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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 January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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