speak for themselves:
- Robert Martin, Lecturer of Accounting in the
prestigious Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University
called it: "A fast, fun read with practical and often remarkable
insights. Should be required reading for every high school senior
and every young adult who has landed his or her first full-time job.
I'm incorporating parts of the book into my lectures."
- Dr. Dwight "Ike" Reighard, Executive Vice
President and Chief People Officer of HomeBanc said, "Had I read
this book in my 20’s, I’d be financially independent today. It’s a
remarkable blend of fabulous research with clear and lively writing.
You’d pay an expert quite a sum for this caliber of counsel. That’s
why I say that the best investment you make this year just might be
this book. Your second best investment will be the copies you buy
for your children."
- Larry Winter, of Winter & Scoggins, CPA's,
said: "As a practicing CPA and financial counselor for the past
35 years, I've read scores of books and periodicals on personal
finance. Just when you think you've heard it all, something like
this comes along. It's rare and refreshing to find a book so
enjoyable, so accurate, and so life changing. I’m purchasing 200
copies to give away to graduating seniors."
(See bottom of this page for more testimonials.)
Q: In the book, you keep referring
readers to your Web site for more information. Why didn't you just
include everything in the book?
A: Because few people would buy a 1000
page book that's about finances instead of Harry Potter! Even fewer
would actually read it once they brought it home. Personal finance is a
very broad subject. My copy of Benjamin Graham's classic, The
Intelligent Investor, is over 600 pages, and it just covers one slice of
personal finances: investing in stocks. The Web gives me unlimited space
to cover topics that readers want to cover in more depth. I think many
will especially find helpful the in depth summaries of other books
related to personal finance. If you want to get a snapshot of the advice
of several financial writers, or to get the scoop on a book before you
buy it, I think you'll find my summaries valuable.
Q: How much do the Web resources cost?
A: They're free. You can find them at
Q: Do you have some sample chapters of your book that
people can read?
A: They can find them in the money section of the character
Introduction: Part One – Investing Money
- Breakfast 1 – Discover the Basics
Oseola McCarty cleaned clothes for a living the old fashioned way -
boiling them in a pot over a fire. So how did she accumulate over a
quarter of a million dollars, when people making multiples of her
salary can't seem to get by?
- Breakfast 2 – Catch the Vision
Young Warren Buffet worked paper routes and found and sold golf
balls - stuff that anybody can do. But through saving and investing,
he out-earned his teachers while he was in high school. How did
investing multiply that money into billions?
- Breakfast 3 – Don’t Lose Money in
"Hash Brown" made all of the mistakes that most investors make,
losing tons of money trying to beat the market. He shares his
hard-earned lessons with wisdom from Warren Buffett, his mentor
Benjamin Graham, and Money senior editor Jason Zweig, leading
readers safely through the investing minefield.
- Breakfast 4 – Make Money in Mutual
Here's how to choose stock and bond funds for the ultimate in
diversity, safety and healthy returns.
- Breakfast 5 –
Diversify with Real Estate.
Travis is a likeable "Dukes of Hazard" type who prefers muscle cars
over golf and real estate over stocks. At twenty-eight years of age,
his cars and comfortable home in the country are totally paid off.
How did he do it?
- Breakfast 6 – The Breakfast that Almost
A kidnapping, a car chase and a life lesson.
Part Two – Saving Money
- Breakfast 7 – Live WAY Beneath Your
"Watch your expenses more than your revenue." So says the successful
CEO of Wherehouse Music. Since a dollar saved can equal two dollars
earned (hint: savings aren't taxed), cutting costs is the most
underrated trick to building wealth.
- Breakfast 8 – Save on Food and Clothes
Carmen, a spunky young mother, leads a whirlwind field trip through
a grocery store, finding huge savings with "loss leaders," generic
drugs, bulk buying and "store blitzes."
- Breakfast 9 – Save on Cars
Kramer asks a hairy, audacious question: "Is it possible to spend
almost nothing over a lifetime on purchasing cars?" James's answer
tells a lot about how to save a bundle on reliable transportation.
- Breakfast 10 – Save on Houses
Bob and Bud live in identical houses in the same neighborhood. Why
is one paying half what the other is paying?
- Breakfast 11 –Ten Popular Ways to Lose
Lots of Money
Thomas Jefferson was brilliant and famous, but spent his last years
fretting over his huge debt. Mark Twain and coach Joe Gibbs lost
fortunes in bad investments. How can we avoid their mistakes?
Part Three – Making Money
- Breakfast 12 – Find Jobs You Love
Researchers Stanley and Danko discovered that millionaires made
their money at vocations they loved. How can we find jobs we're
- Breakfast 13 – Excel at Your Job
It's more than college degrees and developing skills.
- Breakfast 14 – Invest in your Mind
"In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while
the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a
world that no longer exists." (Al Rogers, Global SCHOOLHOUSE
Part Four: Enjoying Money
Breakfast 15 – Look for Happiness in the Right
People want to be financially successful because they
think it will contribute to their happiness. What makes people happy?
How should scientific studies of human happiness impact the way we use
Epilogue: Where Are They Now?
Discover what happened to the main characters later in
Web-Based Complementary Resources
- "Teachers of financial management and life skills will be
thrilled to discover this book! Miller uses people stories to
breathe life into financial concepts, making lessons both memorable
and enjoyable. As an educator, I was impressed that the book:
"Having developed character education in several schools, I see the
importance of integrating character into the curriculum. This book
succeeds marvelously! Qualities such as diligence, intellectual
curiosity, patience, integrity, service and thrift are woven
seamlessly into the fabric of the book, so that readers are
motivated to adopt these qualities in order to succeed with their
finances." (Phillip Page, Ph.D., Public School Principal)
- goes beyond “the same old stuff” that students hate;
- expands minds with research-based facts;
- engages minds with intriguing angles and creative
- challenges students beyond selfish accumulation to consider
service to humanity;
- includes multiple cultures;
- offers hope to those with learning disabilities.
- "By far the most valuable book on finances I've
ever read." (Callie C. Brown, author of The Complete Guide to
Investing in Gold and Precious Metals)
- "Financial responsibility has reached a state
of crisis. This book attacks the problem in a common sense,
refreshing manner that anyone can understand and apply to real life.
It should be required reading for all young people, before they find
themselves broke, deeply in debt and miserable." (William C. Lusk,
Jr., Senior Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer,
Retired, Shaw Industries, a Fortune 500 company and the world’s
largest manufacturer of carpet.)
- "A very entertaining, engaging book! The
characters are appealing and aid the reader in interacting with the
principles taught. All ages will enjoy it and benefit. Meticulously
researched and documented. Chock full of financial and lifestyle
wisdom. I’ll keep plenty of copies in my office to hand out to
clients." (Dr. Ken Walker, Psychologist with the Georgia Department
of Juvenile Justice and Director of Dalton Counseling Service.)
- "A comprehensive look at managing your money.
For me, the genius of this book is that it gathers wisdom from top
financial gurus and uses it to explain clearly and practically how
average folks can apply it to everyday living." (Alan Buckler -
- "I loved the story and the characters! Read
this book and you'll get the practical tools and wisdom to chart
your own course toward financial freedom." (Jamie Maddox, former
Senior Business Analyst, The Coca Cola Company, present Pastor of
Stewardship, NorthStar Church)
- "For me, the section on savings was worth the
price of the book, detailing scores of hidden ways to save a fortune
over a lifetime. Then, unlike many books, it goes beyond 'having
more' to 'doing more with what you have." (Bryan McIntosh, Ph.D.,
- "I really liked the format! The dramatic layout
used a totally different part of my brain when I read it...it's like
watching a movie or reading a novel. The story line kept my interest
so that I got through it quickly. The content was very inspiring.
"Living differently" and "starting a financial counterculture" hits
home to me. And it was SO PRACTICAL! I think it will also appeal to
most of my generation and the one coming up behind me." (Anthony
Daniel, age 28, Chemist, Tiarco Chemical)
- "Clever! The movie script format pulled me into
the story and endeared me to the characters. Before I knew it, I
found myself thinking about money strategies that I'd have never
learned from traditional finance books. Teaching finance through
people stories works for me. Rather than staring at obscure charts,
I just followed the lives of successful people. Finally! A readable
book on personal finance for people who don't want to read a book on
personal finance...which of course is me and just about everybody
else!" (Mark Hannah, Film Producer)
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for resale, contact Wisdom Creek