Behind the scenes: I was on the Today Show last week

Ramit Sethi · November 17th, 2009

I flew to New York last week to appear on the Today Show. Here’s the clip:

Interesting things to note:

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  • Green rooms are the best places to meet people. I walked in and Maya Angelou was sitting there. In hair/makeup, Marissa Mayer and a bunch of other interesting people were there
  • You enter NBC through a totally unmarked door, not the conspicuous 30 Rockefeller entrance you’d think
  • They steam your shirt/coat, do your hair/makeup, and have lots of food available to eat before going on air. But nobody eats anything
  • Camera operators came into our studio literally 15 seconds before going to air. It’s that close to the wire.
  • Notice how Meredith asks me about “safe” investments, when young people should really be seeking out aggressive investments due to our age. Remember, it’s just as risky to run out of money as to lose it in a market crash.
  • The producer spent at least 5 hours coordinating this 5-minute segment. Imagine how much time it takes to create each show, every day
  • There are enormous time constraints to get your point across, so you have to have a crystal-clear message.

Invite me to speak at your organization.

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  1. I like your outfit. It is laid back, while those other shmucks are dressed up.
    Good message overall.

  2. Great work on getting your concise point across in the very minimal time you had. Very professional.

    Did Meredith flub up your name in the first view seconds or have I been pronouncing it wrong myself? Guess that would be good to figure out! 🙂

  3. Erica Douglass

    @Baker: Meredith flubbed it. It’s “say-tee”. I know because I screwed it up when introducing Ramit to a bunch of people last year 😉


  4. Alexandra Levit

    Very cool, Ramit. And good call to action about speaking at the bottom of the post! 😉

  5. Moneymonk

    Nice eyebrows Ramit!

    Well cordial and nice answers

  6. Congrats! Way to go Ramit!

    It’s good to see a little fairness in the world: produce great content, get recognition!

  7. Did you notice the lady at the end said “The average return over any 10 year period in the market has been 10%”
    What planet was she living on for the last 10 years?
    It annoys the hell out of me that these so called professionals can’t think for themselves and regurgitate these market myths that are used to entrap people. My advice — think for yourselves – Ramit’s advice on automation is good because it works with human nature.

  8. guinness416

    He does have great eyebrows! Nice job Ramit, I’m still amazed to see bloggers I like reading out there in the wild.

  9. Credit Card Chaser

    Nice work! Good job starting off first answer with a lot of energy and something humorous but then getting right down to brass tacks to give some specific strategies.

  10. Verdant Green

    I agree with Victoria Woods. Pay off your debt first and pay off your credit card debt aggressively before putting money into any 401K, thrift savings plan, investing plan, etc.

    Paying off a credit card debt at 14% interest is equivalent to getting a guaranteed rate of return on investment of 14% if you invested it, and actually it’s even better, because 1) credit card debt accumulates daily, so you’re paying interest on interest, so the actual rate of return is actually much higher, 2) paying off debt and having one less debt payment improves your cash flow to help you pay off even more debt and do more with your money, and 3) paying off debt has the added advantage of improving your credit score, which can help lower your interest rate on other debts.

    I wish I had followed this advice while I was in medical school and aggressively paid off as much of my student loans and credit card debt as I could rather than letting it accumulate while I ate out every night at Pompei, Subway, and the Cheesecake Factory.

    Back then, student loans “didn’t count” since interest wasn’t accumulating on them while still in school. It didn’t even affect your credit score back then, and so I did nothing to try to reduce them.

    This was my thinking back then: Present-day “Medical Student Green” has very little money and values fun more, so the money I have now is better spent on fun than on paying down debt, while future “Dr. Green” will have much more money and will be too busy to have fun anyway, so future Dr. Green can worry about the debt later.

    Now present-day Dr. Green is saying to past-day Medical Student Green, “Screw you, Medical Student Green! Why didn’t you even try to pay off any of that debt?!”

    Boy was I stupid back then. 🙁

  11. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and I know a lot of the advice is targeted towards young people planning ahead for financial piece of mind. On many personal finance blogs out there, they inevitably mention something like “if you save X dollars per month for Y years (assuming some annual % gain), you will retire with ___ million dollars”. If memory serves me right, your blog mentions it too (sorry if im wrong).

    The big number at the end sounds really nice, but doesn’t it neglect inflation and changes in the purchasing power of your dollar? Right now I’m 20 years old. It’s nice to think that if I plan well, I can retire with a big number in my retirement account, but what good does that do me if it costs $50 to buy a big mac, and an arm and a leg to convert my money to do some globetrotting?

    Do you think this a valid issue to be concerned about? Or do you think I’m dwelling on minutiae?

    FYI I actually follow your advice on things (i spend on what i enjoy, and im ruthless at cutting other costs. i use my airline rewards card like a debit card and pay off the balance in full each month. i fund the difference in my college cost of attendance with low rate govt loans and use my internship money to invest in foreign ETFs for higher returns. etc)

  12. My bad about the back to back posts, but I just want to clarify some things before i get torn apart:

    I’m not saying its bad to put regularly put away money for retirement. My critique of the “its easy to retire with millions” advice is geared towards people who already have all their ducks in a row.

  13. nice sneaks!

  14. What planet has Ms. Woods been living on? Number one: the market average has been less than 10%. Number two: while it does suck, you can live in your car! Number three: if you have an employer matching contributions for your 401(k) fund, that’s already an effective 100% return on your money which beats paying down at a much lower interest rate! I try not to be critical, but she definitely seems to have been studying what other people have to say, rather than looking at the facts.

  15. Minority Fortune

    Great job, Ramit. Your advice was solid and concise for the young adult crowd. The young adult crowd is looking for low-entry barriers to saving & investing. While it may sound crazy, the proof is in the fact that our generation has little to show in savings and investments. Keeping it simple is key.

    Not sure what fact book Ms. Woods was reading before she came on the show. I’d like to know why an impending retiree should have 24 months of cash on hand and not invest it in bonds and treasury bills to earn decent interest. Her message was too boring and conservative. Not buying it.

    Ramit, you were spot on that the message in the segment hinted at safe investments and ignored the hazards of cowardice. We must be aggressive in investments and savings. Otherwise, we’ll be a slave to our paycheck our entire lives! Viva la automation!

  16. Great segment. Rock star status!

  17. Wow…24 months of savings?

    Seems a bit excessive. Might make more sense to move to another country, maintain the same standard of living at half the cost.

    Everyone wants to be conservative and hold on to the little/nothing that they have. I agree Ramit, it’s time to be aggressive.

    One of the best ways to do that is business ownership. The turn around (depending on the model you use) can be much faster than investing especially if you’re in your 20’s.

  18. Great job, man.

    Ramit, I’m new to the site and have been recommending everyone I know to check it out, but I wonder something. You may have written on this before so can you recommend, say, ten or so key books on psychology and/or persuasion? I’m a fiend for that kind of stuff.

  19. I think Ms Woods’s suggestion about 24 months of savings might not be ridiculous in a certain sense. For some people, peace of mind might just be the only thing that they could hope for during tough times like this.

    Having a huge chunk of money stashed away would give them a sense of security. She also said that it would stop people from making irrational decisions, which makes sense especially if you’re retired and don’t have a lot of backgrounds in investing. In this case, I think it’s more about the psychological aspect, not so on the monetary side.

    Bonds and bills are definitely my investment options, just like Minority suggested. If people would choose to respond, than to react to the stock market, then many of us would be rich. But that’s ideal.

    And really having a million dollar when you retire is not really a big deal due to inflation. Assuming 3% inflation, a million dollar 40 years later would really be worth $300k right now (it can get you house though). Similarly, a Big Mac would likely be around 13 bucks 40 years later. Maybe people would eat more McChicken burgers.

    Ramit’s advices are spot on. Be aggressive when you’re still young and set up your automation. Enough said. Great job!

  20. Awesome Job Ramit!!! I have been following your blog for a while now and feel that you have one of the most refreshing personal finance blogs in the blogosphere. Congrats on the NBC appearance 🙂

  21. Hi Ramit, do they pay for your airfare to the show?

    ps In response to the guy who said he liked your outfit, I’m not sure about the white shoes…

  22. Super fantastic, Ramit! I so love your energy. As a thirty-something divorced mom of 3 I follow your advice because it’s simple. Save something. I like how your advice is relevant and timely even for those like me that MUST be “smarter than the average bear.” I splurge where I want and save like crazy on what I can. Now I need to make sure I have a life cycle fund set up.

  23. Oleg Mokhov

    Hey Ramit,

    The Today Show has to cater to so many people, that it can’t possibly please everyone. So the tips the show features has to be “safe” like you mentioned.

    But by breaking out of the reserved bubble and pushing for aggressive tips, all of the sudden a show like that gets a whole lot more useful. Not for everyone, but for the audience the tip pertains to, a laser-focused tip with real substance will bring them greater value than a meek “remember kids: be safe with investments.”

    Congrats on the awesome Today Show appearance – you keep racking up the media spots. Next goal: the Tonight Show or Late Night 🙂

    Awesome to see one of “our” guys continue infiltrate the media. Keep rocking and bringing the realness to mainstream television,

  24. Funny about Money

    Excellent sound bites, Ramit! Much better than the other guests!

    My favorite part is learning how to pronounce Ramit’s name. Uhmmm…she did have it right, didn’t she?

    To coin a phrase, DUH! Everyone should have 24 months’ worth of survival money on hand. But not in your savings account, for hevvinsake: at the very least, stick it in a CD; short-term corporate bonds or treasuries would be better. By all means invest aggressively, but keep your survival fund in a conservative interest-bearing instrument.

  25. What other shows will you be making an appearance on in the future?

  26. Rob Storm

    Hahaha, you look like a robot when you’re facing the girl next to you at about 2:40. Just right on the edge of the screen.

    Nice work though. Just bought the book and I am loving it. Respect.

  27. Argh! Enough with the constantly moving graphics! Its like the idiot DJs who have to talk over a music bed.

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