Keith Lloyd Brown on The Business of Your Life and Equipping Youth with Financial Know-how By Sean Tosello Deep River Books author Keith Lloyd Brown recently had his book, The Business of Your Life, release on April 25, 2019. Keith expertly crafted this book as an educational tool for Christian youth on personal finances. Unique in its approach and audience, I was excited to ask him more about his book. My conversation with him is below: ST: Your book, The Business of Your Life, is primarily marketed as material for teenagers. What was the heart behind targeting the teenage demographic with a personal finance guide? KLB: In a word, advocacy, Sean. If there’s ever been a special needs group that’s not been identified as such, it’s youth between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. This subset exists in a narrow window: Unabandoned sophomores and younger don’t yet need streetwise knowledge and self-preservation skills, but as graduated seniors on the way out the door, they’re far better served when suitably acquainted with running a model household—that being one which protects, nurtures, educates, and has a healthy respect for God. I’m guessing there’s just a small percentage of parents who pore over a written family budget with sons and daughters to illustrate the many factors to consider when designing such a strategy (even for an eventual household of only one), much less its associated costs. And then there are the outside threats to advise upon. We teach kids to look both ways before crossing the street but are less conscious of the predatory lending practices teens are about to encounter on the other side. It would be helpful if the fundamentals were taught in school. Marguerita Cheng, financial planning guru, states in her June of ’18 Forbes article, “In the United States, there are only five states that require a personal finance [class] for high school graduation: Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia.” ST: You’ve addressed your book from the perspective as a Christian. How do you feel it contributes to the discipleship of young Christians? KLB: I’m comfortable with the role of a third-party endorser, so to speak; I’m viewed as an authority on working with numbers, and am not the reader’s parent or pastor (nor am I a theologian or Scripture scholar). And when I affirm to young gals and guys that they can positively formulate a budget that meets their temporal needs and works effectively toward personal goals—while simultaneously not running contrary to a lesson from the Sermon on the Mount—my message reinforces what they’ve heard at home and in the Gospels: To paraphrase the Lord, “Don’t get hung up on the trappings of earth!” Adhering to this caution begins with reflecting on the essence of money and then utilizing this “reward for work” in a productive manner. Consistent with that belief, I show—for example—church offerings and charitable giving as proper, permanent elements (if only fractional) of any young-earner’s budget. Such good habits will endure when coupled with a matching philosophy in practical aspects of one’s life. Socially responsible investing, I suggest, can be a profitable vehicle that puts faith into action. ST: How do you effectively connect with young readers on the subject of personal finances? Is there any advice you would share with educators who want to successfully guide young Christians in financial wisdom? KLB: You identified the crux of the matter when you joined personal with finances, Sean! Because of its personal nature, the subject doesn’t have right or wrong answers, per se, as opposed to algebra and trig! In order to get a reader to turn to page 2, an author (or educator, by extension) must establish early on a one-to-one interest in his or her financial well-being. My strategy to convey knowledge and teach practical skills has been to write in the conversational style; just as if I’m a friend sitting across the booth at the golden arches. A little humor interspersed helps, I think, and so do relevant stories—both real-life and fictional. Everyone likes stories. Likewise with sharing industry secrets—no one likes to feel left out. Now, that’s not so much about violating trust as it is about laying out the truth concerning topics no one talks to teens about. Examples are dispelling myths about insurance and taking the mystery out of stocks and bonds—not to mention the workings of a tax return and sure ways to avoid a NSF. And, of course, honesty always works. I haven’t gone back to count the number of times I tell readers about fiscal mistakes that I made out of ignorance, but the book would weigh less had I omitted those occasions. And I would tell educators not to skip around if they’re leading from my book. The chapters are in specific order, and all teachers really have to do is elicit feedback from students on any new topics. Kids talking to each other teach each other. There are also lots of links to follow, which are listed at the end of most chapters. Moreover, I have a downloadable Educator’s Guide on the book’s website: https://thebusinessofyourlifebook.com. ST: Your book is written for teens, is it also designed for classrooms and other educational contexts? KLB: The book walks a fine line between a textbook and a self-help resource. It’s just that way. Despite the fact that teachers and textbooks seem inextricable, publishers of such are more than squeamish about creating a comprehensive work for a subject that isn’t mandated, much less having a standard to be measured by. One of The Business of Your Life’s best applications in a classroom is a curriculum supplement. Homeschooling parents and their teaching co-ops have the upper hand with choosing student curriculum. I know of many instances where personal finance is offered as an enrichment class. Finally, Mr. Tosello, church youth ministers could help fill the void if these men and women, again, put this book on their suggested reading list or waltzed teens through it in a matter of a few sessions. ST: Do you have any advice for those who are past, or well past, their teenage years but want some financial guidance? Is there a “not-so-young” edition coming out in the future for older audiences? KLB: Yes, Sean, I do have some candid advice for middle-age people and older: Stop dead in your tracks and read my Chapter 12, Personal Financial Statements. That may be a bit dramatic but the same can be said for the insight the material delivers. Next, complete an Income and Expense Statement and a Net Worth Statement, and subsequently analyze each of these documents, as instructed. The figures will tell you what your spending habits are doing. Are they building net worth or taking you backward? Are they reducing debt? Are clothing costs higher because groceries are up? Instead of worrying about capturing an additional percentage or two of interest, slash your discretionary expenses. That has an immediate effect on your bottom line. The book’s theme is running your life as if you’re running a business. As CEO, you better make a profit. Have you done anything with respect to estate planning? Wills do play a minor role, but an inexpensive revocable trust can save tons on attorney fees, which notoriously shrink your estate in probate. Not only that, it settles issues ahead of time. What? Do you think your heirs aren’t likely to take each other to court over your real estate and stock portfolio, 401(k), etc., or take advantage of a surviving spouse? I don’t want to sew deceit in anyone’s family, but some people do nasty things when tempted. God help us all. But most importantly, step back and try to see if your spending priorities are skewed toward creating Heaven on earth. If they’ve unconsciously tilted that way, it may be time to re-awaken that teen within you, who was so idealistic those many decades ago. I greatly appreciated hearing Keith’s thoughts and advice, and highly recommend his book both for youth and older audiences. If you valued his thoughts here and have a teen or young adult who could benefit from some personal finance education, hop on over to his website at https://thebusinessofyourlifebook.com/. About The Business of your Life Christian Teens and Young Adults: Go Beyond the Basics to Master the World of Finance God’s Way Former Ameriprise financial planner Keith Lloyd Brown divulges the secrets and strategies teens and young adults need to know to master the world of finance. He presents these alongside biblical principles to provide a solidly biblical approach to money management that extends way beyond the basics. In this comprehensive guide, teens and young adults will learn: The mysteries of stocks, bonds, taxes, and trouble-free bankingHow to invest in corporate plans and IRAs like a proInside secrets of insurance, sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporationsThe intricacies of budgeting and financial statement preparationHow to stay out of trouble with the IRS and the Lord…And much, much more With five tear-out worksheets and extensive resources, this comprehensive guide provides the tools to go beyond financial independence. Teens and young adults will be fully prepared to get ahead in life and achieve financial excellence paired with faithful stewardship.