March 14, 2023

90 : Teaching Financial Independence To The Next Generation with Rob Phelan

In this episode: Teaching Kids Financial Independence, Allowance, Rob’s road to FI and more.

In this episode of the Mindful Fire Podcast, Rob Phelan, a high school math and personal finance teacher, shares his passion for teaching about money and raising a financially responsible generation. He discusses his own journey into personal finance and how to equip children with better decision-making skills for their future. He also emphasizes the importance of personal finance and the role of teachers in educating students.

Guest Bio

Rob Phelan is a high school math and personal finance teacher living in Maryland. He is also a certified financial education instructor and very passionate about helping kids, teachers, and parents learn about money and become financially responsible. He has written a children's book called "M is for Money" and runs his own business called "The Simple Startup" where he teaches 10 to 18-year-olds how to start their own businesses.

Resources & Books Mentioned

Rob Phelan’s Contact Information

Key Takeaways

  • It's crucial to start building positive money habits and mindsets in young children since the majority of our money habits are set by age nine.
  • Parents and educators spend the most time with children, making it important to educate them about personal finance. This will equip children to make better decisions in the future.
  • Understanding personal finance and money management is essential for achieving financial independence, which gives you more options and control over your future.

🔥 Whenever you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you:

1. Complete my Free Envisioning Guide to get clear on what you truly want
2. Connect with me LinkedIn where I post every weekday at 8:20 am ET about crafting a life you love & making work optional using mindfulness, envisioning & financial independence.

3. Invest in a vision coaching call with me if you'd like to:

  • Gain even more clarity on your vision
  • Learn why envisioning works
  • Learn simple practices to move towards your vision

4. Book a Team Envisioning Workshop : Unlock your team's potential by aligning on a shared vision and helping people see how they fit into making that vision a reality and how it helps them move towards their own personal vision.


Adam Coelho: Rob. Welcome to the mindful fire podcast. It's so great to have you here, 

Rob Phelan: Adam. Thank you so much for having me and hello to all the listeners. 

Adam Coelho: so Rob, I'd love to have you start by sharing a little bit about who you are, your journey and what you're up to in the world.

[00:02:09] Guest Intro (1:6)

Rob Phelan: hi everyone. My name's Rob feelin. I am a high school math and personal finance teacher living in Maryland. And besides that, I'm a certified financial education instructor. I'm very passionate about helping kids, teachers, and parents in particular to learn about money and how to raise a financially savvy, responsible and mindful, generation of money managers, up and coming.

I do that through a children's book that I brought out called Emma for money, and I also. 10 to 18 year olds, how to start their first businesses through my own business called the simple startup. there's a whole like background and journey to that, which I'm sure we might dive into parts of it, but that's the nuts and bolts of who I am and what I do.

I wasn't a money person growing up. I didn't get an amazing money education. as a child, there was some great moments in there, which I think inspired part of what I do today. but I didn't start my financial journey until I was in my mid twenties. like a lot of people and had to unwind some bad financial decisions, was very fortunate to not make some very seriously bad financial decisions.

And my wife and I now are on a path to financial independence, since finding the fire community. 

Adam Coelho: Very good. Yeah. There's a lot there. 

[00:03:16] why is it so important that parents understand personal finance themselves (1:28)

Adam Coelho: I guess let's start with, why is it so important that parents understand personal finance themselves and are equipped to teach their kids?

I think if we are looking at the current state of financial literacy in the us,

Rob Phelan: so there's this weird, I guess contradicting statistic that's out there where 55% of us adults will give themselves a grade of an a or a B when it comes to their financial knowledge. But then when you actually go and measure financial literacy levels amongst us adults, we're actually not that good.

we're a close majority are failing, a financial literacy test. And this is like, there's no real, Nationally or internationally accepted financial literacy test. especially when it comes to education. But, I think standard and poor are the ones who came up with this one and they measured it worldwide.

And the us is not great. Iwe're not a generally good population at managing money. I think we're down at like 14th or 15th in the world and we have the second or first largest economy in the world, depending on when you're measuring it. So it's not a great statistic to think about. And when we think about trying to help our youngest generation to learn more about money, we need to start with the adults in the room.

So the parents and the educators are the ones spending the most time with these kids. So that's why I wanna focus my energy on helping those people learn more about money so that they can then equip kids to make better decisions as they move forward into their futures. 

Adam Coelho: Got it makes a ton of sense And so you do this for a living. Did you say you're a high school 

Rob Phelan: teacher? Yes. High school math and personal 

Adam Coelho: finance. Got it. 

[00:04:44] how did the personal finance component come to be? (2:6)

Adam Coelho: And so how did the personal finance component come to be? Is that what you were hired for? Did it evolve like that didn't exist?

Where I went to school in Florida. that was probably the least of our problems, but we didn't have personal finance education. and I know that's a big area of, passion for you. So how did that come about? 

Rob Phelan: it's a shame that you didn't grow up. maybe like in another couple years, because Florida just passed a mandate that you will need one semester of personal finance to graduate high school, which, you know, kudos to Florida for doing that.

And Michigan just followed recently. So they are the 14th state to require one semester of personal finance, education to graduate. And I think that's the direction that a lot of states are moving and need to go. But, yeah, this isn't something that exists, across the country and it didn't really exist a lot in the last five years.

This is a very new change and shift that we're seeing in public education across the us. this job was not something that I was hired for. I was hired to be a math teacher, but there is one math class we teach called contemporary math. And that is this hybrid of personal finance and math. And it's supposed to be a class that a student who maybe isn't looking to go on a higher level of math kind of pathway.

Like they don't wanna go into a calculus or statistics or any of our AP courses that they would take this class before they graduate high school. And it would equip them to be career ready or college ready if they're going for that. but I actually think it's probably the most important class we teach in the school.

Besides we have a new class starting this coming year that is just personal finance. So I'm very biased. I of course think this is a really important class to do. And I'm very excited when I get students coming in who are like, This is something that I really need. this is very relevant to me. I can see exactly how I'm going to use this.

I will never ask that question. When am I ever gonna use this in real life? And that's what makes it such a fun and exciting and easy class to teach as well? 

Adam Coelho: Yeah, no, it makes, a ton of sense because there's always that question. I've never used calculus ever, and I was good at it and I, felt good about getting a good grade, but, no idea what it is or what, how it's applied.

so knowing that personal finance is something that is going to affect every day of your life, it's probably a fairly easy sell to get people interested in it. But

[00:06:51] how do you get that entrance? How do you hook them in? (3:53)

Adam Coelho: I'm curious, like say it's first day of class, how do you get that entrance? How do you hook them in? Because, I think about my own, evangelism of.

Financial independence. And actually I'm gonna do a presentation where I work at Google about why you should care about fi and the basics that you should be thinking about and the resources available at the company. But I'm tasked with getting them interested. And so I'm curious, how you do that for high schoolers.

Rob Phelan: It's the same problem. in a lot of ways, there are some students who are. Totally unaware of how important financial literacy, financial knowledge, understanding yourself is. And, it's great for them. They haven't been in a position yet where they've needed to worry about money in any way.

And then you have some kids who are on the opposite in the spectrum that are very painfully aware of how important money is and are growing up in households, where they are very over involved in the finances of the household. And they're ones I see immediately, like, yes, tell me everything because I need to know this so that I don't end up in the same position as my family currently is right now.

so generally when you talk to any audience who didn't necessarily sign up for this, you have to start with the, this is why there's a problem and. I don't even go there on day one. You day one, I usually just start trying to figure out what do people currently know and feel about money before we start?

So I usually start with an activity called my money story and I ask them three questions. I ask them, what are your attitudes and beliefs about money so far and subcategories. That is like, what feelings come up when we start thinking about money or different experiences you've had with money.

I ask what's been your biggest money lesson to date so far who gave it to you? What was it? Was it positive or negative? and then I ask them, what do you see your financial future looking like, like, have you thought about it? What do you want? and trying to start that thought process of what's enough.

and that's usually just a great place to start. So you get a measure of. What everyone already feels, things believes about money. And is it positive? Is it negative? What am I dealing with when it comes to my audience? And then from there, I start introducing things like how you can become more in control of your wealth, how wealth can be achieved in the single generation.

That no matter what has come before you, you can change that if you want to. And sometimes it's teasing out things like compound interest, like maybe throwing a compound interest calculator out there very early on, talking about how much you actually would need to have in investments to spit off like say $50,000 a year.

And then how would you actually get to there and laying it out so that it seems very achievable and doable for any person. and that usually gets a lot of great attention. And even if kids are like, yeah, retirement's like four lifetimes away right now. I don't care the idea of building wealth and being able to afford even just the things that they want is.

Something that's exciting for them. So there's gonna be different things that will excite kids, same thing with adults. And you're just trying to make sure that there's something for everyone there. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah. that's really interesting. And I feel like there's a lot in what you just said that I wanna dive into.

So I like the approach of meeting them where they are. In terms of their money story, the emotions around money, there are the feelings around money and yeah,that's fairly interesting and, yeah. I love that we're having this conversation becauseWhen I think about what this podcast is about now and in the future, 

 I started this podcast to essentially figure out like, what do I wanna do after I retire early? And, that as grown into, like, I think that I want to teach the tools of mindfulness, financial independence, and envisioning, to young people essentially. And I think that you're in such a unique position to influence people before they've made mistakes and before they even really know what's possible.

and are still open and dreaming about what their life could be. and they haven't gone down any particular path necessarily. Like they haven't chosen a job path or anything like that. So it's like a blue sky opportunity. and so.

[00:10:45] Do you find that the kids have a vision for what they want their life to look like? (5:35)

Adam Coelho: Do you find that the kids have a vision for what they want their life to look like?

Or is it they're not too sure. 

Rob Phelan: Mix bag. some kids will be very clear about what they want already. Like, I'll have one, you'll be like, yep. I want to go do a career and like biochemical engineering. And that's gonna turn into a job here and I'm gonna do this, and this is what my life's gonna look like.

I'll get married at this age and it's great. Like they have like their entire life mapped out. They've envisioned it. They're gonna try and make it happen. And then you have a lot of kids who are like, I really just don't know. And both are very common answers and both are, totally normal and.

Like you said, it's a, it's very much a blank slate for a lot of kids. Not all, some kids do have stuff already and they have made some decisions or circumstances that put them on different pathways already. I typically work with high school seniors. So depending on the semester, I even get them.

Some of them have already committed to going to college or starting career. Some have already chosen subjects along the way in high school that have put them on a different pathway. so we're trying to figure that one out. I don't know if you know this, but the majority of our habits around money are set by age nine, according to like different sources of research.

So yeah, the younger age groups in particular, if we can start building positive money, habits and mindsets in that really young age group, we truly have a blank slate in terms of what we can help them achieve and think about money and directions they want to go. And that growth mindset of being able to do whatever you want to do, which is just such a, an important thing to teach kids that really doesn't have anything to do with money, but it's just an attitude.

If a kid has that, man, they can do anything they want. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah, absolutely. That's something that has become clearer and clearer to me as I do things in my life, AB we were talking before we recorded, like this room that I'm in, I envisioned this room and to be able to make it happen, it's crazy, cuz I didn't actually have to build it.

whe whether it be starting a podcast or, starting a company before or getting promoted or getting a job or whatever it may be, once you start to see that you, that link between, I want to do this and I can actually do this, it really unlocks everything. And for me, that's why I financial independence is so powerful in my mind because.

Even getting, on the path and getting clear about what, your beliefs about money, your actual financial situation gives you power in choosing where you want to go and starts to make it more and more possible and gives you more options. So I think it's really,intertwined for me.

Rob Phelan: Yeah, cause, I don't know who said it or who originally came with. It might have been a Jim Roan thing, but that people desire autonomy, over their time. That's what will bring true happiness and talking to kids about that, what, when do you feel the most happy it's usually when they're choosing to do something that they want to do, and many of them can have this negative feeling about school because it's something that is totally mandated on them.

And I'll say like your job could feel the exact same way. If you're not intentionally thinking about what you want to do and how you're going to do it. And I find a skill that's lacking in a lot of kids is they can dream. they can have these big dreams, like, oh, this is the thing I want to do, but they don't have the ability then to bridge where they are right now to where they want to be in the future.

And that's again, another just side skill that I try and help kids with is let's talk about goal setting and then how you break down the steps to get to your goal from, where you want, where you are right now to where you want to be. And then what's that first. What's the next one after that and so on.

and finance is exact same thing. Like where do you want to be in terms of your financial future? Where are you right now? And then what do we need to do today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, to get there and knowing that things can change very easily. Like you can always change your goal or your dream, and then by doing financial independence or chasing it, you pretty much keep doors open rather than shutting them.

So you can always change your path when you want to. 

Adam Coelho: Absolutely. Yeah. the financial aspect of it gives you options, but also just the action taking gives you options. I've heard a friend of mine, he left Google to pursue, meditating, basically 

he left and I caught up with him like a year after. And I was like, what are you up to? And he is like, I'm still figuring it out. But, I had to start walking down the path to start to see the opportunities and options available to me.

You can't see, 20 steps ahead if you don't take that first step. And so I think there's a huge element of what you were saying is like, figuring out where am I trying to go? And also just taking the first couple steps and start to see what you learn by doing that. Yeah. And 

Rob Phelan: just,challenging our assumptions.

like, oh, I could never do that. that's just not done. It's not possible. like I feel like I, I just, I started a course with teachers recently,I teach a course over the summer where I help educators to learn more about their own money so that they can bring into their own classrooms. And the topic of the teacher Exodus came up, cuz it's a very conversational thing amongst teachers right now.

And many of them were like, could never leave teaching. Like I'm stuck here. And while I'm not trying to encourage teachers to leave, I was, I wanted to say like, let's push back on that assumption for a second here. What makes you feel that way? Have you actually gone and investigated that?

Have you applied for anything outside of teaching or I've even looked at a job board to see like, what are the skills being required and do I meet any of those? And until you've at least explored. Your options, you are going to feel a little bit trapped, cuz if you explore and you're like, okay, there's other stuff out here I can do, but I'm going to choose to stay.

That feels very different to, I'm stuck here for the rest of my career and I'm gonna have to work until I'm 70 to be able to afford the life I want after I retire. Like it's just a, it's a very trapped mindset. And if we can push our boundaries a little bit, it makes that ability to change easier.

And also the ability to stay easier too. 

[00:16:20] Locus of control (5:38)

Adam Coelho: Yeah, absolutely. it gets back to what you were saying before, like choiceful about what you're doing rather than having it in,put on you, like you have to do a certain thing. And I know in my own life, it's, there have been times where I was looking at things through a scarcity mindset.

Like if only this, then I can be happy or, if. Really that, if only this, then I can be happy, but rather looking differently is like, actually those things that I want I already have, or I can have, if I look at things differently or just take a few different steps to move in the direction, of that.

And so being intentional and choiceful about our choices makes a huge difference and feels totally different rather than like, this is happening to me rather than I'm choosing to do this.

Rob Phelan: No, I totally agree. And I think that's a locus of control. Yeah. question mindset. And we find that people who have a stronger internal locus of control are typically going to feel happier in their lives, even if their situation is not as good as someone who has an external locus of control.

so internal being that you feel like you have the ability to choose. You have the ability to steer the direction of your life and that at the other end of the extreme in external locus of control, things happen to you. Your life is either predetermined or there's things like fate, or, you have no, you can't steer your boat.

It's just going to follow whatever life throws at you. and most of us are somewhere in between those two, extremes and the stronger your internal locus of control. The more control you feel you have over your life, the general happier you're gonna feel. And I feel like the more. Opportunities are going to come your way because you're like, you're looking for them.

You're doing things that will allow opportunity to come your way. And I've seen a lot of like, I don't know, life coaches and people talking about manifesting your dreams. And I'm not sure I'm quite there yet, but, I do feel like there is something very strong to believing in yourself and your ability to make changes in your life when you feel like you can.

Adam Coelho: yeah, the manifesting thing is interesting. I mentioned that I'm very big on envisioning , which is really another word for manifesting, but, Know, a bunch of people that kind of teach manifesting and whatnot. And for me, the way that I explain it, I created a envisioning course at Google, and I actually led a shorter version this week.

I had to condense two hours into 18 minutes or 20 minutes. So that was interesting, a good exercise. but the way that I talk about it is that our brains are changing all the time based on our experience, Everything we think, feel, and pay attention to changes our brain in terms of form and function.

That's neuroplasticity. Then there's the aspect that our brains are predictive. They're constantly predicting what's going to happen based on our experience. And What that tells me. and in my experience is whatever's top of mind and whatever I think most often is what I'm going to pay attention to and see in my environment.

If you ever think like, if you've ever gotten a new car and suddenly that car is everywhere, that is what's going on. it's not that car was that is more popular or more available. It's just more top of mind for you. And so you're ready to see it. And the same thing is true with pregnant women.

And now that my wife is pregnant, I see pregnant women and babies everywhere. They didn't just pop up outta nowhere. I'm just more ready to see them. And the same thing is true about opportunity, right? when we prime our mind to see opportunity, we see opportunity when we, the same thing is true.

Rob Phelan: If we say like, Hey, bad things always happen to me, or I'm never going to. Get it or whatever, that's what you're gonna get. And so I like to keep it very practical and focused on the brain rather than the woo woo. Like, oh, you just wish it, and then it will happen, Yeah. the selective,I forget what the true technical words.

Yeah. But the selective seeing hearing of things that are, Confirming is a confirmation bias. Is that what I'm looking for? but confirm the things that you're already wanting to see here feel and so on. what happens to us in politics? how many of us who are probably listening to a fire podcast have been seeing or hearing nothing about else other than like the stock market is doing up down cryptocurrencies, doing whatever it is.

that typically happens, I think, to a lot of us that we see and hear things more that are, more current in our minds at the time. And I think I had the same experience when my wife was pregnant. Congratulations, by the way. Yeah. Thank you. 

Adam Coelho: Thank you. Yeah, we're we're excited about that.

It's just getting ready. It's coming August. So things are gonna escalate over here, 

Rob Phelan: but I do talk about the same thing with my students in the simple startup that, we're talking about business ideas and coming up with ideas and most kids are like, I don't know, like I can't come up with a business idea who am I to start a business?

I don't have the entrepreneur gene or whatever those big shot CEOs have. And we have to talk about that, like that this is not something that we are either inherently good at or not good at something that we work at over time. We get better at. And, I'll, I encourage kids to start a business now and start one fast that you can get up and running usually within six weeks.

And it may not be like the. The big idea that they have in the back of their head, but it's something small that they can start recognizing what are people's problems? What do they need help with and how do I provide solutions to that? And the more times you do that, the more problems you start seeing in the world that you can now start solving with your own businesses.

or I've written a kids book and this is my second book I've written. And now I just keep having more book ideas come up. And in the beginning I was like, I don't have an idea for a book like who I'm never gonna write a book. I'm a solid C, C English student, book. Who's not in my future. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah.

Yeah. it's interesting. it's what we were talking about before. Like the more reps you get in, the more you take action and see that it's possible. It just trains your mind to see that, and then you just start going for it

[00:21:59] how the book (M is for Money) came about (5:3)

Adam Coelho: . you mentioned your book M is for money.

as before we hit record, I was singing its praises and how I read it with my son multiple times a week and actually is open the conversation for us to, start talking about him, earning some money, He's three and a half. so we'd love to hear how that book came about. you teach high school students, why create a, the book that you did, Which I assume is tailored for younger kids. tell me how the book came about and what the goal was with. 

Rob Phelan: Sure. So Ms. For money is, uh, written for three to eight year olds and it is quite a large age range. I'm gonna talk a bit more about how a book can possibly address that wide and age range in a second.

but the reason or reasons that I wrote this book, it's twofold. You mentioned I work with high school students, but we've already talked about, that awareness that the youngest age group is where we're gonna see the biggest change, cuz they are the true blank slate and. Kids money habits set by the age of nine.

So targeting that early elementary age is where I think we can have the biggest impact in terms of buildings, kids who are confident money managers, feel very comfortable talking about money, asking questions about it, making informed decisions. Like that's really what it's about. Like, I don't think we're going to teach kids everything there is to know about money at a young age, but if you can teach them to be comfortable talking about it, to ask questions or ask for help when they need it and how to go find information, when they really need to know something, I think that's going to equip kids to make better financial decisions when they get older.

And they're not gonna feel this embarrassment or shame that comes with money decisions or money topics, which a lot of us adults have felt like we didn. Ask for help when we were making big financial decisions, because, you don't talk about that. Like, no, that's something you keep private, that's just for you.

and that's, that shame cycle is what I think what kept a lot of us in debt or making poor financial decisions without really doing our homework first. And then the other reason is I also have a little young, fellow who's learning about money. So my son is almost three. And when my wife was pregnant, I started writing this book and it was.

To help him to learn about money in a fun way. And in the way that I wish I could teach other kids how to learn about money. There wasn't a lot of resources out there for kids his age. So I'm thinking like when he gets to toddler age and starts wanting things, starts pretend playing like what is there at that age to help kids learn about money.

And there really just wasn't much there. So I was like, okay, I'm a entrepreneur educator. I was teaching a simple startup course at the time. And I said to the students, look, I'm going to do this with you. I'm going to bring out a kids book and I'm gonna show you how to do it without putting any of your own money into it.

So how do you, pre-sell a business idea to make sure that people actually wanted it and then also start it for free. So there was a kind of a, a threefold, reason for doing this. And, it manifested into being Emma for money, which is this wonderful kids' book. That is an ABC's a money book. It helps normalize conversations about money and introduces kids to money, words, and shows money being used in a positive way and a productive way for kids.

Adam Coelho: Yeah. So it sounds like you started working on the book as part of a, the simple startup showing that you can actually create a business or a product, without investing tons of money. is that right? 

Rob Phelan: Yes. one of the ways that when we do the simple startup, I'm sorry, we talk a lot about how do you start your business for free or super cheap.

And I don't talk about doing business plans. I don't ever talk about taking loans out or putting a ton of your own money in because for kids, they don't have the money, or I don't want to like put parents in that situation of like, oh, you need to fund your kid with like couple hundred dollars to do a business.

I want them to start as close to free as possible, and then build the business that their customers actually want. So they start with this MVP, the minimum viable product that, their customers would actually buy. So what's the most basic version of your business. See if your customers actually want that.

And then when they do sell it to them, take the profits and start adding more bits pieces, fancy stuff, better experiences in for your customers. So you assemble the business that your customers actually want. And one way to do a business for cheaper free is to pre-sell your value. So that's where you tell people like, Hey, I've got this idea.

I'm going to do this. gimme your money. Now, usually at a discounted rate and I will use that money to make the business come to life or the product or the service, whatever it is. And then you have to follow through on that. so I use the program Kickstarter to do this where, kickstart Indigogo are the two most common ones in the us.

these are places where you can take your idea, tell people about it and let them fund it ahead of time. So I ran a Kickstarter campaign for Mr. Money. It raised close to 14,000, which was more than enough to bring this kid's book to life and also donate over 600 copies of the book to public libraries and public schools, which I was really, psyched about.

Like that was a huge, side purpose project of it. Once I started and I was really thrilled that we were able to do that. 

Adam Coelho: Wow. That's awesome. So you were, you did a Kickstarter campaign raised $14,000. got the whole book made printed, produced everything, and then were also able to donate 600 copies to li libraries across the country.

Yes, that's amazing. I love that. That's awesome. 

[00:27:02] How you got the book to cover a broad age range? (3:47)

Adam Coelho: so Rob, you mentioned that the book is intended for ages three through eight pretty wide range. Let's talk a little bit more about how you design the book so that it could accommodate. Those different age ranges.

Rob Phelan: Yeah. I get a lot of questions about it. Like how can a book be appropriate for a three and an eight year old at the same time? It doesn't seem like it should be like, I'm either making too broad, an age range or I'm misidentifying the age that the book is for. but I based it on a, another book that I come across with my son, someone, a gift of this book it's, called a is for artichoke.

And my son was showing an interest in cooking and like helping us out. So a friend of ours got in this book and it had the same kind of approach of levels within the book. And I really loved it when I saw it. So with Emma for money, you have like three to four different levels. And by levels, that mean that when you read this to your child, you're only going to read it at the level that's appropriate for them.

So for the youngest age group, like the three year olds. It's just like a is for allowance. B is for bank and you might even read the story that goes with it. So there's a is for allowance. So there's a letter, a focus letter and a focus word. And then there is a definition of what that word is. So like there's a definition.

One allowance is for your youngest kid, you probably skip it. And then there's a mini story. So there's a big, full page illustration with a mini story that goes with it. so like for allowance, there's a story about a little girl who gets an allowance from her parents and that's it. It's just a tiny little, one or two sentence story.

And then the final part, which is probably your highest level is there's a little squirrel character that appears on the bottom of the page and his name is stash. And he's my kind of like central guide character. no other character repeats throughout the book. So it's actually 60. Unique characters in this book, which I don't know if my illustrator knew he was signing up for that when he took this on.

But, it was very important to me to have diversity within the book and as many kids as possible being able to see themselves somewhere in the book. So there's a variety of appearances, family dynamics, different. Ways of interacting with money, different abilities amongst the kids. So that was inclusivity was very important to me, but the stash character, he's a squirrel and he comes in and he will ask a question of the reader.

And it's usually something to do with the focus word on the page. So like for an allowance, the question would be, what would you do if you got an allowance? And this opens up the door for the adult reader and the kid reader to have this conversation about money. So I'm trying to provide a tool for parents, teachers, or caregivers to.

Have a kind of a comfortable conversation about money. Cause a lot of adults will shy away from the conversation cuz they're like, I'm not an expert. I don't know enough. I've made a lot of bad financial decisions already. So who am I to like try and impart any wisdom to a kid or I'm afraid of the questions they might ask.

And me not knowing the answer by doing this, it creates a safe space. It creates a guided prompt that, we're gonna talk about the kid in their allowance. It's not generally gonna reflect back on thes in any weird way. And they can both engage with the question together and start building this comfort level, talking about money.

Adam Coelho: Yeah. I love it. And that was something that really stood out to me. I guess two things that really stood out to me about the book first. The multiple levels that you're describing,I'm generally sticking to the a is for allowance and the definition that's the primary thing, at the moment, cuz my son is three and a half, but it does start to have more questions.

I, I, the first time I went through it, I did all four levels and I was like, okay, this is too much, for him right now. But more and more, he's like asking questions as we're going through about what he's seeing on the pages. And then the second thing I really love about the book is the inclusivity, right?

You really have such a wide range of human beings in the book and I feel that it's representing everybody. Everyone's gonna be able to see themselves in one of those pages. so I really appreciate that as well. 

[00:30:49] Process of writing the book (5:4)

Adam Coelho: I guess just a, another question, like how was the process of writing a book.

Rob Phelan: In a children's book, I saw you worked with a, an illustration studio or something. like it's something that has crossed my mind mostly because I saw that you did it. I'm like, that's cool. that's possible? So like, what was the process like? this was my second book. the first one I did was the simple startup workbook.

So it was a workbook for teens. so it wasn't my first foray into writing a book, but, it was fun. It was difficult. It was exhausting at times. But the process from start to finish was probably about 11 months. So I started writing in January. I reached out to, this woman, MK Williams, who is like an author coach for independent authors.

And I she's a friend of mine. I said like, Hey, I want to write this children's book. I've got it in my head. I started writing down like letters and maybe what word would go with that letter? And she encouraged that to, continue that like, so start sketching out what your book would look like.

what do you want to say? What's the message. What's the purpose of it? get a first draft done. It's going to be terrible. but you cannot make version two until version one is done. So get that first version down. So that probably took me a month or two to iron out, like what I thought my words were going to be, and I'd say maybe 60% of them stayed, but then I started doing some research and I got some feedback from parents, who maybe said like, oh, this word, my kid doesn't quite get it or it's too big or it's hard to pronounce.

I had one kid point out that stash was basically asking the same question on two different pages. I'm like, oh my gosh, you're right. just didn't see it in the like most basic sense. Like, yes, this is the same question. It was kinda like, what would you do with money? And what would you do with a dollar if you had it, or what would you do with your allowance?

It's like, the answer's the same. So I love the brutal honesty of kids at times. And then you take, that first draft you have. Get it in front of a lot of people, you get some feedback, what do they think? Do they think this is a good book or not? you wanna get outside of your family friend circle if you can, because they're generally going to be very overly positive and supportive of you.

kids will be brutally honest, which is great. find some people who you think will be honest with you and get their feedback. And then once I had like enough, validation that it was worth moving forward on this, we started looking for an illustrator and for our kids book, the illustrator is probably more important than the author.

I basically did like a job post. I went on to Facebook and there are lots of groups for children's book writers and illustrators. And I created a post saying like, this is what, the book is about. This is what I'm trying to convey. This is what's important to me. So like the inclusivity was important to me.

I need an illustrator. Who's comfortable doing, people with all different sorts of appearances abilities. they need to be able to do different scenes, so different types of buildings, outdoors, indoors, these animals potentially involved, like just kinda laying out exactly what I wanted in this book.

And then saying like, if you feel like this is you. Send me your portfolio. And I gave them an email address where I said, send me a DM and anyone who couldn't follow instructions was immediately cut out. And then other people who did send it, we probably had a hundred portfolios that we looked through.

We narrowed it down to 10. We asked them that those 10, like what were their rates and some questions about what they could do. And we picked a final three. And then from there we narrowed it down to one. So it was very much like interviewing for a job. And I feel like treating it that way, made it more likely for me to find someone who was gonna be a good fit.

And then the illustrator.

Is from India. English was not his first language. So there did need to be a lot of detail in terms of, this is what I want. this is what I was sending a lot of pictures. Like this is what an American household would look like, or,I need to like an American suburb at one point. And I could tell that was not something he could envision.

there was a lot of curtains hanging between doorways instead of doors. I was like, okay, this is just a different culture that we have. So I had to like go back and be like, no, this is what I want to look like. And that was a cool experience. particularly working with someone from outside the country, the hardest part being the time difference.

We were like 11 hours apart. So it was always like a day between messages or something like that. And once I had some illustrations, I was able to go to Kickstarter and start painting the picture for people and say like, this is what I want to create. here is like, I think I had five images to work with.

Like, this is, these are some five images that we can use to say, like, this is what the book might look like. This is what I wanna achieve. The multiple levels. Inclusivity for kids, helping them start that conversation. And then you allow people to either buy a book in advance or to buy two books or five books or 10, they can choose to donate copies of the book to my like donation pile.

So that was going to title one schools and public libraries. and that's how I got the funding then to pay for the illustrations, pay for the printing, some marketing and advertising, that sort of stuff, and then shipping all of these things out. so yeah, it was a really cool experience and, very fun doing something.

I would encourage people to try and do. Like it was, the Kickstarter was great. It funded everything, but you probably needed. I got an expensive illustrator, I think, compared to what maybe you could do if you had a friend do it, or someone do it yourself, but out of pocket, you're probably looking at maybe two to 3000 to print a book.

If you wanna do a physical copy. And if you wanna do a digital copy, it's almost free. Like you maybe have a little bit of formatting cost and then just uploading it to something like an Amazon or another ebook reader. Like you can do a very basic version, pretty cheap and then increase the cost as you want.

Adam Coelho: Interesting. 

[00:35:53] how much did the illustration cost? (1:35)

Adam Coelho: And so roughly, like how much did the illustration cost? I

Rob Phelan: if anyone's interested, myself and MK Williams, so she was my author coach. We did a whole YouTube series on how I took the book from idea to publishing and we go through all the numbers and all the steps that I did.

so I, I can send you the link for that for the show notes, if you would like please do, but I think it was about 2,500 total for all of the illustrations. And I'm pretty sure my illustrator undercharged me. Cause I don't think he fully understood the scope of what he was doing. Yeah. 

Adam Coelho: That's like less than a hundred dollars a page, right?

there's a bunch of pages. Yeah. There's 26 

Rob Phelan: letters at least. Yeah. And I think the hardest part is the number of characters. Because if you have one character, you design the one character and then you repeat that character over and over in different poses. But when you have to design 60 different characters, it becomes a little bit harder.

And even stash, the squirrel has five different poses that appears throughout the book. So it's like, , there was a lot to this and it took a lot of back and forth between me and him to get the book to where we wanted. And I'm so happy with the final result. Like I think the illustrations are gorgeous.

they give a lot of information, besides what the text is. So like the kids can see a lot going on in there. there's like hidden references inside the images to like other personal finance content creators who were supportive of the book when it was coming out. So yeah, it was a fun project to do.

Adam Coelho: Yeah, like the choose F I T shirt and afford anything somewhere in there. Yeah. I love those little Easter eggs, so it's yeah, the illustrations are beautiful. That's it's great. the book is awesome from top to bottom, so highly recommend people check it out and, I'll put a link to that in the show notes and yeah, I would love to include that YouTube series, cuz that sounds like it'll be super helpful for anyone looking to do this.

[00:37:26] Your approach to allowance (10:43)

Adam Coelho: so we mentioned allowance, right? and I know this is something that you recently put a post out about, but I'd love to have you share your approach to allowance, how you think about it, how you'd advise somebody. Maybe with a three and a half year old, how they would go about introducing this to their family.

Rob Phelan: Okay. So listeners brace yourselves because you're probably going to have some response to this,positive or negative, depending on what I say. allowance is one of those topics that when I bring it up in say like clubhouse, so like a, an online forum where you can have people contribute ideas. Or when I talk to a group of parents or teachers, everyone has a different feeling in how this should be done.

And it's like personal finance is personal. You have your own way of doing it, and it's going to fit in with your beliefs and values as well as what you're trying to achieve. An allowance at its core is money that you get for doing nothing. Like it's an allowance, like you're not supposed to have to earn it in any way to get an allowance.

Like you think of an allowance from the government or something like that. It's just money that gets handed to you for being you or for meeting some special criteria. But different families will have different criteria attached to the allowance. So some will be like, this comes from doing your chores.

So if you do all your chores, you earn the allowance. some will be like, no, you just get an allowance every week for a fixed amount, whether you do your chores or not, like chores are something that we will do separate to this. some people use allowance as a behavior management tool. Some do not. personally, we are just about to start this with our own son.

Like he's getting to that point now where he's asking to buy things. he has a little bit of money of his own that he's gotten from like birthdays so far. So he's spending that down. But as soon as he hits zero or not enough that he has money left to buy things, he's going to start asking for more.

And that's when we get to introduce the idea of an allowance or how he can earn his own money. So based on the research, I've seen talking to a lot of parents reading a lot of books from,Personal finance content, careers who are specifically talking to parents about how to raise money savvy kids. It seems like the consensus is to give kids a fixed amount of money over a fixed period of time.

So a week is usually a good place to start. So like every Monday, Saturday, Sunday, whatever it is that you are giving your kids a fixed amount of money. So the, again, general consensus is usually about a dollar per age. So like if you're starting a three year old, it might be $3 a week and you might start with like a dollar bill and eight quarters or something like that, so that they feel like they're getting a little bit more and they have a bit more room to play with it in terms of breaking it up into smaller amounts.

not attached to chores or any, things that they have to do to earn it. So an allowance is given as opposed to earned, and this is again what my wife and I are planning to do based on what we've read. And the reason for that is that we don't want kids to feel like they have to be paid to do chores, or that everything they do comes with a monetary reward and.

Chores are something that we are already working on with our son. Like we involve him in things like cleaning, the house, emptying the dishwasher, cooking, washing the car, going grocery shopping, like he already is involved in those. And the idea is that we're raising him to be like, this is just part of everyday life.

This is what you do to be part of a household. and yes, it slows it down. It makes it messy. it sometimes is done wrong. You have to go back and fix it again later. But by involving him from a young age, we're hoping that he's going to internalize and build this habit of just taking care of his own space for the sake of doing it.

And because he wants to be. A productive member of the household kind of thing. so that's what we're trying to do. I'll get back to you in like 10 years to let you know if it worked. but the allowance side of it, not a behavior management tool either. So you don't take away an allowance for negative behavior.

You don't add extra money for positive behavior. It's meant to be just this money that they are gonna receive every week that they can make decisions about. so that's what it's purpose. It's a learning tool. So if you're giving $3 a week to your child, they then are going to make decisions about that.

And again, research based are not going to put any sort of like fixed rules on it. Like you have to put 10% or a third of it into spend, save, give, or anything like that. what I'm reading and what I'm seeing is that you let them make these decisions themselves. You get them to a point where they want to save money.

They want to give money. so we bring our son with us when we do any sort of charitable giving. like we went to a food bank yesterday and dropped off some like baby food pouches that we had that he didn't like. And we just made sure that he saw that we were giving this away and letting someone else use it, donating old toys, that sort of stuff.

And the hope is that he will want to give when he gets a little bit older as well. But. You'll start with spending. So kids need to learn to spend first, so they'll spend their money first. They'll probably run out of it and then they'll want to start buying things that are more expensive as well. And you just get to step in and say, sure, you can do that, but you only get $3 a week.

This thing costs 10. So you're going to have to save your money for a couple weeks to be able to buy this thing. And you just encourage, we celebrate along the way as they do this really hard thing of saving and delaying gratification. And then once they have enough money, we make sure we facilitate going and buying this thing.

So again, he's still gonna spend the money that he saved, but we celebrate it. It's a huge thing that you have saved up. You've been so patient you've gone and bought this toy that you really wanted that yes, we think is a piece of crap, but it's okay. We are so proud of you for doing that. And then what's the next thing you want to save or, and we start making, saving fun and part of the process.

And then eventually you'll start being like, oh, You wanna go to the ice cream truck? okay. That's right now, do you want to take money outta your savings to do that, knowing that it's gonna slow you down on the other end and just building up these habits along the way. And then eventually as he gets a little bit older, we'll start talking.

A plan. what do you want to do with your money when it comes? Should we start allocating some of it to spending some, to save some, to give investing will come eventually not yet. and that's what we think we're gonna do. it all sounds great right now. And, for anyone who is a parent, you know exactly how good it sounds before your child gets there.

Adam Coelho: Yeah. The plan always sounds great. And then there, and it goes completely the other direction. no, that's interesting. I appreciate you laying that out. so you wouldn't. I you wouldn't say, oh, the third goes, I've heard people saying, oh yeah, like one of the dollars you get to keep the other one we're gonna save.

The other are gonna give away. You'd say, just let, 'em, let 'em decide themselves for the, and then start to introduce it later on. 

Rob Phelan: I think that's what we're going to do. I don't know that the other method of dictating it will really go that badly. I've seen some people say that if you dictate saving and dictate giving away, like it may, Cause a child to start hoarding money or to spend it as soon as they get it so that it doesn't get confiscated by mom and dad to the college savings plan.

so there can be that feeling of, I didn't have a choice over how my money was spent, so that doesn't feel very good. And we've talked a little bit about like how humans want that autonomy, that control and toddlers in particular want to feel like they're in control. Oh yeah. and kids don't really change that.

They want that feeling of control. They want to feel like they're making decisions for themselves. And if we can sit down with them and. Model budgeting. So like for my son, he knows that every time we go to the grocery store, we make a list before we go through the list and then I can take him into a grocery store.

He will pick something up off the shelf and say like, can I get this? And I'll just, all I have to say to him is, is that on the list? And he'll be like, no, I was like, okay, let's put it back. And he will put it back. no tantrums happen in other places, but it does not happen when we go to the grocery store because he knows that there is a plan and we just stick to the plan.

And it also means that as an adult, I cannot deviate from the plan. So it stops me from picking up stuff on impulse as well. And I guess like where I'm going with that is that I'm hoping that by putting those sorts of bricks in place, And choosing the path that we are choosing, that he will eventually be okay with us sitting down and we'll just make a plan together for how he's going to allocate his money.

And, we're ready with our like, spend, save, give, we've got like a little, it's called a Benji box from a Benjamin talks. we love it. It's a clear container. It's got three slots in it. and you can put your money into it in the different spaces that you wanna allocate it at the moment. It just, he separates it by like quarter like silver stuff, bronze stuff and paper money.

but eventually we want to start introducing yeah. Spend, save, give, and having buckets for what you're doing and, potentially getting like a kid debit card and starting that idea of like, how do you use those? Like, those are all in the works for the future and we'll see how life plays out.


Adam Coelho: absolutely. Yeah, that's helpful because it's a simple approach, right? Like simple path to wealth for kids . I was over complicating it in my mind. I had the different buckets, but then I also was like, it's gonna take him forever to get anything like, and I had him earn, we got a backpedal a little bit on the paying him for doing chores thing, but it's still early, basically we, I paid him $3 to help me clean the house.

and it was great varying degrees of great, each time. But I think that what you're saying about, I was thinking like, oh, I'd have him invest. if he saves it, then we'll pay him some sort of interest on it. He's too young to understand how that works. I think just allowing him to giving him the money, we have the piggy bank now, although because of your book, he thinks that if you lift it upside down, a quarter's gonna fall out and he doesn't, it doesn't work so well each time.

but it's funny. It's funny, cuz like. Things have already changed. Like if I was to do the book again, I probably wouldn't do a piggy bank because I don't like containers where the kids can't see what's inside. Yeah. or I would've made the piggy bank transparent, so you could at least see what was inside of it.

Rob Phelan: Cause yeah. Kids want to know that their money is still there. They want to take it out and count it and reassure themselves. Oh, I still got it all. Put it back in again. when we have the clear container, my son is less like about like, oh, I want to get into this. Like, he's like, I can see it. It's right there.

No problem. Yeah. When we had a clay, a ceramic piggybank like he was like constantly wanting to open it and see what was inside. but I wanna go back to what you said about earning and I definitely don't wanna make like any sort of claim that is something wrong or that there's anything, incorrect about what you're doing.

when I was a kid, I earned money for doing chores. we had a chore chart and each one had a, like a quarter dime to probably like a dollar value depending on what it was. I think when your kid. Starts asking for more money. So like your allowance is no longer meeting their needs, which it probably won't take too long.

especially if they ask for something and you're like, cool, you can save for it. But based on their allowance, like $3 a week or something like that, it would take them two years to save for it. That's when you want to give them additional opportunities to earn, and you can start looking at things like chores that are above and beyond just regular house maintenance.

So maybe like washing the windows or giving the car a wash or I don't know something that is not an everyday thing. You're kinda like, like weeding the garden or something. If you did this, you'd save me from paying someone else to do it. Or you'd save me a ton of time that I really don't want to do myself.

I think it's very okay to pay kids for something like that. compared to something like, I don't know, like tidying your room. Like, I feel like taking care of your own space is probably something you should just do inherently as opposed to being paid for it. my thoughts and opinions only guys. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah, 

I totally agree. okay,

so let's shift gears

[00:48:05] what the simple startup is all about (4:30)

Adam Coelho: you mentioned earlier another business that you have is the simple startup.

you talk a little bit about before, but maybe just give a quick recap of what the simple startup is all about and your purpose for doing that. 

Rob Phelan: Absolutely. So the simple startup started as a workbook. I was teaching personal finance to, my high school kids and I teach entrepreneurship as part of a personal finance course, because I think when you boil personal finance or financial independence down to its core things, it's earn more, spend less invest better and enjoy that journey along the way.

so on the earn more side, You've got, your job earnings or you've got alternative earnings. So we've got active and passive income, but also just entrepreneurial income on the active side. And I wanted to expose kids to that. I had a really great experience when I was a kid. I got to that stage where I was asking my parents for more money and they were like, you can buy it, but you gotta pay for it yourself.

And they let me do things like go to my neighbors and collect bottles, cans, take them to recycling center and get my nickel for those. I was living in New York at the time where they actually pay you to recycle, which is a great business for a kit. And that was like the first thing I did when we first moved to Ireland, I wanted a pinata, my birthday, and that was not something that Ireland had ever heard of before.

Like it was such a,American thing to do, but probably doesn't even have its roots in America. I made my own and I had kids like being like, oh, this is cool. Like, love this idea. It's thing full of candy. You bust it. Open candy falls out. It's great. can I have one too? And so I started selling pinatas and that was like my first, real business that I did where I was creating something.

And when I was 15 years old in high school, we had an entrepreneurship project. so there's this really cool thing in Irish high school, it's called transition year. So when you get to the equivalent of 10th grade, you can choose to skip. And get out of high school faster, or you can do this 10th grade, this transition year, and it's no assessments.

So there's no like grades of any sort. And it's all about,developing yourself, finding your own identity, trying a lot of different things out. And it was, I think it was probably one of the most impactful things I did in my high school career. Like I think most of my memories from high school are from that particular year where we did all of these different, fun activities and starting our own business was one of them.

So me and two of my friends started a baking company and we sold like cookies and brownies, slices of cake to the other students in the school twice a week. And we probably did it for like maybe eight weeks or so. May like 500 euros profit from that, that we split between us. And I was like, this is the best thing ever.

Like I'm making a lot of money from things that I'm making myself and we're generating our own income. So I wanted to pass that on to my own students. And that was the birth of the simple startup. It just ended up being a workbook of all the things I was teaching my kids so that I could give it to another teacher and say like, Hey, this is how you run an entrepreneurship project and guide kids through thinking about all the questions we want them to consider when they start their own business.

And then, that was published in February of 2020. so in March of 2020 all plans to sell it to schools just totally collapsed because every school shut down budgets were frozen or reallocated to, pandemic related things. So selling a book to schools just was not a good business plan right then.

and then at the same time, summer was rolling around all summer camps were being canceled and I was like, maybe people would be interested in doing like a virtual. Camp cause you can do this from anywhere. Like you just need maybe a computer, maybe a device, not even really. You just need something around you that you can turn into a business and solve a problem for people.

So I created an event where page, I said, Hey, I'll do this simple startup summer camp where I'll teach 10 to 18 year olds to start a business. If you're interested, sign up here. And I pulled a number outta the air, I said 60 bucks to, to sign up. And I was like, if I sell at least 20 places on this, I'll make the course and I'll run it.

if I don't, I'll just refund people, their money. I'll take like a $10 hit for event, bright fees. And that's that, the course sold out in two weeks and I actually ended up running a second one that summer. so then I had to really like turn it around fast to get a first version of this course up.

And since then I've done seven of these where I've taken 10 to 18 year olds through the process of coming up with an idea and turning that idea into a profitable business within like six to 10 weeks. I've changed the length of the course a couple of times. 

Adam Coelho: Very cool. That is awesome. To hear how that came about.

Hilarious to hear that you had a pinata business. That is amazing. I thought you were gonna say you had to import a pinata from Mexico or something to Ireland, but even better, you started making pinatas. That's so cool. so yeah, that's really interesting that you're able to, that you're able to take that and share it in this way, first as a book, but also with, with the online course, essentially.

[00:52:35] what would you say like are the big aha moments for kids going through this? (7:11)

Adam Coelho: what would you say are the big aha moments for kids going through this? 

Rob Phelan: when I do like the survey at the end, I'll get a lot of parents who will say. My kid just has improved, like their confidence levels. I feel like it, it gives them some sort of power to know that they can just create their own stuff or they can take their interests and someone will actually buy it from them.

Like they're good enough at something that they can sell it and there's interest from other people and buying it that aren't just family and friends who are doing like of a courtesy sale, like they're actually able to solve a problem for people they're able to help people. and a lot of my students will say kinda the same thing.

Like I didn't realize how easy it was. I didn't realize that I could be a person who started a business, that it's not just reserved for a certain type of person or someone with a lot of money or someone who's got this like brain that works in a different way to everyone else. anyone can do it.

Anyone can start a business. and all it really needs to do at its core is to solve a problem for people and do so in a way that people will be willing to pay for it.

Adam Coelho: Very cool. And it seems like this is another thing that you pre-sold right. Is that part of the course as well, I would think. Or, 

Rob Phelan: that was a good example to give to kids. Like, I didn't have a ton of money of my own or a ton of time. Like, if you create a digital course, like it can take a lot of time to do it.

And I was like, I'm not gonna sign up to do that. And then at the other end realize, no one actually wants this. it was a total, it would be a total waste of my time. And then part of the like workbook is checking ahead of time. Like, do people actually want it or not? Are you solving the problem that people have?

And by pre-selling the course via event, I was able to verify that people actually wanted it and that my price was okay. And that there was enough interest to validate kind of me putting the time into making. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah, absolutely. It's that's the kind of the theme through the book, the Ms. For money book, the simple startup, course as well.

Do you teach, you kind already said that you do teach people to pre-sale 

Rob Phelan: in the course. Yes. So pre-sale things, use stuff that you already have use your own talents and skills, borrow things. So like, if you wanna do a landscaping company and you don't have a lawnmower, go find a neighbor who has one and say like, Hey, I'll cut your lawn for free.

If I can use your lawnmower to go cut five other people's lawns, like things like that, where you can just get started right now with what you have. And then eventually if you make money, go buy your own lawnmower or keep doing what you're doing and invest in some other way. but when you start for free or you start really cheap, there's no risk.

you don't have a loan that you have to pay back. You haven't sunk all of your savings into something where you feel this pressure to make the business successful. You can just nonchalantly see. Is this gonna work? Is it not? If it's not all right, shut it down. Let's try the next thing. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah. And do I even like doing it?

Yes. If you have all of that pressure,It's kinda like we were talking about before feeling trapped it's always been a dream of mine to be an entrepreneur slash I am an entrepreneur. it's funny. I say it's been a dream of mine, but I'm like doing it right now as we're talking.

again, the things I want out there, I already have, I have to keep reminding myself, but, I've come to realize that it doesn't have to be so complicated. I can just start and build simply. And that's my challenge is keeping it simple, keeping it focused on moving forward. Step by step. Doesn't have to be everything to everyone. It just needs to solve a problem and be validated, 


Adam Coelho: with people actually responding either with dollars or interest, in the case of the podcast. 

Rob Phelan: Yeah. And I think for me, a big discovery was the idea of a lifestyle business. So I thought you were all in or not when it came to a business, like you're either doing this to take over your full-time gig and like, that's why you're doing it.

or you're not, and it's a hobby, but I found that there's this like nice balance where I can say like, okay, I'm only gonna do these courses in winter and summer when like I've got a break from teaching. I could do more. I could try and make this a full-time job, but I don't really want to do that. I like my time, the way it is.

I like being able to spend a lot of time with my family and the way I have set up my business is that it does not take away from family time, nor does it keep me up until one in the morning. Like I'm not into this whole like grind until like you can't stand anymore. will it make me a millionaire tomorrow?

No. and I'm okay with that. I'm getting to that point where I'm feeling like it's okay to slow down the path to fi in exchange for enjoying it more along the way and not burning myself out and not sacrificing things like family time, which you just can't get back. so it would be great to retire earlier and have that extra time on that end of things, but not at the sacrifice of today.

Adam Coelho: Couldn't agree more.that has been a big realization for me. I took some time off earlier this year, from work after 11 years at the company and my big realization, I like set the podcast aside and I was like, why am I even doing this? Like, what is the, let me get back to why I'm actually doing this.

And it's to connect with interesting people. Podcast is a great way to meet people. Everyone says yes. When you invite them on a podcast, I don't know why, but it's awesome. but so have interesting conversations like this meet interesting people like yourself and to slowly build authority in these space of mindfulness and financial independence, that's it.

It's not to have a huge following. It's not to sell advertising. It's just those things. So maybe I can just. Focus on that and let the rest take care of itself. and the other thing I'll say is that financial independence for me is really so that I can pursue entrepreneurship without that pressure.

I've done it the other way, where it was like before I started working at Google, I had a startup and I, my parents were supportive and gave me money to invest in it, but it did feel like this has gotta work. And even things that I did while I worked at Google different side hustles and things, it was all like, I need to get outta here.

I need to make this needs to work. And that pressure, it, that coming from that place, it doesn't feel good coming from a place of, I have enough, I am enough and I'm doing this for these clear reasons. Feels totally different. 

Rob Phelan: Yeah, I totally agree. Totally agree. And it doesn't mean that's the same path for everyone.

For some of us, it may be like this started as a lifestyle kind of thing. And I realized it could be more and that's what I wanted to do full time. And if you make that choice to go do it by all means, go do it. I found when I started the simple startup, I committed to doing like a blog as part of it as well.

And after a year of doing it, I was like, I'm not enjoying this anymore. Like, I feel this pressure every week to put out some new piece of content and write something. And I'm like, that's not fun to me. So I just stopped doing it. And I realized that like, yeah, it might slow the growth down a little bit.

It doesn't do great for SEO or getting found, but I'm happier doing what I'm doing now. And I'm okay with that. it's not going to turn into a multimillion dollar business. I don't need it to 

Adam Coelho: absolutely. Yeah. the word lifestyle business used to be like a dirty word. when I first moved to Silicon valley, I was like all of this mindset.

It. Gotta build a huge business, lifestyle, entrepreneurship. Ah, but then I realized like, no, this is actually great. like this is really great. Cause that's what it's all about. It's about designing your life around, what matters to you ultimately, and a lifestyle business is a great way to do that.

And especially if it's on the side, for sure. 

[00:59:38] Mindful Fire Final Four

Adam Coelho: Alright Rob. So let's switch gears now to what I call the mindful fire. Final four, 

[00:59:43] how you want your son to relate to money or what you want him to feel (1:21)

Adam Coelho: so Rob, the first question is when you think about money and how you want your son to relate to money or what you want him to feel or how money will play a factor in his life, what are your thoughts there? 

Rob Phelan: Oh gosh. I don't want him to be on the extreme of never having to worry about money or think about it.

Like, I don't want to just provide everything he needs. So he never has to worry about money. Again, I don't think that's beneficial in terms of like, creating. A responsible money manager. And then we hear stats all the time about like wealth only lasting two to three generations before it disappears. I think it could be down to something like that where we're not teaching money management skills and we're not learning the true value of money.

I want him to grow up where money is not something that creates anxiety or stress. but it's still something that can unlock a lot of doors and a lot of opportunity. And it's something that we exchange our time and our energy for. And we make sure we do it in a way that is agreeable to us. Like we are making the conscious choice to do that.

So I guess what I want is the mindset that money can be created. money is there for you. If you want to go get it and that you have to make the choice to go do it, and that you choose to do it in a way that feels fun to you, feels exciting to you, feels fulfilling to you. And then that he would use it in a way that brings value to his life and to the lives of others, hopefully as well.

Adam Coelho: Nailed it. Nailed it. 

[01:01:05] what piece of advice would you give to someone early on their path to financial independence? (2:16)

Rob Phelan: okay. The second question is what piece of advice would you give to someone early on their path to financial independence? 

So this one,I did a post that I actually didn't release where I was like, graduation season for high school. Like what would my keynote speech be at a graduation or commencement speech?

And I think the most valuable piece of advice I would give is to not inflate your life, the moment you start making more money. so high school teens in particular, I think I fell into this trap as well, that when I finished college, I wanted all the things I grew up in a household that had things, stuff that my parents had accumulated or.

After 40 years of working and building wealth, we're able to afford and a common trap for a lot of teens or early, 20 somethings is to try and replicate that as soon as they start making their own money. So my advice is usually when you get your first big kid job, before you commit to any spending, try and think about what your plan for your money is, what do you want to do with it?

What do you want to achieve? What do you want your financial future to look like? And then build your plan around that. And it's okay to spend money. It's okay to get things that you want, but do so in an intentional way. Like for me, I went from earning 10,000 a year as a graduate assistant in grad school to, I think probably just over 40 a year as a first year teacher.

And. It was gone. Like , I don't know how I went from 10 to 40 and had nothing to show for it, but apartment, car payment, student loan payments,stuff like it just, it disappeared. And had I been a bit more intentional beforehand and made that decision that, you know what I'm gonna do a 25% 30% savings rate.

I think I would've been just fine. I would've still tripled my income. I probably would've still felt like I'm rolling in the money, but I would've been already taking care of future me at a much younger age and this fire conversation, we may not even be having this right now. Cause I probably would be on a beach somewhere, doing something really fun, but that's usually what I want encourage kids to do is to just make a plan and be conscious about how they are spending their money and allocating and making sure that reflects what their dreams and their goals are.

Adam Coelho: Yeah. And it 

Rob Phelan: would terrible commencement speech, but . 

Adam Coelho: I think it's great, but then again, we're, like-minded in that way, we're big in this world, but,

[01:03:22] how do you get them to think about future then? (3:45)

Adam Coelho: so how do you get them to think about future then? 

Rob Phelan: That's fun. Have you seen the money explained documentary on Netflix? 

Adam Coelho: No, I don't think I have.

Rob Phelan: for those of you who have Netflix, it's worth checking out. there's a mini, like I think five episode series called money explained, and they get a lot of personal finance experts to dive into a lot of the psychology behind money in different ways. And one of them is this question about how do you get people to start thinking about their retirements?

And it's shown that most young people and young kind of goes up to 30 years old. Don't really, they can't envision retirement. They can't see themselves at that age. And it's very hard then to care about it. and they found that by introducing people to an older version of themselves via like an aging app.

Immediately made them start thinking more about retirement and saving more. So trying to help kids paint a picture of what it looks like to be retired or what life could look like. And retired member can be any age. Like it doesn't have to be like old age, in any sense. So trying to help kids think about what they want that future to look like introducing themselves to, visualization of what that, that might feel like, what it might look like, who they want to be with, who, what experiences they want to have and then getting 'em to buy into that vision and then say, okay, how do we backward map to get there?

I think that would be probably the most effective way that I found so far. I've yet to find one that really just like gets kids being like, yes, I'm in retirement. Let's go all my money's going to my IRA. usually doesn't work that way. 

Adam Coelho: Yeah. Yeah. I think that's definitely helpful, and I think what.

Was so enticing for me about early retirement is that it brings it closer in, it makes me realize like like, what do I wanna be doing in 10 years? If I didn't have to worry about money? Like that seems much more doable. And then something you said at the beginning of this conversation of how you first introduce the concepts to the kids in your class is you make it seem doable.

That it's possible. And I think that for me, it was always one of those things. That's like, ah, I'm afraid to ask. I feel like I should know this. I went to college after all I should know this, but it was five years into my career before I actually got asked the questions and got a handle on it, and realized it doesn't have to be so hard.

And But realizing that it's not 10 million that I need to have, it's based on how much I wanna spend and need to live off of. And maybe that's, if it's a hundred thousand dollars I wanna live off of, it's only 2.5 million, It's a lot of money, but it seems much more doable than like unlimited, which is what I thought before.

And so I think it's really,important to like, be able to see yourself there. 

Rob Phelan: Yeah. And especially when you think of two and a half million as like, oh, I actually don't have to save two and a half million. I only have to save like 300,000 by this age. And then like compound interest will take care of itself.

like my wife and I are at that kind of coast fire point where we could just stop investing and we probably would be set for like at 65, 70 years old, like, we'd be good and we'd have enough to. live a very decent life at that point. And that's a cool thing too, where you're no, we can just choose to like, live more.

Now, if we want to knowing that we'll push that retirement date back, but if we're okay doing what we're doing right now, then that's fine. Like we're okay with that. Like for me, like I love teaching. I don't mind it. It's not hard on my body in any way. It can be hard on my emotions in my mind at times.

But, I'm saying this to you now as we're recording during summer. So like I'm on a break from work right now and it's a very refreshing thing. And I always think about like, what would I do if this is what life looked like every day? And it's a very exciting thing. Like, I'm not ever feeling like I'm bored.

I'm more like, oh, there's so many opportunities and things that you could do. And if money didn't matter and you could just go learn all the things, do all the things help all the people. Like it would be a very fun and fulfilling life. 

Adam Coelho: Absolutely. that's the goal. All right, Rob.

[01:07:07] what piece of advice would you give to someone getting started with meditation and or mindfulness? (1:30)

Adam Coelho: The third question is what piece of advice would you give to someone getting started with meditation and or mindfulness? 

Rob Phelan: Oh, okay. So meditation is something I don't have a ton of experience with. I have, done a little bit of yoga. I've read a lot of books about me, mindfulness and meditation. My wife is a psychotherapist, so she is very, interested and excited about mindfulness, meditation, somatic experiencing, those sorts of practices.

And we get to practice together a lot. I think for my personal experience, I'm at the beginner stage still. So I'm sharing what I'm doing, is to just try it in small pieces, like very small start somewhere. it's okay to use a guided meditation. Like you don't have to like, just sit on the ground in silence and hope that your mind's gonna go quiet.

I found starting with guided meditations and guided practices or the, a yoga class or something like that can be a great way to just start. And I don't know if there's a wrong way to do it. I haven't. I think that was something that I thought as well, is that I'm supposed to just sit and it's supposed to be like a quiet mind and if my mind wanders, I'm doing it wrong or, I can't have sound or another person guiding it.

Like it had to be all by myself. And I'm realizing now that like, that's, that was a false assumption that there are different ways of doing this. And as long as I'm getting the value out of it, it's a good way of doing it. 

Adam Coelho: Absolutely. Yeah, totally. that was my experience as well. I was convinced I was doing it wrong.

but the reality is that our minds create thoughts. So just observing them and spending some time, allowing your mind to settle is really what it's all about. All right, Rob, 

[01:08:38] how can people connect with you online and learn more about your book and the simple startup? (1:56)

Adam Coelho: the last question is how can people connect with you online and learn more about your book and the simple startup?

where can people connect with you online? 

Rob Phelan: so I'm in a lot of places and most social medias. If you are, on social media, you'll probably be able to find me, but if you are interested in like tips for parents or information for parents about how to raise financial responsible kids, I would follow my for money, social media profile.

So that's at Ms for money book on Instagram and Facebook. if you're interested in business or entrepreneurship for kids. The simple startup. So it's at the simple startup on Facebook the underscore simple underscore startup on Instagram. and then for just general everything I'm on Twitter at the F educator.

Adam Coelho: Very cool. I will link to all of that in the show notes. And do you have, websites for each of those as well? I assume, yes, I can. I'll link those up. No problem. Yeah. 

Rob Phelan: And you can on this website, I, Mr. Money and the simple Got 

Adam Coelho: it. Perfect. alright, thank you Rob, for being here on the podcast and sharing your wisdom with the audience.

I really enjoyed our conversation. 

Rob Phelan: Thank you so much for having me and thank you everyone out there for listening. 

[01:09:43] Outro

Adam Coelho: Thanks for joining me on today's episode of the Mindful Fire Podcast. If you enjoyed today's episode, I invite you to hit subscribe wherever you're listening to this. This just lets the platforms know you're getting value from the episodes and you want to be here when I release additional content. If you're ready to start your Mindful Fire journey, go to mindful and download my free envisioning guide in just 10 minutes.

This guide will help you craft a clear and inspiring vision for your life. Again, you can download it for slash. Thanks again and I'll catch you next time on the Mindful Fire Podcast.