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Opinion: Real wealth, real wisdom

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Interview with Bruce Helmer, co-Founder and financial advisor, Wealth Enhancement Group

By Jeff Prouty, Chairman and Founder, Prouty Project

Bruce Helmer is a veteran of the financial services industry and has been in the business for 28 years. Bruce is co-founder of the financial advisory firm Wealth Enhancement Group, host of the “Your Money” radio program on WCCO, and the author of three books. His latest book is Real Wealth: How to Make Smart Money Choices for What Matters Most to YOU. Bruce's guiding philosophy is simple: he wants your money to work as hard for you as you work for your money.

What is the gist of your new book, Real Wealth?

If you walk through a Barnes and Noble, there are a lot of financial planning and personal finance books on the shelves. The question I am always asked is “Why? Why do we need another one? What is so different about yours?” In the genre of personal finance, what I’ve found is that the “personal” part is left out of these books. These books are about how to invest, when to get into the stock market, and all kinds of “how-to’s.” What is missing is the “personal” in “personal financial planning.”

In my book, Real Wealth, I talk about the fact that the financial planning process doesn’t start with stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. It starts with asking: What are my core values? What is important to me? What is my objective? When people know their core values, they can set goals based on what is important to them. And then, based on those values and goals, there are certain financial strategies that will help them achieve their goals and there are financial strategies that won’t. We eliminate a lot of the “noise” just by helping people define who they are and what is most important to them.

I’m very proud of this book. I think it has universal appeal from the 20-something to the experienced investor. This book is for a broad audience and it will help many people.

How did you decide to write Real Wealth?

Most people who write non-fiction nowadays don’t do it to get rich; they may not even make any money at it. They do it because they have something to offer others and they believe their ideas will help others. I am passionate about education, I love doing public speaking, I love doing the radio show, and I love writing books because I think I can touch lives and help people. It is really motivating and rewarding for me.

Real Wealth is an updated version of my second book, Money and the People You Love, which was released in 2006. After the Great Recession the historic solidity of the financial world disappeared and there was a new paradigm; people see the financial world differently than they once did and their beliefs about it continue to shift. Having a plan based on what is most important to you is more important now than ever before, and that is why I updated Money and the People You Love. There is enough new information in Real Wealth, that I think you’ll get a new perspective from it, whether you’ve read Money and the People You Love or not.

What life lessons did you learn from your parents, teachers, or coaches growing up?

One thing I definitely learned from my mom is the value of hard work. She would always say, “If you see something that needs to be done, then go do it. Don’t wait for someone to tell you to do it.” I have tried to apply that to every job I have ever had, whether it was tasseling corn in a field as a kid or doing what I do now. I think that lesson has really contributed to my success.

My high school basketball coach had a significant impact on me: he taught me the power of positive thinking. He always said to me, “If you believe something, it can happen.” He gave me the book Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz and I still love that book.

How did you get into the world of Finance?

In high school, I had a social studies teacher who inspired my interest in education and wrote my recommendation letter to the University of Minnesota – Morris. I graduated from there with a major in education and a minor in social science and I started teaching right out of college. But after a year, I realized that I did not want to be a teacher for the rest of my life.

After that, I was recruited by a finance company for a job in the financial services industry. At 22 years old, it was never a career I had considered before. I’ve always had an innate curiosity, and I went in and took some aptitude tests that measured things like “Are you a self-starter? Are you thick-skinned?” among other qualities. I must have had test results that they liked because they really wanted me after that. I told them that I didn’t know anything about finance, but they said they would teach me everything I needed to know. I realized eventually how much the fields of education and finance have in common. In both areas you need to have the ability to communicate ideas effectively and in a manner that is engaging to others. My career in finance really just happened by accident.

Now that you’re done with Real Wealth, what does your next book look like?

My next book is going to be focused on advisors within the financial services industry and it will address how to be a better advisor.

Thanks Bruce, best of luck with the next book! Bruce Helmer’s book: Real Wealth: How to Make Smart Money Choices for What Matters Most to YOU can be purchased at BruceHelmer.com, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com.

Jeff Prouty is chairman and founder of the Prouty Project: Jeff founded the Prouty Project in 1987 after 7 years with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Minneapolis and New York City. He specializes in working with senior management teams and boards of directors on strategic planning and team issues.

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