Tagged: personal finance

Your Money or Your Life

your money or your life vicki robin joe dominguez monique tilford penguin 2008Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez with Monique Tilford, 3/5

Comparing this book to Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad series, it soon becomes clear that the concept of financial independence means different things to different people.  To some, such as Kiyosaki, it seems to mean being able to live a luxurious lifestyle, supported by more money than they could possibly spend.  Unfortunately, this seems to coincide with dedicating your life to the all-engrossing pursuit of ever-increasing income, which at the end doesn’t really look like independence to me.  To those who see financial independence more as freedom from obsessive worry over money, Your Money or Your Life asks a question that Kiyosaki would find completely nonsensical: How much money is enough?  It turns out that, thanks to some inexplicable vagary of the human condition, more and more money does not necessarily equal more and more happiness.  The authors argue convincingly that peak fulfillment occurs when we have enough money for the things we need and a little bit more.  By this metric, financial independence is achieved when one’s passive income covers these basic expenses and little luxuries.

Given the mindless consumerism endemic to the average American, it is no surprise that the authors would choose to focus on the low-hanging fruit of lowering expenses rather than the more complicated issue of creating passive income.  Similar to keeping a food diary in order to lose weight, the mere act of tracking expenses, realizing the expended life-energy they represent and assessing the resulting feelings of fulfillment or lack thereof could be a relatively painless way to increase savings, lower debt and create a healthier relationship with money.  However, my personal saving rate is already so high and my expenses so low (my three main hobbies–reading, exercising and surfing the internet–cost less than most people’s coffee habit) that I don’t think any life-changing revelations would come out of applying the book’s method for tracking finances.

I am much more interested in developing sources of passive income, which is a topic that is not addressed very well in this book.  This was very disappointing and surprising, since passive income plays such a huge part in the book’s own description of financial independence.  The authors’ main (basically, only) advice is simply to buy U.S. treasury bonds.  As far as I can understand, you’d have to tie up about $350k in 30-year treasury bonds in order to make just $10k a year at the current 2.87% yield.  I don’t see how this could be a viable path to financial independence for most people, but I guess I need to do more research.

[Why I read it: It was mentioned in a book review of Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Trent Hamm on The Simple Dollar blog.]

Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing

rich dads guide to investing robert t kiyosakiRich Dad’s Guide to Investing: What the Rich Invest In, That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert T. Kiyosaki, 2/5

Given this book’s large size, I hoped to find a lot of helpful, practical information in it that would help me learn the basic concepts and vocabulary of investing and perhaps give some direction on how to best invest any “excess” cash I might accumulate.  Disappointingly, Kiyosaki’s anecdotal style, focus on generalities, and avoidance of technical terminology rendered the book almost completely unhelpful.  There are a couple interesting concepts, such as creating valuable businesses yourself instead of simply investing in other people’s businesses and using your business to purchase assets so that you can stay poor on paper and avoid paying tax.  Unfortunately, much of the information seemed pretty sketchy and the author provides very few examples of his ideas in action.  Overall, this book felt like a waste of time and casts a rather charlatan shade over Kiyosaki’s whole financial self-help enterprise.

[Why I read it: I’ve read several of Kiyosaki’s books and this one looked interesting.]

Increase Your Financial IQ

increase your financial iq robert kiyosakiIncrease Your Financial IQ: Get Smarter with Your Money by Robert T. Kiyosaki, 3/5

This book is a good follow-up to the too-anecdotal Rich Dad Poor Dad because it provides a variety of practical details and observations that give the reader an increased understanding of Kiyosaki’s financial philosophy.  Some of his ideas make sense immediately (e.g. your house is not an asset, protecting your money with smart tax strategies, the power of information) but other concepts are still hazy to me (e.g. what is “leverage,” viewing bank loans as tax-free money).

Kiyosaki makes a couple of points that I found very depressing but illuminating.  First, he advocates working for a network marketing company in order to learn sales skills and how to build a business.  Network marketing gives me the creeping horrors and if that’s what it takes to be an entrepreneur, I might not be cut out for it.  Secondly, he quotes a friend who says “Entrepreneurs have two characteristics…ignorance and courage” (194).  This is a phenomenon I’ve noticed in many areas of life, not just business-building.  It’s the blindly optimistic and self-confident who go out and do things successfully, not necessarily the people with real talent or skills.

[Why I read it: Kiyosaki doles out the info pretty thinly in his books and you need to read a few to get a handle on his ideas.]

Rich Dad Poor Dad

rich dad poor dad robert kiyosakiRich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money–That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not by Robert T. Kiyosaki, 3/5

Using simplistic diagrams and entertaining anecdotes, Kiyosaki preaches a financial message that is as appealing as it is suspiciously pat: don’t just work for money, make money work for you.  By this, I gather that he means to focus on acquiring income-producing assets instead of the more traditional approach of focusing on increasing your salary, only to spend it on ever-growing liabilities and expenses such as taxes, a too-big house, or expensive junk.  Additionally, Kiyosaki points out that it is the hardworking self-employed and 9-5 rat racers who are, unfairly, the ones most gouged by taxes (a point to which I can personally attest)–the passive income and strategically-formed corporations of the financially literate are much less susceptible to taxes.

That said, I am very suspicious (I could end the sentence there but I’ll continue) of the advice of someone who makes money partly by selling hyped-up books, games and seminars about making money.  It seems that there is an inherent conflict of interest or, at least, an unhealthy circularity similar to a career adviser whose own career is giving career advice.  However, Kiyosaki’s basic ideas seem sensible and I could imagine them successfully directing the energies of someone who has set their mind on working hard to become very rich.  (Of course, this is the kind of person who would likely become wealthy with or without the help of this book.)  People looking to get rich quick will be disappointed–Rich Dad Poor Dad is more philosophical than practically helpful.  I think its main value is to provide some context and an engaging introduction to Kiyosaki’s financial strategies.  I plan to read his other books, which will hopefully substantiate his claims with rather more technical information and fewer generalities.

[Why I read it: I think I read this once years and years ago, but it came up again recently because my brother is researching the idea of investing in rental properties and mentioned reading it.]