Author and coach Janine Elias talks with Opportunist’s Managing Editor Leslie Stone about her book Kill Robin Hood and how she is helping people transform their lives as they connect with the true meaning of wealth.
Janine Elias is a relationship expert who has been teaching, motivating, coaching and guiding businesses and individuals on how to get to the next level for two decades. As CEO and founder of Elias Relationship Academy, she offers online training programs that empower small businesses owners.
Elias also holds a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and has worked as a college instructor teaching psychology and child development and has trained therapists in the state of California to work with the military population in treating war-related post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After several years in the field, she decided to become a coach and turned her talents toward helping people improve the various relationships in their lives. The relationship that people have with money, Elias discovered, was troubling. “For far too long we have romanticized the notion that struggling and suffering is somehow noble, and having the finer things in life comes at the cost of your character,” she says. “That belief is misleading and will hold you at various poverty levels and cause you to struggle in almost every area of your life.”
Elias takes an in-depth look at this often tumultuous relationship in her recent book, Kill Robin Hood: The Surprising Truth About What it Really Takes to Get Rich! “It’s time to shed the guilt about acquiring wealth,” she says. “I’m not a financial advisor or an investment banker, so I cannot tell you where to invest, but I can take the shame, guilt and desperation out of your relationship with money and turn it into a tool you can use to actualize your dreams. What I want to do is empower the American people by making them critical thinkers. When we improve our relationship with money we improve our primary relationships. I want to strengthen the American middle class by helping them transform their relationship with money.”
Opportunist: Where did you get the idea for Kill Robin Hood?
Janine Elias:The Occupy movement was happening around the same time I was traveling across the country interviewing people about what we could do to change America and make it better. The premise of the movement was that the richest 1 percent of America is holding the vast majority of the wealth and the 99 percent are being oppressed. At the same time we were hearing from the political arena that the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer. I never made it to Zuccotti Park, but I visited the movement in the Los Angeles area and saw people dressed as bank robbers with masks like the Wild West, and dummies representing bankers that were hanging from trees by their necks. That’s when I had the epiphany about the Robin Hood concept of stealing from the rich and giving back to the poor. The rich have been vilified as horrible, wretched people doing ill deeds to gain their wealth, but it occurred to me that the underlying premise of this concept is the Robin Hood fable makes us a victim. The reality is if we keep believing and tout this as some unseen force of them against us—whoever them is—it is preventing us from taking personal responsibility for our own finances.
Opportunist: Why pick on Robin Hood? Wasn’t he a hero?
Janine Elias: When I wrote the book people asked ‘Why should we kill Robin Hood … wasn’t he one of the good guys?’ Drawing from my psychology background, I started looking at how the stories and fables we hear growing up influence how we move through the world, make decisions, vote for people and even how we choose a mate. It’s all tied to the villains and heroes we grew up with. Robin Hood saves us from the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham. We sit and wait for someone else to come and rescue us, believing something outside ourselves is so much bigger than we are, and we don’t take the steps to gain control of our finances.
We live in America and in this country you can do or be anything you want to be. If you have a definitive purpose and direction and you know exactly what you want to do and you’re motivated to do it, you could do or be anything. Nothing is keeping you down, and that includes the economy, your job or your education level. It takes daily steps, discipline and vision.
Opportunist: Have you always had a positive relationship with money?
Janine Elias: No. I was in debt and working a job I hated. I would commute 10-15 hours to and from work each week, only to arrive at a cookie-cutter cubicle where I was counting down the minutes until quitting time. I was trapped in a relationship and a city that were draining my life force and every ounce of joy and kindness I had because I lacked the financial security to venture out on my own. I remember feeling physically ill and thinking: This can’t be all there is for me! I hoped and prayed but nothing changed until I took action.
Opportunist: What type of action do you recommend that people take?
Janine Elias:One of the most important things is to pay ourselves first. In paying ourselves first we take 10 percent of our income and put it toward some form of savings and investing. Most of us have a tendency to pay all of our bills and expenses and use the rest for entertainment and after that we save. The problem is there is nothing left. Before paying expenses and allocating money for entertainment we need to be taking a percentage of our income and utilizing that specifically for long-term savings.
We also need to start living below our means. The average American today has a tendency to live outside their means no matter what their means are. Most people don’t think how much money do I really have to spend? They are in the revolving door of credit card use. How do you get out of that vicious cycle? Start by keeping a very specific log for 30 days of how much money is being spent and where it’s going—don’t even buy a gumball without writing it down. When people start tracking their spending they are amazed. And when we look at what else they can do to get some savings in there or lower their cost of living I’ve actually seen people sell their house or their car.
Opportunist: Will the average person buy into downsizing as a means to a better life?
Janine Elias: It’s important to make hard decisions and be 100 percent realistic. In order to live a lifestyle below our means there has to be a goal or something bigger than ourselves that we are getting to. I call this the ‘Big Enough Why.’ Each of us has the power within ourselves to have whatever level of wealth we want but in order to take the daily steps we need impulse control, such as not spending $5 on a latte or upgrading our phone or buying a pair of shoes we don’t need. In order to have the discipline and impulse control not to do random spending we must have a vision or direction of where we want to put our money or what we are trying to create in our lives. Uncover your story and identify what you want and take the action in order to get it. Part of the challenge people have is that constant spending is a way to deal with emotional pain and distractions from lack of fulfillment in their lives.
I’m all about freedom and America. That’s my thing. In order for us to be a free people we cannot be in debt. Benjamin Franklin said when you go into debt you go into servitude. In the 1970s the average American had $2,000 in savings and little debt; today the average American has $2,000 to $5,000 debt with little to no savings. You cannot leave a job you hate to become anything else that makes you happy and your spirit sing if you’re in a ton of debt.
The company you keep is another area to look at. I cannot stress the importance of the people you associate with. Success leaves clues, so find other people who are doing what you want to do and ask questions. People are happy to tell you.
Another challenge I see a lot is if one person is doing financially OK they’re giving their money away to those who aren’t. You see this with parents who are spending their retirement on their adult children who aren’t making enough money to pay for what they want. For those who are under the age of 51, recent studies show their life expectancy went from 82 to 92 with modern advancements in medicine. So they need to be asking themselves how they’re going to survive all those years with no income. Your kids have earning power but you don’t.
In my book I also talk about the importance of having the hard conversations about money with your spouse and even someone you’re dating. It’s also important to break down the various categories of wealth in America to see how the average person develops high levels of wealth.
Opportunist: Did you discover any common traits among the wealthy?
Janine Elias: The vast majority, 80 percent of those who are making over $85,000 a year on up to the ultra-wealthy who are making $9 million to $10 million, accomplished it by creating some form of business, goods or service they provide that improves the quality of life or community in some way. And they have done it over a period of many years, sold the company or took it public. Only 20 percent of multimillionaires have exotic professions like entertainment. The rest of those individuals got where they are by creating something of quality for the long term.
Opportunist: What did you discover about the American Dream as you traveled around the United States asking people what we can do to make the country better?
Janine Elias: In the 1950s the American Dream was one way and now we have the American Dream on steroids! [Laughs] How many computers or TVs does a person really need? Part of the challenge is that advertisers are telling us what the American Dream is. But it’s not what other people think will make you happy—we are inundated with advertisements and people in our lives saying ‘you should go to college’ or ‘don’t quit that job because it will give you a retirement’ instead of letting us connect with what will make us happy. You hear all these pie-in-the-sky motivational folks saying ‘You too can be a millionaire.’ If you want to be a millionaire, great! But there is no need for unrealistic expectations. Financial independence is for you to live the quality of life you want to live. Many people are happy going to work every day and having a couple weeks off every year. That’s all they need, and that’s great.
Opportunist: Will you write more books with this theme?
Janine Elias: I have a five-part series planned, and my next book is called Declaration of Financial Independence. I think we need to start writing our own declaration of independence and draw a line in the sand with our relationship with money in order to maintain our level of freedom because everybody has a right to the pursuit of happiness. I am thinking a new book will come out annually. I want to transform the way we view and do business in America and empower people to realize that it’s OK to do something good for someone else and do good for yourself at the same time. To transform and have that paradigm shift, I also want to help people embrace a work ethic where it’s OK to get dirty. By dirty I don’t mean dirty business, I mean go out and get dirty by building something and using your hands. Build a house or a cabinet or something tangible so you can say ‘I did that!’ We used to be a nation of builders and inventors. Now all we do is provide services. Part of it, I think, is there is shame and guilt associated with being a blue-collar worker when there should be more pride.
Leslie Stone is an award-winning writer/editor with more than two decades of experience covering business, finance, real estate and lifestyle issues for newspapers, magazines and online publications. Originally from Virginia, she currently resides in Florida. Follow Leslie on Twitter: @lescstone.
Janine Elias - www.JanineElias.com
Kill Robin Hood - www.KillRobinHood.com
Elias Relationship Academy - www.EliasRelationshipAcademy.com
Janine’s Adventure - www.JaninesAdventure.com
Follow Janine Elias on Twitter: @JanineElias - https://twitter.com/JanineElias