The book I wish I´d read in my 20s

Since I was a child I have somehow always been interested in subjects surrounding money and wealth : I was a fan of Ducktales (Picsou in french) and wanted to own a Porsche 911 when I would be a big boy. The interest has been with me all along my teenage years, my university years and early career days. Although I have kept the interest in understanding how to make a good living and how money works I did not do much proper research nor save nor invest until my late 20s.

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Picsou – Wooohooo

You see, when I was at university pursuing my Business and Management courses I thought : Let´s not worry about savings and the stock markets for now, I will find a job that will pay well,  I will work hard, get promoted and earn more year after year. After a few years I will ask my banker about investing in stocks and stuff. What was I thinking?

What I lacked was the right focus and mindset that would lead me to the path to a “Rich Life”. Good I got my act together in my late 20s and started to act more responsibly towards my finances (which is getting me closer to that Rich Life day by day).

I Will Teach You To Be Rich

If you follow me on social media (Instagram in particular) you saw that I just finished reading I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi as of last week. And this is exactly the book I needed to read in my early 20s! Oh man, if I had a Delorean I would go back to those years of financial unconsciousness, slap young Joney in the face and force him to read Ramit´s “Almanac”!

As a Personal Finance blogger I have seen the book advised as a must read for Millennials. After having finished it, I agree it is a must read but not only for younger folks. Sure, stylistically the book is written for people in their 20s/early 30s (it would have suited young Joney perfectly) but it remains excellent material for everyone that has not started to act on their finances yet.

It is a written as a practical 6-weeks programme that will help you with important financial challenges such as owning a home vs. renting, paying bills in an efficient manner, choosing between going to the restaurant today or saving for later, saving for your wedding even if you are still single, negotiating your salary,…with the ultimate goal of leading as Ramit calls it “a Rich Life”.

Living a Rich Life

What is this Rich Life concept? In short it is about defining your financial goals. Becoming rich will mean different things to every person and money is only part of the equation.

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Define your Rich Life

What does it mean to you? Is it having 1 000 000 EUR on your bank account? Plunging into a vault of coins like uncle Scrooge and driving a Lamborghini? or is it having the freedom to define your career independently of money? Having the privilege to spend time with your family and taking them on a trip twice a year? Be financially stable and help the needy through positive actions in the society?… The idea is that if you do not make the effort to define your version of a rich life you will mindlessly follow what the rest of the normal people are doing as per the script society wants us to follow. So if you have not defined your goals yet, pause now for at least 5 minutes and write your thoughts down (it does not need to be very specific you can fine-tune later), and only then continue on. Don’t cheat and skip, you will thank Ramit and me later on for showing the way to a happy life!

How to achieve the Rich Life? 

Let me share my main takeaways from the book that will help you to get there :

  • The first chapter of the book is dedicated to optimizing your credit cards. You will learn to negotiate for better fees (including step by step scripts when calling the credit card companies) and that you absolutely need to get rid of credit card debt as soon as possible. Owing  credit card debt is a constant burden preventing you from getting ahead. To be honest with you I did not pay too much attention to this chapter as my credit card bills are paid in full automatically every month and I have had the chance to never really struggle with that issue. Never the less the fact that it is the first chapter is clear : Get out as fast as possible!
  • Automate your finances. Link you bank accounts, credit cards, savings and investing accounts together so that when you receive your paycheck the money is rerouted to where it needs to be according to your conscious spending plan. This chapter is similar to my financial lifehack article, read it here. From experience I can tell you that automating your finances is effective and that you will see your finances getting healthier as time goes by.
  • Don’t be like young Joney, get started with saving and investing asap! Start small, even 50 EUR on the side per month in your 20s will get you lightyears ahead of anyone starting in their 30s. The key idea is that the earlier you start the more time your investments have time to benefit from the power of compounding interests and grow exponentially.
  • Do not act normal : If you follow the same ordinary route as everyone else chances are you will achieve ordinary results. By taking different steps than people around you (who are not millionaires) you increase the chances for extraordinary results.
  • Real estate : This is a great example of the point above, do not buy a house just because it is the “normal thing to do”. As Ramit states, owning and living in a house is rarely a good investment. The key ideas are not to dismiss the purchase entirely but to warn you against common pitfalls : You will need to consider far more costs than just the sticker price, you will usually move to a larger house, not downsize and take the profits (even if you do downsize you still will be faced with large expenses). Read my 5 reasons why your home is not an investment.
  • Focus on the big wins, Ramit prides himself in saying that you should not deprive yourself from your daily lattes and that instead you should focus on the big wins : Prepare your salary negotiations, negotiate “like an Indian” for big-ticket items such as your home, your car, etc. I absolutely agree on this one : You are better off focusing on a salary negotiation that could return you thousands of dollars per year (and tens of thousands of dollars over decades) instead of cutting back on insignificant expenses such as your daily coffee. It is much more funny to get a 10% increase in salary than depriving you from going to that fancy italian restaurant with your friends once in a while, do you agree? If you follow him on his websites and social media you will hear this example time and time again. Of course remain mindful with your expenses regardless of your results.
  • Stock markets might scare the new investor who wants to put his money to work for him but in the long run if you invest in low-cost index funds your investment will grow significantly over time. Favor those instead of actively managed funds (the managing fees will eat up all your profits in the long run) or active stock picking . I totally get it, I did not do anything myself until my late 20s and got only more active in my early 30s! But worry not friend, Ramit already went through the hard work and extensive research for us, it will take you under less than 30 minutes to get the basics.
  • When it comes to advisers and bankers, understand who you are dealing with : Many “financial advisers”, media figures and other pundits are clueless (example for stock pickings). In my experience this is absolutely true : Bankers are salesmen who sell their own product (Do they also invest in those? What car are they driving? This should give you a clue on the quality of their advice,…). No single person can predict where markets are going in the short run, do not be caught up in the hype of the media regarding stock prices evolution. It is often very short-term and emotion driven.
  • When the Dow Jones lost 2200 points in early February there was a storm of tweets and much fear in the market spread by media. Look at this headline from the Guardian for example.

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  • As a long-term investor I thought for a split second : “Oh too bad I have no available    cash to increase my positions in company X or Y” and then went on to read the next chapter of I Will Teach You To Be Rich sipping my green tea.
  • When it comes to saving for your retirement fund, again start asap, talk to the relevant HR representative and join your company’s retirement plan. If not possible, open a retirement savings account at your bank and opt for a lifecycle fund (a fund that rebalances your portfolio of assets during your life automatically) or the equivalent. Ideally you should invest more aggressively in your 20s/30s with more stocks in your portfolio and as you grow older you rebalance the risk by adding in more bonds (less risky assets). In Norway you can easily do it yourself by logging into your retirement savings account and choosing the allocation of assets corresponding to your life stage.
  • Ramit is a funny man and his jokes spread out through the book makes it an enjoyable read. Because come on what kind of weirdos enjoy reading and writing about personal finance?

Besides the key takeaways from the book what I really appreciate are the clear tactics, plan of actions, script templates on how to negotiate, get your credit card fees lowered, and excellent salary negotiation tips. It offers more than just “philosophical” quotes you could place behind a sunset picture on Instagram.

All in all if you apply the tips and techniques of the book you will see your investments grow significantly over time and I just want to end this section with this quote which really hits home for me.

“Getting rich isn’t about one silver bullet or secret strategy. It happens through regular, boring , disciplined action. Most people see only the results of all this action – a winnable moment or an article in the press. But its the behind -the-scenes work that really makes you rich” – Ramit Sethi

Real-life application

– Fine Jonathan, says my friend Ferdinand, I get it and want to be responsible towards my future by improving my finances. I must admit I am slowly getting excited at the prospect of fulfilling my rich life dream : A purposeful career that allows me to drive my kids (in my Maserati Gran Turismo that is) to sports practice on any regular weekday and take my family on wonderful holidays every year without ever having to worry about money. But does this all work? I mean why should I listen to you or some random Indian guy that writes a book with such a scammy sounding title?

In my case Ferdinand, I have already been applying most of what is advocated in the book such as saving, investing and automating my finances. I have learned it by experience, research, failing and succeeding, and my finances are getting stronger by the day. Following Ramit´s precepts will save you the time I and many others have spent researching and experiencing by themselves. I will keep this practical guide on my bookshelf within hand reach as I know for sure I will revisit some of the tips now and then. But what speaks louder than words is the below testimonial from one of Ramit´s readers posted on his instagram (@ramit) this week.

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In addition I happened to have helped my buddy Tony with a salary negotiation this week and I told him to reframe his negotiation around the wishes of the hiring manager – how are you going to make him look better and add value to the company – and not his. The exact way to ace your salary negotiation is described in the last chapter of the book. The result? Tony increased his salary by a few thousands with as little as 3 phone calls. That is what I call a big win!

And about the man behind I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Ramit Sethi is a best selling author and his blog, www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com, hosts over 1,000,000 readers every month. He co-founded PBwiki and graduated from Stanford, where he studied technology and psychology. He is also the founder of Growth Lab which is aimed towards entrepreneurs to help them start and/or grow their business. In the last 2 years I have become a great fan of Ramit Sethi in general. The man offers so much valuable content for free and the tactics and systems simply work!

So my friends (and Ferdinand) should you read it?

Absolutely! If you are in your twenties or thirties this is an absolute must read to get started with dealing with your finances responsibly. If you are more experienced, getting a new perspective on managing your personal finance will yield positive results.

OK Jonathan, I am sold but one last objection : Does the book make sense for non-US citizen? Yes, it still does Ferdinand. I myself somehow got the UK version since I ordered it online from Europe but it does not matter. The principles and tactics taught will help you making financial progress regardless. You will just need to adapt your research to your local tax rules and financial service institutions.

I hence urge you to run to your closest bookstore now, order it online at Amazon, borrow it from your friends, try to steal it from my own bookshelf (if you dare),…

Just get your hands on it, start applying the tactics, see your money grow and… enjoy YOUR Rich Life my friends.

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Have you read the book my friends? What were your takeaways? Did you know about Ramit Sethi before? Let me know in the comments below!

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4 thoughts on “The book I wish I´d read in my 20s

  1. Thanks Joney for a new interesting insight, and for making me discover Ramith Sethi ! I definitely want to buy the book now. I believe the blog has also lots of great insights.

    You have generously shared the take aways of the book, from the perspective of someone who would like to get an overview of the book. However, what were YOUR own takeaways from the book? Is there a particular point or a perspective that you ignored and that the book help you discover? (not only in finance but also on the psychology)?

    Thanks again, and looking forward to the next article!

    1. Dear theleanfox, Yes I am great fan of Ramit so glad to share great stuff with you!
      As you can read, many ideas fit already well with some previous articles so all in all I share similar views as Ramit Sethi. Where I get the most value from is that Ramit likes to position himself differently than other advisors and shows that it can work too : I have seen for example countless advisors saying :”No you cannot buy your daily coffee, save that money because it will save you so much if you reinvest that money in the stock markets.” Although it is mathematically correct, focusing on the Big Wins will yield far better financial results than depriving yourself entirely from a guilty pleasure which is less likely to work in the long run. I hope you’ll enjoy the book as much as I did and remember in the end this is PERSONAL finance so adapt Ramit´s teachings, my blogposts and others advice based on your situation and tweak the systems to your own needs so that it works for you in order to enjoy a Rich Life!

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