Ep. 139 – Dan Sheeks – A Teenager’s Guide to Achieving Financial Freedom

Are you a teenager with the goal of achieving financial and time freedom before the retirement age? Or maybe you’d like for your teenager to consider following this path?

There are different paths that young people can learn about and adopt to build their financial future without following the traditional “9 to 5 then retire” path. Dan explains how teens can start getting involved with finances early to build a financially free future as is written in his book.

In this episode of the Secure Your Retirement podcast, we have Dan Sheeks, a high school teacher well-known in personal finance and author of First to a Million: A Teenager’s Guide to Achieving Early Financial Independence. We cover how financial freedom can lead to time freedom that allows you to decide where you want to spend your time doing what you want.

In this episode, find out:

  • Why Dan wrote a book to help young people make better financial decisions and set themselves up for a bright financial future.
  • The F.I.R.E Movement (Financial Independence Retire Early) – how to be financially free before the retirement age.
  • The few things you can do as a parent to motivate your teenager to actively think about their financial future.
  • The value of adding your teen onto your existing credit cards as an authorized user to build their credit while you oversee their spending.
  • How 18 and over teens can grow their credit through responsible credit card use.
  • How the First to a Million book and workbook opens teenagers up to different life and financial paths as opposed to the traditional ones.
  • Dan’s online community connects teens to other financially like-minded young people.

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “You can’t make a young person want to learn about money and their financial future.”– Dan Sheeks
  • “As parents, we should be adding our teenagers onto our existing credit cards as an authorized user.”-Dan Sheeks
  • “There’s no loophole or shortcut to building the length of credit history- that just takes time.”– Dan Sheeks

Get the Book or Join the Community:


If you are in or nearing retirement and you want to gain clarity on what questions you should be asking, learn what the biggest retirement myths are, and identify what you can do to achieve peace of mind for your retirement, get started today by requesting our complimentary video course, Four Steps to Secure Your Retirement!

To access the course, simply visit POMWealth.net/podcast.

Here’s the Full Transcript:

Radon Stancil:Welcome, everyone, to our podcast here on Monday, where we are looking always to bring an expert to the table. Somebody that can bring value not only to us, but also to our listeners. And today, we have a guest, his name is Dan Sheeks and he has a book that has just come out, to help young people. I’m going to let him explain all that.  
 But, before I get too far into this, I just want to say, Dan, thank you so much for coming on and talking with us, and sharing with us some of the work you’re doing.  
Dan Sheeks:Yeah. Thanks for having me, excited to be here. And, ready to talk about all this great stuff that’s going on.  
Radon Stancil:Well, good. For all of our listeners, our show is really for individuals that are planning for retirement or living through retirement. We know retirement means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Basically, not having to worry and think about money anymore, so to speak.  
 But, we get this all the time from our clients or people that have talked to us. And they go, “Hey, what do you have that can help young people?” I will tell you, myself and my partner Murs, who’s always on the show we me, he just had a conflict today. We’re always telling them, “Hey, we’ve got things that we can share with them, we’ve got things that we could help them with, but we just don’t have the structure right now, to be able to help that group.” That’s just not what we’re set up to do. We’re always looking.  
 So, when I saw the information about you I said, “Wow, I want to make sure we have him on.” Because I know there’s a lot of grandparents and parents that listen, that say, “Yes, I need something to help my grandchildren.”  
 Could you just give us a little bit of maybe your background, how you got started down this path of financial independence and the idea of writing the book? And, what motives you in that area?  
Dan Sheeks:Yeah, I’ll try to do my best to keep that concise. But yeah, thanks for having me on. I think you’re right, Radon, that most of your listeners who are interested in retirement and getting to a place of financial security probably have some young people in their lives, teenagers or Gen Z, 20s, who they would like to pass down information to. That’s one of the reasons I created my community, my online community and wrote the book, was to help young people learn about money, make better financial decisions early in their life, to set themselves up for a bright financial future.  
 My background, a little bit. I am a public high school business teacher. I have been teaching for almost 20 years. I teach business classes, like financial literacy, personal finance, entrepreneurship, marketing. And, I love my job. I love working with young people. But, what I found is that the public school system isn’t really supportive of the idea of financial literacy for our young people. Very few states have that as a requirement, especially a personal finance class, which I think is doing a disservice to our youth. But, I also found that that’s a very tough road to hoe, to try and fight that battle.  
 I just said, “Where else can I reach young people, if I can’t do it in the classroom?” Because I teach the class, but it is an elective so a very small percentage of students in my high school will take the class. I went online, I just started with a blog site. That quickly grew into a more robust website with different resources. I created the Sheeks Freaks online community, which is a platform where young people can join to connect with other like minded young people, people who are very highly motivated and interested in making sound financial decisions, interested in investing, interested in early financial independence.  
 And then, I wrote the book. The book was a natural offshoot of the community, the online community. The book, which is called First To a Million, will be published by Bigger Pockets, along with the workbook that goes with the book. They were released last December 2021. They’re doing well. And, those books, they’re specifically for teenagers and getting them introduced to the strategies, concepts and topics of early financial independence.  
Radon Stancil:Very good. Now, I know in just reading some of your information, you talk about this Fire Movement. Could you explain what that is and what that means?  
Dan Sheeks:Yeah. For those who aren’t familiar, the FIRE Movement, FIRE stands for financial independence, retire early. Which is a great acronym, but most people who are in the FIRE community, I am in there, we don’t love the word retire. That’s a little bit misleading.  
 But, the idea is that if you make different financial money choices early in life, or any time, really, you engage in frugality, some kind of a side hustle perhaps, a high savings rate and smart investing, that you can reach a point where you are financially independent, some people call it financially free, earlier than age 65. So, people in the community are doing it in their 50s, 40s, 30s. Some, even as young as in their 20s. But, it’s not like those people then stop working and contributing for the rest of their life. They are still creating. They’re just free to do what they want, when they want. So they might start a different business, they might pursue a passion of theirs. They might volunteer and give back more. But, they have the freedom of time to decide where do they want to spend their time, rather than where do I have to spend my time.  
Radon Stancil:Very good. Now, in my business, and I’ve been doing this for a little over 20 years, I work with individuals that are typically 55 years of age and older. And, I do know just in what we’ve worked with, a lot of times, when you start talking to people and you run the numbers … We used to do this all the time. If a person, at 20, or 18, or young, just saved a little bit of money for a very long period of time, it’s so powerful. Most people don’t do that. Most people say, “I’ll save when I make more. Or I’ll do this when I make more, when this situation or that situation occurs.” Or, most of the people that don’t get real serious about money and planning until they’re in their 40s. And then, they’re just behind the eight ball the whole time.  
 So, I’ve got a question for you around this idea of working with young people. How do you find what’s the best way to motivate a young person? Teenager, late teens, how do you motivate them to start looking at their future, when it comes to finances?  
Dan Sheeks:Yeah. There are things you can do to pique their interest, for sure. But unfortunately, the bottom line is you can’t make a young person want to learn about money and their financial future. Any parents out there will understand, you can’t make a teenager want to clean their room. You can offer them 100 bucks, but if they don’t want to do it, they’re just not going to do it.  
 The same is true with financial literacy and young people. We can definitely pique their interests with ideas around early financial independence, or the compound effect like you mentioned. Showing them the numbers of if you invest just a little bit starting a very early age, 18, 19, 20, how massive that difference is than if they started, say, in their 40s, based on a typical retirement age of 65.  
 I show that in my class, all the time. That will get many of their attention. They’ll say, “Wow, that doesn’t make sense to me but I can see the numbers work, so there’s something there that I need to pay attention to.” But, not every kid. Not every student is sold on it, out of the gate.  
 I think, as parents, we can do a lot in the house. Include them when we pay our bills every month, include them in that. Include them in the budgeting. Open up your books and show your children where your investments are, why they’re there, how they’re doing, what your savings rate is, what investments are in your 401K or IRA. And, just have those conversations around the dinner table, driving to the grocery store. Have a high school student or child plan your next vacation. Give them a budget and see what they can come up with. Make it fun.  
 But in the end, you can’t make a teenager do anything.  
Radon Stancil:Right. One of the things I was reading as I was reading through your information was this idea about how to help a young person with their credit score. This is an interesting one.  
 I’ve got a son who’s almost 19 and a daughter who’s 16. We were talking with him, in particular. He’s doing really well, he actually started his own little business and he’s wanting to grow up. But, he didn’t talk to me necessarily about this, but he decided he was going to apply for some credit because he knew he was 18 and he could do it. Interestingly, his score was 740. He didn’t get the credit, the deal was not approved and the main reason why is because he didn’t have any history.  
 We actually set up a joint credit card for him, so that he was on the credit card. We did that early, when he was 15, so that he got some of that benefit of that being paid every month. He viewed it as his card, but it was a joint card so I could see what was going on.  
 What do you teach on that? As far as helping young people build their credit, because they don’t have history, they’re brand new at this whole thing.  
Dan Sheeks:Yeah, it’s a good question. I think what you did, Radon, was exactly what I would recommend. As parents, we should be adding our teenagers onto our existing credit cards as an authorized user. First, double checking that that credit card company will indeed report the on time payments to the teenager’s individual credit history. Most do, but just make a phone call to make sure that’s accurate. Or, if the young person is listening, as your parents to add you as an authorized user.  
 I think that’s a great strategy because then, as a parent, you get to oversee them using the credit card while they’re still at home, while it’s somewhat controllable. I would allow them to make mistakes, allow them to charge too much, allow them to go over their limit. And, have the appropriate consequences and tough talks after they do make mistakes, but allow them to make them. As you can see with your son, having them on as an authorized user will start building their credit score, even before 18. That’s really the only strategy before 18.  
 When I talk to young people in my community that I work with, I tell them the day you turn 18, roll out of bed, go to your computer and apply for your first credit card. When you turn 19, apply for your second. And when you turn 19.5, apply for your third. Make sure you’re using every one, every month, paying off the full balance on time every month. Maybe one is for food, one is for gas for your car and one is for everything else.  
 Now, that is with an asterisk, in that that young person does need to understand what responsible credit card use looks like. I don’t want any and every teen going out and doing what I just said. But, if we have trained them and educated them well, then they absolutely should be able to handle three credit cards. And, with three credit accounts being used every month, being paid off every month on time, their credit score will grow extremely quickly.  
 Now, you there is no loophole or shortcut to building the length of credit history. That just takes time. But, all the other components of a credit score, we can just start hammering them as soon as they turn 18.  
Radon Stancil:So, what are some of the things that you teach in your book and through the workbook? What’s a young person going to get from that? Are they going to get strategies? Or, are they going to get specifics or get ideas? What’s the drive of what they’re going to get out of the book? You said there’s a workbook, too.  
Dan Sheeks:Yeah. Both the book and the workbook … The book is more the foundation. It lays out some of the things we’ve been talking about, building your credit score, responsible credit card use, what is good debt versus bad debt, what are real assets versus false assets. It lays the foundation of some personal finance stuff.  
 But, the real purpose of the book is to build up a mindset around the idea that you do not have to, although you can … As a young person, you do not have to follow that typical American Dream pathway of go to high school, get good grades, go to college, get good grades. Get a good job, get married, have 2.3 kids, and a dog and a white picket fence, and work until your 65 and then live the good life. There are other options out there, if you do things differently, that will allow you to reach financial freedom before age 65.  
 So, just introducing them to that option. I don’t tell anyone what to do and I never will, everyone’s story is personal. But, I think it is a great idea for young people or anyone, to know that there other options than working until you’re 65. And then, let them decide, now that they know hopefully what all their options are, do I want to be on this end of the spectrum, do I want to go until I’m 65, or anywhere in between. What is my goal, what fits my ideal life the best?  
Radon Stancil:Do you find that there’s things that you try to bring up, to I guess educate a young person? To say, “Here’s something. Here’s an avenue you could go down.” Maybe they don’t even know, their mind’s not even open to things that they could invest in, or things that they could go into at a young age. Do you walk them through scenarios like that or just expand their thinking a little bit? “Oh, I didn’t even know I could go and invest in something in that particular world.”  
Dan Sheeks:Yeah. Most young people are pretty brand new, especially when it comes to investing. The book walks them through opening their first brokerage account. Which is extremely intimidating to most people who’ve never done it, but it actually is a pretty simple process. And, it’ll walk them through how to do it with a parent before they’re 18, to have a joint account in a brokerage account. And then, depending on their level of confidence and the parent’s involvement, perhaps they could even make some small investments in that brokerage account, before turning 18, with their own money.  
 But either way, when they turn 18, they can open a brokerage account, start making investments in the stock market. I recommend index funds, but we talk about different options there, too.  
 As a teacher, a superpower of most teachers is that we should be able to explain things articulately, in a way that pretty much anyone can understand them. If I have a classroom of 30 kids, my job is to make sure they all understand the topic I’m talking about. I hope that translated into my book. So when I talk about something like opening a brokerage account, or starting to invest, or tracking your expenses or having a high savings rate, that I explain it in a way that all young people can understand and not feel intimidated, and feel like they can actually do that for themselves.  
Radon Stancil:Let’s say a young person goes out, buys the book, gets the workbook, they’re doing this and they’re just trying to think it through. I know you said you have an online community, I think that’s what you said earlier. Is that a resource, have you built something? Or, is there some way that they could go, “Hey, I’m in the middle of this,” and maybe they need a little bit of assistance or they would like to hear from other people, how does that work within what you’ve built?  
Dan Sheeks:Yeah. That’s where that online community comes in. People who’ve read my book, or even young people who haven’t, the online community has been around for a couple years. The book’s only been released for a month. The young people in the community, it’s actually really amazing for me to watch was the facilitator. But, it’s that Jim Rohn quote. “You are the four or five people you spend the most time with.” So in that community, these highly motivated young people who want to maximize their finance future, are then around other people like them. The same mindset, the same age. And, they hold each other accountable, they support each other, they share resources. They talk about where they’re at, where they want to go.  
 There’s different topics, they’re groups inside the community. There’s about 40 different topics. So if they are specifically interested in, say, cryptocurrency, or specifically interested in maybe mindset discussions or entrepreneurship, they can go into that group and find even a more niche group of young people and connect with them. It’s like a Facebook group but on steroids. It’s much more robust than a Facebook group, the community that we have.  
 There’s a free version and there always will be. There is also a paid version, with some extra features. It’s only $100 a year. But, I encourage anyone to try out that free version and connect with other young people. It’s amazing what they’re doing in that group.  
Radon Stancil:Well, this is fantastic, Dan. I think what you’ve put together here is really, really, really needed. I know in the work I do, I know it’s needed. I get asked about it all the time. And, I know this is going to be a benefit to young people.  
 Could you just share with us maybe some of the different places that somebody can go, whether to get the book, go to check out the online community or your website contact information, whatever that might be, the best way for people to find out more?  
Dan Sheeks:Yeah, I’d love to and thanks for the opportunity. The book, First To a Million and the workbook, the First To a Million Workbook, they are available right now at biggerpockets.com/teen. Or, you just Bigger Pockets, you’ll find the bookstore. If they buy both together, they get a discount.  
 As well as the online community, they can just go to sheeksfreaks.com and join the online community. I will do this. If any listeners or anyone comes to that community through this podcast, if they want to do the paid … They don’t have to, they can do the free version. But, if they elect to do the paid version, if they enter a discount code secureyourretirement, all one word, all lower case, they’ll get a nice discount on that annual membership fee as well.  
Radon Stancil:Well, that’s fantastic. We’ll make sure that we include all of that on our website and in our show notes, as well as on any platform anybody’s listening to, so they’ll have all those links there really easy.  
 But, thank you very, very much for taking time out of your day, and coming on and talking to us about this. We certainly appreciate it.  
Dan Sheeks:Appreciate you having me. I had a blast. Thanks for introducing some of your listeners to the book and the community. And, look forward to staying in touch.