The idea came to Frank Molinar in a rented Corvette in 2009. As a certified financial planner contracted to work with government agencies, he’d driven up from his home in Phoenix, Arizona, to counsel three military families who were undergoing varying degrees of financial turmoil. He’d been working with military families since 2007, on the precipice of the financial crisis, and was struck by the lack of relevant and engaging financial resources for a significant demographic of the population whose money issues appeared to repeat themselves one case to the next.
“It was a formulation of thousands of hours prior to this, suddenly just dawning together. The idea came, and it was like I have to get this out,” he says.
Molinar still lives in Phoenix and consults on clients’ finances in addition to public speaking events, but he wanted to provide people something more evergreen. His book, Financial Dominance, presents the same tactical financial information he would offer any of his clients in his decades of investment advising and financial planning but tailored both in language and action for military families. Having grown up in a military family in the Southwest and been imbued with a talent for communication, Molinar felt well positioned to address their financial woes in a book that meets them where they are.
Born in New Mexico and raised between Arizona and San Antonio, Molinar had initially intended to go into the pastoral ministry. But a bait-and-switch interview for financial services turned out to be an answer he didn’t know he was looking for. “The ad that I responded to didn’t say that the position was for financial services; it just said, ‘consult with business owners to help them improve their lives,’ something to that effect,” he says. “I thought, well, the ministry is all about consulting, counseling, supporting, and walking through challenges with folks. So that seemed like a natural fit.”
He worked in insurance first before getting his securities license and switching to financial planning, where he enjoyed a lucrative career. Then the recession and housing crisis coincided with personal troubles, including a divorce and the threat of losing his house. His son was attending West Point Military Academy while the war in Iraq was still raging, and he was asked by his local financial planning association if he’d like to pivot to counseling military personnel.
“The military community is a subculture…unto itself. They have their own language. They have their own way of thinking, their own way of doing things,” he says. “You see a younger demographic, because people are coming in when they’re 18 years old. It’s all about being assertive, being aggressive; it’s action-oriented. That kind of mentality doesn’t really play well with managing money.”
Soon, Molinar had contracts with agencies such as the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services and the U.S. Department of Defense, meeting with hundreds of veterans and active-duty service members who were “bleeding” money without a clear, long-term strategy. His epiphany in the car was the beginning of his 12-year journey of building the language to create a clear, accessible path to—you guessed it—financial dominance.
The book uses conversational but confident language and an empathetic military lens to show how veterans and military personnel and their families may fall into debt and start hemorrhaging money and then how they can go on the offense to wrangle their spending, investments, and goals. Common mistakes he sees are lack of communication between spouses, impulsive, big purchases, such as trucks and homes, and not effectively addressing debt.
Unlike other books that might espouse economic theory and buzzwords, Molinar has honed his thousands of hours of consultations into the kinds of orders his readers will have heard and followed in their lines of work:
There’s no theory, angle, or personal agenda in what I teach. I have no time for theory. And neither do you. Theories won’t help you in this fight. Only principles and tactics proven by fire. Engage this battle plan, stay the course and discover Financial Dominance. As you do, you may find your dreams weren’t that hard to achieve after all. Then, it’ll be time to dream bigger.
Each chapter illustrates a step in this strategy, starting with “Stop the Bleeding,” then “Secure the Perimeter,” “Engage the Enemy,” “Build Future Ops,” and eventually, “Plan the Exit.” There are real-world examples of historical military triumphs, ample anecdotes of his current and former clients, and cartoons sprinkled throughout to illustrate themes. Sections also contain proprietary worksheets to help readers and clients budget their expenses, assess their retirement priorities, and take full advantage of their pensions and perks, such as the GI Bill.
Though Molinar tries to keep it light and even weave in moments of humor, the book does veer into occasional dark territory, such as families consumed by debt or helping widows plan for a future without their primary income, there are moments of humor weaved in. Veterans, retired National Guard Gen. John E. Burk writes in the foreword, experience bouts of depression, homelessness, and suicide that directly correlate to their stress about money.
Kirkus Reviews calls the book “a set of rules for an active combat scenario” with “rock-solid and unassailable” advice for veterans and active-duty service people that “lack similar preparedness in their private financial lives.” Molinar manages to toe the line between condescension and wisdom, urging readers to follow his spreadsheets and advice without judging them for loosening their grips on their bank accounts.
While the book was informed by the ramifications of the last recession, Molinar did his best to make the book timeless, because it’s only a matter of time before the next one. He’s also considering how to approach different industries’ financial hurdles, like the medical field.
“There’s a lot of confusion in the financial industry, [but] it’s all about helping people. It’s just in my DNA. I wanted to express that, and I thought I’d be expressing that through the religious world. It’s turned out to be a different angle and, I think, just as productive, if not more so.”
Amelia Williams is a Brooklyn-based writer whose work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and Leafly.