Podcast

From Dermatology to Women’s Financial Empowerment – How One Woman Chose to Have It All

3Q20

Becoming comfortable with taking the leap from steady employment to entrepreneurship, and the pivotal role that Mindset plays in that process.

Read The Transcript

In today’s episode of Real Wealth Real Health, our guest is Bonnie Koo, CEO & founder of Wealthy Mom MD. After working for Morgan Stanley, Bonnie decided to attend medical school to become a dermatologist. During this time, she never lost her passion for finances and money management, often finding herself the go-to person in her network. As her financial foundations became more stable while practicing medicine, she further developed her knowledge base around financial planning, which led her to an entrepreneurial online business. Bonnie has now pared back her medical practice to focus more on helping other women physicians understand the modern financial system and to achieve their own visions of financial independence through her published content on Wealthy Mom MD.

In addition to discussing her own career and experiences as an entrepreneur, we explore Bonnie’s experience with life coaching, her approach & philosophy toward building wealth, and the role coaching played in achieving her idea of financial success & independence. We learn from Bonnie the importance of changing our mindset and getting out of our own way by eliminating limiting beliefs. Bonnie’s entrepreneurial journey is filled with ups and downs that everyone can relate to, and her achievement of full financial independence is truly inspirational.

Key Insights

  • Figuring out how to identify and nurture your passions, and turn them into an entrepreneurial undertaking
  • The common financial mistakes we all make, and how they can get in the way of long-term goals
  • The changes we need to make in our lives and mindsets in order to get started with laying our financial foundation
  • The impact of coaching, and how a change in mindset leads directly to being able to set your financial foundation & secure your future
  • Understanding that opportunities like Real Estate Investing are usually more achievable than we think, once you make the decision to get started

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Guest Bio

Bonnie Koo, MD, FAAD is a board certified dermatologist and a graduate of Barnard College and Columbia University’s College of Physicians & Surgeons. She is the founder of Wealthy Mom MD where she empowers and coaches women physicians to take control of their finances and create the life they want. She currently lives in northern NJ with her fiancé and son.

Resources:

Real Wealth Real Health

Alpha Investing

[email protected]

Wealthy Mom MD

Podcast Transcript

Announcer:

Welcome to Real Wealth Real Health, the show that empowers you with insight, information, and inspiration to achieve your version of financial wellness. Learn how to balance living a full life today with planning for the future. This podcast is brought to you by Alpha Investing, a real estate centric private capital network that provides exclusive investment opportunities to its members. And now, here are your hosts, AdaPia d’Errico and Daniel Cocca.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Hello, and welcome back to another episode of Real Wealth Real Health. Today, we’re speaking with Bonnie Koo, CEO and founder of Wealthy Mom MD. After working for Morgan Stanley, Bonnie decided to attend medical school and become a dermatologist. However, during this time, she never lost her passion for finances and money management and often found herself as the go-to person in her network for all things finance and money-related. And as her financial foundations became more stable while she was practicing medicine, she further developed her knowledge base around financial planning, which led her to creating her entrepreneurial online business, Wealthy Mom MD.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Bonnie has now pared back her medical practice to focus more on helping other women physicians understand the modern financial system and achieve their own visions of financial independence. In addition to discussing her own career and experience as an entrepreneur, we talk about life coaching, her approach and philosophy towards building wealth, and we really dive into the role of coaching and the role of mindset, and what it means to play with this idea of what financial success and independence means for every single person individually and then taking action on those goals and dreams.

AdaPia d’Errico:

This episode will surely inspire you if you are looking to have more financial independence, and you have maybe some barriers in your mind that have stopped you thus far. Bonnie, thanks for joining us on the podcast today.

Bonnie Koo:

Thanks so much for having me.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yes, I was taking a look at your website, which you’ve totally revamped, I know, recently. And there’s a couple things that really stood out to me that you’ve said, one of them is you asked the question, “Is it possible for a physician mom to truly have it all without giving her all?” And then, that your mission is to empower women physicians to build wealth and create the life that they want because financial freedom enables you to create the life that you love, and we could not agree more. So, how did you get to where you are today starting… I know you had a stint. You worked at Morgan Stanley at some point in your life and then you became a dermatologist. And now, you’re putting that all together to help other women achieve financial independence.

Bonnie Koo:

Yeah, you’re talking about the Wealthy Mom MD business, right?

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yeah. Oh, yes. Yeah.

Bonnie Koo:

It’s so funny, I didn’t wake up one day thinking I need to start a business because I was pretty happy being a dermatologist, and dermatologists generally aren’t looking for a side gig to make extra money, right? So, that’s where I was. I wasn’t thinking. I was literally just… It’s funny because now people ask me all the time how do I find out what I want to do, and this is what I tell them and this whole answered the question, I was like, “Well, what is the thing or topic that if it comes up or if you see a Facebook post on that topic, you just can’t help but comment and chime in? You just love that topic so much, you just can’t help but talk about it or help people or answer people’s questions.”

Bonnie Koo:

And it’s funny because if you asked me 10 years ago if I would be doing anything related to money, I’d probably just laugh at you because I was a disaster when it came to money. About 10 years, which isn’t that long though if you think about it. And so, money just came to me. My last year of residency, I just started learning about it because two of my co-residents were talking about money. They talk about it all the time, but I think maybe because I was looking for jobs, and now I was forced to deal with it, that’s when I was just doing my own research. And they said, “Oh, you should read this book,” so I bought the book. And then, I’m one of those people that once I get into a topic, I just go nuts and become a sponge.

Bonnie Koo:

And in this day and age, it’s so easy to find information. You just spend time Googling stuff, but you can find so much at your fingertips. So, that’s what I did, and then I just really enjoyed it. It makes sense to me. Initially, I was just more into financial logistics, like how do these retirement accounts work, because that’s what I was working on close, looking at my job contract, evaluating their benefits. So, it was an opportunity for me to dive in to see, “What are these 401(k)s? Why is it called the 401(k)?” All that kind of stuff. So, that’s how it started.

Bonnie Koo:

And then, it became that thing where when the topic came up, I would talk about it. And then, in terms of when did I actually monetize it, that came much later, maybe at least a year or two after that even started. And basically, a girl friend was like, “You should start a blog,” and I was like, “What?” Definitely was not on my radar. So, that started, oh gosh, that blog was 2017 at this point when I started it.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Right. Yeah. Famous last words, right? When somebody tells you that and you look at them and say, “No, what are you talking about?” But yeah, here you are, because you’ve been through different iteration of your website. It was Miss Bonnie MD, right, and then it became Wealthy Mom MD. It’s so beautifully branded and it really speaks to who you are.

AdaPia d’Errico:

And I’ve had the opportunity to get to know you over the last couple of years. Your story’s really inspirational because you’re so honest and you’re so open and transparent about things. Like you said just right now, you said, “I was a disaster financially.” And so, often when we think about, let’s say, any kind of financial expert or anybody in finance to any degree, there’s this idea that they should know everything and be perfect and never get anything wrong, but that can always lead to also things like hiding the things that you’ve got wrong and how could you possibly help somebody if you’re not sharing what you got wrong.

Bonnie Koo:

Oh, yeah. I mean, I still make mistakes. I’m an overspender by nature, for example, and I racked up like $20,000 of credit card debt during residency. I was buying clothes and shoes.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Right. Yeah, I mean, we’re not taught any of this in school. We have to choose to learn about financial planning. I chose really young, I started when I was 18. I remember, I think, it was my keyboarding teacher. This is how far back things go. We had a class to learn how to type on a computer, and he was talking about mutual funds back in ’96 and I was really intrigued by this. And then, that led me over the years to get into understanding how do mutual funds work and how do you become financially independent. Because, I’m sure the same way you understood this too, it allows you to do so much more when you understand how to manage your money. And it’s not about making the most money possible or being filthy rich, it’s just about giving yourself enough to do what you want to do and be comfortable.

Bonnie Koo:

Yeah. I mean, money is a tool. It’s a great powerful tool and if you have enough of it, then you won’t have to stay in a situation you don’t want to, like a job or even like, let’s say, a relationship, for example. I think a lot of women feel trapped because they feel like they can’t leave because of money, for example.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Oh, yeah. There’s a lot of stories about that actually, which would be like a whole rabbit hole that I don’t want to go down because there’s just so much there. But let’s talk really quickly, as you’ve come through the past few years, you’ve really come into being an entrepreneur as a blogger. You were a dermatologist. Do you still have your dermatology practice?

Bonnie Koo:

So, it’s interesting you asked because my medicine career has gone through several iterations. I mean, I’m five years out of residency at this point. Still early in terms of my medical career, because I went to med school when I was 27. It was a second career for me. So, I started out in academics, then private practice, and I switched to locums, which is like temporary work. That’s how I was able to live in Hawaii for three months over the winter, if you remember.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yup.

Bonnie Koo:

And now, I do teledermatology, so exclusively seeing patients online. But I don’t do virtual visits on Zoom. It’s all, they upload photos and then I submit a very thorough report. I mean, sometimes I will have to Zoom with them if I’m starting them on certain medications that’s just required for billing. But it’s such a… I actually love this app. It’s a job I’ve lined up before the pandemic, and obviously, it’s perfect with the pandemic going on right now because I don’t have to physically see anyone, the patient doesn’t have to take time off from work and go somewhere and put themselves at risk. I can’t do everything if someone submits a visit, and I can’t do it legitly. Like a mole check, I can’t do that. I just decline the visit and they don’t get charged. So, that’s what I do now. I do that maybe five hours a week.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Oh, wow. So, you’ve taken the four-hour workweek approach to dermatology practice. I love that. You’re just like a multi-pronged entrepreneur. And as you know, we’re entrepreneurs as well and we always love speaking to other entrepreneurs about their journeys. Before we dive into more of the meat and potatoes investing and real estate, if you’d like to share maybe what some of your biggest challenges have been as an entrepreneur and maybe also like a recent success. And by entrepreneur, at this stage, I’m talking about with your blog and with starting this business around helping women achieve financial independence.

Bonnie Koo:

So, you said biggest challenge?

AdaPia d’Errico:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bonnie Koo:

So, I think the biggest challenge that I’m undergoing right now actually is growing in the big… It’s like there’s different challenges at every stage, right? When you’re just getting started, you’re just trying to make money. That’s a whole different challenge. And then, there’s when you start making money, which is where I’m at, and then it’s like, “Okay, how do you scale and how do you grow this business so that I’m not the one hustling 24/7 on the business?” So, I’m in this phase where I’m learning how to manage people and learning how to create and implement systems and processes. I actually love it. It’s really fun for me

Bonnie Koo:

I think I even read it in Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I think Robert Kiyosaki even said this is a skill set that you need to learn if you want to become wealthy. You have to learn how to create and implement processes, and manage people, and that is a skill that you don’t learn in regular school. Maybe you learned in business school, but I didn’t go to business school. And so, that’s been really eye opening to me, learning how to do that part of business.

Daniel Cocca:

Yeah, I think that’s always something that particularly when I was working as a lawyer, there was always this assumption that as you get more senior and people start working underneath you, that you just come to understand how to delegate, how to motivate. And there was never really a ton of mentoring or education or training on how to do it. You just had to figure it out, right?

Daniel Cocca:

And so, now in this environment where we’re all more entrepreneurial here, the importance of that was beyond my scope at that time. And so, it’s a really interesting process. And also, to hear how well you’re doing and how much you’ve grown, it’s really a testament to what’s out there in the marketplace and just the desire for the folks in your network to get that coaching and mentoring and leadership, which is great, and one of the reasons that I think we connected with you from the beginning.

Daniel Cocca:

I would love to hear just a bit more about what’s happening on that front. What things are you looking at on the investment side, financial management side? Where’s your future growth headed in that respect?

Bonnie Koo:

Awesome questions. So, it’s interesting, I still feel like I’m still learning when it comes to money. And so, it’s funny, when I first started learning about money as a resident, so we’re talking six years ago at this point, all I knew was index funds. Do index funds. This is how you do index funds. Compound interest, plug into a thing, and this is the thing you need to reach for, and then that’s it. So, that was like Money 101 for me. And so, that’s where I started and I was like, “Okay, that makes sense.” I fill up my 401(k) bucket. I should do a Roth IRA. A,nd it felt neat from when I’ve made my first purchase of index fund, it was scary. And now I’m like, “Whatever,” I just set it and forget it after that.

Bonnie Koo:

And then, it wasn’t honestly until two years ago, I actually looked up when I invested in my first indication that I was like, “Okay, now it’s time to go to Money 201. What’s next?” Because obviously, index funds aren’t the only way. And then, my thought process and just knowledge of money has changed over time, because now I like the idea of having multiple legs of income.

Bonnie Koo:

If you think of wealth as a table, the goal is to have as many legs as possible so that when one leg falls because the stock market inevitably goes down, because it goes up and down, just the nature of it, I’m not going to be out of luck. Or even if I lose my job, right, which is happening now in the pandemic to lots of people. So, if I lose my job, which is unfortunately most people’s only source of money, the table’s not going to fall down.

Bonnie Koo:

So right now, I’m learning about how to build as many legs as possible, and even within my business, I’m learning how to create different revenue streams within my business so I’m not dependent on just one product. And so, I started investing in real estate. This is for personal finances a few years ago starting with a syndication, and we just bought our first rental property.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Did you buy that rental property yourselves or did you go into a syndication with others? What kind of rental did you buy?

Bonnie Koo:

Yes, so it was a single, what was the term, single family home, but it’s two doors on one property. So, it’s like a main house but they have a little in-law thing in the back. I say thing because I actually haven’t seen the property with my own eyes. That’s why it sounds so funny. And so, that’s funny. Another thing is you don’t have to see the place with your own eyes to buy a property. So, we actually met this investor agent last summer.

Bonnie Koo:

So, when I switch to locums, my first was in Seattle. And so, when we lived in Seattle, we had some physician friends who are very active in real estate who lived in the Seattle area. They introduced us to investor agents, and as you know real estate’s all about relationships. And so, at the time, we weren’t ready. I was working, but Matt was able to spend a day with them and just look at some properties together and just meet them. But we didn’t actually buy anything until a few months ago, that was with those same people. And because we had met them and trust… Or he trusted them, I actually hadn’t met them, that’s how that started. So, we just closed a month and a half ago on that.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Oh okay, great. Well, I hope you got some good pricing, some good COVID pricing on that property.

Bonnie Koo:

I don’t know if it was COVID pricing, but we didn’t overpay in terms of we got what we wanted, maybe 5,000 less, and we’re going to do a lot of work on it to… We’re going to add an extra bedroom to it actually, not add it, but it’s just laid out so that it’s amenable to just shifting a door and then we can make an extra bedroom which will obviously increase its value.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yeah there’s a lot. There’s so many strategies obviously that we know about when it comes to real estate. I just want to dig into this just a little bit more because we, personally here, my husband and I, we converted our garage into an ADU, so accessory dwelling unit, which is what you’re talking about and we short-term rent it on Airbnb. And so, that’s also been like when you talk about other sources of income just to start to build and also this idea of building doors and having different revenue streams. It’s not a ton of money because it’s a small unit, but it certainly gave us a much different approach to thinking about how do you maximize what you’ve got to make some money, and I think real estate’s, for me, one of the most interesting ways to do that.

AdaPia d’Errico:

So, like you said, there’s strategies, there’s a value-added strategy, which is very similar to what our sponsors do except on much larger buildings as you know. They’re buying a property, not overpaying for it, hopefully paying under market, fixing it up, raising rents, etc., etc., and selling it later for more. So, it is pretty normal for people to start with that single-family home and then move up into buying multi families.

AdaPia d’Errico:

I wanted to ask you, when you invested in your first syndication, what kind of syndication was that in terms of was it a multifamily asset? Was it self-storage? What were some of the criteria that you looked at to help you make that decision?

Bonnie Koo:

So, it was a multifamily. I really didn’t know much about real estate at all back then. And so, I literally asked a friend I trusted, “I need to invest, and I want to invest this much. Tell me who to invest with,” and he gave me a list. I was like, “No, no, I don’t want a list. Just tell me who,” because I just didn’t want to have to… I think a lot of, at least this is my personal experience, I think a barrier to getting started is it’s overwhelming, the options out there. And so, I just was like, “Just tell me who to invest with. Tell me why,” but I just want one choice. I think he actually gave me a few, but I was like, “Okay, just tell me which one I should do.” And I was putting a lot on him because I just was overwhelmed with… There’s just too many offerings out there. And so, that’s how I got introduced.

Bonnie Koo:

And then, it ended up being a multifamily building, and it was actually not too far away from where I physically live. That wasn’t why I did it. That was neat to know that, “Oh, I actually know where that place is,” and I knew a little bit. So, it was neat for me.

Daniel Cocca:

One of the things that we notice whenever we talk to potential new members of our network is that, particularly because people are trying to maybe get into real estate for the first time, it’s always this question of, “Do I want to be a passive investor or do I want to go out and actually buy something on and directly, be responsible for what happens?” And I think with a lot of, what I’ll call, the working professionals, whether they’re doctors, lawyers, business people, what have you, one of people end up on the, “I’ve got a job. That’s my core competency. I spend a lot of time there. I want on desk, but I just don’t have the time to get into it actively.”

Daniel Cocca:

I’d be really interested just to hear your thought process there because similarly, you started out making passive investments with someone you trusted, and then eventually moved into more of an active investor role. I’d be interested to hear about your thought progression there.

Bonnie Koo:

Yes. So definitely, in terms of why I started passively was just, like I said, I was busy, I didn’t know anything about real estate, and passive sounds easier, basically, right? Less time. I still had to put money into it, but it didn’t require much effort or time except for picking it and then setting it up so that the money transferred over type of thing. And then, I did that and then I invested in a second syndication.

Bonnie Koo:

And then, in terms of the act of stuff, that wasn’t really on my radar. It’s funny because even though you start passively, the language is the same if you’re learning about passive real estate, you’re still learning about real estate. And at some point, I realized I actually understood what the words mean. I know it sounds funny, but I think I was just passively reading things. I’m in a lot of real estate Facebook groups. I don’t comment because it’s not my superpower, but I guess I was reading it. It was just osmosis. I literally one day woke up and I was like, “Oh, I know what that word means,” and I didn’t know what that word meant a year ago.

Bonnie Koo:

And then, I have a few friends who are really into active real estate and they’ve literally been bugging me for a long time, not in an annoying way, but I think it was more like, “But this is such a better way, or you just have so much more control and you could make money fast,” just all these tech tax benefits of active real estate. I slowly learned over time the pros of that and the cons too, obviously.

Bonnie Koo:

I think, like I said earlier, I wanted to create another stream of income. It is something that you have more control over which is either scary or inspiring depending on the person, right? And I think if you’re an entrepreneur, active real estate, the skill set’s the same. You have to be creative and willing to take risk and do things.

Bonnie Koo:

And then also, I feel lucky and that I was willing, I had a partner who was interested in real estate, had some personal experience as a homeowner, not so much as owning rental real estate. And he was interested in taking the lead on the active side. So, obviously, we made the purchase together in terms of deciding this was the right place for us, but he’s taking the lead on doing a lot of the legwork because I already have a business that I have to give time to.

Bonnie Koo:

And active real estate is not a… You can do on the side depending on how much control you want, which I think is also another misconception that direct real estate has to be so active. It can be really hands off if you want it to be, so it’s not one of this. There’s so many different ways and that’s why I really like about it is there’s something for everyone. But I can see how that can be overwhelming for a first timer.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yeah, when you start, you don’t know the jargon, you don’t know the words. Even for me, I have a background in financial planning, and it took me a while to understand commercial real estate with all the different acronyms, all the different ways that you can calculate returns, and all the things that go into it. And so, I think it’s really important to also be compassionate with ourselves, right? Because if we’re strong A types, we want to know everything, we want to know right away. We don’t want to be wrong. We want to get it right.

AdaPia d’Errico:

But it’s fair. I think it’s really fair and I think you said it really well. It’s complicated, but it can be as complicated as you want it to be. You can be as hands on or hands off as you want to be. In your case, it’s great that you have a partner to help. I think if people have that with their partner, I think that’s a really great way to be able to expand in ways where you guys are doing it together instead of like, “Oh, I have my career and then I have my career, and we just combined incomes and then that’s it.” So, I really love that it’s the same, I have the same with my husband. I really appreciate that. And so-

Daniel Cocca:

Do you think about it, Bonnie, as a fun project? Or do you think about it more as a financial investment? Obviously, it’s a combination of each, but just curious of your approach.

Bonnie Koo:

You know what? It’s interesting, I think if you just said is it just financial, I’d say, well, we’re investing in real estate for financial reasons, but it also has the added benefit of being a project and like an entrepreneurial project in that regard, right? For example, we just got quotes for the renovation we want to do and just going back and forth and deciding if we’re going to accept the whole pro forma or not, that sort of thing. So, I’m not super involved, but I like to review all the big financial decisions because I think it’s a $60,000 renovation. And so, it’s been more fun than I thought.

Bonnie Koo:

It’s funny because a year ago when my friends were saying, “You really should start looking to direct real estate,” and I was basically putting up a cross like, “I don’t think so. That’s not for me.” And also, and this goes into like me as a coach, I literally believed we didn’t have the money to invest in it. And so, that sounds like a fact, right? If I told you, “We don’t have money to invest in real estate,” most will be like, “Okay, that makes sense.” But that wasn’t true, but I thought it was true, which blows my mind because I’m a coach so I feel like I should have recognized that. But that’s the thing with human brains is no matter how evolved you are or how much coaching you get, your brain still has brain freeze literally about things like that.

AdaPia d’Errico:

It’s-

Daniel Cocca:

Yeah. It’s… Go ahead. Sorry.

AdaPia d’Errico:

No, no. You go ahead, Dan.

Daniel Cocca:

I was going to say it’s really interesting because I’ve always felt the same way and as someone who lived in New York City basically my entire professional life, this idea of even buying a home seems so distant to me like, “Oh, I need to have hundreds of thousands of dollars saved up. And that’s the only way I can do it.” And then, once you actually start getting into the process and you spend some time learning, you realize, “Oh, that’s not actually the case,” right?

Daniel Cocca:

And I think that parallels, at least in my experience, a lot of the way people approach real estate investing. There are obviously a lot of complicated and complex components to any real estate transaction, but you’d be amazed spending a few hours, a week, or a couple months reading through different materials how far along in the process you can get. And I imagine Bonnie, your story’s very similar.

Bonnie Koo:

Yeah. It’s so interesting because I remember a year ago, I’m like, “We don’t have money for that. Maybe next year we will,” and it’s like something flipped. I don’t know exactly the moment, but at some point, I was like, “Okay, we’re ready to do this.” It’s so fun. As soon as you make that decision and commitment that you’re going to do it, you just find a way.

Bonnie Koo:

Because we had a lot of roadblocks even buying this first property in terms of getting a loan. We actually have to pay cash for it, which isn’t ideal, but I wasn’t going to let not getting a loan at this point. I totally could have been like, “Oh, well, we can’t get a loan, so we’re not going to do it.” And I think a year ago, that would have been me, but I think I just kept looking and figuring out where we could get the money from.

AdaPia d’Errico:

I love that. I just wanted to touch on what you were saying here about what you believe, which inherently is so much about what we believe in ourselves and maybe sometimes it comes down to self-worth. And so, I would love to spend a little bit of time talking about coaching and how that’s helped you, and it obviously helped you so much that you became so passionate about it that you became a coach. So, I really want to talk about that because I think there’s a lot of misconceptions. I know I’ve had a lot of misconceptions about coaches and coaching. And so, can you enlighten us a little bit on your journey of working with a coach and how that shaped a decision to become a coach?

Bonnie Koo:

Yeah, absolutely. I love talking about coaching. So, just as a brief background, I am someone who’s always been a self-help junkie. I did all this stuff in my early 20s, so way before medical school. And then, I rediscovered coaching because I literally saw a Facebook post, a woman physician was offering coaching because she needed to basically have clients as part of her training. Makes sense, right? Because you have to see patients to become a doctor, so she was doing her training basically.

Bonnie Koo:

And I knew the value of coaching because of my self-help junkie days in terms of what it cost because I think I was looking into hiring a life coach in my 20s. It was too expensive for someone at that stage, for me. And so, when she said free coaching, I literally was like, “I don’t know this person, but sign me up.” And that was two years ago at this point, I think, is when I signed up with her.

Bonnie Koo:

I guess the reason why I decided to become one was because the more I learned about it… And it’s funny because you would think I would know more, but it’s like working out, right? You work out, you build some muscle, but you have to keep lifting weights to keep that physique, right? And that’s the same thing with self-help and coaching. So, if people… Coaching has different things for people. The type of coaching I am trained in is also called thought work. And so, it’s really just learning how the human brain works.

Bonnie Koo:

Basically, I teach my clients things about themselves. It’s like money. This needs to be taught in school. It’s crazy to me that it’s not. And so, the basis of the coaching I’ve learned is basically that your thoughts, which are beliefs, create your feelings, your feelings create your actions, your actions create your results. And so, literally, what I tell people is you create money with your thoughts, because that’s true.

Bonnie Koo:

And when I say that, people are like, “Well, what do you mean?” I’m like, “Well, anything you see out there. The microphones were using right now to podcast was initially someone’s thought/idea,” right? Thoughts, beliefs, they do all the same thing. So, someone thought of something and now we have a microphone. Someone thought of a TV, and now we all have TVs. And so, that’s the same thing with money, right? We create value with our thoughts.

Bonnie Koo:

So, once I saw that connection, I was like, “Well, I have to be a coach,” because I just saw that as taking things to the next level of my ability to really teach and help people around money. It’s because so many people have all these limiting beliefs about money because we grow up with all this BS about money, that we shouldn’t want money, it’s bad to want money, we don’t want to be that rich, greedy person. Think about it even in movies, all the villains are rich.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Right. They want all the money in the world to destroy everybody.

Bonnie Koo:

Exactly. So, we have to unpack a lot of stuff we’ve absorbed since we were kids. And so, that’s why I love coaching. I coach specifically on money and I also coach on business too. And this applies to any area of life. So, I have a life coach, I have a business coach, and it’s something I’ll always invest in because I just feel like with money, if you want to create a lot of wealth, and it’s not everyone’s goal, obviously, you really have to take your mind to the next level to create that kind of money.

Bonnie Koo:

And so, I feel like I need to be… Not like I feel like, but for me, I’m just curious as to what I can create in the world and as an example to show people that it’s possible to do that. My mentor, Brooke Castillo of The Life Coach School, she talks about money openly and she freaks a lot of people out about money because she’s so open about it, but it’s one of those things that you have to start talking about. It’s interesting, the last time we sat around with friends, who knows what that was at this point, we don’t go around exchanging each other’s networks, right? It’s just not something you talk about. Interestingly, everyone wants more money, I think, whether they say it or not, but I think that’s true. But no one wants to talk about it.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yeah, that’s interesting. It always comes down to what conditioning or essentially programming that we learned from a young age. Like you, I do a lot of personal development work. I’m not a coach but I am a facilitator in PSYCH-K, which is a subconscious reprogramming modality, which is really, really interesting when it comes down to making permanent rewiring changes inside your beliefs, really understanding how to change it. And emotions play such a huge role because they’re magnetic, right? An emotion will magnetize what you’re creating with your thoughts. A thought is electric and emotion is magnetic. So, it just has that electromagnetic kind of… It’s a frequency, but anyways it has that function.

AdaPia d’Errico:

So, I love hearing you talk about that because it’s very much what I understand as well and it’s really hard sometimes to do that for ourselves. And so, having somebody alongside, like you’re saying the analogy of exercising, it’s the same thing with having potentially like a trainer or a coach on the fitness side where you can essentially hold up a mirror to yourself especially when you believe you can’t lift or how far you can run, or you’re saying how much money you can make.

AdaPia d’Errico:

And so, I would love to ask you, just in your experience, what are some of the primary limiting beliefs that people have essentially. I mean, you work mostly with men and women, and I know we have a different set of them, so maybe let’s focus on those. What are some of the key core limiting beliefs that are holding us back?

Bonnie Koo:

Yeah, that’s such a good question. Well, first, I want to say that I love what you said about reprogramming beliefs. That’s basically what I do as a coach. My job is to help people reprogram, like download new software into their brain. And then people don’t realize that they can download new software, and it’s just awesome to see that people do that.

Bonnie Koo:

Anyway, core-limiting beliefs. Oh, I think the big… I think, honestly, the main thing I see is people just don’t think it’s possible for them to have money or for them to have money freedom. It’s not even a number like they want $5 million, but they’re so used to money being hard for them, they can’t see another way even though they want money to not be hard for them. It’s also so comfortable for them.

Bonnie Koo:

And so, that’s another thing with thought work is our brains love to be efficient, so even if you’re replaying a belief that’s clearly not helping your bank account, it doesn’t matter that it’s not helping your bank account. Your brain is like, “Well, we’ve been playing this for decades, we’re just going to keep playing this belief because it’s just easy and we don’t have to spend any energy.” Because to download new software literally requires a lot of energy and effort to reprogram and a lot of people will just… Primitive brain doesn’t want to deal with anything like that, basically.

Bonnie Koo:

And then, also, with money is even though much of this is so much of a core-limiting belief, but what I see a lot is people like the idea of wealth, whatever that means to them because I don’t say like, “Oh, wealth means you’ve attained your net worth.” People are afraid of what other people are going to think of them if they have more money. So, I see that a lot. They’re worried about what people are going to say about them because I think one of the core human desires is to be accepted by the pack, right?

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yeah.

Bonnie Koo:

And if you’re suddenly the rich person, people sometimes don’t like that. And so, I see that a lot of fear of going against the grain. And so, I literally tell people inside my course, “You need to find some people who love money and have money because people who have money and love money, they love… And also, beliefs are contagious, so you have to hang out with people who have the beliefs that you want because it just helps you download that new software.” And so, I say that a lot.

Bonnie Koo:

And then, I think there’s just this thing that people believe like, “Oh…” Actually, I was asking my stepson this over the weekend. I was doing a little teaching. I was like… Oh no, not my stepson, my niece, or was it one of my nephew? One of them because we’re just visiting them recently. I was like, “Where does money come from?” I just asked him. He’s in fourth grade, right? I’m like, “Where does money come from?” and he was like, “Oh, it comes from that machine that prints paper.” I’m like, “No, I don’t mean literal money. Where does money come from?”

Bonnie Koo:

He’s like, “Oh. Well, if you have rich parents,” and I was like, “Well, if that’s the only way to get money, that’s awful because that means I’m never going to be rich.” I was joking with him a little bit. And I was like, “Is that the only way you can have a lot of money?” And we were just having this conversation, but there’s all these misconceptions that you have to be born to the right family.

Bonnie Koo:

It’s like, if you’re not Bill Gates’ daughters and sons, you’re never going to be rich. There’s definitely a lot of that going around. And so, they see themselves as someone who’s never going to become rich. Just like if someone is overweight, they can’t see themselves as a thin person. I think it’s a very similar analogy there. They just can’t see themselves as someone who has a lot of money.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yeah. That one’s… I don’t have kids and I don’t surround myself with them, but I always think how much they speak truth because they have no filters. And there’s so much in there and there’s so much to learn. I do recognize some of those in myself too, like this idea that having more means having too much means I think I’m better than where I came from.

AdaPia d’Errico:

My parents are immigrants, and we were never rich. We were often not really having great Christmases kind of a thing. And so, it’s really this idea that I can get what I need to get and achieve what I want to achieve, but at the same time, what will others think of me if I do achieve a certain thing. I did some work on this on myself, and I realized that a lot of it came down to an observation of jealousy in my parents, specifically my Dad where he would speak badly of people with money. And it’s jealousy that comes out because it’s envy.

AdaPia d’Errico:

And so, I recognized that and it had this cross-effect with me where I internalized that to be, “Well, if I have more than my Dad, will he say those things about me?” and it goes back to what you said about acceptance and love. So, they’re all really great insights, and we just have to do that work on ourselves to have that reflection and see where it is so that we can say, “Wait a minute, that’s silly. I know my Dad loves me. He’s excited when I do well, so I can just put that program in the trash and hit Empty,” you know?

Bonnie Koo:

Yeah, I like that analogy, hit Empty. What is that?

AdaPia d’Errico:

Permanently delete that stuff, that that’s got to go. Dan, did you have anything you wanted to add to that before we wrap up?

Daniel Cocca:

No, I don’t think so, specifically. I mean, listen, I can get into hour-long conversation about inherited wealth if we wanted to, which I think is a really interesting topic and something that given where we are, like America today is going to have an outsized impact on things. We’re talking about this the other day at a higher level, AdaPia. I grew up in a very middle-class family as well, first person to go to college in my family. And I was surrounded by socioeconomic class of people that were very similar to my family.

Daniel Cocca:

And then, as I went to law school and then started working at this big law firm in New York City, all of a sudden, I’m surrounded by this group of relatively wealthy people. The impact of inherited wealth on someone in that position or in my friends and colleagues, it’s really interesting just to think about how quickly you’re able to move your life forward, the risks that you’re able to take, that you can when you have to worry about paying your student loans off or you’re renting instead of owning or trying to save up for a down payment on the home, things like that.

Daniel Cocca:

And so, I read a really interesting quote maybe last night. I’ve been re-reading Liar’s Poker, which is something I read in college when I thought I wanted to be an investment banker. But there’s a really interesting comment around banker bonuses and that no one actually feels wealthy. They just get to varying degrees of feeling poor, relative degrees of poverty as they increase their wealth, move into different social classes, and then ultimately realized, “I’m not as wealthy as the people around me.” And then, that leads you back to that initial thinking of, “Well, I actually don’t have that much.”

Daniel Cocca:

And so, I know I said I didn’t have anything to say on this topic, but I guess I do. Yeah, just an observation, which I think is consistent with what the both of you have been chatting about.

Bonnie Koo:

I could also talk a lot more about inherited wealth. It’s interesting, it’s like which came first, the chicken or the egg? Do they have money, and think money is easy because they have the money? Or are they born into wealth because their families believe money is easy, and they have the wealth, right? So, I always find that interesting because people with money, they think very differently about money than people who’ve struggled with money. So, I find that fascinating.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yeah, there’s so much psychology in this. It’s probably one of the reasons why we struggle the most with money and with building wealth because it’s so foundationally tied into our beliefs about our own value and our own worth. And Dan, when you were speaking, it made me think that anytime we’re comparing ourselves, it’s a zero-sum game. We will never win that comparison game no matter what. So, I’m always really cognizant of that. And it’s easy to spin into that and be able to discern, Bonnie, like what we were saying before, who you surround yourself with and what their beliefs are, and in the context of what we’re talking about here, obviously, what they believe about wealth and their ability to live a good life. And so, to wrap up, I would love to ask you, what do you think about building wealth and what does wealth specifically mean to you?

Bonnie Koo:

Yes, so what is wealth? One of the reasons why I chose the word “Wealthy” in my brand name is because obviously it is a money word, but I also feel like it represents much more. I think when I was looking at definitions of wealth, obviously the first is always about a money thing, but then I think it also just means, to me at least, wealthy in other all areas of your life. So, being wealthy or rich in your relationships and love, your money, having that ideal life. So, that’s, to me, what wealthy means. Money is clearly a component of it, but it’s not everything, right? Because you can be rich and unhappy, and you can be rich and happy. I want to be rich and happy.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Right. Yeah. And so, as you’re taking this approach and really working with your own psyche and your emotions and people and business, what are your thoughts on what constitutes a healthy financial foundation?

Bonnie Koo:

Do you mean like how much money they should have or just the foundation to get going?

AdaPia d’Errico:

It could be both, but let’s talk about how you’ve set that foundation to have that healthy financial foundation. Because really, from that perspective, it’s like, where do we start and what should we focus on to begin with?

Bonnie Koo:

Yeah. So, this is a good question because it ties into how my business started and where it is now, because when I first started learning about money, I was truly only focused on the “how to” aspect like, “How do I invest? What’s a 401(k)? How do I invest in that? What’s a stock? How do I do that? How do I buy them?” So, I was really focused on the actions I had to take to create wealth like reading books, that kind of stuff.

Bonnie Koo:

But then as I hired a coach and worked with one, I realized that’s important, but what’s more important is what I think, what I believe and feel, which then will spin off to whatever actions I take. Because you can be super rich in the eyes of most people, like let’s say you have $10 million in the bank, but you can feel poor and you can be scared of losing that money. And that’s just not a good way to live.

Bonnie Koo:

And so, I guess, to me, a solid financial foundation, I think most people focus on, “Oh, read a book on how to do X, Y, Z.” That is important, but what’s more important is not focusing on the “how” because people always want to know, “Well, how do you do this? How do you go from A which means like, 0 to Z wealth?” The “how” is never as important as the mindset. And so, I think it just all starts with really getting introspective and learning how your brain works.

Bonnie Koo:

I am a huge believer in coaching. I still pay and invest a lot of money myself in coaching. It doesn’t have to be expensive. I feel like coaching and self-development is like the gym. You can pay for one-on-one trainer, which is always going to be the most expensive version, but there’s plenty of free versions out there or lower costs like group fitness or this Orangetheory version, right? And so, I think you have to get that straight before you can really attempt, because if you have a scarcity mindset and you’re doing all the things, you’re never going to feel good about money. You’ll be a multi-millionaire and be scared of losing all your money, that sort of thing.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yeah. I love that. That’s a great way to start, right? Start within before building on the outside, which is very much what we’re doing with any kind of wealth-building and money. It’s external, but I love how you really are talking about building an internal foundation first. And then that’s actually, to me, I see that as what goes on the outside and starts building the external foundation of wealth.

Bonnie Koo:

I’ll just give you a quick example is because I would say, I think people assume, I don’t know for sure, but I think people assume that I must have a lot of money because I don’t have a traditional job and we were in Hawaii, and that looks like on the outside, that we have all these nice things. But we do have nice things, don’t get me wrong. But we are definitely making less money than when I was working full time as a dermatologist.

Bonnie Koo:

What I’ve noticed is the only thing that’s really changed, obviously the numbers are up and down, but what’s truly changed is how I literally decided I don’t need to stay in this full-time job to have the life I want. I almost feel like, “Well, I can’t cut down to part time or I can’t travel and take three months off to travel like we’ve done until I have a certain amount of money.” That’s literally just a belief. And I just one day, I just realized that wasn’t true.

Bonnie Koo:

And so, I think literally… I’m not sure I’m explaining it very well. But I just decided I don’t need a certain number in the bank account to start traveling for months at a time or creating an online business or, etc. because truthfully, with this pandemic going on right now, I don’t have a steady physician job, business is not, I would say it’s unstable, and I don’t have a paycheck coming in every month that I can look forward to.

Bonnie Koo:

And so, in some ways, I feel like financially we’re actually less stable now, but it doesn’t feel that way internally. I’m not worried about my ability to pay rent or anything like that, even though technically, I don’t know when the next paycheck is coming, which is strange if you think about it, right? Because if I told you or a random person said, “Yeah, I don’t really have a job right now and I don’t know when the next paycheck is coming,” you would think that person will be really stressed out but I’m not. So, I find that interesting.

AdaPia d’Errico:

That’s amazing. That’s just a testament to everything that you’ve been talking about from your beliefs to making decisions and overcoming false fears, and very much that concept of really what you’ve described perfectly is live for today. Instead of this living in this perpetual state of, “When I have this, then that,” you’re totally taking that off the table and saying, “I have this, therefore, this,” instead of, “When I have this and I can do that, and then I’ll feel this, that, and the other thing.”

AdaPia d’Errico:

So, I think it really speaks to living for today, having an inherent internal sense of wealth that probably brings you so much more joy than when you did have a steady job and believe that that was the only thing you needed to feel safe. So, I think it’s a huge testament to an example of what you do and you’re living it.

Bonnie Koo:

Thank you.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yeah. Well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and having this conversation. It’s really fun to talk about all these things. We did an episode a few episodes ago with Ryan, who’s a financial advisor, and we talked a little bit about mindset and about the ego. And so, we love having these conversations because they’re really important to help people get themselves straight before they go out and try to do something that could go well, but it’s really… What am I trying to say? I’m just trying to say that I really appreciate the approach of going inside and then building outside. And it’s been such a pleasure to have you on the podcast and sharing all this wisdom and your experience with us today.

Bonnie Koo:

Well, thanks so much for having me.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Thanks for tuning in to Real Wealth Real Health. We hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s episode and found it both informative and insightful. We welcome all your questions and your feedback about today’s episode, and especially we welcome your questions about specific topics that you would like us to cover. So, shoot us an email at [email protected]

AdaPia d’Errico:

And if you have a moment, we really appreciate ratings and reviews as it helps us grow our online community and our interactions with you. We’ll also be linking to a number of relevant articles on topics that we might have touched on during our conversations. Some of them are broad, some of them are technical, but we’re always aiming to provide information that helps you better understand the mechanics of building this healthy financial foundation, especially if you’re looking to do this with real estate.