Empower Magazine had the opportunity to interview Celebrity Credit Guru James Hunt and get a snapshot of his incredible journey from homelessness to helping countless celebrities and a client base of more than 30,000 individuals develop the tools to manage their finances. He is author of Debt Free is the New Rich and is preparing for the release of his sophomore book, ‘Living Without Distractions: The Key to Success’.
What initially led you to launch your wealth management and credit empowerment business?
Well just a little over 5 years ago I was homeless. The bottom of my life had fallen out and I knew that I had to do something. I had always envisioned myself living well and so I took it upon myself to consume any and everything I could about finances and credit. I actually launched my business out of a Starbucks. I would show up every single morning nice and early with my empty coffee cup and have a fake conversation on the phone about repairing credit. People would overhear me and come over to my table and ask me questions. Sometimes I would pull up their reports right there and start handling things for them. Then, I would go over to Fed Ex and mail their disputes to the credit agencies. I had a relationship with this particular Fed Ex because I did all of the employees’ credit for free and it allowed me to use that store as my makeshift office. I started with small beginnings, but I never lost sight of the big picture.
Who was the first celebrity client that you began working with (and describe your success)?
Travis Porter was my first celebrity client. I knew their father and did his father’s credit and the majority of the people in his family and they brought him to me last. It was extremely successful and they got everything off. The very first Mac Book pro that I got came from them as a bonus. It set things in place for a whole lot of other celebrity clients.
What do you emphasize when meeting a client for the first time?
I emphasize being proactive, knowing exactly what is in your credit report. Aggressively challenging the issues. I think a lot of people go into self denial about what is in their credit report and the way to really address your credit is to know what it is and to actually take action regarding it. It is essential to see it. Confront your debt. Stop hiding it, stop ignoring it and confront your debt. Almost like an addicted person would confront their addictions, so you have to address it and confront it, then take all of the necessary steps to make sure you are addressing the issues and get in contact with an expert that can help you. To make the right decisions to ultimately eliminate everything negative in that credit report then to begin building positive credit.
As a financial services professional, what troubles you the most about the challenges that your clients face in managing their credit and finances?
What troubles me the most would be clients that don’t really take their credit as serious as they should. I’m troubled by cleaning up and assisting the client with their issues and then having them calling me a year later and we have to address similar issues because they have messed their credit up all over again.
Is there a particular financial/credit situation that you were able to help turn around that stands out in your mind?
[One of my clients, a Los Angeles Lakers player] would be the most celebrated because of the dollar amount. I was able to get $1.4 million worth of debt and 38 negative accounts off of his credit report.
What mindset do you encourage clients to adopt in managing their finances and credit?
I encourage my clients to simply be proactive and aware of their credit at all times. Being credit conscious is something that is very much needed, especially in communities of color. This means that I am aware of every move that I make, and if I take this card and use it in the mall, then I am aware that my negative usage of it is going to cause me to lose points to my credit score. I have to have in the back of my mind a strategy where I am building my credit and never doing things that destroy it or cause it to go down. This has to be a long-term strategy, a consistent way of thinking where you program yourself to know the scenario. You never know when a door of opportunity will become available to you. Certain opportunities are only open to those who have done their due diligence. There are situations in life where you don’t have time to get ready, you have to be ready.
Describe the response to your book, “Debt Free is the New Rich.”
I am overwhelmed by the response because I am impressed with the hunger and that people are willing to actually learn. I am always blown away when I get phone calls and people are asking me questions about something they read in the book. You are not just simply getting the book but reading it. More impressive are the people who actually use the tools that are in the book to address their life-changing strategies concerning their credit.
You are branded as the “Celebrity Credit Guru” but how do you serve the needs of the average individual?
The title is sort of like thrown upon you because you have celeb clients but I have far more regular clients than celebrity clients. Over the years I have worked with about 300 celebrity clients but I have worked with over 30,000 regular clients. Celebrity clients are only impressive to people who are impressed by celebrities. Ultimately, they are all the same. I have celeb clients who are envious of an average Joe’s credit scores who are in the 800’s or upper 700’s. It doesn’t really matter what you have financially, the person who is wise and manages his debt wisely is truly the rich person. it is not necessarily the person who is worth $100 million.
What is next on the horizon in your quest to help individuals become debt free?
What I am now doing is this high-end celebrity financial concierge service where I offer a total financial package to my celebrity clients/high-end clients concerning anything they need financially. Credit issues, but also ensuring my team of experts are getting them into the homes with the real estate agents, loan officers, underwriters, those who are interested in getting the exotic cars, we have the finance managers at Rolls Royce to Bentley, Porsche, BMW, Jaguar who are on practically 24-7 call to help that celebrity client get whatever it is they want. It is what I call my cabinet of financial professionals.
Is there anything I have not asked that you would like readers to know about you and your company?
I am excited about my new book that is coming out in a few months called ‘Living Without Distractions: The Key to Success’. I am currently wrapping up the writing of the book, which details my life story of how a person can go from being homeless to being a multi-millionaire, handling the top celebrity clients and building this multi-million dollar company in a very short period of time. It details that anyone who really wants success has to learn how to manage their distractions.