The Forbes Formula

Over the last decade, I have been fortunate and privileged to develop an ongoing friendship with Steve Forbes.  We first worked together in 1999 when he was producing a book entitled Great American Success Stories.  After that, I began visiting Mr. Forbes in his office on each of my trips to New York City.  Over the years, we have had many wonderful conversations sitting around the table in the library on the second floor of the Forbes Building.  I have often wished I could include the readers of my books, those who watch my movies, and you who read these weekly columns in those wonderful discussions with Steve Forbes.

Earlier this year, Mr. Forbes did a small cameo role, playing himself, in a movie based on one of my books —  After we shot his part in the film, Mr. Forbes and I sat down at the library table for another of our treasured conversations, but I captured this one on film to share with you and those who will buy The Lamp movie as the interview will be one of the special features on the DVD.

Steve Forbes is probably more associated with money and finance than anyone in the world today.  I believe his views on how our money relates to our lives are priceless.

Recently, my coauthor Tim Maurer and I have written a new book designed to help people take control of their lives and their futures by taking control of their money —The Ultimate Financial Plan.

I’m a firm believer that no one ever had a money problem.  They may have had an idea problem, a motivation problem, a management problem, or a lack of direction problem, but money is never the cause of your problems.  Money is a result.

Last year, there were several million quarter-inch drill bits sold in North America.  Ironically, no one really wants a quarter-inch drill bit.  They simply want a quarter-inch hole.  In much the same way, no one wants money.  They want the things and the security that money can bring.  We would be foolish, if not insane, to desire a huge pile of dirty, crumpled-up slips of paper with pictures of dead presidents.  What we want, instead, are the homes, cars, vacations, college educations, and retirements money can buy.  In The Ultimate Financial Plan we give readers the tools that they need to make their money start working for them as hard as they have worked for their money.

These are confusing and frustrating times in the financial world.  Your retirement plan has probably lost value, your savings may have dwindled, and you may be questioning the value of your home.  It is more important than ever that you keep your financial goals in mind and make sure that your money plan is custom designed to get you from here to there.

The current financial cycles will inevitably change, and there will be better days again and difficult days will follow that.  The important thing is that you know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.

As you go through your day today, remember:  Money is a tool and a vehicle.  It can serve you if you will harness and control it.

Today’s the day!

— by Jim Stovall

The $30 Hotel and the Battleship Slumber Party

Continuing in this special September series[i], this week I have the pleasure of introducing you to Chris Guillebeau.  Chris is the most unassuming revolutionary I’ve ever met.  He’s soft-spoken and appears not to have a self-interested bone in his body, yet a couple-hundred-thousand people follow his every move online each week through his blog, “The Art of Non-Conformity.”  He lives the title—he quit high school and then finished his college degree in two years.  Still in his early-thirties, he’s traveled to over 150 countries in support of his goal to visit every country on the planet, educating his audience on travel and life every step of the way. 

Chris is the author of the book, The Art of Non-Conformity, and I love the way he describes the central message: 

You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to. You can do good things for yourself and make the world a better place at the same time. Here’s how to do it.

If  you don’t want to pay a dime for some of his wisdom, read the manifesto that kicked off his writing career—A Brief Guide to World Domination—or the sequel, 279 Days to Overnight Success.  And of course, read this post from Chris, written just for you!  


When I went to Vietnam several years ago, I was excited to find a local hotel that offered nice rooms for $25. An upgrade was available for $5 more. Sight unseen, I took the upgrade—and was glad I did.

My own balcony! Free soup for breakfast! And truth be told, for someone who usually lives in the Pacific Northwest, the air conditioning while visiting Southeast Asia was nice too.

When I came home, I told the story of my $30 room. Some people said, “That’s awesome!”

But others had a different take. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable staying in a place like that,” a friend of the family said. “Wasn’t there a Western hotel nearby?”

Well, yes, there was a Marriott—and it cost $270 a night.

Others were unhappy for a different reason: “Dude, you got ripped off!” a fellow student in my graduate program told me. “I paid $5 a night for a bed when I was there.”

Truth be told, I didn’t need the $270 Marriott, and I didn’t feel bad about the “overpriced” $30 room. I was happy to exchange the money I did for the experience I received; I walked away satisfied with the exchange.

On countless other trips around the world since then, sometimes I’ve paid next-to-nothing, and other times I’ve paid a small fortune. It all comes down to a question of mindfulness, something I believe is the most important skill of personal finance. You can learn about exchange-traded-funds or DRIP investing whenever you’re ready (and if you never learn, you’ll probably be OK). But if you get clear about what you value and how your relationship with money is intertwined, you’ll go far—no matter which tax bracket you find yourself in.

Discussions about frugality and values tend to get weighed down by competing values: “save money at all costs” versus “live a little.” Tim’s work on this blog, his radio program, and in The Ultimate Financial Plan is smarter than that. It’s all about deciding what you value—and making sure your spending relates to those decisions.

I enjoyed reading about Tim’s choice to spend the night on a battleship with his son. He probably could have had a better meal elsewhere, or he could also have saved the money for a distant future. Speaking for myself, I’m not so sure I would have enjoyed the battleship slumber party—but I think it’s clear from the post that Tim made the right choice for his family adventure. Don’t you?


Some things are worth the money and some aren’t, and these decisions will always be relative. I don’t need to pay $5 a night in Vietnam… $30 was just fine with me. Sleeping on battleships isn’t my style, but I can see why it would make a fun memory for a parent and child.

I’m not in the business of telling people what they should value—and thankfully Tim isn’t either—but I’d encourage you to think long and hard about what you value and how your money will be used in support of those values. The poet Mary Oliver might have put it best: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Well? It’s your turn now, and your life.

[i] If you missed the last couple weeks, you might not know that to celebrate the release of my new book, The Ultimate Financial Plan, co-authored with Jim Stovall, I’m featuring guest posts from some of the bloggers and writers who’ve most inspired me of late.  If you didn’t see last week’s post by Derek Sivers on why he decided to give his $22 million company away to charity, it’s a read both humbling and inspiring.