Ryan Foland speaks with Winnie Sun, the Managing Director of Sun Group Wealth Partners. A leading financial expert, she is a CNBC Financial Advisor Council Member and a “top advisor” speaker at national industry events.
In this episode of our COVID-19 special series, Ryan and Winnie dive into what speakers can do to get on their feet financially in troubling times. Whether you have prepared for an emergency situation or not, whether you are still getting paid or not, this interview has many insights on what you can do right now to set yourself up for the future.
One of the key messages in this interview is to start looking at a plan B, plan C and plan D. Start looking at how you can build your business and make money right now, instead of holding out and waiting for this difficult situation to be over
Tune in for an interview chock full of insights on how to get your finances on the right track and use this time to build for the future.
Listen to the interview on iTunes or Soundcloud.
Winnie Sun: Hey, this is Winnie Sun.
I am here with the one and only Ryan Foland, and we're talking about how speakers can get financially savvy in this crazy crisis.
Ryan Foland: Ahoy everyone.
I hope you are safe and not touching your face!
Today we have another special COVID-19 episode with a good friend of mine, and someone who I respect not only as a speaker but as somebody who speaks with authority around the areas of finance, planning, investments, and opportunities.
She is Winnie Sun, the one and only.
She's a managing partner of Sun Group Wealth Partners, and she has built one of the coolest Tweet chats that continues to thrive and it seems to get bigger and bigger.
Welcome to the show, #WinnieSun.
How are you?
Winnie Sun: It's amazing to be here with you, Ryan.
Ryan Foland: I know, right.
I wish we could be in person, but that's okay.
The reason why I thought, top of mind, to bring you on the show for one of these limited number of special edition COVID-19 World of Speakers episodes is because when I think of finance or financial advice, you were the top person in my brain.
As speakers have had a significant amount of their typical business chopped off at the knees, I thought to myself,
"What better resource in this time of craziness than to bring somebody who can really speak with authority about finances when it comes to speakers."
Would you give us a brief lay of the land, financially, of what speakers are probably facing?
We can work through some of the things to think about doing, some options they have.
What can you speak about when it comes to the financial challenges or advantages that are happening right now, specifically for speakers?
Winnie Sun: Well, as you know, Ryan, I think about this all the time.
It's a real transition from traveling and doing things and seeing people to now being hunkered down at home, and how you translate that into income.
I think we have to take a sort of a long term approach. This is no different than when you're talking about investing.
You have to think of where you want to be 10 years from now, 20 years from now, and not just dwell on the current situation.
For many of us, many people that I talk to are simply waiting for the stimulus check to hit their bank accounts in the next couple of weeks.
But there's so much you can do if you just sort of look outside your box.
The most beautiful thing that speakers have is you have this innate trained skill set that you can get people to get excited about what you have to share.
That translates so well to other aspects of the business that you can do simply from the comfort of your own home.
But when you're taking a look at your finances, the first thing I like to say is when we're depressed and we're worried and we're stressed, we're no good to anybody.
And that's certainly the case with your finances right now.
So my 3-pronged approach right now is to get yourself out of financial stress. The first thing you want to do is to figure out where you stand financially — did you have an emergency fund?
Most people didn't. So if you didn't, don't worry, don't beat yourself up about it.
But also, figure out where you stand financially. How much money do you have in savings and checking, or in your 401K plan or your IRA, that you can get to if you need to.
And how do you stand in terms of where you need to be next week or the week after, in terms of rent, in terms of the mortgage, in terms of those types of things.
And then the second thing is to figure out where you can be, in a very proactive way, in terms of your budget — are there ways that you can decrease how much you're spending?
Are there places you can borrow from?
Are there people that you can reach out to in your community, in your family, who can help you out temporarily?
And then number three, which I think is the most important thing, is, in the financial industry we always say like, “Money is like a bar of soap, the more you take your money, the smaller it gets.”
My motto in life is, “Well then, I'm just going to collect more soap.”
All of your listeners here should focus on collecting more soap, figuring out where there are opportunities where you can bring in some income.
Maybe not right away, maybe you can't do so this week, but maybe you can in 2 weeks from now, maybe 2 months, maybe 2 years, but focus on finding other ways to bring in income and really focus on your income generating education right now.
Because this financial mess that we're in right now is going to be probably one of the most important financial education processes that you'll have in your lifetime.
This is a lesson for all of us, and I think we'll all be stronger if we pay attention.
Ryan Foland: Interesting.
So from what that sounds like, it's really
getting your mental state checked-in first
it's having a realistic look at what you have
it's about being forward-looking to see what you can get
Those 3 steps.
And I want to just touch briefly on each one.
So the mental component. I love the fact you said, "When you're a stressed mess you're no good to anyone."
I think that's really important because you really have to start with the mindset.
Because you can try to figure out the money you have and think forward, but if you're still stressed about what's happening, then it’s all for naught.
So how do you de-stress?
Or how do you mentally get that toughness if you're looking at this situation caught off guard?
How do you get there?
Winnie Sun: Well, the first thing you do is you take a moment in quietness and just think this through.
I mean, the thing is, the entire world is going through what you're going through.
Everybody is suffering financially, everybody either has no income or knows someone in their family that doesn't have income, or is struggling, or can't make ends meet, and they don't know what tomorrow will bring for them.
So first off, you've got to own that—and know that it's not just you.
We're all in this together.
And then the second thing is really taking a deep dive into everything that you have, because unawareness of where you stand financially, that creates a lot of stress. So you've got to know.
If you have 5 or 6 credit card bills that you owe money on, then you've got to know that.
If you're worried about your credit score, you've got to know where you stand on that.
If you're not sure if you're going to be able to skip the next 3 mortgage payments or the next 3 rent payments, then you've got to contact people and see if they'll let you do that.
But the more people you can talk to, and the more questions you can get answered, the better you're going to feel.
Ryan Foland: I like this idea of putting the work into the mindset and owning that it is happening so that you can move forward from that.
I guess part of what I think might be a challenge for speakers is that they maybe didn't see this coming.
I want to go back to this longer-term view, as everyone is right now in the moment.
But in the few times that I've talked with you about even my financial planning, you keep going back to the fact that this is a long term process.
So understanding that, I think, is a huge part of it.
Do you have any crazy predictions as far as how long this might last?
At the end of the show I want to get it all, but from a financial standpoint, what would you tell your friends and speakers about how long to expect this to be super dry?
Winnie Sun: Well I think there's a couple of different issues you've got.
First, you've got the virus, right, which is the biggest reason why we're all in this mess.
The virus: we know that, as of today, there are over 70 vaccines right now in the process of getting tested and getting approved for this virus.
But still, there are a lot of factors that have nothing to do with what's happening with our jobs and our income, but have everything to do with it too, because until we have clarity in terms of when our kids are going to be able to go back to school, when we're going to be able to safely go back to work, people aren't going to feel secure.
And people always think the stock market is so much more complicated than it is, but at the end of the day, the stock market consists of a buyer and a seller.
So on any given day, if more people feel scared, so more people are selling, then the market will be down.
If any given day, people feel more confident, the opposite will happen, and the market will go up.
We've seen that already, we've seen some good news in the last couple of weeks.
Last week we had the best performing week for the S&P 500 since 1974 because people were feeling more optimistic.
We saw in New York, they've had three days of decreased numbers of deaths from the Coronavirus, so people are feeling a little bit more optimistic.
There have been talks that certain parts of the country might be able to go back to work next month—that's optimistic.
So you think that the stock market will actually continue to see good days, more so than bad days, and that will start to improve bit by bit as we get more good information in terms of science and so many other factors.
But overall, long-term, we're going to be just fine.
So people are talking about will the market come back really quickly. That’s possible because the market also went down really quickly, but I think it's more reasonable to expect that this is going to take a little longer than you expect.
So what we need to do is financially plan for the long haul.
I was recently quoted in a CNBC article about what to do with the stimulus check when you receive these funds.
And my answer was that I think for most of us we should keep this in our savings and checking accounts. Don't go pay credit card bills with it, but keep it for your financial life plan, like for medication or groceries.
Ryan Foland: Right, okay, great stuff.
So, the final question on the financial front when it comes to speakers — I know you're supposed to buy low and sell high; is this an opportunity for those people who do have the reserves and have money saved — is this a good time to start investing if we think it's at a low point, and how do we even know that?
But should we look at that as it’s just more important to hold on to the funds so we have them?
But I feel like I'm going to miss out on the uptake if I don't grab some stock now.
What do you think about that?
Winnie Sun: It depends on your situation.
So certainly, do we have a lot of clients that we're adding aggressively into?— definitely, 100%.
But that's not everybody.
So if you're in a situation where you continue to have income, you have income coming in, you've got a great job, maybe you work in healthcare, many of my clients are still working, still getting their 401K matches and whatnot.
And they're saving for things like retirement planning which is in 10-20 years from now.
And if you have kids, if you're saving for their education that's like 10 years from now, then absolutely this is a great time to get smart about investing for your future.
Now if you're on the other side of the coin, if you're saying like, "Well, I got a stimulus check—I don't really have that much income. I didn't really have an emergency fund that I had saved up,"
Then your opportunity right now is to fund your emergency fund and to get your ducks in a row and make sure your debt is down, your credit card bills are paid off and whatnot.
And then in the future, you will still have an opportunity to invest.
You may not go in at the lowest points, but that's okay because you have plenty of years ahead of you.
But right now you need to focus on what's important, which is not getting yourself in more debt.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, I love that you keep going back and you keep reminding us about the long-term view.
It's easy to be caught up in your home for a couple of months and be deprived of what you normally would have as a speaker, thinking this will continue on.
So I love that you keep referring back to this as a long game.
And at the end of the day, 2-6 months, even a year, in the longer scheme of things, I really like that you keep going back to this long term view.
So as the speaker, I'm looking at different ways to transition to invest my time and continue to build my brand, and if the keynotes aren't there like normal, or the corporate workshops aren't as present, we've got to figure out new stuff to do.
One of the things that I really admire about your brand is that you've built it to a point where you are called on as an expert.
I know a lot of speakers have domain expertise when it comes to what they talk about, but they're not being called up by major news media to be featured and be that voice of reason.
What are some tips and tricks?
I know you've got amazing PR with Robyn Stevens, and you've been at this for a long time. There's no quick fix to it, but how can a speaker start to take part in the conversation with their expertise right now, as this is all going on, and for the foreseeable future?
Winnie Sun: That's a great question, Ryan.
I've always done a lot of television media through the years, but I have never been called upon so often as I am right now.
I think the thing that you have to think about is when you're a speaker, oftentimes we recognize that we have all this value and expertise and we expect to be paid as a speaker. It has some sort of benefit.
Right now, in this situation, you've got to take that attitude and shove it in the closet.
Because right now it's about how much you can give out to the world, and how much value you can share, and that's it.
Don't expect to be paid for any of this, and once you think that way, you're going to be in a position to win.
As you know, Ryan, I have a studio in the office, and we're pretty much shut down, just like that.
So the next day I went back to the office when it was completely empty and grabbed all my camera gear and everything, and you know I don't know much about this stuff, I set it up all at home and my team showed me how to run it through FaceTime and we were up and going.
It was really the way that we handle our clients, it was like,
"Okay, life sucks right now. What are we going to do? We're going to over-communicate, make sure everybody realizes we didn't disappear, and make sure that our clients feel like we're there for them to help them with their finances."
So it became, "How can we communicate, over-communicate, to not only our existing clients but then our future potential clients,"
And the news certainly paid attention to that really fast.
Ryan Foland: I like this idea of investing, and that you talk about it when it comes to your finances.
But because you have been successful in establishing yourself as somebody who the media wants to understand, what are some of the things, looking back, that really helped you get your foot in the door from the media perspective?
Was there a lot of outbound? Do you have your one-pager?
Is it really just having somebody who's other than you, like a PR, to do it?
How does somebody start to tap into and build a portfolio of potentially investable new avenues to tap into that expertise?
Any tips to get more media and being featured as an expert?
Winnie Sun: Well a lot of it I learned from you, Ryan.
I did. I think it was a few years ago. It was that exercise you talk about, better understanding yourself and how you reflect. And I loved that.
I did that process of really figuring out what people like about me, what they like me speaking on, and teaching on, and all that good stuff, and translating that and doing more of that, doing more of what people like.
Actually, it was interesting because through the exercise, Ryan, I realized that what people like from me was what I love more about myself but I was afraid to showcase it.
So I was always sort of very professional, which is good, which is my personality, but I also like to speak like regular people speak.
And I wasn't sure if that would translate well in financial news.
So I was always following other people's lead on TV, and then once I went into the process of really just being myself and giving it as it was, and doing the sort of media outlets I enjoyed watching and speaking on, then that's really where I came into my own, I think.
And then, of course, having social media presence is great, having an amazing publicist is great.
My publicist, what I love about her is when I talk to her and I see her, she fully believes that I am the absolutely best financial advisor on this planet.
You need that in your life, you need people who absolutely just love you to pieces and who will represent you.
I was very proactive. I think I reached out to people who I really wanted to do more media work with, and I kept at it.
The triggering factor though, sort of the a-ha moment for me, was when I realized that I wasn't a good fit for everybody who I thought was important in the financial world.
But I was exactly what most people wanted. So it wasn't maybe just traditional hardcore financial news, but mainstream media, mainstream audiences, the type of financial news in the way I explain things, that's what regular people want to hear.
And therefore that's when I became really, really popular.
Ryan Foland: Okay, so I have your next book.
The next title of your book is going to be something around regular people / mainstream media. They want digestible information coming from someone who's relatable.
Listening to what you talked about, the things that you recognized that worked, one being ditching the act and being yourself, and not being so crazy expert that you're untouchable.
People are fearful about that. If you're trying to be the expert, let's say in “resilience,” then you might think the best thing you can do is just puff your chest and say, "I'm the expert In this."
But instead, sharing how you're struggling through this personally, talking about the challenges that you're having, and humanizing yourself and making yourself more personable would give you a chance to be more appealing to that mainstream audience.
It sounds like that's part of what these news outlets are looking for. They're looking for a broader appeal.
Is that correct?
Winnie Sun: They are.
And also they are so busy.
We should remember that every news outlet, every reporter right now, is so incredibly busy.
They aren't going to take the time to answer your email because they just have no time for it.
How to do this — make their job so easy.
If you want them to go to you because you're an expert in relationships, or you're an expert in, I don't know, whatever it is, you're going to have to create content so they can hear you and get a sense of what you would be like if they put you on their show.
You've got to make their life so easy right now.
So that's really the secret sauce.
You basically should be creating a media reel for yourself every single day and hope that someone pays attention to you.
The good news is they will, because so much of the population right now is, “woe is me,” and “I'm so sad,” and “life is horrible,” because it really is for a lot of people. Life is horrible.
But they can't stand up, they can't perk up, they can’t get strong enough to kind of go back to doing what you can do on stage, doing that on video.
Please, please, please, please don't do bad video.
No television show is going to put you on if your setup doesn't look good and you didn't take the time to pay attention to the details, because with TV it's all about the details.
Ryan Foland: Okay, I want to dive into this just for a second, because I love this.
You're saying, "Instead of waiting for news media to call you to be on their show as an expert, why not display your expertise by creating content — content that looks good, sounds good, because those details are what will make it easier for them to see you as somebody to be on the show."
Winnie Sun: It's so much easier now because it doesn't have to be as perfect, because nobody expects you to compete against someone in the studio because we're all working from home.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, but I love your point that if you're going to make a video to showcase your expertise as media-worthy don't make low-quality or bad videos.
Winnie Sun: Please don't make ugly videos!
Ryan Foland: Okay. So the two other things I heard you say was social reach and reaching out.
To touch briefly on both of those, with social reach you do have that social reach but you would have gotten that because you're consistently engaging with people. You're live streaming, you're putting yourself out there.
What is your top tip for people who want to increase their social reach right now?
Winnie Sun: Be online and give to people.
That's something we can all do, and we need to do more of that.
If I could clone myself, I would do 30 times more than I'm doing now.
So as you know, Ryan, I have the largest business tweet chat on social media.
Every Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. Pacific or 2:00 p.m. Eastern, you're welcome to join us, it's completely free, you can do it in your pajamas.
But we average between 150 to 200 million impressions per hour, and right now because everyone's at home that number is so much bigger.
So what that means is people are coming from all walks of life from different parts of the world.
I would say most of our community are entrepreneurs, business owners, or executives at companies, and they're all really, really kind, and really incredible.
We threw out questions business-related, or personal-finance-related, or marketing, or social-media-related, and then everybody contributes answers, and everyone is there to share and be there for one another.
It's about doing that, but more so.
I honestly take off weekends and evenings just because I have three little ones at home so I have to put them as a priority.
It's about listening, being supportive of one another, and sharing more kindness and positivity on social media.
All of us are so stressed as it is, and we're going to social media as an outlet to get away from real life, so always keep that in mind.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, I love that.
If you have not experienced a tweet chat, the hashtag #WinnieSun tweet chat is a great open and welcoming environment.
A good trick is to participate, but every single person who contributes into that conversation by using hashtag #WinnieSun, you can follow that person.
And if it's during the time when the tweet chat is going on, I almost guarantee you most of those people will follow you back because it is one big piece of the community that you have built, and it's something that other people can tap into.
So very cool on that.
Winnie Sun: Carla Jenkins actually wrote an article last week, and she said that being on our tweet chat increased her impressions on Twitter by 140K for the week.
Ryan Foland: My goodness.
And if we're trying to create social reach, don't try to create your own tweet chat right now, and don't try to just launch a podcast right now to do that.
I mean, sure, that might be a great way to give back, but tap into existing communities right now. I think that's a great way to do that.
I've been a guest on your show, whenever I can I'm on there. It's great, and I've really built some aside for impressions. I've built some real relationships with people.
That's where I want to ask you about reaching out, because you said in all transparency, these news agencies are so busy, but one of the things you did was reach out to individuals and people that you knew.
So just tell me the high level, and how important it is right now to tap into your personal network and reactivate and engage with people that you work with or that you see synergies with to build those relationships in this time, as an investment for this low period.
Winnie Sun: It's so important.
I learned a lot of this from my mom.
When I was little, my mom was always in real estate and she didn't speak much English (at all) and she was doing plenty of real estate deals in her neighborhood.
And what she would do is every major holiday, let's say Christmas or Easter, whatever, she would plop on the sofa and she would open up her phone book and she would call every single person in that book.
I remember as a kid she wouldn't get off the sofa until she was done calling every single person she knew.
That has translated so well in the way I treat business.
When this happens we call every single client. I will go to, and I will text and reach out to people in my network, just to check-in.
That's a good exercise. Think about checking in with people regularly, because it's so easy to get busy and fall out of touch.
But since you're at home, it's something you can easily do, and look to your network, because it's so much easier to nurture your existing relationships than to have to constantly be making new relationships.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, I keep going back to the start of investment, and it makes me think of the 3 T's, the 3 things that you can invest — your time, your treasure, or your talent.
As we've been talking about this, if you don't have the treasure to invest right now, then you have time and you have your talent to invest.
Go back out there and outreach.
I've had a number of people that have reached out to me just to check-in, and I can personally say like it's nice, and then I follow up with a quick text or a phone call.
We have to look at that as the time that is invested.
A lot of people are on one of two ends. They are either bored and maybe feeling down and out, or you have people that are crazy busy because they're seeing this as an opportunity to run fast and invest their time, talent and treasure at this moment.
Winnie Sun: So true.
Ryan Foland: Well, Winnie as we look over what you've talked about, the things that stick out in my mind are getting mentally prepared, so almost a mental audit.
Because if you're not in the right mental state financially, then you're not going to be able to come to terms with the reality of your financial situation, and that's going to limit your ability to look forward to the opportunities that you have at the table.
When it comes to tapping into the new conversation, it’s about:
ditching the act and being okay with being yourself,
increasing your social reach by tapping into existing communities,
starting new outreach to your old friends to spark and revitalize those relationships.
Now, if we do all of that, there are still this uncontrollable virus and this crazy strain on the market.
What is your opinion about the future of speaking?
If you had to take a stance and predict the future, what do you see for the speaking business when things rebound?
Winnie Sun: It's such a good question.
I do hope, and I do think, that events will continue to come back at some point.
Will they be as big as they were before?
Will we see SXSW and all these conferences be that size?
I think we will, but not in the immediate future.
So certainly, right now, I think the smart thing to do would be to find a plan B and plan C in terms of bringing in income.
I would definitely find ways to leverage your talents to bring in other income, and I would start today. I wouldn't wait to see where the speaking industry is going to be.
I don't think about that right now. I just think about,
"Okay, you know what? I'll find a way to do business right now in my pajamas on my computer. Now."
Ryan Foland: Yeah, and the information has been there, but maybe we've been distracted by building our speaking business and haven't really brought our businesses online.
And as you're saying, I like this idea of such a financial planner telling me to come up with a plan B and C. It's not what I want to hear, but I like it.
One thing that, if you are listening and you are trying to maintain and build your speaking business, and preparing yourself for it, some of the things I'm doing, I'm looking at redoing my website, I'm looking at getting better at creating content, I'm looking at creating systems and standard operating procedures.
If that's even too much for you, I would like to give a shout out and suggestion from our podcast sponsor, SpeakerHub, who pay us for all this magic to happen, but there are platforms like SpeakerHub where you can create a speaker profile, where you can search for calls for speakers. There are people still looking for digital speakers right now.
Personally, I'm being booked at even lunch and learns, digitally.
It's really about, and I'm going right back to what you said in the very beginning, you have to be mentally strong and you have to realize, take that breath so that you're not scrambling in the moment, get your situation under control, but this idea of your plan B and C, this is the time to build that plan B and C, and you don't have to wait for this to happen.
It's a challenge, but I think it's doable.
Winnie Sun: Yeah. It's definitely doable.
Ryan Foland: Well, to not get caught up in the short-term, Winnie, thank you for not only keeping it real but serving, creating communities, building communities for others to tap into, creating sage advice for us to help this all make a little bit more sense.
And the fact that you think it's coming back, one way or another, gives me hope, but I am also going to look for that plan B and plan C.
Winnie, if people want to join your community, find you, hang out with you online, where do they go, how do they find you?
Winnie Sun: Well the easiest thing to do is to jump on winniesun.com, and if you're looking for a financial advisor and you want to work with my team, my super experienced team, we are at sungroupwp.com and we are currently accepting clients.
Ryan Foland: Awesome, Blossom.
Well Winnie, thank you so much for all you do. Thank you for the perspective, the financial insights, the community building insights, and at the end of the day, knowing that it's only a matter of time.
So now take your time and invest it into yourself, into your relationships, into being real.
Get out there and participate in the conversation.
Winnie, you're the best.
Winnie Sun: Thank you, my friend. I appreciate your time.
A bit about World of Speakers
World of Speakers is a bi-weekly podcast that helps people find their own voice, and teaches them how to use their voice to develop a speaking business. This special series of episodes has been created to help speakers navigate during the coronavirus crisis.
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