When I first heard about Peter Dunn, I thought I was beingpunked. My wife is a life-long lover of comedy and so I've witnessed first hand the tortured souls of the men and women who choose comedy as their career path. Very few ever really break through with hugely successful careers, and those who do usually have dark pasts that they share on the stage as a kind of therapy.
So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered "Pete the Planner," who made an intentional pivot away from a promising career in comedy to become a famous personal finance juggernaut. His background is impressive, having written 10 books and appearing regularly on CNN Headline News, Fox News, and Fox Business, as well as numerous nationally syndicated radio programs--for financial advice, not comedy. He is also a regular USA Today columnist.
I recently recorded a YouTube Video With Pete the Planner and spoke with him about his transition from comedy to financial expert and why he is on a mission to make you a millionaire.
Switching from comedy to personal finance.
"I never aspired to be a professional comedian," says Peter Dunn. "I was either going to be an average comedian who knew a lot about money, or I was going to be a financial guy who's funnier than everyone else."
And when you stop and think about it, that's a pretty appealing value proposition. Money is a serious subject matter to be sure, but if we can't stop and laugh at the stupid things we do with our money, how will we ever change our behaviors and attitudes about money? Pete the Planner is onto something here.
Peter Dunn's mission to make you a millionaire.
"Here's the reality. Every financial statistic you look to from a personal finance standpoint, points to the idea that anyone in their 20s, 30s, or 40s, in order to have some semblance of a retirement, is going to need at least $1 million.
"What my industry has done is beat around the bush for a really long time. Rather than saying, 'Hey Bill, you need to be resourceful', I need to tell you, 'Hey Bill you need at least a million bucks and this is how you do it.' It's just resourcefulness, but it's the truth. You've got to get that you need at least seven figures to retire.
"The difference between a financial successful person and a financial unsuccessful person is not their understanding of math, Bill, but it's their understanding of behavior."
Understanding personal finance behavior through the lens of toilet paper.
"When you're in a restroom and there's a full roll of toilet paper, you'll use as much as you want," Peter Dunn explains. "You'll go five-ply, six-ply, you'll make necklaces, you'll toss it around. You don't care because there's a full roll of TP and you cannot run out in that transaction. But when you look over and see cardboard, your behavior shifts." It's a funny way to get at your attitude toward money, but I would agree with the analogy.
"When faced with more resources," Peter Dunn continues, "we can't fall prey to what everyone does, which is to use more resources. You have to make the same decisions no matter how many resources you have and that's the concept of resourcefulness. But people make their worst decisions on payday. And they make their best decisions the day before they get paid. So understanding that and taking advantage of how we think about money is what leads to success; not making more money."
How many "broke" movie and rock stars can you recall? There were so many of them, VH1 started doing a series of "Where Are They Now" programs to track how far the mighty have fallen. Usually, the biggest celebrities just kept increasing their spending the more they made, until one day they realized they had run out of money despite having tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. From Mike Tyson to Michael Jackson to Donald Trump, all of these celebrities had the financial rugs pulled out from under them for the same reasons.
"I used to work with professional athletes and they would say, 'I'm coming up on my next contract and it's going to be huge.' And I would tell them, 'Well, actually you're just going to spend more.' We all do, right?"
Becoming a millionaire requires a change in attitude about money.
"Money magnifies who you are," says Peter Dunn. "As we get raises, for example, our behaviors shift along side of that raise. So unless you can control it and even out your spending, you'll never retire."
That's such as scary thought. A recent survey by the Associated Press, noted that two-thirds of Americans would have difficulty coming up with the money to cover a $1,000 emergency. And the same article referenced a similarly startling fact from a 2015 study by the Federal Reserve: "47 percent of respondents said they either could not cover a $400 emergency expense or would have to sell something or borrow money."
These reports clearly show that the majority of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and that means they are ill-equipped to retire not only today, but if they don't change their behavior, they will never be in a position to retire.
Thankfully, Pete the Planner is using his comedic skills to help broach a very painful reality in order to bring awareness to this very serious issue in America. Using his comedic skills, Pete the Planner is able to get the point across in a much more fun and entertaining way (like using a toilet paper analogy).
So if you know some friends and colleagues who are not saving for their future (and statistically that's more than half your associates), encourage them to watch, listen, or read more from Pete the Planner. I enjoyed our YouTube interview and feel great knowing that this comedian turned personal finance expert is on a mission to forever change millions of Americans' bad money habits so that they have a decent shot at retirement.