Carl Richards New York Times Columnist The Sketch Guy Episode #29

Aaron McHugh


Carl Richards is a certified financial planner and a New York Times Columnist best known as The Sketch Guy. Carl writes financial books, speaks all across the globe and is widely known for his sketches. Carl’s differentiator is his black sharpie marker used to decode the seemingly impossible world of financial advice. He evangelizes his belief that financial advice should be simple enough to fit on one page (or a napkin). He contends that our behavior is the root cause sabotaging our financial plans and consequently our life’s dreams.

 What does financial advice have to do
with Work Life Play? 

In order to live the life we want to live, we have to have a clear plan on how to manage our finances. Carl’s writings are bold and challenge me to get real about my life’s priorities and my behavior. This podcast will help clearly outline stories on how you can apply Carl’s wisdom.

Our Values and Happiness Courtesy Carl Richards' Sharpie Marker
Our Values and Happiness Courtesy Carl Richards’ Sharpie Marker

Click to Listen Carl Richards The Sketch Guy

Podcast Highlights:

  • Carl’s very personal story of loosing his home and facing financial ruin
  • Learn how small financial misalignments with couples can become roots for divorce later
  • Hear how Carl and I met over a financial transaction on the border of Colorado and Utah
  • Learn how Carl started taking complex money ideas and translating those concepts using a sharpie marker on a napkin
  • Carl tells the story about how the New York Times called him out of the blue to write his column
  • Carl and I share stories about being raised by single-mothers and how that shaped our financial beliefs
Carl Richard's One Page Financial Plan
Carl Richard’s One Page Financial Plan

The story on how I met Carl Richards

Now that you know who he is, let me tell you a story about how I met Carl Richards. I did not expect to meet someone like him (famous writer) in a dusty gravel parking lot in the high desert plains of Grand Junction, CO. Carl was selling his adventure BMW motorcycle to a friend of mine and we were there to do buy his motorcycle. I later learned that by selling his motorcycle, Carl was living out what he preaches.

My Sketch Guy thank you card after meeting Carl
My Thank You card after meeting The Sketch Guy:Carl Richards

Carl’s Predicament

Carl drove seven hours from Park City, Utah to sell his favorite motorcycle (like Ewan McGregor’s bike from the Netflix series The Long Way Round). Quickly, Carl told Jon and I the reason he was willing to part with BMW comrade. Carl got honest with himself and named that this motorcycle was not consistent with his beliefs and desires.

Carl's belief "I want to spend time with my son."

Carl’s honest assessment

  • The BMW is too big a bike for my teenage son to ride. (Reality)
  • I don’t want to ride by myself. I want to share adventures with my son. (Belief)
  • Using this motorcycle as a commuter bike is not enough reason to keep it. (Belief)
  • I’m selling this motorcycle because it is not providing me adventures with my son. (Behavior)

Once Carl concluded that the BMW motorcycle was a misfit for teenage adventures, he packed it on a trailer and sold it. I hope you appreciate the weight and yet simplicity of this continuity between our wallets, our beliefs, and our behaviors.

Carl’s Wisdom was earned

In his financial books, The One-Page Financial Plan and The Behavior Gap, he demystifies the ivory-tower-credentialed advice we normally receive about our money. The part you would not expect is that Carl tells his personal story about How a Financial Pro Lost His House (Read the full New York Times article from 2011).

Carl says it is simple. Start with what we believe about our life.  Write down our priorities on one page. Determine how we want to spend our time and then align our finances to reflect those beliefs. The problem is that most of us are not willing to make the hard decisions required to remove the incongruent daily behaviors.

One of Carl Richards' Brilliant Sketches
One of Carl Richards’ Brilliant Sketches

About Carl Richards

Carl Richards is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and the director of investor education for the BAM ALLIANCE, a community of over 130 independent wealth management firms throughout the United States.

He is the creator of the weekly Sketch Guy column in the  The New York Timesand is a columnist for Morningstar Advisor. Carl has also been featured on Marketplace MoneyThe Leonard Lopate Show, and Forbes.comIn addition, Carl has become a frequent keynote speaker at financial planning conferences and visual learning events around the world.

Through his simple sketches, Carl makes complex financial concepts easy to understand. His sketches also serve as the foundation for his first book, The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money (Portfolio/Penguin). Carl’s art appeared in a solo show at the Kimball Art Center, in Park City, Utah. Other showings include The Parson’s Gallery in New York, The Shultz Museum, and an upcoming exhibit at the Mansion House in London. His commissioned work is on display in businesses and educational institutions across the country. He lives with his family in Park City, Utah.

Carl Richards at Work Life Play

Carl Richards on his dirtbike
Carl Richards on his dirtbike

Carl’s First Book: The Behavior Gap

the-behavior-gap Carl Richards

Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money

As a financial planner, Carl Richards grew frustrated watching people he cared about make the same mistakes over and over with their money. They were letting emotion get in the way of making smart financial decisions. He named this phenomenon—the distance between what we should do and what we actually do— “the behavior gap.” Using simple drawings to explain the gap, he found that once people understood it, they started doing much better.Richards’ work now attracts thousands at and at the Bucks Blog at The New York Times. Now in his first book he’ll help you to:

  • avoid the tendency to buy high and sell low;
  • avoid the pitfalls of generic financial advice;
  • invest all of your assets—time and energy as well as savings—more wisely;
  • quit spending money and time on things that don’t matter;
  • identify your real financial goals;
  • start meaningful conversations about money;
  • simplify your financial life;
  • stop losing money!

Resources for Carl Richards Podcast:

NPR Podcast: A Financial Adviser Bets the House on Planet Money

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