Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Interview with Tisa L. Silver, MBA: Educator, Author, and Nonprofit Leader

Tisa L. Silver is an award winning educator, speaker, non-profit executive and author of the best-selling book, The Time Value of Life. Which upon its official release in September 2009 became the Amazon.com #1 Bestseller in Time Management books. When she was just 24, Tisa joined the faculty of the University of Delaware as an Instructor of Finance, receiving the Student Choice Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2007. Since then, Tisa has published several works on personal finance and investing through Investopedia and BET.com. She is a frequent contributor to television, print and radio outlets including Delaware Tonight, Art Fennell Reports and Market Wrap with Moe. Always committed to giving back, Tisa is the founder and President of The Good Works Coalition, a non-profit organization which provides scholarships and educational programs for young people, particularly those in underserved communities.

She's an educator, author, nonprofit leader, and a true life model. Meet Tisa Silver.

Will: Who is Tisa Silver? Why finance? What was it about business, money management, and acquisitions that struck a chord with you?

Tisa: I am an educator and a volunteer. I believe learning is a lifelong process and I enjoy sharing what I have learned with others. Knowledge helps to improve the chances of making better decisions, and I try my best to make the learning process as painless as possible.

The excitement of Wall Street attracted me to the field of finance, but an internship with a stockbroker quickly changed my career path. Things were exciting until someone faced a loss, and losing is inevitable. Even for those who may have made the best possible decision based on the best information available at the time, there are no guarantees. Losing other people’s money made me very uncomfortable, so I shifted my focus from attempting to predict market movements to exploring, and hopefully understanding, what makes the market (and money) move. Whether we are talking about stocks, consumer credit, or taxes, it is all connected. I enjoy helping people connect the dots.

Will: For those who don’t know of you, you are the author of “The Time Value of Life.” What was the inspiration behind the book? And how on Earth were you able to write it so quickly?

Tisa: I originally began writing the book in 2005, and my goal was to write a book for teenagers about money management. After suffering a painful loss in 2006, I was reminded of what is most important: how we use our time. If you spend or lose a dollar, at least you have a chance to make it back. Once you spend a minute, it is gone forever.

In terms of content, the financial education piece was still important, but I decided the life lessons were equally important. I thought of the many parallels between finance and life, and money and time. I was able to offer some lessons on two topics, time and money, which everyone must deal with and for which there are no standard training tools in our educational system.

I toyed with idea of publishing a book for awhile, but I allowed myself to get sidetracked by fear. Fear of making mistakes, fear of revealing too much, fear of criticism, and perhaps even fear of my assertions being challenged or rejected. I did some soul-searching on my thirtieth birthday and decided to reignite the project. I came up with a plan to move to Florida so I could be by myself in the “perfect” creative environment (by myself in a warm climate near water) to get things done. After I compiled my list of possible rental properties, I took a moment to check myself. My surroundings had nothing to do with why the book was incomplete. My fears kept me from completing the book. This may sound cliché, but I made a decision to let the fears go. Once the decision was made, I buckled down and completed the first manuscript within three weeks. A decided heart is a force to be reckoned with!

Will: The economic downturn hit the U.S. and the world by storm. Companies were hit with the reality of bad investments and leveraging with capital they didn’t have and many Americans were awaken to the fact that they had been living beyond their means. To that point, what does financial literacy mean to you? Why do you think the average person doesn’t see the connection between Wall Street and Main Street?

Tisa: Financial literacy is just a specialized form of reading and comprehension. Being able to count money does not make a person financially literate. Unfortunately, many of us grew up with that lesson being the greatest extent to which money was covered in our educational journey.

Since there is no uniform training offered in schools, we learn about money from watching our parent(s) earn it and use it. As we get older, we see what our friends, classmates and acquaintances do with it. Enter movies, television, music and other mediums of influence. If all these inputs provided healthy examples, then perhaps everyone would have a greater chance at becoming a good financial steward. However, if we are surrounded by people with bad habits then our sense of what is optimal, healthy or appropriate will more than likely be compromised.

The average person does not see the connection between Wall Street and Main Street because no one taught them to. Many people saw the connection recently because they were forced to. If you are one of those people, there is neither a need (nor a point) in feeling bad about it. After all, Wall Street business dealings evolve so quickly that many of those involved in the deals, those who govern and those who regulate did not even know the extent of the potential repercussions. Simply make the choice to get educated.

Will: During this economic downturn, there has been a lot said about community banks versus megabanks and the credit crisis for the small business owner. What advice would you give to an entrepreneur or someone who is thinking about starting a business? What are some of the avenues available for accessing capital?

Tisa: First, I would advise any aspiring entrepreneurs to keep their credit intact. In the eyes of a potential lender or investor, having bad credit or no credit elevates your risk level. Risky status may result in higher financing costs and in some cases it may prevent you from securing financing altogether. Without money(yours or someone else’s), your idea will remain just that—an idea.

Second, humble yourself. You are going to be rejected at some point and you need to be able to get over it. Rejection always comes with a lesson, and sometimes even a gift.

Third, have a plan. Start with a goal and then work backward in plotting the necessary steps to achieve the goal. It is much easier to reach the desired destination with a roadmap.

In terms of financing, there are three options: gifts, debt and equity. For the average person, gifts are few and far between. Debt financing comes in the form of loans. Your personal finances and credit will determine how much you can borrow and how much you will have to repay. Equity financing brings in cash in exchange for giving up an ownership stake in your firm.

Before approaching any outside source, I suggest looking inward. If you are not comfortable with the idea of putting up your own money, then you have no business asking anyone else to put up theirs.

Will: In addition to being a financial guru, you are a professor and nonprofit leader. How did you get into nonprofit leadership? Is there a difference between nonprofit leadership and corporate leadership?

Tisa: I have always volunteered my time and contributed to charities. In 2005, I decided to concentrate my efforts and resources into two areas: scholarships and hands-on community service.

There is definitely a difference between non-profit leadership and corporate leadership. For instance, one of the goals of my non-profit, the Good Works Coalition(GWC), is to be profitable however the GWC is not profit driven. That alone, is a major difference.

Also, I have volunteers not employees. Volunteering is hard work, and pretty often it is not in the most comfortable locations or circumstances. Because of the sacrifice required and the fact that there is no compensation nor any other tangible gain involved with service, I do not have to question my volunteers’ motives for participating.

Will: What would you say is your life’s mission, and how is that reflected in the work that you do?

Tisa: My life’s mission is to love, to teach, to serve and to bring about positive change.

I think this is made clear by the types of events I participate in. If you look at my calendar, you will not see a lot of high-profile engagements but you will see a laundry list of schools. My life’s work may not be glamorous and it may not garner a lot of attention, but it gets results.

I challenge kids to think about life and value it differently. I focus on students because they have the greatest potential. The earlier they begin to value it and unleash it, the better.

Just to clarify, I am not knocking the high-profile engagements because they serve a purpose. I have bills to pay, just like the next person. However, in order to have the greatest chance at living out my mission, I can never go back on my commitment to youth.

Will: What is the greatest lesson you have learned thus far?

Tisa: One of the greatest lessons I have learned is simple: keep it moving. When things go wrong the world does not stop, so why should I?

I am a bit of a roadrunner, and something that often impedes progress is a lack of accountability. When something goes wrong, people often get so caught up in complaining and attempting to assign blame that a solution is delayed or, in the worst cases, never found. One of the best things I ever did on a job was to say, “I messed up.”

It was the truth, I figured by telling it I could save everyone the potential time and stress associated with playing another round of “who shot John.” My admission completely changed the course of the conversation with my supervisor. In addition to speeding up the process of finding a solution, I earned more respect. People take note when you admit fault because so often, others are afraid to.

Will: Before I let you go, I want you to give a list of the moves people need to make to put their financial houses in order.

Tisa: I recommend starting with a self-inventory. Track your inflows and outflows for at least one month to determine if you are breaking even, operating at a surplus or at a deficit. From there, you can determine what course of action to take. If you are breaking even or operating at a loss, then you must cut spending, increase income or do both simultaneously. Once you arrive at a surplus, you can decide what to do next: spend, save or invest it. Spending it all is the only option that is guaranteed to send you back to the drawing board.

Next, I would advise people to strive for good credit. If you already have it, do your best to maintain it. Unless you plan to pay cash for every major purchase, then your credit history will have a direct impact on how much you pay for pricey items such as cars and homes.

Lastly, mind your assets. Some appreciate, others depreciate. Spending all of your money on the latter will not help you build wealth.

Will: Thanks for agreeing to the interview. Any final thoughts?

Tisa: Thank you for having me. Here is my final thought:
“You can’t change the past nor predict the future, but right now is yours for the taking.”

I want to help people take a more proactive approach to life, as opposed to a reactive one. I believe it is easier to bounce around reacting to things than it is to take charge, put a plan in place and go about making it happen. I can only speak for myself in saying that the former is less challenging, but the latter is more fulfilling.

No comments:

Post a Comment