Bo Sanchez is one of our country’s most famous lay Catholic evangelists today. Known as the preacher in blue jeans, he has received the prestigious TOYM award (Ten Most Outstanding Young Men), the Serviam Award (the highest award given by the Catholic Mass Media, the Golden Gavel Award (the highest recognition given by Toastmasters to non-members who excel in public speaking) and many more. If he’s not busy receiving these awards, he writes his numerous best selling easy to read books, blogs, publishes magazines, hosts and produces TV shows and podcasts, operates numerous organizations, both non-profit organizations and for-profit businesses, and many more.
I had the chance to interview his late mother, Pilar Sanchez, when I wrote my first book, as Bo was one of the successful Pinoy men featured in the book. (See chapter 10 of Raising Pinoy Boys). Born Eugenio Isabelo Tomas R. Sanchez, Jr., he’s the only son and youngest among the six children. Her mother’s stories which are detailed in the book are about his growing up years, his spiritual journey which started very early at age 12, his school days, accomplishments and even girlfriends.
Last Monday I had a most interesting conversation with him, together with his lovely wife and homeschool mother of their sons, Marowe, in their beautiful home in the south. This time our conversation revolved mostly around his awakening into the importance of financial literacy and family life.
Childhood Money Memory
Bo shared his childhood money memory:
“My parents were the traditional Filipino parents who didn’t talk about money around the dinner table. You know how it was in most families, the two things parents didn’t discuss with their children were money and sex. But the blessing that I got from my parents even if they didn’t really teach me about money was their simple lifestyle. My father was already a manager in a large corporation but when I looked at our house, there was nothing much. I looked at my classmates and they would be brought to school in their nice cars. While some of their cars may have a little bit of rust, our car was rust with a little bit of car! But my parents’ example of simple living taught me that it was okay not to live up to match the standards of other people.”
Bo shared his financial awakening which he considers to be late, “You didn’t write The Retelling of The Richest Man in Babylon when I was a kid! Had I read this book, I would have been a lot richer now!”
He was a preacher at the tender age of 13, when most boys are interested in all sorts of things other than teaching the word of God. He continued his narration:
“I was living with the poor and loving it. I had this belief that to love the poor, I needed to be poor. I was following the example of St. Francis of Assisi. Then in my late 20s I started having internal conflicts. People would always come to me asking for help for all sorts of problems. And you know what? 50% of the problems would be about money: How do I pay for my children’s tuition? and all I could say was, ‘Let’s pray!’ because I didn’t know how to teach them, I didn’t know anything about money.”
It was not a quick awakening for Bo but things became clearer when he decided to get married at the age of 32. He shared:
“I realized that cannot continue to be poor, kawawa naman ang magiging anak ko. I had to question my basic philosophies that God wanted me to be poor, that to be a good person, I had to be poor. All that had to go back to the altar and I asked Him, ‘God, what’s your mind about wealth?’ And that was my awakening. As much as I loved the model of St. Francis, I realized that I couldn’t afford to be poor, because unlike St. Francis, I’m not celibate. I was enlightened that God’s call to me was not poverty but generosity and simplicity. And I had to go back to the lesson I learned from my parents, that is simplicity.”
Bo’s journey to financial freedom did not happen overnight. It was a gradual process, “At first the only that I learned was to save. Then I learned about mutual fund, then later on direct stock investments. I also went into small businesses and even real estate. The thing is, if for example there are 10 steps to financial freedom and I’m only in Step 1, I don’t have to feel, ‘Oh no! I still have so many steps to go.’ What I do is I look for people who are still in Step zero and teach them and ask them to join me in Step 1!”
I shared with Bo the story of my youngest son Anton when he complained to me while he was still in his early grades, “Ma, why is it that most stories depict the rich as evil and the poor as good? But I want to be very good and very rich!” I told him that I gave him his book entitled 8 Secrets of the Truly Rich and at a tender age of 10 Anton was happy to find a book that reconciled his two wishes – to be very good and very rich.
He was delighted to hear that and said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all kids would read books like that and your book right now and start investing at a very early age?”
Passing on FQ lessons to his children
Bo and Marowe homeschool their two sons, Bene and Francis. In fact, Bene, who’s now 14, is in a stage which Bo calls “unschooling.” He briefly discussed it with me as their “high school” teaching method that does not have the standard high school subjects but learning is done through natural experiences such as work, home responsibilities, travel, social interaction, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful and useful it is to the child. So it is Bo who is responsible for Bene’s education now while Francis, the younger one is still under the tutelage of Marowe.
They openly discuss money, investments and their businesses with their children. They tell their kids to invest their cash gifts, encourage them to get into businesses. Bene, who is now earning from his businesses, tithes 10%, invests 50% and spends the remaining 40%.
Getting the praise and the flak
There are a lot of people who have been blessed by Bo’s financial literacy teachings done through his many books, shows, articles, talks, workshops, blogs, feasts and his many other activities. His famous best seller My Maid Invests in the Stock Market was a hit and has inspired and empowered workers with the least earnings and reminded those who are earning more that hey, there’s no excuse for not being able to save and invest. I was happy to meet these three lucky soon-to-be-millionaire domestic helpers when they served us buco juice and cake for snacks.
He shared with me that hearing how his teachings improve other people’s lives energizes him to continue with his advocacy. Just the previous day, someone approached him after the Feast (his group’s Sunday gathering that starts with a mass) to thank him and tell him how his teachings have made him grow his small distribution business to one that distributes to a hundred stores now. What more, he already owns 10 rental properties because he heeded Bo’s advice to have multiple passive income sources.
But not everyone is happy with what Bo does. He gets the flak from people who don’t like the idea that someone who preaches about loving God should also teach about becoming rich, “I receive the flak via nasty blog posts, letters, usually coming from very religious people who cannot reconcile how I could share spiritual message and at the same time teach about money. Some say, ‘You should serve God alone, You’re teaching people how to go to hell, You’re an instrument of the devil!’ I used to be affected by all these because I was sincere in trying to help people but after a while, I realized that maybe I’m doing something right and good and that’s why it’s shaking up other people. Something big and drastic is bound to stir them up.”
Beauty Contest Question: If you were to solve the poverty problem in the country what would be your top three priorities?
Here are Bo’s answers:
- First is what your book is doing – Teach the kids. They need to learn how to handle, grow and multiply money. It’s basic and should be taught at an early stage.
- Spread entrepreneurship – I have nothing against employment but it seems that our school system is too focused on training good employees but not good entrepreneurs. There should be a balance. We should learn from the entrepreneurial mindset of the Chinese.
- Spiritual leaders should embrace and teach the idea that you can be good and rich. Spiritual leaders have a massive influence and they should use this to improve the lives of their followers. The Catholic Church, great Catholic schools have been investing in the stock market for the longest time, but they have not been teaching it to their followers.
Bo also shared how some people would pass sweeping generalizations, “Ang daming magagandang kotse, siguro smuggler yan!” or “Uy naka-LV bag, sino kaya ang sugar daddy nya?”
It’s important to change the mindset of people equating being rich with being bad. That’s why his no. 3 above is very important. “Let the good people teach people how to be rich.” were Bo’s parting words. I’m sure my son would be delighted to hear that!
To view the previous installments on the series Life Stories of Personal Finance Advocates, click the following links: