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Review: I Will Teach You To Be Rich

Review: I Will Teach You To Be Rich

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    As far as personal finance blogs go, Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to Be Rich can’t help but stand out. Most of the personal finance blogs out there stick to calm explanations of what the writers are doing to improve their own finances, along with some tips meant to get readers interested in doing things the same way. In contrast, Sethi’s blog is loud, full of concrete examples on how to do things and aggressively effective. It makes Sethi stand out among the rest of the personal finance bloggers out there — and it’s made for a very interesting book. Sethi’s book, also titled I Will Teach You to Be Rich, came out yesterday and it’s already making some waves.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    The Book

    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.

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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