Today on the show, I’m joined by Neala Okuromade.
Neala is known for her passion aimed at personal finance. She’s the author of the book What’s Your Financial Gameplan? which deals with personal finance issues, founded on a long fascination for implementing practical solutions to everyday money problems.
With over fourteen years’ experience in accounting, Neala is a member of the ‘Association of Certified Chartered Accountants’ during which time she has managed finance departments.
Neala is passionate about empowering the everyday person to make a success of their personal finances, especially in today’s tough and chaotic economic climate.
An avid studier of world financial news, economics and investing for many years, Neala now wants to take what she has studied, learnt and practised, and simplify it for anyone who thinks anything financial is too complicated and impossible to understand.
Here’s my conversation with Neala Okuromade, author of What’s your Financial Game Plan?, in episode 280 of Informed Choice Radio.
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Martin: Welcome back to Informed Choice Radio. I am delighted to welcome today Neala Okuromade. Neala is known for her passion aimed at personal finances, and we’re talking today about her new book, which is called What’s Your Financial Game Plan?
Neala, welcome to the show. Could you start by telling our listeners a bit about yourself and about your background as an accountant?
Neala: Martin, thank you for having me on the show. I have 14 years experience in the corporate world and, further, seven years experience working on personal finance books and resources.
In my 14 years’ experience in the corporate world, I held the position as a project accountant for a large property company in London. I was then the financial controller for a property exchange company, and finally my last role in the corporate world was that of associate director of finance for a very reputable charity in England and Wales.
In that that period of time, I managed the departments. I oversaw the functions, and I implemented systems and procedures to help the organisation and the finance department run more efficiently and effectively.
Martin: Then, after that corporate experience, as you say, you moved in the last years to writing books and resources, so what prompted that move and what do you do these days?
Neala: Actually, I had such a desire for personal finances. Even though I worked in the corporate world, Martin, I’d always seem to want to help individuals or people with their personal finances and get them to make … get the best out of their money, and that prompted me a desire.
Even in the corporate world, I’d have discussions with people. I would ask them who was their money working for them, how are they getting the best out of it, and that just, with the 2008 crash, I … It sparked a desire for me to really pursue that, and I worked systematically to leaving my job in 2011 so that I can write good resources, helpful resources that can really tackle money issues and money problems.
Martin: Fantastic, so tell us about the inspiration for this latest book, What’s Your Financial Game Plan? What inspired you to write it? Why did you decide that, indeed, the world needed this book?
Neala: Martin, it’s actually two books. The first book I released in 2013, and that one was What’s Your Financial Game Plan? Then the second one was a follow-up to it. It’s What’s Your Financial Game Plan, The Workbook.
The reason why I wrote the first book was because I knew people planned for their weddings, they planned for having a baby, they planned for going on a holiday, for buying a car, but a lot of people were not really planning for where they wanted to be financially in one year’s time, five years’ time or even 10 years’ time, and that gave me the desire to write this book, What’s Your Financial Game Plan?
I asked people a question, “So what is your financial game plan?” and then, as I was working on that book, people we’ve had, I’d have a discussion with some of the readers, and they would say to me, “You know, Neala, your book really helped me with my finances.”
Then I would say, “So did you write your financial game plan?” and they would say, “Well, no, I didn’t,” and I would ask, “Well, why?” and they would say things like this. They would say, “I don’t know what a financial game plan looks like. I don’t know where to start, Neala, and it just sounds really daunting and complex, so I never got around to it.”
Martin: The workbook’s inspiration then is how to get people to take action and to write their game plan up?
Neala: That’s right. Basically, once you get the workbook, it will help you tell your personal finance story. It will help you to know where you are at now financially, what that looks like, and it will help you have a full picture, so it’s not just your income and expenses, but bringing in your credit report also so you will get a full picture of your now position and what category you would potential fall into, and I have four categories people fall into, generally fall into, and then we take it further and start implementing a financial game plan on the information we have now.
Martin: Okay, so tell us a bit more about the book and the workbook. Who’s the intended audience? Who do you think this would most benefit?
Neala: The book and the workbook would benefit individuals, families, university students, because they’re suddenly having an income and expenses, and even small businesses.
The book itself is it tells a story. I try to bring alive money by storytelling. I take the story of four friends who went to the same university, studied the same course, got the same degree, started the same job at the same company, earning the same money, but, Martin, they all ended up in totally different financial situations. How did that happen?
I take it into a 10 to 15-year period so that people can see what habits they had and what led them to get into the position they were at financially. That is what the book is all about, and the book also has a chapter that talks about the rise of the consumer and how over the decades we’ve become more consumeristic in our approach with our money.
I also then take the last chapter, which talks about the global economy, and I try to make the global economy and the country’s finances as simple as people’s finances. It’s not complicated. It’s basically stating what’s in your income and looking at your expenses and what position you would be in, and that is the first book and what people should expect to get from it.
The second workbook is basically, really, I talk about people knowing their financial situation and having a full picture of where they are now, but then what we do is we then look at, “Okay, if this is your financial situation now, then how do we get you to where you want to be so we have a cost reduction plan inside of there?” We look at possible cracks that can be in your financial planning, so, if these cracks are there, how do you recognise it and what strategies that … can you implement to avoid those cracks being in your financial planning and, finally, we look at your one-year, five-year and 10-year financial goals and setting it based on your realistic figures here and now.
Martin: The workbook I know provides this toolkit to guide readers through to handle their finances more effectively. Is that something that you feel that needs to be more readily taught among younger people? Do we reach adulthood unprepared to manage our finances and set these goals?
Neala: Martin, we reach adulthood, the majority of us I believe reach adulthood being totally unprepared for the real world of finances. I think this toolkit or any sort of financial education is important in today’s society. The earlier we start financial planning and teaching our children in the educational system, the more equipped, the better equipped they’re going to be when they come into the real world, into the reality of finance, income and expenses, and how to get the best out of it.
Right now, I think we should start financial education from the very inception of primary school because, remember, young children are seeing their family’s habits, money habits. They’re picking up habits from very early on, so it could be good habits, it could be bad habits, but how are we helping in the educational system to steer children’s thinking in the right direction regarding money and regarding spending and regarding saving and, possibly, investing?
Martin: Who do you think needs to take responsibility for this personal finance education? Is this the responsibility of the school education system? Is it something that families, parents need to be doing more often? Maybe it’s a shared responsibility?
Neala: I believe it’s a shared responsibility. Unfortunately though, there’s only so much we can do with the families and their habit, but if we can get to the young children, then at least we can make some progress or show them an alternative way of how they can handle their finances.
I think, if we can educate parents, that would be good, but I think the earlier you start educating young children so that they are equipped, because it’s a wild, wild west when we come into the real world of finances. You hear of young people and they get access to credit so easily and, before you know it, they’re in debt, and they don’t know how they get there or it came so easily.
For me, tackling that in the educational system is a good starting point because at least we know we can introduce it to the curriculum, but tackling it in families is another thing, a totally different ballgame.
Martin: Within the book, I know it looks at how the reader can identify their current financial situations. You spoke about going into four different categories, your now position. Do you think that people are generally unaware about our now position and sometimes we turn a blind eye to the reality of where we are today?
Neala: Yes, I do think people are unaware of their now position. If I can take you back, say, 30-40 years ago, a household or family or an individual, they would have maybe one back account, and so they would have one bank statement coming their way on a monthly basis. They may or may not have had credit cards and, if they did, they may have had one credit card, and they would not have had … they would not maybe be tapping into their overdraft facility, and so, when they sat down to look at their financial situation month-on-month, it was quite easy to accumulate the information and put it into an income and expenses spreadsheet.
Fast forward to today, Martin, what do we have? We have families with more than one bank statements, sometimes, two, three or four. They then have, on top of that, two or three credit cards, and they may have been tapping into their overdraft facility, and, now, we are asking families or young people or individuals to take all those information that they have regarding their financial situation and plot it into an income and expenditure and make sense out of it.
Now, accountants themselves find that challenging and hard, much less for families who may not know how to do something like that. That is where the challenge really comes in, knowing your financial situation. For a lot of people, sitting down on a monthly basis and doing a simple income and expenditure is not so simple anymore, and it seems very daunting, and so, for them, to get their heads on that is very difficult.
Martin: As well as the challenges of getting your head around your current financial situation. What about the challenge of trying to understand what your financial future should look like. Mapping out the future, what challenges do you think people face there?
Neala: There’s lots of challenges that people face in mapping out their financial future. I think the first step though is, before you can even begin to map out your financial situation, is to tackle the income and expenditure.
If we can actually get people to sit and to understand how to tackle statements and put it into some sort of sense, income and expenditure, so that they know what category they’re in, once you know if you’re in a debt category, a breakeven category, a savings category or savings and investment category, and I believe these categories, these four categories, people generally fit into one or the other.
If you know which category you are in, then it’s much more easier to financially plan your future because you will know, “Okay, I’m in a category of debt, and I need to work systematically to clearing down my debts and moving into breakeven, then savings.”
With a breakeven person who’s in that situation, then they can financially plan to say, “Okay, I want savings and I want to go into investments,” and [inaudible 00:12:24] for the savings or the investment person, but it’s first knowing what category do I fall into and how do I know I’m in this category, what is the full picture that would give me that, “Okay, I have monthly debt, so my income is not meeting my expenses and, on top of that, I have credit card debt, I have loans, I have this,” knowing that full picture and how to plan realistic, clear, achievable goals to help the individual move from that position to the next position to the next position to the next position.
I think, breaking it down to bite-size pieces, making it just very as simple as possible, “Okay, you need to just do this, then this, then this,” makes it much more easy and simpler for the everyday man to work towards gaining financial freedom.
Martin: Once we understand where we are and we know where we want to get to, how do we go about changing some of our habits that maybe hold us back from getting to where we want to be?
Neala: How do we go about changing some of our habits? Now, there is a saying that says it takes 21 days to form a new habit. I don’t tend to agree with that because I know that it’s very challenging to change habits, to change mindsets, but it can be done.
Now, it’s one thing to say to change a habit, but it’s another thing for somebody to be willing to do it, and that is the key. It’s the willingness of the individual to want to change their habits and not just say, “Okay, I’m going to change my habits,” because it takes time, it takes effort and it takes you understanding what habits you had previously and what habits you would like to have.
It’s understand what habits do you want to work towards and how do you go about changing those habits because, for instance, if you take somebody who likes shopping and they tend to visit the shopping malls very often, then what habits can they introduce that can help turn that situation around?
Nothing’s wrong in visiting a shopping mall, but if you do visit a shopping mall, do you think that you spend money there and the shopping mall is an incentive for spending money, then what alternatives can we put in place to avoid maybe going to the shopping mall or, if you do go there, not spending money?
It’s just understanding the habits and understanding what … how and what you want to do with the habits to make for a better financial future.
Martin: If you could choose one message or one piece of advice from the book, which would you want to share?
Neala: I would say, for me, I, about 12 years ago, I got married, and my husband and I knew that I wanted to be able to stay home and spend quality time with my children when they did arrive, and so what we did was we wrote a financial game plan. This was about 12 years ago.
We wrote a financial game plan to help to work towards that goal, and we systematically went about implementing the strategies in that financial game plan so that it would enable me to actually do what I wanted to, which was to transition from the corporate world of finance into the personal world of finances, and I was able to do that in 2011 and, now, I’m able to work from home and enjoy quality time with my children. That would not have been achievable if I didn’t have that plan in place.
I know there are so many people out there in society today who may not be happy in the job that they are in or they would like to choose a different career path or they would like to be able to spend more quality time with their children, but are unable to do that because of financial circumstances, and my advice to them is, if you can get a financial plan for your money, know where you want to head with your money goals, then you can write a financial game plan that can lead to you choosing a different path or being able to accomplish that dream or goal you have.
It wouldn’t be overnight. It took me eight years, but it is achievable and doable once you stick within your plan and work systematically toward it, and that’s what I would like people to really get from there. By having a plan for your money, it can enable you to transition to whatever you want to do and the quality of life you would like to have.
Martin: Neala, thank you so much for joining us today on the Informed Choice Radio Podcast. Before you go, can you tell our listeners where they can get a hold of a copy of the book and the workbook, and where can we connect with you online?
Neala: Martin, you can get a copy of my book on Amazon, and you can get a copy of the workbook on the 30th of November, 2017. That is when it would be launched. It’s available for pre-order. You can also check me out on my website, whatsyourfinancialgameplan.com, and you can check me out on Twitter @nealaokuromade, and that’s where people can find me.
Martin: Fantastic. We’ll make sure we put links in the show notes for the book and for you as well and your website so our listeners can find that nice and easily. Thank you for your time today. That was great.
Neala: Thank you again, Martin. Appreciate it.