"The biggest misconception I usually see, when it comes to personal finances, is that it's a moral issue," said Michael P. Dannessa, owner and founder of Independent Financial Coaching. "People think 'I'm a bad person or I've failed'. If you go in that direction, you won't be able to solve your problems. Also, don't blame it on someone else. No matter what the outside circumstances are, it's up to you to fix it. And don't ignore the problem; it won't go away."
Originally from Ohio, Mr. Dannessa has bounced around a bit between Florida, Maryland, and Tennessee before ultimately landing in Port Charlotte in February 2016. He always wanted to get back to Florida's great climate. Since 1997, Mr. Dannessa has been helping individuals and small business owners with financial coaching, personal finances, and credit consulting. Mr. Dannessa also has experience running a brokerage house, selling life and health insurance and even working as a mortgage broker. His experience is broad, but the focus of his services is on a specific market segment.
"Most people with money have advisers, but they're not the ones who need it," he said. "The rich can take a hit and bounce back. Those living paycheck to paycheck can't handle bad things happening to them. If it goes bad for them, it's very difficult to recover. This is who I like to help. These clients typically fall into one of three categories. The first group is those that had a significant reduction in income, either do to medical issues, job loss, reduced hours and/or a divorce. The second group consists of people with behavioral issues. These people are addicted to spending. The third group, which is my favorite, yet smallest group to work with, are the pro-active ones. These people say things like, 'I feel like something is coming' or 'I want to be prepared'."
For Mr. Dannessa, owning his own business is not just a money thing. He thoroughly enjoys helping people and receives a tremendous amount of satisfaction from turning his client's lives around. He also loves the freedom and flexibility that comes with being his own boss. He can make the decisions he deems most important without having to play office politics.
Without giving away his secret sauce, we asked Mr. Dannessa to share some quick personal finance tips. "First and foremost, it's important to know the difference between an asset and a liability," he said. "Assets put money in your pocket and liabilities take money out of your pocket. Also, people need to know that there's no magic bullet. Don't try to be slick. Being slick is what gets people in trouble. Understand your debt to income ratio. It's important to keep this under 35% of net income. Look at this figure on an annual basis. Most people don't realize this, but in order to qualify for a loan, lenders place a heavier emphasis on your debt to income ratio than your credit score."
Looking ahead, Mr. Dannessa wants to start training more people like him and help stand up other financial coaches in the area. He'll continue to attend networking events, chamber meetings, BNI meetings and add in new outlets, such as YouTube and a blog feature on his website, to reach his desired audience. He's even looking at the possibility of adding a podcast.
What advice does Mr. Dannessa have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Don't go into debt," he said. "Keep it small to begin with. People will say, ready aim fire. That's not how it works. If you're waiting for the right time, it will never come. Once you're ready and you have a business plan, then launch. In reality, it's ready fire aim. In terms of capital requirements, you need to be prepared in most cases to lose money for two years. Don't quit your day job and just launch into it. Going into debt will kill a lot of small companies. If they can't generate the revenue to service the debt they're going to fail. Remember, no plan survives it's first contact with the enemy. Like animals in the wild, your first job is to stay alive. You'll become successful over time. Eventually your competition will overextend themselves and over-leverage their business. You'll give yourself a chance by just staying alive." Mr. Dannessa also recommends reading The 7 Habits of High Effective People by Stephen Covey.