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Kevin O'Leary: I've written books about this. 40 is that time. If you can pull that off, you're in a great place.

Shawn Elias: Yes, I did it. I'm in a great place financially. And now I've got investing guru in Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary rooting me on. I'm Shawn Elias, and this is my Wall Street story.

I've been working on Wall Street for 20 years. And a good part of it has been with Jim Cramer at TheStreet. Right now, I run the video team. As the director and production manager, I do anything and everything to make sure everyone looks their best. I'm also a gardener and own two of the coolest parrots in the world. Oh, and by the way, I just turned 40. and that's why I have decided it's finally time to give myself a gift. I was going to clean up and take control of my health, my life, and of course my finances. So what does Mr. Wonderful have to do with this? My friend Daniela Cambodia from Kitco news explains.

Daniela Cambone: Shawn has hit a milestone birthday turning 40 today.

Kevin O'Leary: Whoa.

Daniela Cambone: So we've got the ultimate gift. What more could we give him than life advice from Mr. Wonderful himself. I'll let Shawn explain the situation.

Shawn Elias: Great birthday gift here. So I finally, I've been shooting with you for like four years in our studios. Finally get to come out of the control room. I need some advice for the next 20 years into retirement. If you sit next to 40 year old Kevin O'Leary, what are you going to tell them?

Kevin O'Leary: What I would have told 40 year old Kevin O'Leary is get out of debt. I would've retired my debt a lot faster because it holds you back from investing and starting to get returns the markets can provide. 40 is a milestone. It should be a time when you're really focusing on debt reduction. I tell this to everybody. Between 40 and 45 you must be out of debt period. Because you've got to start for the next 20 years building up that asset. It's not forever. You're an old man now, Shawn. And you've got to have good times. You know, and I always say that, do the things you love. And you should focus on that. And I've talked to a lot of people, I talked to a lot of young people now about this. You gotta work hard, you gotta love what you do, but you also have to enjoy yourself cause it's not forever. But if you get all that together and you build your nest egg, it can be a good thing. It can be a wonderful thing. And that's my 2 cents to you.

Shawn Elias: This is perfect because I've completed the out of debt part as of next month.

Kevin O'Leary: Outstanding. Perfectly on time.

Daniela Cambone: Don't say we never do anything for you, Shawn.

Kevin O'Leary: And may the next 40 be as good as the last.

Shawn Elias: Oh, it's definitely going to be, cause I don't want to be dead to Mr. Wonderful. I've even inspired other colleagues now to join me on my financial journey. If you want to know more about my story, I'd love to help you too.

Kevin O'Leary: By the time you turn 80 you'll probably get another 25 out of it with science. You might be a little crusty around the edges.

Financially fixed.

That's been my goal in the months leading up to my 40th birthday.  

I am proud to say that it's all on target! 

What is a greater birthday gift than being debt-free? How about an opportunity to ask Kevin O'Leary, Chairman of O'Shares ETF's and star of ABC's Shark Tank, some personal investing advice. I got that chance while he was in our studio for another segment.

As the producer for TheStreet's Retirement Daily product, I get enough retirement tips.  I wanted to know from Mr. Wonderful, what advice he has for a 40 year old to be successful in the years leading up to retirement.  If he could go back in time, what we Kevin O'Leary tell a 40 year Kevin O'Leary?  

"40 is a milestone. It should be a time when you're really focusing on debt reduction. I tell this to everybody. Between 40 and 45, you must be out of debt. Period. Because you've got to start for the next 20 years building up that asset."

How I Got to Today

I remember the time growing up when I lost my velcro Yankees wallet. There was probably $80 or so in it from delivering newspapers after walking the neighborhood for hours collecting cash from my neighbors. I was miserable for days.

Now it's March 2019, and I wake up one morning feeling mentally miserable. My next paycheck is a week away and I can't just do whatever I want to do today. I'm not broke (well maybe sort of), but I'm paying too much money to too many places.  I decide to audit myself and see exactly how often I'm handing out my hard earned cash.  Here's what I discovered.

Coffee, coffee, supermarket, television bill I barely watch, gatorade, coffee, supermarket, bird food, coffee, don't remember going to that shop, coffee, random store, bird food, gatorade, coffee, supermarket, random store, coffee.

It was again that feeling of losing the old wallet, every other day. What. Am. I. Doing? Every time I check my account, I'm losing money. It is time to now get it all back.

This can't be too hard.  I just have to stop doing a few things.  And adjust a few habits. It wasn't hard.

Steps to My Success

I want to share a few items that were crucial to my success story. I might have had some level of success without them, but these really helped me to run through this journey quickly.

My Wife, The Perfect Teammate

After 6 years of marriage, I couldn't ask for a better partner in this journey.  We made mistakes together and we fixed them together.  Our first step was to clean up the mess and clear the waste.  That started with a clear monthly budget.  We are now accounting for every dollar we make and we know exactly where it goes. It's a lot easier than you think, but you MUST do it together.

How did I get her on board so quickly?  Well, I painted a pretty picture of what success for us would look like.  And the amazing things we would do in 1 year from now, but only if we committed 100%.  She was in before I even said the words 'vacation to Europe'!

It took over a month to get it all right, but now it's just normal.  A weekly fine-tuning session keeps us on the same page. And there's a lot less bills to pay now, so next we get to save more and enjoy!

Unfortunately my wife has been battling some health issues, which is another reason I've needed to make a lot of changes. Fortunately she's been accepted to the Mayo Clinic and we can now pay cash for our trip there. I couldn't put a price on her health, but new debt was not acceptable to us. We are hopeful for a healthy road ahead of us.

Dave Ramsey's Daily Podcast

He's been on the radio over 30 years, and sadly I only discovered it recently, while looking for new content on Youtube. It has no doubt flipped my personal finances and marriage right side up. After 4 months and over 200+ listening hours, I wouldn't dare go against Mr. Ramsey's advice and baby step program. I strongly advice you get on board this program ASAP. The education of hearing other peoples mistakes and successes is priceless. And it's great material for the long bus commute.

He'll give you tips for helping your family and friends as well. He's got a free budget app which I did use at first. But I found my own bank app has their own, and pulls in all my accounts for free. Use it.

Health = More Wealth

My lifestyle changes have also resulted in major health changes. Being out of debt changes your entire mindset.  I find myself doing challenging things because I want to, not just because I have to.  For example, I've never run more than 1 mile a day in my entire life. And I am a former NJ Division 3 track & field star (5th place in the discus for Rowan University, 1998)!  Now I run 3 miles, 3 times a week and I've lost 25 pounds.

I feel greater mentally and physically better and consistently want to be even better. The improved mental health and the positivity all around me, is constantly inspiring me to keep growing.  Reading more on finance, listening to new podcasts, talking to colleagues, and keeping up to date on my 401(k) and Roth IRA portfolios has been part of my every day game plan. Just a few minutes a day is all you need.

The fun part now is enjoying a good life, and watching everything grow.  

Need some help? I've got more stories to share. 

Follow me on Twitter @shawnelias

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