Like many of the world’s most successful people, Winnie Sun’s road to prosperity started off with a major challenge. A few months before Winnie was supposed to start classes at a prestigious university her parents were forced to declare bankruptcy.
The couple, who’d immigrated from Taiwan before Winnie was born, had always worked hard and been great savers–Winnie estimates they put aside 70 or 80 cents for every dollar they made–driven by the desire to provide Winnie and her sister with every opportunity life in the United States could offer.
Her father, who’d been a physician in Taiwan, came to the states and worked as a forklift operator while going to school part-time. He eventually went to work as an air traffic controller at Los Angeles International Airport. Her mother worked in banking before switching over to real estate. The couple had put their entire life savings into a real estate project they’d hoped would change their fortunes. Unfortunately, the deal went south. The family lost everything.
Instead of going to the private school her parents had hoped she could attend, Winnie started classes at UCLA, studying political science.
While she was a student, she founded Crowded House Entertainment, a television production company that provided live audiences to shows including “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” “Judge Judy,” “Jeopardy!” and others.
“I was working to pay for college and help my parents keep the house,” she says.
Her family’s struggle opened her eyes to the importance of having a financial education. She took finance classes at UCLA, which opened the door to a career in the finance industry.
Today, Winnie works as a financial advisor. She’s the founder and managing director of Sun Group Wealth Partners and is often featured as a “top advisor” speaker at industry events nationwide. She’s also a regular contributor to Forbes and appears on Fox Business News and CNBC’s Closing Bell. In 2015, she was selected for Investment News’ ‘Twenty Women to Watch’ list.
While her parents apologized for their financial struggles, Winnie says she’s extremely grateful for how everything turned out.
“It’s been the biggest blessing in my life,” she says.
Always Look For Ways to Make More Money
When it comes to basic money management, Winnie says she often hears from two camps: The financial experts or money bloggers who tell people to live like misers–to save everything they have and to clip every coupon–and the other group that tells people to live for the day.
While it’s important to be aware of how much you’re spending, Winnie says it’s even more important that people focus on making more money.
“For me, I never want to worry about where my money is going to come from to pay my bills,” she says.
Winnie loves to hear that her clients have side hustles–whether it’s driving for Uber or Lyft or getting paid to stand in line to buy the new iPhone.
“In America, if you want to make money, you can make money,” Winnie says. Unless you have a disability that might prevent you from working, there are really no excuses for not being successful.
Even now running a successful multimillion dollar business, Winnie says she still works as if she’s poor.
“I work like I’m still hungry,” she says. “If more people did that they’d be more empowered to change their situation.”
Sure, it’s always important to save more than you make, Winnie says, but instead of using energy on cutting coupons or thrifty shopping, figure out ways you can generate more income.
After that, it’s time to think about investing.
Getting Started in Investing
She often finds that people don’t invest because they don’t understand how to and feel as if they’re going to be taken advantage of if they ask for professional help. But by not educating yourself and finding someone to help with investments, people can lose five or six years of income, Winnie says.
If you want to do it correctly, you need to find an expert. It will help save money and reduce stress.
“So many of my clients tell me, ‘you changed my life for myself or my kids. I wouldn’t be able to retire without you,’ ” Winnie says. “That’s something young people should hear.”
Rather than being so wary of bad financial advisors that you don’t invest, individuals and families should make it a point to seek out good advice and to find someone that they can communicate with well.
“I think the most important thing is to find someone who understands you and clicks with you and who is easy to have discussions with,” she says.
When searching for an advisor, talk to friends and colleagues to find out who they’re working with and whether they’re satisfied with the help they’re getting.
It’s helpful to start educating yourself about money management and investing so you can feel more empowered to ask the right questions. Both Forbes and YouTube are great resources to start with, Winnie says.
Finally, the best place to start your investment journey is to make a wishlist that zeroes in on what’s important to you–whether it’s that you want to retire at 50 or make sure you can support your children or your parents–this will help you to determine the type of advisor you’re looking for.
Before you meet with an advisor, it’s smart to figure out what you’re spending and what you’re saving.
“Even before we invest the first dollar, I like to know where you are and where you’d like to be,” Winnie says.
When she starts working with a new client, Winnie has them go through a budget worksheet so that her clients have a clear picture of where their money is going. Then she helps them figure out how much they’ll need for retirement based on their wish list and what their shortfall or surplus is. She’ll also have conversations about her client’s risk tolerance. All this information is critical, Winnie says, because it allows she and her clients to make smarter decisions about the types of investments they select.
Once the investment plan is approved, Winnie recommends setting up automatic withdrawals directly to your investments so that you don’t have to think about it every month.
“The most successful investors are successful because it’s completely automated,” she says. “Money is like a bar of soap, the more you touch it the smaller it gets.”
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