A Targeted Guide
Sethi know his audience. I Will Teach You to Be Rich is aimed at 20-to-35 year olds, and it’s essentially a guide to getting your finances on track. The book covers a six-week program that automates saving and jump-starts investing — with more than a little information on banking, budgeting and entrepreneurship along the way. The information is very targeted: heavy hitting chapters on banking, for instance, are aimed towards readers who aren’t quite up to speed on all the ways banks make money off of account holders. That may seem to guarantee that the book will only offer introductory level material on personal finance, but I was surprised to see that it actually goes pretty in-depth. On the topic of banking, for instance, Sethi dives into the complexities of overdraft fees to the extent of providing guides to negotiating your way out of that first overdraft fee.
I won’t claim that it’s an exhaustive volume — at just over 250 pages there just isn’t room for even half the material Sethi has covered on his blog. But I Will Teach You to Be Rich will definitely give the average twenty-something the tools necessary to get his or her financial house in order, along with some ideas on why to bother. The introduction asks, “Would you rather be sexy or rich?” With that question, Sethi embarks on an analogy that can’t help but make sense: money is like food. Most of us have stressed over our weight at some point or another and tried at least one ridiculous diet. But the fact of the matter is that the only thing we really need to know about food is that we should eat less and exercise more. Sethi makes the argument that the same level of simplicity is all it takes to keep our finances under control. It’s not a sexy approach — but it is an approach that can make you rich in the long run.
The language, anecdotes and overall style does make it very clear that you’re reading a book for the college-to-mid-thirties crowd. There are a few colorful metaphors, accompanied by shout-outs to Sethi’s mom. I Will Teach You to Be Rich is certainly one of the funnest books I’ve read on personal finance, and you shouldn’t think for a moment that the style detracts from the quality of information that Sethi shares. But it does certainly make it an easier read than most ‘must-read’ personal finance guides.
The Emphasis on Entrepreneurship
Where I think Sethi knocks it out of the park, both in his blog and in his book, is his emphasis on entrepreneurship. While most personal finance resources talk about topics like automating your finances or long-term investment strategies (albeit with less style), surprisingly few really promote entrepreneurship. In I Will Teach You to Be Rich, Sethi doesn’t go overboard with entrepreneurial concepts — after all, the book is first and foremost about achieving financial independence. But there are little discussions, here and there, that make it clear that Sethi doesn’t really expect anyone who has their finances taken care of to stick with an employer for the long-term.
It’s easy to attribute Sethi’s support for entrepreneurship as a part of personal finance to his own life: Sethi co-founded PBwiki and has turned his personal finance blog into a site with over 200,000 readers each month. But I think there’s more to it than that. I think that entrepreneurship is becoming more important, especially as people feel less secure in their jobs and have more options.
Sethi tackles it from the point of view that most personal finance bloggers are focused on frugality — which seems like a pretty fair statement. In contrast, Sethi has focused on making money, whether through asking for a raise, investing and starting a money-making enterprise of one’s own. Don’t get me wrong — Sethi has devoted entire months to saving money. He just goes for the big savings, rather than frugal tips like making your own soap. But overall, Sethi focuses on helping readers to figure out how they can grow their earnings over time — and that is an approach that will really pay off. It makes both Sethi’s book and blog worth reading in my mind.
If you’re interested in picking up a copy of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, Amazon lists it as in stock on March 27. I did see copies on the shelf of my local major bookseller last night, however, so they are out there. I’m interested in seeing what you think of the book — personally, this is one book I think I’ll be referring back to.