Richard Paul Evans remembers well the day his niece Heather called him in distress over money matters.
This was after the noted Utah author had already placed book after book on The New York Times best-seller list, including "The Christmas Box," which brought in lottery-like earnings.
A call from a friend, neighbor, family member, or outright stranger looking for money was not unusual.
But Heather didn't want a handout, she wanted to know why the four jobs she and her husband were holding down, plus their college degrees, wasn't enough to take them anywhere but further and further in debt.
Why was Uncle Rick able to handle his finances and they weren't?
"I was relieved to hear they weren't after money, they were after advice," Evans remembers.
They made arrangements to meet for dinner, where Evans dispensed the financial wisdom he had learned as a boy from a self-made millionaire named Kerry Heinz, who shared his secrets of financial success freely with the neighborhood kids.
Given that his father had broken both of his legs in a construction accident and times were so tight for the Evans family he was sleeping in the floor outside the kitchen, 12-year-old Rick was a particularly rapt listener.
Heinz's straightforward advice could be summed up on five fingers: 1) Decide to be wealthy, 2) Take responsibility for your money, 3) Keep a portion of everything you earn, 4) Win in the margins, 5) Give back.
That advice, Evans explained, not only got him his fortune, it enabled him to hang onto it.
A year and a half later, his niece was back on the phone.
"We want to report what's happened," she announced.
Evans braced himself for what was coming next — sure, Heinz's strategies worked for him, but he was a best-selling author — until she proclaimed, "We're completely out of debt and have $30,000 in the bank."
Then she added, "Everyone should know this."
Out of that came "The 5 Lessons A Millionaire Taught Me About Life and Wealth," a book that became an international best-seller and has now produced a sequel, "The 5 Lessons A Millionaire Taught Me for Women."
As Evans writes in the front of the book, which was released nationally yesterday by Fireside, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, "These are difficult times. Today most people aren't hoping for a yacht; they're praying for a lifeboat. Especially women. In today's economic climate the challenges women face financially have never been greater. That's why I've adapted the original '5 Lessons' book to specifically help women."
Feedback from the first book, says Evans, taught him that while the five lessons work equally well for both genders, it's helpful to women when they are explained in a different light.
"Men are from Mars and women are from Venus not just in the bedroom, but the bank — they really do look at money differently," he says.
"For men, a big checkbook means 'I won the game.' Women understand life is not about money."
But that doesn't mean they can't be held just as captive by debt.
Women, as an example, are much more vulnerable to what Evans calls the "burnt-toast syndrome."
"You're having breakfast and a slice of toast gets burned — who gets it?" he says. "Women do that with money, too. They trade their needs for somebody else's wants."
Evans has scheduled a series of free seminars to coincide with the launch of his book, beginning tonight at 7 in the Salt Lake Hilton. The seminars continue Thursday in Ogden, Friday in Provo and Saturday in St. George. Ones in Boise and Phoenix are scheduled next week, with more to follow. See www.richardpaulevans.com.
Not wanting to "get rich by telling other people how to get rich," Evans has pledged royalties from both "5 Lessons" books to the Christmas Box House International, his charity for abused children.
"These are tough times for charities too," he says. Besides that, Lesson 5 is "Give back." After that you get to start all over.
Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.