Straight-talker. Salesmen. Adviser. Crossfitter.
When Arkadiusz showed interest in my concrete poetry at the 2019 MCA Zine Fair, it was a bit of a surprise, as he certainly didn’t look the part of someone interested in poetry. But, once again my Caffeine & Concrete journey has opened my eyes a little more. Once connecting, and seeing his Instagram stories about making changes to our relationship with money, and his endeavour as a financial advisor for young people, I knew he was someone I needed to interview.
The founder of RKDS (Real Knowledge, Diverse Solutions) Arkadiusz is committed to empowering his clients to make informed decisions about ways to save, where to invest and how to beat the banks. His financial advice philosophies ensure he’s not only helping his clients take back control of their money but, as he puts, to make money feel real again.
In this interview, Arkadiusz let’s us in on the journey that took him from school yard entrepreneur, door-to-door salesmen and into the world of financial advice. Enjoy his own unique, candid and charming story.
I promised myself I wouldn’t script it right! My business-- I wear a few hats now but at the moment, like when we talk about my business and Real Knowledge Diverse Solutions I guess what I like to think I do is empower people to know everything they need to know about money, or everything they want to know about money. Beat the banks! So, helping people beat the banks, beat the tax man. Learn the things they should have learned in school and just try to, sort of, create a relationship with money again because I think-- what I’m finding now-- a big thing that I found in the last week is we’ve lost our relationship with money. It’s just this random fucking figure that gets paid into a bank account and you know and like, there’s something that’s two bucks at petrol station; you tap and pay. Put a hundred dollar green note in your wallet, then buy the two dollar thing… you know, you’re not going to break that hundgie.
So, I think that’s what I’m trying to do, just help people understand money. Help people create a relationship with money and help people do what they want to do you know? Doesn’t mean you all have to buy a house or invest, if you just want to go blow it all that’s fine, but have a plan!
“We’ve lost our relationship with money.”
How long have you got? [Laughs]. Nah, I’ll take it sort of back to growing up-- I think-- like I never grew up with money. So, my parents-- I’m a first generation Australian. So, my parents came here from Poland, the whole like, pillows and a blanket-- they didn’t even have pillows and a blanket. My Mum just had books and my dad had a typewriter, literally. So they came here with my brother and sister; my sister is eighteen years older than me, my brother is-- I don’t even know how old my brother is but he’s like forty-five. So, there’s a pretty big gap.
And they came here and I pretty much grew up not seeing money and, you know, like, we always struggled. So, when I was in highschool I started just starting businesses; just trying to make money off anything. Buying Coke cans, twenty-four Coke cans and selling them for a dollar, making forty cents a clip whatever. So, I think like I always tried to understand money and then when I was in high school, in year 10, I asked my business studies teacher how to start a business legitimately and he said, “you’re not here”—this is in Business Studies by the way—he’s like, “You're not here to learn how to start a business, you're here to succeed in the HSC.” So, I stopped going to school - literally.
So, I stopped going to school, got expelled twice for attendance, didn’t get my HSC and then just did random jobs man. So, how I got into it (finance) is really funny, I was going door-to-door Foxtel sales, then I started a team, like literally selling Foxtel door-to-door, making a killing; it was dumb fun, we had a van, I was young, like eighteen, nineteen during the time and, yeah man, just one day like two years in knocked on the COO’s door of a company, an insurance company and he’s like-- got me in, started asking me about the terms and conditions and he was like, “How would you like to earn five thousand dollars a week selling insurance?” “Sounds great!”
So he was like, “We’re going to fly you to Melbourne, you’re going to do a two week course. So, you’re going to get accredited to sell insurance.” So I was like, “Okay!” Did that, got my general insurance licence, so-- which allows me to I guess, sell life insurance, TPD insurance, Total Permanent Disability income protection, did that for two years and then I sort of became that person that people would talk to about other things. So, when you’re talking about insurance, you’re talking about assets, liabilities and started my own insurance business and moved to Tasmania, Insurance Tasmania I started, had a fall-- I got ripped off by a business partner. I was young and dumb but came to New South Wales, started Insurance New South Wales, got ripped off again-- young and dumb [laughs] but during that time I met a financial adviser, he went to an appointment with me because we needed to transfer money from the super to pay for the insurances and I wasn’t allowed to do that.
And I just asked him what he did and he’s like, “I’m a financial adviser; I help people with money.” And I was like, “Cool…” So, I found out what I had to do-- you had to do something called an RG146 (Regulatory Guide 146 on Training of financial product advisers), which is like an accreditation and I was like, “you know what man? I keep starting these businesses but I don’t really know anything about money. All I know is money in, money out.”
I do this course, it was a three month course. I had to go every Saturday and I met my mentor Eleni Katholos there and man, like-- met her and she told me, “Arkadiusz, when you finish this, you’re going to start your own financial planning business…” I was like, “What?” And she’s, “You’re not employable!” [Laughs] and I was like, “I agree!” So I’ve never been employed up until now actually but that’s another story.
So I started-- I worked for a boutique for about six months but did a lot of odd jobs in between, sort of-- mentored by her, I went to a lot of client appointments and just did a fact find where I just asked people questions, I’d sit with her, we’d develop plans and yeah that’s sort of how it became… and never looked back. It’s been here for three years now.
[Laughs]. Yeah, there’s something I always say, and we just had the Lime bike-- like I just rode the Lime bike (before the interview)-- it’s funny, I compare traditional-- and I’ve said this before so I’m sorry I’m saying it again but it’s just such a big point, like, I compare the traditional financial adviser model to that of a taxi; you get into this car, you don’t even know how the meter works, you don’t know what the route is going to be like, but it’ll get you there. You don’t know how much you’re going to pay, you don’t know how you’re going to get there but it will get you there and I guess that’s what financial advice is-- whether you get ripped off or not, you’re probably still going to be better off-- probably, in most cases.
Whereas my vision of financial advice is like Uber where; before you even get it you know exactly what route it’s going to take you on, you have the options of selecting a route, selecting a cost, you know everything about the person and, you know-- you know, how much it’s going to cost and where you’re going to end up. I think that’s the issue with traditional financial advice is, you only get advice if you pay for it; “We know everything!” And, like the thing is like, financial advisers don’t have all the answers, the answers are out there, literally. Like, you Google anything, the answers are out there, we just know what questions to ask.
So, the only reason we exist at all as an industry is because we know what questions to ask and firms and big banks and that, forget that. That we’re just glorified people that ask questions, that’s it.
“We’re just more aware, I think the issue with that is it creates delay in making a decision.”
I think it’s-- It compares to anything-- eating habits and-- I mean, my parents weren’t fucking counting their calories and having a green juice every second day to detox or eating olive leaf-- you know what I mean!? Like, I guess you develop your relationship originally from your parents right, and I think it’s not always right, it’s not always correct and like I’m sure you’ve been to a barbecue recently where you’ve met someone that’s a property expert because they’ve bought a fucking house in Guildford or Greystanes or Granville for four hundred grand in 2010 and now it’s worth one point two; it’s not-- you’re not an expert, you just fucking bought at the right time, in the right place, and you got lucky you know.
So, I think young people-- I think just people in general have more access so I think we’re a lot more aware, we know our options but at the same time we just don’t trust as much, you know like, if your mum and my mum were friends and you're mum said, “go see this mortgage broker.” You would go fucking see the mortgage broker but now if, like, if I tell you to go see a mortgage broker, you’ll fucking look him up [laughs]. You know!?
It’s a different vibe, so I think we’re just more aware, I think the issue with that is it creates delay in making a decision. So, with information comes the issue of being too informed and having too many options and then not knowing what to do. You're just overwhelmed, you’re just like, “Holy shit!” Like, “This is what I can do? I’ve got fifty grand; I can buy a house, I can buy shares, I can put in Super, I can do this, this, this, what do I do?”
Whereas the old generation, they’d be like, “Well, him across the road bought this land, so I’m going to buy land.” [Laughs]. So, I think that’s the thing, we’re getting more access, but with more access it’s creating-- it’s making it harder to make a decision, so that’s why I’m seeing, I guess, the trends with financial advice at the moment. There’s a lot of information and people not knowing what to do with it, it’s an issue right?
“There’s a lot of information and people not knowing what to do with it.”
I honestly give away too much shit for free and, like, I charge way too little. I think my biggest challenge as a business, like—hand-on-heart—is cash-flow and the reason behind it is like, I could just target high-net-- and like, I have meetings with people all the time, like BDMs from insurance companies and Super(annuation) companies and they’re like, “Arkadiusz, you know how to generate a lead, you know how to get in front of someone, you know how to convert that person; put four or five high net-worth people in your mix every month.” But I just don’t enjoy it, I like-- you know, like, I had a client, I looked at her; we had something called a 'statement of advice' and I’ll give you a very good example of what my business model looks like, and the challenges, but the vision and what it enables me in the future, if I survive [laughs].
I think, like, so, this client in December 2017 we issued her an advice document; she was five thousand dollars in debt, she was spending all her money. She had the goals of creating some money in a bank account and buying a property. I just finalised her statement of advice now; she’s worth thirty eight thousand dollars, the debt is paid off, she has a potential of now saving an additional nine-hundred dollars a month on top of what she was doing before and she’s on track to buy her first property in October. I’ve not made a single cent from that client because we didn’t charge her because she was in debt. Because I was like, “How the fuck do I charge you when you have no money?” But, two years later, or almost two years later, this coming October, we’ll make money from the finance on the Mortgage.
So, the challenge is; being able to provide-- like for me my challenge is being somehow-- take that piece of advice that I gave her in December 2017, do it on a bigger scale, where somehow I can charge a very small amount and then get people into that stage faster, that’s my challenge.
So, that’s my daily, “How the fuck do I do this!?”
Lorenzo: And without giving away secrets... but taking someone from debt to potentially buying a home, is it just financial advice? Or is this getting into broader behavioural change?
Arkadiusz: Yeah, debt’s a scary thing man, like, people in debt; they don’t pick up private number calls, they don’t open their bank accounts, they tap on something and they don’t know if it’s going to get approved or not and fuck man like, I’ve been there, we’ve all been there I’m sure we have you know so I understand that.
So, I think-- we talk about sex more than we do money, fact. And we’re more comfortable talking about sex than we do money and when’s the last time you and your friends got together in a group and just had a chat about finances. No one does it-- it’s usually like, even if you were having a conversation yesterday, if you’re struggling, you’ll tell someone you’re struggling but not really tell them that you’re 5K in debt or 6K in debt or whatever.
So, I think when it comes to me they’ve got someone they’re comfortable talking with and someone (who) looks into it and we actually use a very simple strategy—that if you are in debt—at first we just put ten percent of whatever you are earning, whether it be a week, fortnight, month-- like after tax, and you put that towards the debt, but we do that manually. So, there’s lots of ways to reduce that debt, whether it be negotiating to debt with the bank and transferring it but whatever-- the first step is putting more money on it and the second you put ten percent on it, like, you can reduce a credit card debt from two years to six months sometimes you know? So-- and we do that manually, so we actually-- we don’t do direct debit, we literally jump on the phone with them every time they get paid, “Hey Steven” or “Hey Grace, you're getting paid on Thursday at 5? Okay, we’re going to have a conversation at 6.” We jump on the phone, they open their app, they look at their bank account, that they haven’t probably looked at in forever because they just get paid (and) they manually transfer that money into the credit card, they look at the credit card and they’re like, “Okay.” You know?
So, I think it’s once again, it’s just-- it’s not just advice, but it’s making someone feel comfortable that it’s okay to be in debt, it’s okay to-- there’s a way out of this…
Lorenzo: Through that tangible, manual process...
Arkadiusz: It makes money feel real again, you know? Same with savings and investments, we actually-- we get clients to manually transfer, even if they-- unless they, like, create a good habit for six to twelve months, then sometimes we’ll direct debit just for convenience because they’ve showed the pattern but still like, it just feels nice! I personally still do it, I manually transfer money and I still cash out-- I noticed you pay with cash earlier (for the coffees). Why do you pay cash?
Lorenzo: Yeah, I always get handed the machines, but I’ve always liked to have cash on me, as if not having cash on me feels like I don’t have money or something, especially for small things like coffee… I’m starting to wonder though if people still realise they need to accept cash since hardly anyone uses it...
Arkadiusz: There’s a place that’s cashless...
Lorenzo: I don’t think that’s legal?
Arkadiusz: Yeah I don’t think so either?
“At the end of the day I feel like—hopefully, knock on wood, I have a lot of time here—I’ll grow with my clients.”
Legacy man! Fuck it feels good sitting with her, telling her she’s worth thirty eight thousand dollars. I made that phone call on Thursday, I was like, “Yo, you’re worth thirty eight thousand dollars outside of superannuation.” Like, I don't know man, I think it's like, “Let’s grow together” sort of thing, like at the end of the day I feel like—hopefully, knock on wood, I have a lot of time here—I’ll grow with my clients. You know like… I don’t know, like if I do target higher-- I guess there's a business-- there’s a hidden agenda behind this, at the end of the day, like if I am helping these people. Now, what I’m hoping is that as they develop through different stages of their life, I’m that person to be there. Can I get some quick wins and stuff? I don’t know, something I’ve learnt is there’s no such thing as easy money, no such thing.
I guess the vision is to try and just do this on a huge scale. Like, I don’t understand why I can’t ask questions on a really big scale and provide general answers to them at no cost, help people solve their simple problems for free and they’ll come back to us for the bigger ones. Create a better community of money you know… I'll let you know when I figure out what the business model for that looks like [laughs].
I love it man! I wish like, I don’t know, like I just enjoy like-- I was saying to someone the other day, “If I could literally just get up and just do that all day I would do it.” I would just do seminars and panels and just-- interesting, I think I learn and really vibe off people’s energy and questions. It makes me think and there will always be a situation where I get stung, like, you’ve said something that’s bugging in my brain right now.
Lorenzo: What was that?
Arkadiusz: Oh, just like, what’s your biggest struggle, when you were like, “What’s hard?” Because I’m like, “How many people are in my situation?” where they’ve got this five year vision, but, “How the fuck do you make money now?” You know, so, like I really enjoy it, I like being in group environments. I don’t like working alone, (I) just don’t, I just vibe off other people’s energy.
Lorenzo: Do you ever feel pressure, knowing people are listening to your advice about important issues like their finances? That you need to say something profound and give some sage advice?
Arkadiusz: The magic pill… everyone expects it, and I simplify it and break it down to something they already know but haven’t been doing. We know our shit, man! It’s really fucking simple, you get paid, you put some money aside, you put some under you're bed for emergencies, you fucking make sure your bills are paid, you make sure you don’t spend more than you earn, there’s no fucking secret pill.
People literally pay adviser to do that. There’s-- I can write you this real sexy plan; net, you're going to be the same if you just did something normal. So, I think, like, that the issue of a lot of these panels and stuff, people try and over-complicate it, I feel like just going back to basics. Nah, I don’t really feel pressured-- I feel pressured like, I feel the pressure of helping someone achieve their goals and when they’re, like, fucking struggling and they fuck up; then I’m like, “how do we fix this?” But I don’t feel the pressure of someone expecting something great...
Is it important to keep healthy? I guess, if you want to be alive [laughs], my business model requires me to be alive for a long time …. I got pulled into this meeting the other day [laughs]... I’m a bad employee, just FYI. So, I took on this contract, I got dangled a carrot and I took the carrot. I said, “No” a few times and I took the carrot, and I’m doing my job very well, but not the way they want me to do it. I’m never in the office, I don’t talk to anyone. I literally go in, do my job and they’ve figured out I had templates that I built and I found patterns that were enabling me to do the work a lot faster. So, they expected me to do a lot more than I did, where I said, “That’s not my job, you expected x amount and I’m doing x amount.”
So, he sat me down and he goes, “Arkadiusz, have you ever seen a Chinese plate spinner?” Right… and there’s a story to this; you know who I’m talking about, those people that spin like twenty plates. He goes, “You see, like, your life Arkadiusz is like that of a Chinese plate spinner, where everything you balance is a plate; there’s your CrossFit, your business, your family, your relationships, blah, blah, blah, blah…” He started getting personal, “So okay, cool man” and he’s like, “This plate Arkadiusz, is about to fall.” I was like, “Okay…” That was the conversation…
So, I walked out, “What the fuck did that mean?” He’s like, “You really got to pick it up.” But it showed me the mentality of some people and like, this dude man, he’s not-- mind you I got him that job by the way, so I got him the manager-- they wanted me to be the manager but I didn’t want to wear two hats so I got this dude the job.
I though, there’s two types of people, there’s a person who would never ever let anything get to the point where it falls, you know? And then there’s someone like him; as something’s about to fall they’re like, “Oh fuck! I got to fix this,” So like, there the kind of person where, their relationship goes to shit, then they give it attention, their health goes to shit, then they give it attention.
Then I watched the plate spinner, so I actually went on YouTube and watched this plate spinner, they don’t look at the plates, they just look forward and everything is sort of well balanced around them. So, I think, man, in order to keep moving forward like a fucking Chinese plate spinner, you don’t look at everything, you just ensure that they're fucking spinning. You're health needs to be decent; no you don’t need to go to the gym five times a day but eat a fucking vegetable because you’re going to die. Like, that’s the reality. You know like, don’t sleep four hours everyday because you’re going to die, so you need to retain like-- give your loved ones some love because we all need it and don’t just do it when it’s falling to shit.
So, we just need to keep these things so we can keep moving forward. So, I think-- you know like, not only is gym—and going back to that question—is gym and my health and the element of enjoyment and, and an element of-- Man, the second you put a barbell on my back or in my hands and I do the first and I forget about everything. That’s a seperate piece, it’s my meditation but everyone’s got their getaway, that’s what it is for me but I guess you need to maintain a balance in order to move forward so...
“They don’t look at the plates, they just look forward and everything is sort of well balanced around them.”
To be able to remove the sticks so the plates spin themselves, and I can keep moving forward. I don’t know man, my vision of RKDS is. I want financial advice-- picture the Apple store right, where you go downstairs and literally you can try out and do everything that you want and there’s people that help you compare your Super. So, there’s a bottom level, there’s people that can help you compare your Super on the spot; can pay your insurance, can pay your investments and you can just walk out with general stuff; like a cafe’ vibe. Literally walk in, sort out your shit in general, you walk out.
How we make money from that, that I’ll figure out, but I want it to look like that. If you go to the second level; there’s more boutique things. So, if you’re more into niche; if you’re vegan and you want vegan investments; there’s a vegan section to help you understand that. If you’re into Tech and AI and you want a little more boutique knowledge there’s that; there’s a seminar-- like a seminar room. Like, there’s daily events and then you’ve got you're Genius’ upstairs, or your financial advisers—I’m just using Genius as a reference because of Apple—that’s where you book an appointment and it’s face-to-face.
So hopefully, not many people go upstairs to the Genius bar unless something’s really wrong or they really can’t figure it out themselves. Usually you can figure it out on the bottom level or the second level. You can get a broader idea to fix it yourself or you call up but if you’re really fucked and you're screen is broken [laughs] and you just don’t know how to fucking fix it, you go upstairs and sort it out.
That’s what my vision of advice is and whether that’s online or whether that’s via Instagram, whether that’s an actual shop I don’t know man but I just want to try and help as many people as possible…
Lorenzo: There definitely seems to be a gap for this for, say, my generation and the next, who might be doing well financially while they’re working but really aren’t sure what the next step is and there are so many apps and so much content but as you said, less and less trust…
Arkadiusz: I think like, touching on what you just said about that, like, all these apps and stuff. I guess like, if I can help you control your finances from the palm of your hand because that’s where we’re going, I would love to do that. So, RKDS; Real Knowledge Diverse Solutions, control your finances from the palm of your hand. If that Apple store is an app on your phone where you can figure everything out that’ll be great you know. I just need a source of truth, one source of truth because remember how I talked about financial advisers before. Like, good financial advice should all be the same right? Because if it’s in your best interest then no matter which adviser you go to, if it’s the best advice everyone should be provided with that piece of advice right? It’s not what they think or what they do; if it’s the best possible solution and computers and stuff are getting smart enough to figure that out, why do you have to see people or why do you have to like-- there should be one place, one source of truth.
Lorenzo: Is it the incentive model that makes it all a bit--
Arkadiusz: Conflicted? A hundred percent! Yeah, all the time. That’s why we have something called an open APL (Open Approved Product List) so no matter what it is. If it’s a coffee cup; it has a PDS and it’s in your best interest we can offer it, which is something that was important to me. But yeah, conflict, relationships-- and I get asked by business development managers to go for lobster brunch all the time, why do they do that? So, I like them and I write their business but… I can’t be bothered-- rather go eat smashed avos with people I want to eat smashed avos with-- but yeah, conflict-- money, man! It’s a funny thing, we’ll do crazy things for it...
Follow Arkadiusz for financial musing and inspiration on Instagram @_RKDS.Proofreading by Luke Yates. Photography by Lorenzo Princi.