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Danny Kofke: “Just keep swimming”

One thing I have done is try to stay away from the news. I usually look at the headlines in the morning but then stop after that since it seems as if all we are hearing is bad news. In addition, my wife and I have continued to work out together. We did go to […]

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One thing I have done is try to stay away from the news. I usually look at the headlines in the morning but then stop after that since it seems as if all we are hearing is bad news. In addition, my wife and I have continued to work out together. We did go to a gym together for three years before the Pandemic. Since March, we have continued to work out together in our basement most mornings. This has started our days off on the right foot.


The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Danny Kofke.

Danny Kofke is a personal finance author and former special education teacher in Georgia. His love of teaching and personal finance has led him to write five books. Danny recently left the classroom to become a motivational mentor for a financial wellness company.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I learned the importance of what a “wealthy” life was from my parents. Even though I grew up I a small 2-bedroom, 1 bathroom house (I lived with my mom, dad and brother) and did not have as many materialistic things as my friends did, I always felt like we were wealthy. My mom stayed home and raised me and my brother until I was in 6th grade. We valued experiences and time spent together over stuff.

I knew I wanted to be a teacher in 9th grade. I had an amazing Civics teacher, Mr. Stuztke, and he influenced me to be a teacher as well.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Just keep swimming.” This is from the movie Finding Nemo and it encourages me to just keep moving and try to make progress on my goals every day. Not all days are rainbows and butterflies. There are many things I cannot control but the amount of effort I give is one thing that I can.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The Pursuit of Happyness had a great impact on and inspired me. Will Smith’s character embodied the phrase listed above and just kept swimming. In addition to being a teacher, I am also a personal finance author. I wrote my first book in 2005 and had a goal of being able to help others manage their money full-time. Well, 15 years later (more on that to follow) that dream finally became reality! I am very fortunate that I have had the opportunity to appear on national television numerous times, be interviewed on over 600 radio shows and featured in a number of national publications. However, the journey was not always easy. There were nights I would be up until 11:00 talking to a radio show host with maybe 3 people listening (knowing I had to get up early the next day to teach). In addition, I wrote all of my books while I was a teacher. I would get up before my family (I am married to Tracy and we have two daughters — Ava, 16, and Ella, 13) so I could write before heading off to school. There were many days my alarm clock went off at 4 so I could write for a couple of hours before my other responsibilities began. The Pursuit of Happyness came out the year before my first book was published and was an inspiration for me to keep pursuing my goal of helping others do better with their finances.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

For most of my adult life, I have been a teacher. I have taught pre-k, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, sixth grade and special education. Before the pandemic began, I was teaching a self-contained Profound Intellectual Disabilities class for kindergarten — 5th graders. Most of my students had IQs under 20, wore diapers, some were tube fed, most were in wheelchairs and none of them talked. It was very rewarding to have had the opportunity to be their teacher and be a part of their lives.

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

Before the Pandemic, many were struggling with their finances — the Pandemic only made this struggle harder. As a result, a financial wellness company — Mentoro — hired me to be a motivational mentor. I now help others with their finances by giving presentations and providing content. I give them hope and show if this former special education teacher can do well with money, they can too.

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

There was not one specific aha moment. It was a culmination of many years of continuing to “just keep swimming” and waiting for the opportunity to arise.

How are things going with this new initiative?

They are going really well. I was doing some part-time work with Mentoro before the Pandemic (I started doing this in January 2020) and gave two in-person presentations before COVID put a halt to that. One of the goals of my presentations is to get the audience to be inspired to want to learn more about their financial journey. One way they do this is by filling out information and engaging with the on-line portal they are provided with. However, they first need to log in and create a user profile. The participation rate varies, but for many financial wellness programs, it is below 10%. After giving these two presentations, almost 40% of the audience created a profile!

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Yes. I have a friend named Dale Alexander. He is the President of an employee benefits firm. I first met Dale when he presented at a new teacher orientation event in 2006 (I had just moved to Georgia and even though I was not a “new” teacher, I was new to the county and had to attend). He gave an awesome financial presentation and I remember thinking, “I want to do that one day.” I introduced myself to Dale and we kept in touch and even did a little work together. Well, it was partly because of him that I even got an opportunity to meet the leaders of Mentoro. In fact, my first presentation for them was for a school district and Dale was the one who introduced me!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

During one of my presentations someone in the audience fainted! I had to stop presenting and an ambulance was called. She was okay but this was definitely something I did not expect.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I don’t lead an organization so not sure this applies.

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

One thing I have done is try to stay away from the news. I usually look at the headlines in the morning but then stop after that since it seems as if all we are hearing is bad news. In addition, my wife and I have continued to work out together. We did go to a gym together for three years before the Pandemic. Since March, we have continued to work out together in our basement most mornings. This has started our days off on the right foot.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

To help equip as many as possible to gain better control of their finances. A majority of Americans do not like their jobs. Is it any wonder why so many are angry? If we spend the majority of our time at a place we don’t like, we will probably not be very happy. Many remain stuck in a job because they have to financially. If most felt content and had a sense of purpose at work, the world would be a better place. My mission is to help with this!

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Joe Biden. As the next President, he has a great opportunity to change this country. I would love to discuss how Americans can start doing better with their money which would be a great way to really make America great again.

How can our readers follow you online?

http://wealthyteacher.weebly.com
https://www.facebook.com/SimpleFinancialWisdom

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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