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Celebrity Spotlight: David Koch
Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 5, No. 3 - May/June 2013

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How did you become involved in television?

Sheer chance - I have always been a finance journo, working for Business Review Weekly (BRW) and started personal investment magazines for them overseas. Then I started doing some radio interviews when a new issue would come out, and that led to more radio interviews which led to Channel 7 news using me a fair bit to comment on finance stories. Following this I started doing finance reports for Channel 7.

When the host of Sunrise back then (Chris Reason) became ill , they asked me to fill in, and when he couldn't come back they asked whether I would do it full time and I said 'Yes, as long as I can be myself', and it just went from there.

What are your most rewarding career experiences?

From a print point of view, it was having the opportunity to launch magazines in NZ and the UK. I lived and learnt in the UK and we also had three young kids then. From a Sunrise point of view, it ran a campaign for a national authority for organ transplants; previously states did their own thing and we had one of the worst transplant rates in the world so we campaigned for a national authority to try and improve transplant rates and the federal government established that. I am chairman of the advisory council and we have seen a big rise in transplants and people being saved so it has been really rewarding to see that come to fruition.

More recently, we have supported Rheed McCracken, a young Australian Paralympian from Bundaberg. In the London Paralympics, he won a bronze and a silver medal in the 200m and 100m wheelchair race. We helped his parents go and watch him in London and helped him get a race wheelchair. He has changed from an introverted shy teenager to somebody who now speaks at high schools about children who have disabilities and how to treat them and what is right.

What is your favourite travel destination and why?

Antarctica because it is just so overpoweringly awesome in terms of the respect you have for nature. It reminds you how important nature is to the world - the pristine condition, wildlife, the fact that it is so important in influencing global climate. You come away from visiting Antarctica just stunned by its enormity. You don't have snow capped mountains, you have mountain ranges buried in snow. You come away thinking no one should ever own Antarctica, it should always be governed by the United Nations or the Antarctic Treaty like it is now because it cannot be changed, it is too important.

Walking the Kokoda Track was also enjoyable. I did the walk with my son, one of my sons in law and my brother and his son. I have always been fascinated with the idea of what makes the Australian spirit and what makes us different - the sense of adventure, fairness and inclusiveness. You walk the Kokoda Track and you immerse yourself in the history of that track and you start to get a bit of an inkling of where the Australian spirit comes from. Particularly at the memorial when you see the four granite pillars. It is emotional and they hold so much meaning.

Who is the most inspiring person you have interviewed?

The most inspirational person I have ever interviewed is probably Father Chris Riley from Youth Off the Streets. He is an incredible bloke that has a passion for kids, especially disadvantaged kids in this country - particularly disadvantaged teenagers and rescuing them from sometimes very confronting and abusive family situations and turning them around. He has given many disadvantaged kids from horrific backgrounds a second chance. For me, he is one of the great Australians.

You are known for your interest in small business management, could you please expand on this?

For many years, I have owned a family business as a security against my career in the media. I think that small businesses really are the backbone to the Australian economy. It's great to see the evolution of small business and Aussie entrepreneurs working hard to contribute to nationwide employment.

As a society, why do you think it is important to be financially accountable?

Effectively managing money reduces stress in relationships and on families and can make life a whole lot more enjoyable. One of the biggest stresses on families and one of the biggest grievances for relationship breakups can be financially driven. A good way of doing this is to take around a little notebook and every time you spend a bit of money you make a note of it. At the end of the month, look at where you've spent the money - the little incidentals can be really revealing on how much you spend on takeaway coffees or lunches.

What are some ways parents can teach their kids to be financially responsible?

The greatest fear nowadays is that parents share more about the financial problems and issues they are having and I think that passes on financial stress to kids so they don't relate to money and they grow up far too quickly.

It's up to parents to lead by example and to pass on tips on how to be a good consumer, how to be a good shopper and how to look after money. The first thing is to share your experiences. When you go to the supermarket and the kids are tagging along, get them to help buy and understand how to make the choice between two products e.g. the difference between something that is on sale and not on sale, the fact that prices and products are usually higher at eye level of a supermarket shelf than what they are below or above eye level. It is also important for young people to realise the fact that a credit card isn't a money tree - it's got to be paid back.

We are very big on kids getting part time jobs, all our kids had to work at McDonalds when they turned 14 years and nine months. McDonalds gives them great training, discipline and skills on how to deal with the public and the six steps of service.

We were also very big on pocket money for our kids. Sit down and explain how to manage pocket money instead of just giving it to them. It is important for them to set savings goals rather than just putting it in the bank. Saving for something shows them that saving isn't boring and you never see the money again. We also had pocket money rules that 40% had to be banked, they could spend 50% of it and 10% of it had to be donated to a charity of their choice, and that was one of the best things we ever did because it taught our kids that everyone has a community obligation - it was amazing how they formed a relationship with the charity that they chose.

What are some things families can do to become more prosperous?

It boils back to doing a family budget and understanding where the money comes from and goes to. Your expenses written down in front of you in black and white, will produce some surprises about how much you've spent in different areas.

Setting up a savings program is important, and that can be as easy as every pay day organise for a direct debit from your account where your pay goes in to a separate investment account. When it's done automatically, you'll be surprised how easily you can adapt your lifestyle to the 90% of your pay that's leftover and you'll be equally surprised at the impact of compounding interest and how quickly your savings will grow with that 10% automatically being saved.

Another useful tip is that every day, put the shrapnel in your wallet or purse into a jar - the trick here is to hide the jar so the family's not raiding it! Again, you'll be stunned how quickly those gold coins at the end of the day add up.

You have written numerous financial books impacting on families, what are the main messages you want people to take away from your books?

Don't be afraid of money. It is purely common sense and discipline, to actually manage your money. Take the time to understand it and monitor your spending.

What are your top 5 tips for someone seeking a career in the television and media industry?

It depends on the type of media. I started out working for an accounting firm and then became a cadet on the Australian Newspaper so I think the 5 tips are:

  1. Be passionate
  2. Be prepared to start at the bottom, work your way up & earn your stripes
  3. Be aware & contribute to your community
  4. Try & establish a specialty - the media is gravitating towards specialist writers & specialist broadcasters. My specialisation in finance has been a great foundation for me in the media & even on Sunrise.
  5. Have the confidence in yourself. Everybody fails in their career at some stage & the media is no different. But if you love it, persist with it. Persistence & reliability really are the keys to it.

About David Koch

David Koch is one of Australia's most recognised television personalities, having co-hosted the nation's number one breakfast show, Sunrise, since 2001.

Kochie has released 12 books, many of them in partnership with his wife Libby. 'Kochie's Best Jokes' books have been hugely popular as well as the family finance guides 'I'm Not Made of Money' and 'Kochie's Guide to Keeping it Real'.

Kochie is big on family and has been married to his wife Libby for 31 years and together they have four adult children, two sons in law and two grandchildren.

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Get Ahead Kids® May/June 2013

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