A Dollar A Day: Winnie Sun

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Between stints as a featured guest on CNBC, Bloomberg News, writing for Forbes, launching a financial podcast, and managing her own financial advisory firm, Winnie Sun has done her homework when it comes to money. Given that it’s such a huge topic in a still-struggling American recovery, we decided to catch up with Winnie to let you know some of her best kept financial secrets.

The Guy Society: Hi Winnie. Thank you for joining us and welcome to The Guy Society. How’s everything going?

Winnie Sun: Thank you. It’s great to be here!

The Guy Society:  What made you want to get into finance and specifically, help families?

Winnie Sun: Honestly, it was part pleasing my Asian parents who didn’t think the television industry was for me, and part an interest in growing personal wealth in the stock market. Growing up, I didn’t even consider becoming a financial advisor. My parents have always been very good savers, but investing was far from their expertise. They have been in the real estate business for decades. In an early real estate project with “friends,” they were pulled into bankruptcy right before I was about to start college. That was the best financial education I could have earned. I worked so hard during college to earn money and the experience spurred my interest in helping them understand what they were invested in and how their money was managed. I found myself then wanting to help other families that just needed sound advice.

The Guy Society:  The average family these days struggles to balance so much when it comes to personal finances. What is one area you consistently see which needs improvement?

Winnie Sun: We all think there isn’t enough time in the day and there isn’t enough money to save at the end of each month. I would agree with half of that. We’re one of the hardest working generations, but we also spend a lot. You may not think it’s a lot, but when you actually map out your budget worksheet, you will see that it is. I do this exercise with our clients. In reality, we come to adapt to our earnings. As you advance in your career and income, so does your increase in spending. You have to pay yourself first. Make investing in your retirement and your financial goals non-negotiable. Before buying things that give you temporary satisfaction, you have to save. Even $20 is saving, and we can all save at least that much per month. The reality is that we cannot have it all – ALL the time. We have to live in moderation or we will be part of that large percentage of retirees, parents, students, elders, etc. who find themselves with a financial shortfall, and worst – in debt. That’s truly financial stress. If you could talk to your 7-year old self about what to spend on, would you again buy so many toys? The same is for you now.

The Guy Society:  Many struggle with the idea of maximizing their 401k contributions in favor of saving for a house. What are your thoughts on that?

Winnie Sun: Today, you can essentially do both. If you take advantage of a Roth 401k and/or Roth IRA, there are guidelines allowing withdrawals for your first home purchase. You’ll want to check with your accountant on this. However, if your employer offers some sort of a 401k match, it really makes sense to do both.

The Guy Society:  You’re a big advocate of the college 529 savings plan. Tell us what that is and why it’s something our readers should look into.

Winnie Sun: The 529 college savings plan is an account designed to help you save for most college costs. Growth on the account is federally tax free when used for qualified expenses. I have one set-up for all my children and encourage my clients to do the same. If you or a family member needs a college education in the future, you owe yourself to learn more about how they work. I’m working with many companies now to set up Corporate 529s in the workplace. This allows employees to have auto-investing from payroll setup so that college savings is as convenient as 401k savings.

The Guy Society:  There is plenty of advice on how to invest in the stock market. What’s your take?

Winnie Sun: I believe in investing in yourself and that translates to spend modestly, invest (ideally with an advisor) and save with total dedicated vigor. There is never a shortage of things to buy or invest in if you have money. But if you keep putting off savings, you’ll always be struggling. You have to own your financial future. It’s your responsibility to take care of yourself money-wise. And investing isn’t like gambling and day trading certainly isn’t investing. You have to be smart and plan things out. Always start with the financial plan first before you invest even your first dollar. Just like building a house – you need the architectural plans drawn before you pick your sofa color.

The Guy Society:  You wear a lot of different hats. Forbes Contributor, you’ve been featured on CNBC, and you also host a radio show called Renegade Millionaire. Tell us about that project.

Winnie Sun: The Renegade Millionaire show was a project that originally started as an idea by my best friend and it’s been an amazing experience. I interview “Renegade Millionaires” and leaders who have walked the walk. They share their personal stories of struggle leading to success. For example, I interviewed Peter Kim, CEO of Hudson Jeans and learned his journey from being down and broke to creating one of the most iconic denim brands today. We’re starting up with new episodes again soon. You can follow me on social media to find out about our next guests.

The Guy Society:  You’ve interviewed some famous people on your radio show, including Daymond John, CEO of FUBU. What are some of the common themes between these success stories?

Winnie Sun: Every journey has its challenges. I’m not talking about small challenges, I’m talking BIG. And like Daymond John, most did not achieve success by luck. They’ve work long hours, made mistakes, redirected, tried over and over again. They had to sacrifice time, social lives, and vacations, to get to where they are. Most of the people I spoke with had tough experiences in their lives that made a difference in their success. Very few of the guests came from wealthy families or inherited businesses, almost everyone built it from an idea. I think the show is the ultimate books on tapes for entrepreneurs – 30 minutes and you’re inspired and leave with nuggets of genius.

The Guy Society:  What do you see as the trends in the market right now? What should we be looking out for?

Winnie Sun: We should be looking for things that solve problems. Just like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg before did. Adopt trends that make our day-to-day lives easier, faster, and more fulfilling. This is easier said than done, but the good news is that the world keeps evolving and so new opportunities to improve also keep appearing. It’s a race to be first to solve that problem, having enough patience and tenacity to focus on your goal, and be smart about marketing and attracting talent quickly. I’ve found the common thread among the successful entrepreneurs is the openness to learn from others, especially those from different walks of life. Success seldom comes from just your own good ideas.

The Guy Society:  Thanks so much for your time, Winnie!

Winnie Sun: Thank you! I had a great time.

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