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Book review: I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

I Will Teach You To Be RichI Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is definitely the best personal finance book I've read so far. It's a logical, step-by-step, practical handbook for financial success, specially written for twenty-somethings. It was better than the personal finance books I've read by Eric Tyson, Andrew Tobias, Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, and Robert Kiyosaki. See my Finance shelf on Goodreads for my reviews of those books.

Sethi gives advice on “automatically enabling yourself to save, invest, and spend - enjoying it, not feeling guilty...because you’re spending only what you have.” His main point: automate your finances so you effortlessly save and invest, leaving you money to spend on things you love without feeling guilty. Automatic saving and investing helps overcome psychological barriers and laziness.

In addition to his emphasis on automation, I agreed with Sethi’s recommendation for long-term, passive, buy-and-hold investing instead of speculative, market-timing investing. I also liked Sethi’s 85 Percent Solution, which states that it's better to act and get it 85% right than to do 0%; sometimes good enough is good enough, and it’s always better than doing nothing.

Another good message is "spend extravagantly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don't." That's valuable because everyone defines being "rich" differently, and it's not all about money. Money is just the tool we use to acquire the material possessions and experiences we want. That's the difference between being cheap and being frugal; being cheap is trying to cut spending on everything, and being frugal is cutting costs on the things you don't care about so that you can splurge on the things you do.

I liked the concept of making a Conscious Spending Plan instead of a budget. Almost no one actually makes a budget, and even fewer follow it. Instead, consciously decide how you'll spend your money. I especially like this idea of guilt-free spending, because too often the recommendation is to limit all spending. But people in their 20s want to live it up, not sit at home and pinch every penny! The Conscious Spending Plan lets you spend a certain percentage of your money on whatever you want, without feeling guilty, since you’re paying yourself and your bills first.

The book is written in the form of a 6-week action plan. Each chapter describes the tasks and reasoning behind them, and ends with a checklist of steps to take. Here are the weeks:

Week 1: Credit Cards. Check your credit, pick a good credit card, set up automatic payments, pay off debt.
Week 2: Bank Accounts. Open or assess your checking account, open and fund a high-interest savings account.
Week 3: Investing Accounts. Open a 401(k), make a plan to pay off debt, open a Roth IRA and set up automatic payment.
Week 4: Conscious Spending. Create a Conscious Spending Plan, track spending, and cut in the right places.
Week 5: Automatic Money Flows. List and link accounts, then set up an Automatic Money Flow to automatically fund the 4 categories of your Conscious Spending Plan.
Week 6: Investing Choices. Figure out your investing style, research investments, and buy funds.

The book gives a fairly in-depth explanation of the concepts and fundamentals of personal finance, but also contains plenty of examples of actual bank accounts and funds. There are many references to the 2008 recession and other current events, so those parts of the book won't age well.

This is my new #1 recommendation for anyone seeking personal finance advice.

Notes

Personal Finance Ladder
Rung 1: invest enough in 401(k) to get company match
Rung 2: pay off debt
Rung 3: invest as much as possible in Roth IRA
Rung 4: put more into 401(k), as much as possible
Rung 5: invest in non-retirement (taxable) account

Conscious Spending Plan recommended percentages (save and invest more if possible)
50-60% on fixed costs
10% on long-term investments
5-10% on savings goals
20-35% on guilt-free spending

Investing
Use target-date funds or index funds.
Invest aggressively in retirement accounts, since retirement is so distant.
Recommended financial institutions: Vanguard, T. Rowe, Schwab
Rebalance every 12-18 months by investing more in underperforming assets (not selling outperforming assets).
Hold tax-inefficient (income-generating) assets like bonds in tax-advantaged accounts.
Hold tax-efficient assets like index funds in taxable accounts.

Choose funds based on:
1. expense ratio
2. asset allocation
3. 10-15 year return

Model your portfolio after David Swenson’s Yale Endowment portfolio:
30% US stocks
15% developed international stocks
5% emerging market stocks
20% REITs
15% government bonds
15% TIPS

Buying a house
Houses are a poor investment compared to stocks; they’ve historically returned 0% after inflation.
Before buying a house, determine the total monthly payment including mortgage, taxes, insurance, and maintenance. It should be less than 30% of your gross monthly income.
The total house price should be less than 3 times your annual gross income.
Buy a house only if you can live in it for 10 years.
Make a 20% down payment and get a 30 year fixed rate mortgage.

Additional notes
Use savings for goals less than 5 years away.
Set your accounts for automatic deferrals, transfers, and payments to automatically direct money into retirement accounts, savings, bills, and a spending allowance.
Negotiate a higher total compensation (salary plus benefits) by researching compensation for comparable jobs and proving the value you bring to the company.



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