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Kevin Ruth. Founder, Finance 411

by Team Sammy



Team Sammy: Share with us a little about you, your current family, your non-professional life, a favorite hobby, etc., so readers can get a sense of who you are.

Kevin Ruth: I married my high school sweetheart.  We will celebrate our 30-year anniversary this year.  We have two adult daughters and love to vacation anywhere there is a beach and a clear blue ocean. 

Family is very important to me.  I was the first person in my family to attend college and was fortunate enough to get accepted and graduate from the United States Military Academy.  Having served as an Army officer, I have a deep respect for any individual who decides to serve our great country.

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Team Sammy: Tell us about what it was like growing up – your family and community?

Kevin Ruth: I grew up in Elmwood Park, a small, blue collar town in Northern New Jersey.  My parents were very young having had four boys by the time they were in their early twenties. 

Prior to my birth, one of my older brother’s died of sudden infant death syndrome so I was exposed to the concepts of life and death at a very early age.  We visited the cemetery on my brother’s birthday and decorated his grave on the other holidays.  I learned very quickly how precise life is and how short our time on earth is, and I can remember saying to myself, I am going to make the most of the time I have left. 

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Team Sammy: What was one of your first money memories?

Kevin Ruth: I remember the 1979 gas shortage which was the second gas shortage of the seventies. I was too young to remember the first one.  I remember mile-long lines of cars, bumper to bumper with their engines turned off, begging to get gas at our station with people willing to pay just about any price for a gallon of gas.  It opened my eyes to the concept of supply and demand and how a lack of supply of a product that is in high demand causes the price of that product to increase. We were a very popular family in the 1970’s.     

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Team Sammy: What was your first saving experience or memory?

Kevin Ruth: My first saving experience was after I graduated college, quickly married and began my career as an Army Second Lieutenant. 

I had learned through friends that we should start saving for retirement so I contacted USAA and asked about saving for retirement. They asked me if I was interested in an IRA or a taxable account. I had no idea what either of those things were, but was too embarrassed and intimidated to ask questions so I took one of each. When I was asked what mutual funds I wanted to invest in, I didn’t know what a mutual fund was so I selected the Growth Fund and Gold Fund because I wanted growth and I had a gold wedding ring. 

I did not really understand saving or investing until I began to study for the Certified Financial Planner designation as I was transitioning out of the Army four years later.   


Team Sammy: What was your first job (formal or informal)? How much did you earn and what you did with the money?

Kevin Ruth: My first job was working at my father’s gas station. As a child, I cleaned up gas and oil spills, washed car windows and picked up cigarette butts for $1 per hour. That was the entry level job for my two brothers and me. 

As we got older, we were promoted to pumping gas and oil changes. Best work experience of my life. My mother Dot Ruth and father taught us at a young age the meaning of a hard day’s work. I can remember riding four across the front seat of our tow truck with my father and two brothers Keith Ruth and Al Ruth to open the station by 7am.


Team Sammy: One question I ask everyone is: If you could only teach a child one money habit, what would it be and why?

Kevin Ruth: Don’t spend more than you make. Understand exactly what you bring in every month and create a budget so you spend less than you make. Don’t buy items with credit cards unless you are being charged zero interest. Be patient and save your money until you have enough to buy the item with cash.   


Team Sammy: Is it important to teach kids about money? Why? At what age should parents start?

Kevin Ruth: I believe it is extremely important to teach kids about money.  So much so that in early 2019, I left my senior executive role at Fidelity Investments to focus full time on my passion - financial literacy for young adults.

Over the course of my 25+ year career, I have educated clients on financial topics and helped them achieve their financial goals. One thing I noticed, time and time again, was that the majority of the clients I served did not possess the basic financial literacy skills necessary to make informed financial decisions. 

I want to see a world where Americans have the skills to achieve financial freedom. Financially literate young adults would possess the tools to become financially self-sufficient and financially stable, enabling them to live the life they desire for themselves and their families. 

All high school students should be taught basic financial literacy skills. Financial literacy helps individuals become independent so they can achieve financial stability. I have created a financial literacy program that utilizes an app to teach budgeting, saving, investing, and borrowing. High school students play a financial literacy game against other students in a national competition to earn scholarship money.

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Team Sammy: Do you have any financial pet peeves?

Kevin Ruth: My biggest financial pet peeve is when a client tells me how excited he or she is to get their IRS tax refund. They say it’s like getting a surprise bonus. The reason you receive a refund is because you paid the IRS TOO MUCH in taxes. You OVERPAID your taxes and you could have invested the amount you overpaid in a bank account earning interest for the past year. Don’t OVERPAY your taxes. Getting a refund from the IRS is NOT a good thing! 


Team Sammy: Do you have a favorite book on personal finance or money management. Does one lesson stand out? If so, what is it?

Kevin Ruth: Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. The one lesson that stands out for me is “Don’t work for money, make money work for you!”

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Team Sammy: Do you have a favorite quote on money?

Kevin Ruth: “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” -Jim Rohn

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