Book Review: The Breakfast Club for 40-Somethings by Vanessa Stoykov

Once you reach your forties, it’s safe to say you’re no longer the high-school prom king, nerd, or cheerleader you once were. Depending on your path in life, you may have taken on new roles, such as worker, breadwinner, spouse, parent, or all of the above.

You still have one thing in common with all forty-somethings of your generation, though: money.

In middle age, most people hope they will be financially secure and free. In the second half of their lives, however, many still face stumbling blocks.

This is where the book’s insights come in. Money expert and storyteller Vanessa Stoykov shares her years of personal finance experience through the lives and fortunes of six distinct characters in a narrative. 

They show you how to build a secure foundation for your family’s future by revealing the damaging attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions about money that hold you back.

You may be wondering if you should read the book. This book review will tell you what important lessons you can learn from this book so you can decide if it is worth your time.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Lesson 1: Giving in to every desire leads to a lot of debt you don’t need

You want financial security, but what’s stopping you? Having taught people about money for two decades, Vanessa Stoykov believes she knows the answer. She believes there are five things standing in your way, not just one.

If you want long-term success and fulfillment, you must let go of these five damaging attitudes. This book offers you insights into the lives of characters who embody these bad attitudes, and you’ll learn just how they overcame – or didn’t – them.

The first attitude you need to unlearn is desire.

Nowadays, we live in a consumerist society where the things we want can easily be confused with those we need. You may find yourself spending a lot of money on designer clothes, fast cars, and expensive restaurants if you’re surrounded by images of celebrity lifestyles in the media.

Indulging your desires is a part of what makes life fun. Sadly, doing so can also saddle you with debt, which can make you anxious.

As an entrepreneur and businesswoman, Josephine understands the stress that desire can put on a person’s finances. Her communications business provided her with an annual income of around a million dollars a year, but she did not have financial security. 

Every month, she received thousands of dollars, only to see them disappear just as quickly. It was all because of her lavish lifestyle. She lavishly spent her enormous salary on everything from mortgages on a string of luxury properties to luxury hotel suites to personal make-up artists.

In addition to the financial toll, Josephine’s desire for a lavish lifestyle cost her a great deal of stress as well.

Josephine seemed to have a perfect life from the outside. Nevertheless, she worked extremely hard each month to keep the money flowing. 

Because she so heavily leveraged her real estate investments with debt, Josephine knew if she didn’t keep her foot on the gas she would immediately run into difficulties. 

In her twenties and thirties, Josephine had thrived on the work-hard-play-hard lifestyle. 

Now, in her forties, she is finding that her energy levels have decreased. Due to her many desires and the debts that accompany them, she is unable to slow down.

There is no doubt that Josephine needs to reassess her way of life and her priorities. The next insight will reveal that she isn’t the only one.

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Lesson 2: Focusing on the wrong things will lead you to failure

What are your deepest desires in life? Are they for tomorrow, or even for five or ten years from now? 

You are not alone if you are a little unsure. Many of us fail to clearly envision what our ideal future will look like. It is difficult to focus our efforts on long-term goals without a grand vision. 

Rather, we live day to day, hoping that our next vacation or job will provide fulfillment, but rarely finding anything beyond fleeting moments of joy.

Here’s another attitude that’s holding you back from a bright future: your focus.

Jasper is a forty-something man who’s struggling with focus since he left high school.

In his formative years, Jasper had no trouble focusing on what he wanted. In his high school days, he was a star athlete, and he had no problem imagining a future career in professional sports.

Jasper’s athletic career failed to take off due to a combination of bad luck and injury. He has since drifted through life. No other long-term goal replaced his vision of becoming an athlete. As a result, he lacks focus at the age of forty. 

His life consists of bouncing from one dead-end job to another, spending weekends drinking too much and living for the weekend. He lives with his mother because he can’t afford to rent an apartment on his own.

Jasper is a decent person at heart. Because he doesn’t know what he wants from life, he’s ended up with few possessions and very little money saved for retirement.

It is important to note, however, that not everyone who struggles with focus lack it. It is also possible for a person to have too narrow a focus.

Jayne, a lawyer with twin daughters aged eight, is a single mother. Even though Jayne has the potential to earn a very good income, she only works part-time. Why is that? Her family has always come first in her life. She believed that getting married and having children was all she needed to be happy.

Jayne had to raise two children on her own when her husband became abusive and their marriage ended. However, her current job barely allows her to cover her family’s expenses, let alone provide a retirement plan. 

Jayne is starting to recognize that concentrating so much on her family isn’t bringing her the happiness or peace of mind that she expected.

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Lesson 3: While money is a limited resource for most, all of us have a finite amount of time

Whether you’re good with money or worse, you’re probably savvy enough to know that it can’t just grow on trees. We all know – at least theoretically – that money is a finite resource. Many of us, however, fail to grasp the fact that time is finite as well. When it comes to our relationships with our loved ones or our retirement, we act as if we have all the time we need.

However, time is something we cannot afford to waste.

Due to competing demands on their time and finances from teenagers to aging parents, many forty-somethings delay making financial plans for their future. As they believe they have time to secure their financial future, they continue to concentrate on the urgent demands of the present.

Exactly that is what Karen and Russ did. Karen was a stay-at-home mom while Russ worked long hours to provide a comfortable lifestyle for his family. 

Even though the couple enjoyed overseas vacations and had a beautiful house, they had not put in place measures to ensure their lifestyle was sustainable. For example, they had a lot of debt, but neither of them had any life insurance.

Russ’s family could lose their home if something were to happen to him or if he were suddenly unable to work.

In addition, Karen has been out of the workforce for so long that her retirement income will be tiny. 

When they crunched the numbers, they realized that, even if they downsized and sold their house in the future, they would not have enough money to live comfortably in retirement.

People with financial troubles aren’t the only ones harmed by an unhealthy attitude towards time. It can also negatively affect those who are financially secure.

The self-made billionaire Brad owned a global technology company. Brad’s life was far from perfect, despite his enormous wealth. Because he had been so focused on his career, he had never taken the time to find the right person for marriage and starting a family.

As well, his relationship with his parents was distant and he communicated with them only through his assistant. 

Brad’s life lacked the love of relationships, and no matter what money he had, he couldn’t be able to make up for the lost time he spent away from those he loved.

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Lesson 4: The beliefs you developed about money as a child could hinder your adult success

When you think of money, what do you think of it? Maybe it should be spent and enjoyed, or maybe it should be saved for a rainy day?

In childhood, we form many of our attitudes towards money. Our parents impart these to us. As we grow up, we seldom question them. The attitude we’ve clung to for so long isn’t helpful or correct.

You may need to look at your core beliefs about money if you’re serious about building a better future financially.

Do you remember Jasper, the former athlete? His problem isn’t just a lack of focus. He also inherited his father’s damaging beliefs about money, who worked eighteen-hour days for little pay for most of his life. 

Jasper’s father drilled into him from an early age the harsh reality of working for a living and how difficult it was to earn money. 

Jasper, as an adult, felt it was best to eschew ambition and try to work as little as possible in order to protect himself from the hardships that had faced with his father.

It resulted in bouncing from job to job because of this unwillingness to work hard. He was unable to advance in his career because of this. Even though Jasper avoided his father’s struggles, his damaging beliefs have left him with plenty of his own.

While Karen’s belief about money is less well-hidden than Jasper’s, she has also developed a damaging attitude toward it: she has always felt incapable of making any. 

Karen believes she is meant to be a wife and mother, with her husband being the family provider. Her parents instilled this belief in her, as they never really expected anything more from her. 

Thus, it isn’t surprising to find out she is now completely reliant on her husband financially.

What about lonely Brad, from the previous insight? A harmful belief about money passed down by his parents also contributed to his loneliness. Brad was drilled into valuing money and success above all else from a young age. 

Growing up, his parents gave him the impression that their love depended on his success. Now that he is an adult, Brad thinks human relationships are not nearly as important as his career. 

Sadly, this means he has no one to share his high-pressure lifestyle with – and is becoming increasingly lonely.

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Lesson 5: Take action to change your financial future

It might seem like your finances are destined to cause you only stress and despair at this point in your journey. Fortunately, that’s not the case. If you take action, you can turn your finances around. You’ll see the difference in your future as soon as you change.

It isn’t necessary to go it alone, either. Understanding your options and making the necessary changes can be facilitated by consulting a trusted advisor.

As a financial advisor, what advice would Ben give to our group of forty-somethings, all of whom faced unique financial challenges?

Ben first advised Josephine to confront her extravagant tendencies, which had loaded her up with debt throughout her life. He advised Josephine to sell most of her luxury properties so that she could buy her remaining houses outright. This reduced both her stress and expenses significantly.

Then Ben advised Karen not to allow damaging beliefs about herself to hold her back. Karen started her own business, which built her confidence and also contributed to her and her husband’s retirement savings. Her financial future is secure and fulfilling now.

When it came to our former high school student Jock Jasper, Ben advised him to focus on bigger goals, such as establishing a career for himself. Jasper received some financial assistance from his mother so that he could return to college and study physical education.

Unfortunately, Jasper’s beliefs were just too deeply ingrained to overcome. After a year of college, he dropped out and lost most of the money his mother gave him. His financial situation is still precarious.

Finally, Ben correctly pointed out that Karen’s husband Russ and billionaire Brad needed to unlearn their attitudes toward time. Russ took out life insurance in order to protect his family’s financial future in the event of his death.

In contrast, Brad needed to spend more time with his terminally ill mother. As he rearranged his busy schedule during the last months of her life, he took the opportunity to restart his relationship with her.

This group of forty-somethings proved that you can still change your relationship with money for the better even when you’re in your forties.

About The Author

Vanessa Stoykov is the founder and CEO of Evolution media group, a production company. 

She is also the creator of the Australian TV show Learn from the Money Masters-The Investment Series, which has been featured in News.com.au, the Daily Telegraph, and Money Magazine.

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