Mark Willis

Mark is a Certified Financial Planner™, a three-time best-selling author, and the owner of Lake Growth Financial Services in Chicago. He has helped hundreds of his clients—from small-business owners to seniors and retirees—take control over their financial future by providing them with proven, tax-efficient solutions that have allowed them to build on the strength of their businesses.

As host of the Not Your Average Financial Podcast™, he shares some of his strategies for working with real estate, paying for college without going broke, and creating an income in retirement you will not outlive. Mark Willis is a man on a mission to help you think differently about your money, economy, and future.

In this episode, Pamela and Mark sat down and shared one of the most innovative ways to achieve success. The highlights of the episode include:

  • What inspired Mark on his journey to where he is today?
  • Mark’s biggest lesson in business?
  • Why is it important to break free from the traditional mindset and try different strategies?
  • Snow Bank Method? How does it work? Can it help in paying off debts?
  • What would Mark tell his younger self based on what he knows now?
  • In the next six to 12 months, what’s happening in Mark’s world?

Listen to how Mark Willis shares his remarkable story. Listen to the full episode here:

If you found this story worth your time and made changes in your life, we’d love to hear from you! Subscribe and leave a review.

Catch him in his socials here:

Click To Read The Transcript

Mark Willis Shares How To Build Real Wealth

Kevin Harrington
Hi, I’m Kevin Harrington, an original shark from the hit television show Shark Tank and you’re listening to the underdog podcast

Pamela Bardhi
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of underdog. Today I have an incredible guest here with me Mark, how are you my friend?

Mark Willis
I’m so glad to be on the show. Thanks for having me.

Pamela Bardhi
Oh my goodness, it’s such an honour to have you my friend. Oh my gosh, we’ve been connecting for months and like the sharing different stories. I’m like, what I cannot wait to hear your story and all of the things.

And you’re full of brilliant energy, and just brilliance in general. So I’m so excited to get into that today like most building strategies. And just I’m so excited. So I’ll start it off with the best question. Oh, actually the most complicated one if you’re ready,

Mark Willis
let’s do it.

Pamela Bardhi
What inspired you on your journey to where you are today, my friend where

Mark Willis
I am today is a surprise. Because I’ve had the great privilege of being able to work with business owners and real estate investors and even NFL Super Bowl champions. But most people I work with are like myself just wanting more confidence, predictability, security, certainty. That our lives are going to be able to meet our objectives and achieve our potential.

And I started with inspiration of debt hanging around my neck and no real plan to pay it off. That was the real problem. It wasn’t the debt. It was the lack of planning and lack of a plan to do anything about it like a can being kicked into the future. And so what inspired me, I suppose to answer your question is the threat of pain.

No, sometimes the grass is greener, sometimes it’s the threat of pain and debt finally became painful enough for me to do something about it. While I was on the hunt for my own financial solution that solved that pain. You know, I didn’t, I didn’t want to keep hitting my toe up against the bed frame my own life.

And so I needed to find a solution to help me get past the pain of all that debt. It was happening every month, again, like hitting your toe against the bedframe. Every single month, I wanted to find a way to stop that pain. So ultimately, that’s what led me down the path of finally finally paying attention to my own life.

Financially speaking and doing something about it. And then finding a way to introduce strategies or sanity into my own life. And into the lives of the clients I have ultimately had the privilege of working with.

Pamela Bardhi
I love that Mark, thank you so much for sharing that. And now another question for you as a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Mark Willis
Well, you’ll find it funny that cartoons and mazes and all sorts of caricature drawings. And anything else was just sort of front and centre for a child. And I remember that I would sell those little drawings, pictures, designs to my kids, friends. I just loved the entrepreneurial life of being able to solve a problem or create delight.

And I feel like that’s what every business is all about. Ultimately, it’s either solving a problem or creating delightful experiences. And I think most children I meet have that spirit of entrepreneurialism. Then it’s sometimes taken away from them as they sit in rows and columns like a spreadsheet.

And a classroom for 12 plus years, and told not to make a fuss, not to be creative not to be inventive. But to find their box and live in it. To your question. Yeah, the beauty of entrepreneurial spirit was running thick. And this one, whether it was lemonade stand, or you know selling mazes, to my kid friends

Pamela Bardhi
I love. That’s a you’ve been an entrepreneur since a kid basically that.

Mark Willis
Well, I think most kids have that desire and dream to do something that makes a difference. That looks and feels like freedom. And I don’t think it’s innate in the human experience to be a factory based employee. I think that’s a relatively modern phenomenon. One that’s kind of going away. Now, as you know, the industrial complex is sort of fading into the background. Or at least being outsourced to other countries.

So yeah, I’d say there’s a real benefit. And think about it. When you go back to like the apprenticeship model kids would do whatever mom and dad were doing. As their job if your dad was a metalsmith. You would likely train and become a metalsmith yourself. And that was your little shop you were running that shop for the family that’s as old as time that phenomenon.

I think it’s only recent that we have left the house left the farm to go work in the factory. Or worse to go work in a cubicle somewhere and work for somebody else’s dream. Rather than helping to build your own I’d rather work with. And many of our clients at Lake growth financial services are entrepreneurs, small business, medium sized business. Or even just solopreneurs who are looking again to who have more confidence, more control over their life.

That’s why so many of our clients are into business ownership or into real estate investing. And I’ll just say this quickly, Pamela. And I know that traditional certified financial planners, traditional investment advisors, would encourage you to put all your money into the stock market. To put all your money into stocks, and ETFs, mutual funds and more.

And I have just found that to be underwhelming, to say the least the traditional means of helping people. Quote, retire to work the factory job for 40 years to get that gold watch. And then hopefully prayerfully have enough money that you can live on before you croak to not run out of money. I think that’s an outdated model. If it ever worked, it doesn’t work anymore.

Pamela Bardhi
Absolutely. Mark, I hear you on all of this. I mean, there’s so many financial crises kind of following America right now. And things are shifting before our very eyes. I’m so intrigued in learn how you kind of got into that space. So walk me through, like your childhood up until like, career days, what was kind of the journey? What did that look like for you? And how did you get here?

Mark Willis
Well, my very first memory with money was, I was about five, six years old. And I had accumulated enough money by 50 bucks in a little paper bag. kept it in my sock drawer, basically. And I was proud of that. I thought that was cool. Didn’t think I’d ever have more money in my lifetime. My mom was trying to teach me about money. So she said, Hey, Mark, it’s time to get to the bank. We’re going to open you up a checking account.

I had no clue what any of that meant. But I was following mom and my mom was trying to be a good parent to teach me about how money really works. So she took me to this thing called a bank. And I held the paper bag in my hands. While she was filling out the paperwork for this little five year old pipsqueak to get a checking account.

And then it was my job at that point to hand over my entire life savings to a complete stranger in a suit called a banker. And then what was he going to do with that money? I didn’t know anything about what he was going to do with it but innately internally. I didn’t trust this complete stranger with my life savings. Little did I know how spot on I was to be so distrustful of the banking system at five years old.

Now, I didn’t have a clue why. But fast forward. Now I’m at 19 years old. I’m in a dirty hotel room just outside of my college campus, signing my life away. As I’m putting hundreds of 1000s of dollars into debt onto my balance sheet for my life. Setting my career back, setting my family back, setting our family tree back a decade or more. Without realising it to get a degree that would not be useful as I graduated from that degree in 2008. And no one was hiring.

So what good does the degree do you? Even if you spent 120 grand on it, if you can’t find a day job. My first job after getting my undergrad and my master’s degree. My first job was working in a property management company with a shop vac sucking filth off of old apartment building. Now why do I need a master’s degree to go do that job? Tell me that right?

In the midst of the Great Recession, where no one’s hiring. To have a degree that doesn’t really get marketable skills out there? Yeah, just it was a reminder that I had a higher net worth before I entered college than when I left college. So that’s kind of my journey with money up through college days. And kind of what takes me to the moment when I started having an aha momen. That I had to get this money thing under control. Or it was gonna be my master for the rest of my life.

Pamela Bardhi
Had a man and that’s unfortunately, the reality for a lot of people. And like finances are such like a scary, scary thing. Now, for you growing up, Mark, would you have a mentor somebody that really inspired you in the space? Oh, my I know, you mentioned your mom helped you open that checking account, which is amazing. I love that she did that to you. At five years old. Was there anyone else who really inspired that journey for you? Well, yeah,

Mark Willis
There was a moment as I was struggling with this debt. And so again, I’m now out of college, I’m in my early 20s. I’m throwing all this debt that I can toward my throwing all the money that I can toward my debts. And seeing basically just all that money dissipate into the ether. You know, when you have a monthly payment that feels like a mortgage payment.

It’s like a noose around your neck that you’re just trying to break free from. And so my wife and I were trying to throw everything we could, above the minimums on those debts to break free. And it felt great for about 15 seconds. I kind of like in the traditional way to be debt free. Sort of like eating a bunch of sugar and cookies. It’s that sugar, high of finance.

When you throw money at the debt, it feels really good for about 15 seconds. And then you get that empty feeling in your bank account. Just like you get the empty feeling in your body after you’ve eaten all those doughnuts and sugar, Candy treats and everything. So why do I say it that way? Well, it’s because the money that you put toward your debt is now money that you’ll never have for yourself ever again.

That’s not all though. Also gone is all of what that money might have grown for you over your lifetime. Had you not gotten into debt but rather left that money to invest instead. Let me give you an example. Let’s say I had an extra $3,000 this month. And let’s say I owe that money on my debt and just saw it disappear. Now that feels good for about 15 seconds as I realise. You know, I no longer have $3,000 of debt.

But what happens over the next 45 years, let’s say you live another 45 years. And let’s say you could have put 5% earned interest on that money. Your $3,000 would be $27,000 over the next 45 years. So how much did it cost you to get free from your debt? If you have, like I did, I had $120,000 of student loan debt over my lifetime.

If I just paid that debt off the old fashioned way. That would have been half a million bucks or more. Or a lot more, maybe even a million dollars gone just to be debt free money I won’t have in retirement. So back to your question. I had a gentleman he was a professor of mine at college. He had taught a theology and philosophy course he just. He was a good friend of mine and a close mentor of mine.

He came to visit me as I was going through this, you know, self flagellation, of being debt free. And he sat me down in my living room. And he said, Well, Mark, is it possible that Dave Ramsey could be wrong about paying off your debts. Now you have to understand that was a big Dave Ramsey fan boy.

You know, for the big nerds in the room who maybe there are folks who don’t know who Dave Ramsey is. He’s just a big radio host that talks a lot about finance and money. And he’s a big believer, Dave is in paying off your debts by throwing cash at the problem. And He even calls it the Debt Snowball Method.

Essentially, Dave Ramsey sets up the scenario where you pay your minimums and all your debts. But you throw as much as you can toward the biggest interest rate. Or the smallest balance whichever you want. So you throw your debts at one account at a time. So you’re debt free. That’s the Debt Snowball Method.

That’s what I was trying to do when my mentor and friend came to visit me. And I was about halfway through my project to being debt free. But getting that empty feeling in my soul, in my bank account at the same time. So before I go any further on, like what my mentor talked to me about any aha moments for you about. Like having good friends, mentors, or anything about debt payoffs?

Pamela Bardhi
Oh, yeah,I mean, absolutely. I think that was one of the biggest things, for me, I knew how to create sales, build relationship, build rapport, and all that stuff. And I really wasn’t, you know, numbers were never my strengths. And like, budgeting was never my strength, right. But like, You’re being a real estate developer, it’s all in the numbers.

The numbers can make you lose your shirt, which, in my very early career. Definitely made those mistakes, right? So not properly financial forecasting, kind of just saying, oh, yeah, I have funds and not properly budgetin. Like, as a business owner, it’s hitting me I know, for certain those have been some of my biggest lessons in business.

So everything that you’re saying is super, super key. Because it’s like, you need to have these money management skills or else, yourself in this depot. And like, you know, I find that, you know, the financial literacy in the United States. And just in general, is really low. I come from an immigrant family. So they’re like, I’m just gonna pay that cash and get rid of this.

And I’m like, you use that to leverage something, you know. I learned the velocity of money, and basically how to leverage it. And that can really, and that’s how investors play the game. So learn how you can leverage your money. Like, that’s when you become wealthy, right? You don’t do that. So everything that you’re saying, I’m loving mark, um,

Mark Willis
Yeah. It was tough, though. Because how do you leverage? How do you turn your debt into a solution? And that was where I was trapped, I kind of had the same traditional mindset of how do I become wealthy and not become just 10 years older? Before I’m debt free? You know, most people think to me, they actually come to me and they ask Mark, I’ve got all this debt.

I also know I need to save, what do I do first. And Dave would tell you to be debt free and live on $1,000 in your savings account. And I think at this point, that that’s maybe foolhardy advice. Because you keep falling back down the debt staircase. You need a new car, you got a medical emergency things happen to job loss.

So you fall back down the debt staircase, and you climb your way back up, only to fall back down again. So my mentor brought to me this idea of something called bank on yourself. And it was a counterintuitive way to pay off my debts. To me, this changed my entire trajectory of my life, financially, professionally, and otherwise. I was working at the time for a CPA that did traditional financial planning and tax prep.

She was doing a lot of the you know, stocks, retail mutual funds. The retail investment products, CLC and 401 k’s. And so when he told me my mentor told me that you could use a of all things a modernised form of whole life insurance to pay off your debt. To leverage your equity in that policy to pay off the debt and be better than debt free. I was shocked.

I honestly thought, Well, this guy is in some sort of scheme. I need to get him my friend free. So I really I had a moment of like, anger that he had been somehow caught in this scam. So I did some digging. And it turns out no, it’s been around for hundreds of years. The strategy has been around since before the US constitution, it blew me away.

And so I’ll quickly explain for your audience that I’d love to get your thoughts on this. So what is it bank on yourself is a concept where you become your own banker. Using a tool that’s been specifically designed for that purpose. So the tool is a whole life insurance policy. But it’s not the kind that Dave Ramsey loves to hate on. You’re building a bunch of equity and cash in the policy.

And you’re cutting the Commission’s that are paid to the advisor dramatically. like 70% Cut that allows you to pump a lot of money into the policy. And that money in the policy is known as cash value. That cash value is now an asset. Just like a home or a rental property as an asset, you can have an asset known as cash value life insurance.

And you can borrow against that asset just like you can borrow against your house. Like a HELOC or a mortgage and just like that. Your policy will continue to grow even when you borrow against it. So think about it. I’d love to, you know, because you’re an expert in this area. So I’d love to get your thoughts on this. When I borrow from a rental property, let’s say got a HELOC on my home or something.

Does the house stopped growing because I borrowed against it? No, it’s still appreciating in the neighbourhood. Zillow doesn’t care if I have a HELOC. You know, the market doesn’t care if I have a HELOC. It’s gonna grow even on that capital I borrowed from the from the house.

Now the trouble with that strategy of getting a HELOC is there’s nothing guaranteed about my home’s value. The home could drop in value, I could be underwater in my house. Now, the bank could also take away that HELOC and just like five year old mark. little sceptical of banks, I’m still a little sceptical of how banks really work.

Banks are great at lending me money when I don’t need it. And then love to take away my money, my loan or whatever, when it’s most desperately needed. A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun shines. But once it back as soon as it starts to rain, that’s a Mark Twain quote.

So when a policy is put in place, a whole life policy is put in place. and I borrow against the cash value, the cash value continues to grow guaranteed. even when I borrow against it, like there was no loan. So if I have $100,000 of cash in my policy.

Let’s say I want to borrow out $70,000 To go invest in a property or pay off a debt, I’ll get the 70,000. But my policy will continue to grow on the full $100,000. Like there was no loan and to me this changed everything with how I paid off my debts. how I invest today, and how our clients reach their goals.

Pamela Bardhi
I absolutely love that mark. And so you speak from experience of being in debt yourself. So I’m sure that a lot of people who are listening to this right now. There was a lot of entrepreneurs, and a lot of millennials. So a lot of them have deep student debt. And like just life circumstances, right, like just constant expenses left and right.

Now, what would be your recommendation and tips on how do you actually buckle down and pay off debt? As an investor would or do it in a smart way like you were, like you were mentioning. because again, like the you know, societal norms seems to be old is pay off the whole balance. like, what are your thoughts and tips and tricks there and things that you did to? To get out of debt?

Mark Willis
Well, first of all, I have to congratulate anyone who wants to swim upstream. many people live their life almost like a tennis ball just floating down life’s gutters. And I don’t want that for myself. And I don’t want that for my clients. I want you to be able to swim upstream financially. I don’t want you to just simply wait for someone to come bail you out.

Or for some programme, government programme or otherwise to come solve your problem. You are not a victim to your circumstances. you can swim upstream, you can make something of yourself. This is why I love seeing the entrepreneurial spirit in you, Pamela that’s why I love seeing it in a lot of our clients. We have this desire to be a thermostat, not a thermometer.

In our own life. We want to control the environment as best as possible. Like hey, you know what life won’t always be what we think it will be. Things are gonna happen to us in our lives that we can’t control. But there’s more that we can influence in our lives. And we can we possibly could imagine if we have the faith to do it.

So that’s the first piece is to have the the victim mentality, not the victim mentality. That’s step one. Step two, live within your means. That’s the basic underlying presumption is that is the hardest financial rule to conquer. By the way, I don’t care how much income you make, you can always outspend it. So find a way to live within your means. And that means, you know, having more money at the end of the month.

Rather than having more month at the end of your money, if you know what I mean. And again, that’s there’s a whole conversation we could have right there about that. But once you get there once you’re living in the black, so to speak, and you’re not living in the red. then the question becomes where do I put the money that I could use to pay off my debts?

I can put it into my smallest balance that’s the Debt Snowball Method. I could put it on the highest interest rate that’s technically called the debt snow Avalanche Method, Debt Avalanche Method. And but we’ve actually trademarked another concept known as the debt snow bank method. to pay off your debts and a little tongue in cheek to these other methods out there.

So I had a feeling we wanted to keep it in the snow theme. So the debt snow bank method is very simple. You pay your minimums on all your debts, don’t go behind on the New Year payments. That’s step one, step two, anything extra that you can not spend at the grocery store, etc.

You put into one of these bank on yourself designed Whole Life policies that I just described. packing money into that policy builds wealth right away. And you always have access to your cash value visa vie the policy loan. So that’s step two, you pack money as much as you comfortably can as a challenge for yourself into these policies.

Step three, your debts are going to continue to come down slowly. while your cash value is growing up quickly. So that’s step three, step four, we borrow against the policy’s cash value. to wipe out our debts one at a time, even while that policy continues to grow. So in this way, we don’t break compound growth.

I have a quick story as we wrap up here. but the fifth step is to simply repay the loan to yourself on your own terms. So you are in complete control of how much you repay your loan. you can skip a few payments, you can pay extra on it. there’s no required repayment plan, when you’re the banker.

You’re the one in control of the entire process that just brings a tonne of peace and sanity to the whole project. versus having Sallie Mae or Nelnet or any of their bankster friends telling you how to live your life. You get to decide, hey, I can skip a few payments if I need to. or kick it up a notch if I need to accelerate things. So that’s the debt snowbank method.

I’ll wrap up with this quick story. I had a client two. He’s now 10 years working with me. And he had a bunch of debt. He also was starting a business. He was also starting a family and he and his wife were also buying a house. And he commented to me, just literally yesterday, he said Mark, we could not have started our retirement plan for 10 years. because we had all this stuff.

We had to buy furniture downpayment, medical need for one of the kids. you know the business starting up, but they use their policies to borrow and pay back, borrow and pay back. Even while that money was growing and compounding for their future retirement.

they didn’t lose a decade of compounding while they were waiting for life to get going. Now, we talked about how important it is for there to be uninterrupted compound growth. That’s a picture of it right there. So that’s the debt, snowbank method, thoughts, ideas, inspirations from that.

Pamela Bardhi
I mean, I think it’s amazing figuring out different ways that you can leverage your money. and also to like living within your means. And I would say from the business perspective, like the budgeting. I think that that falls into it as well. Like, there’s just so many things mark, that you’re mentioning that I’m like, these are gems,

because they’re just things that your finances, like, when you think about it. Our intrinsic motivation is we all want to make mone. you want to make money, you want to work you want. like money is such a huge motivation in our society. But then we really sit down and ask ourselves, like, how are we actually spending it.

that becomes like a very scary thing. Like, we’re not taught to have awareness, financial awareness. it’s like, just pay the bills and keep going and work and do this and do that. And, and it’s like, you get to a point where you’re like, like, it’s like my master. It’s like, I’m, like, literally sleeping for it. Like, literally, that’s what it becomes.

And like, you sit back and you realise you’re like, What the hell. let me just reevaluate, like, Where’s my money going? Like, what am I doing? Do I need this expense? Do I not need this expense? And I think that financial literacy, I mean, was in the last 10 years. I mean, it’s starting to elevate. but I think that it’s so so much, like so much to go. I mean, these apps are super helpful.

like rocket money and these little like, small things to kind of watch, like, what are you doing? Like, what are you actually doing? And I remember for the very first time when I got into QuickBooks, three, four years ago. something like that, and that was watching all the accounting on my businesses.

And I was like, what? Like, the right. So a lot of what you’re mentioning is just like, you know, first and starts with that awareness. Like, and then how are you going to leverage to pay that stuff off? First, you got to be aware of like, what’s coming in what’s going on.

Mark Willis
So true, you know, the, the boa constrictor is this incredibly long, beautiful elegant muscle. Basically, it’s a giant muscle that can cut the air off of any animal. and that’s how it kills its animals and eats. I think about that with regard to our cash flow. Cash flow is sort of like oxygen. And it can be a boa constrictor around our neck. If we’re not careful. It can be our master that can tighten that noose little bit at a time.

And that’s why so many businesses go into receivership with the banks. that they borrowed money from. That’s the Boa Constrictor, right. The business has a partner and his name is Mr. Banker. So the question is, you’re already in the banking business even if you pay cash for everything. because either you pay interest to the bank or you’re passing up interest. you could have earned on that money, you’re financing it from your future self.

When you pay cash for something you’re stealing from your future self. I would have had an extra million dollars in my retirement accounts. had I been using the bank on yourself idea from day one with all my student loan debt. But I was throwing money at the debt, the old fashioned way. I was thinking like everyone else.

And if you want to solve a problem that you’re in. you have to think different than the way you were thinking when you got into the problem. So you have to you have to be ready to use that boa constrictor for your advantage. You have to sit on the bankers side of the desk, you have to literally sit down and say, All right, I’m going to fire my banker.

I’m going to become the banker in my own life. I’m going to control the environment where my money lives. and I’m going to be the thermostat in my financial life. not a thermometer, just taking measurement of how bad things are. And I’m going to start dialling up the best parts of my financial life. so I can take control of it and use that boa constrictor analogy to my own advantage.

Pamela Bardhi
I love that. I absolutely love that. And you know, a lot of people come to me and be like, Man, cash is king cash is king. Like, actually cash flow is king.

Mark Willis
Right? I agree. Yeah.

Pamela Bardhi
Yeah, that’s the reason why so many business owners from day one. if they just had more financial literacy to see be financially aware of what their business is doing. then 80% of small businesses wouldn’t fail. But are we taught that new?

Mark Willis
Right? Yeah. Well, it’s there’s a reason why banks of the biggest buildings in town. and as a certified financial planner, I would have never thought I’d be talking about banking as your primary financial success tool. Why wouldn’t I be talking about Wall Street products? Why wouldn’t I be talking about the typical target date funds. that you might find in a typical IRA or 401? K?

Why wouldn’t I be talking about the traditional ways that we’ve been taught to reach our financial goals. it’s because banking is the fundamental quicksand, or catapult to your success. So you choose, you can either be conventional, or you can be wealthy. but you have to choose. And too many people would rather be conventional, and broke. Americans are broke, if they’re conventional.

If you want to follow the herd, you’re gonna get slaughtered. So you have to find a way to break free from that traditional mindset. and be willing to try strategies that are a little different. That may be different than what you heard on the radio. or MSNBC, or Fox News, or I don’t care who they are.

if you’re hearing it on the news, it’s probably a sign you shouldn’t be doing it. All right. But if it’s countered to the culture, if it’s against the flow. you might be swimming upstream. And that’s exactly where you need to be going. If you want to be successful.

What Would Mark Older Self Tell His Younger Self

Pamela Bardhi
And man, Mark, amen. you’ve gained so much wisdom and insight I feel like throughout your whole life experience. and I’m interested to know the answer to this question, which is my favourite. What would your older self tell your younger self based on what you know now,

Mark Willis
based on what I know now, hopefully, I’ve learned a lot in the prevailing years for my future self. to tell me some wisdom because I got a lot to learn. I’d say maybe the one thing my older self would say is, don’t get that arrival syndrome. Don’t get caught with that virus. That’s, that’s the worst virus humanity has ever interfaced with is the arrival syndrome. that we can somehow think that we’ve made it that we know all. there is to know that there’s some kind of Zenith that we can reach.

No, we’ve got to be ready to continue to learn. to always be breaking ourselves down or breaking our paradigm down. I’d love to have a little like timer on my desk that says, days since last paradigm shift, check. You know, every couple of days, I need to be ready to have another paradigm shift. If I could talk to my future self. I’d want to know what are going to be some of those big aha moments. that bring me the success that I still look for and want to achieve.

Pamela Bardhi
Amen. I love that mark. And I mean, it sounds like you’ve got quite a year ahead of you. which is super exciting, like what’s going on this year. and like within the next six to 12 months, what’s happening in your world?

Mark Willis
Well, the world at large is faced with a significant fundamental volatility. I would say turbulence is going to be the the Word of the Year this year. I hate to say, but I don’t think we’re done with volatility and turbulence in the markets. I think inflation is still a part of our lives. we’ve got a number of different big things that are going to happen this year. that are going to change the way we understand our financial lives and our personal selves.

I wish peace and prosperity for everyone. I’m also a realist and I understand that you can either be subject to the environment. or you can take advantage of and even influence your environment. So I hope that for myself and also my clients. that we find a way to take the problem coming at us. whatever that is job loss injury, world events, inflation.

We take that and like a jujitsu fighter, you turn the problem into a solution. you leverage the weight of the opponent and turn it into your own attack mode. Or you can actually benefit from things like inflation things like market volatility. The I don’t want pain for anyone.

But I’m actually glad to see inflation going up because it means prices will come down. I’ve got access to a bunch of cash where I can go make some major purchases. If I want to this year, things like that, being ready to think different. means you’ll be ready to pounce on opportunities.

Pamela Bardhi
Absolutely. Where do you think the market is going this coming year? Like what opportunities should we be looking for? What things should we be leveraging? What are your thoughts?

Mark Willis
You know, I’ll just grab my crystal ball right here. Pam? No, I’m just kidding. I don’t know is this is and that’s the problem. Nobody knows. I think many people believe I did anyway, that if you were a financial planner. somehow you got the morning news like two weeks early. that somehow we would all know like, here’s exactly what’s no one knows. That’s the truth.

In fact, studies show that the active fund managers underperform the market. And even though those people who have index funds who are in the market. the whole market, they underperform, the index that they’re tracking. what and the reason is we’re buying and selling at the wrong time we get on that roller coaster. the market might do 10%, but the average investor get this according to downbar.

Over the last 30 years, the real investor returns were closer to 3%. even though the market was you know, 810 or 8% a year. because compounding does not work in a linear fashion. It goes up, it goes down, it goes up it goes down. and that breaks compound growth, and that lowers our return. So back to your question. What do I think’s going to happen? I don’t know, is the short answer.

I think the best thing that a financial advisor should be able to do is look carefully at the past. If you look carefully at the past, and you find the things that have survived and even thrived. you know, it’s just like I can I’ll make a prediction. From right here. I believe the chair will survive the smartphone. What do you think? Totally agree. All right, good. Good. I’m glad we’re in agreement there.

Why do I believe that? Well, because the chair is 1000s of years old the smartphone is whatever 10 years old. This is known as the Lindy effect. The Lindy effect says that the longer something’s been in existence. the more likely it is to survive. All right. So it’s why I think that the dollar will ultimately go away. but it’s probably going to outlast the crypto currency phase.

Why do I think that because it’s outlasted it so far. So when I look at things that have survived. I look at life insurance is something that’s gone through market booms and busts. it predates the IRS, it predates so that’s why it’s income tax free. Part of the reason why it’s income tax free, it’s been grandfathered into the tax code.

it’s guaranteed to grow every single year, you know, it actually predates the stock market. So I looked for things like that, that had been around for a long, stinking time. and had been through depressions been through multiple pandemics. been through inflation and depressions.

I want to look at things like that I think your financial advisors should be able to find the survivors in the financial universe. rather than trying to pick stock winners. That’s a that’s a loser’s game is to try to pick what’s going to happen in the future. So that’s my thoughts on that.

Pamela Bardhi
I love that mark. Oh, my goodness, I love that. And now, in this coming year, what have you got going on within your firm? Like, what’s going on? What’s happening with your clients? And what are things that you’re working on with them to make sure they can navigate this madness? As nobody knows what’s coming? Right?

Mark Willis
Yeah, I can make another prediction that anyone that’s a client of mine. that has one of those bank on yourself policies, they will hit an all time record high this year. Now imagine what it would feel like to just be able to say that. that if you open up your account statement, there’s no more ugly or unpleasant surprises. I’ve met too many people whose 401 K’s became 201 K’s this last year, if you know what I mean.

So yeah, what’s gonna happen this year. I would suppose that there’s going to be some more volatility. I believe that our clients are going to be able to take advantage of that opportunity. clients are going to be able to make a killing on some of the low priced assets.

And I think that we’re going to be able to continue to see more confidence on our financial goals. because we actually have a plan built around them. So that’s the best thing I can say for our clients. Now, what if just 10% of America had a solution like this baked into their financial lives? Like what would happen to the credit card industry.

And what would happen to the student loan industry? If just 10% of America had a big bucket of money equal to let’s say two years of their income? I think we could see the Federal Reserve go out of business. I think we could see the bank industry change as its as it happened.

Pamela Bardhi
wow, gives me goosebumps just thinking about that, Mark. I love that and you’re on a mission to help people really get there. and leverage and just build wealth, which I absolutely love that work. You’ve got to let everyone know where to find you and your awesomeness. How can we reach you social media website? Anything you want to offer?

Mark Willis
Yeah, you know, we’re kicking out content every week. You can find our show at not your average financial podcast. anywhere you’re listening to the show will be on the platform. not your average financial podcast or if you want to chat with me and answer have me answer questions.

or I’d love to get to know anyone listening. if you’re wanting to have a strategic conversation about a way to swim upstream financially. This year, got a kickstart with And we can schedule a time to meet that’s kickstarts with Mark with a

Pamela Bardhi
I love that Mark, thank you so much for being here today. Wisdom, your insight, all of the things and I can’t wait to see how this year kind of showcases itself. We just never know what’s about to happen in these financial markets. So well, there.

Mark Willis
That’s right. Good luck with all you do. And everybody be sure to leave Pamela a five star review. Keep up the great work. Thank you.

Pamela Bardhi
Thank you so much. So that’s it for today’s episode of underdog. catch us next week, always dropping on Thursdays. And remember, if you’re interested in real estate, or want to learn how to create more money and magic in your life. check out meet with and let’s chat sending you so so much love


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The Underdog Podcast host is none other than Pamela Bardhi. She’s rocking the Real Estate Realm and has dedicated her life as a Life Coach. She is also Forbes Real Estate Council. To know more about Pam, check out the following:

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