Profile: Noel Whittaker

noelThis finance guru knows a thing or two about achieving goals and helping others.

Last year, a stranger stopped Noel Whittaker in the street to tell him how the finance expert’s first book, Making Money Made Simple, had helped him stave off bankruptcy and eventually buy his mother a house.

“So many people tell me it’s changed their life,” says Whittaker, 71, who was awarded an Order of Australia in today’s honours list for services to the community in raising awareness of the benefits of superannuation, household budgeting and estate planning.

His passion to help ordinary people prosper by educating them about their finances was ignited by two seminal events. The first was reading Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich. Whittaker was 33 and had worked for 15 years in various financial services jobs in Brisbane, including in a bank, as a property conveyancer and at a listed property company. He had also completed an accounting degree.

The book inspired him to set two goals: establish his own business within 100 days and spend the rest of his career teaching others the “think and grow rich” principles.

He realised the first goal within 160 days by setting up a property-development partnership to build spec homes. It was 1974 during a severe recession but Whittaker says that taught him to “get in there and work, no matter what”. His second goal took a little longer but he set up a finance house with Cheryl Macnaught in 1983. Whittaker describes it as “an old-style mortgage broker” but it soon developed into a financial advisory business as the Hawke/Keating superannuation reforms spawned the beginning of tax-effective rollover funds.

Whittaker began writing a weekly real estate column for the The Courier-Mail and did a program on ABC Radio. When one of his talkback callers asked him to recommend a simple book on personal finances, Whittaker was staggered to find that none existed.

“I remember thinking, ‘Oh Christ, I’ve got to write one’,” he says. But it wasn’t until 1985 – and his second seminal event – that he put pen to paper.

That turning point was a self-help course at which participants were asked to visualise what would be said about them at their funeral. Whittaker recalled his earlier goal to help people prosper and pledged to write the book.

On Christmas Eve 1985, he wrote the 36 chapter headings for Making Money Made Simple, then met his pledge to finish it. Initially, no publisher wanted it but Whittaker found one who said they would distribute it if Whittaker paid the publishing costs.

“It became The Da Vinci Code of 1987,” he says, noting that more than 2 million copies have been sold in Australia and overseas.
Since then, he’s written another 17 books and is now a full-time author and media commentator after selling Whittaker Macnaught in 2007. (He remains an executive director and is closely involved.)

As for his own financial strategies, Whittaker describes himself as a great saver who has worked hard all his life to fund a comfortable retirement. “But since I sold the business, I’ve worked even harder – which proves it hasn’t been about the money,” he says.

It hasn’t been about his children’s inheritance, either. “I don’t care if I leave money to the kids or not. It’s more important to teach them how to make money themselves.”

THE BIG QUESTIONS

  • Biggest break
    When I decided to educate people about finances after a course I did in October 1985. I discovered my passion.
  • Biggest achievement
    The first book [Making Money Made Simple, published in 1987]. It hadn’t been done before.
  • Biggest regret
    I didn’t appreciate my kids enough when they were small. They were born in 1981, ’83 and ’85 and in 1987, I was on the circuit promoting my first book. I didn’t really appreciate the job my wife was doing.
  • Best investment
    Starting my own business [Whittaker Macnaught, a Queensland financial planning company]. It cost a few hundred dollars to set up and we sold it for a few million.
  • Worst investment
    I got mixed up with an ex-bankrupt in a suburban shopping development. It was 1986, the interest rate was 22 per cent and we owed $1 million. It was costing us $5000 a week and we couldn’t lease a shop or sell the joint. I lost half our assets on that.
  • Attitude to money
    It’s a great tool, I like what it can bring. Margaret Thatcher said good Samaritans need more than good intentions, they need money. Every year, I give $10,000 to the Hear and Say Foundation to help a child hear. It’s much more fun than buying a flash car.
  • Personal philosophy
    I believe strongly that what goes around comes around. All my life I’ve watched karma in action. I reckon honesty is a very good policy.

From The Sydney Morning Herald : https://www.smh.com.au/money/planning/profile-noel-whittaker-20110125-1a3e5.html

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