I LOVED Zac Bissonnette's first book Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents. IMO, it's the best book on how to plan and pay for college out there. I have recommended it to several others who have kids preparing for college and they have given me similar feedback -- it was a great resource for them. If you have a child, relative, friend, or anyone you know who is starting the college planning process, get and read this book. You will not be sorry!
I liked the book so much that I ran a series of posts on it here on FMF including:
- Examples of How to Pay for College Without Borrowing
- The Dos and Don'ts of Paying for College
- The Crazy World of the FAFSA
Since I loved book #1, I was excited when I found out Zac was writing another one. I tried contacting his publisher and requesting a review copy, but their process was a bit hard to navigate through. So I found Zac on Twitter, sent him a note, and he responded. (Very cool, BTW -- an author who is responsive.) A few days later, I had the book.
The new book is How to Be Richer, Smarter, and Better-Looking Than Your Parents and, as you might guess, it's more of a general personal finance book. I dug into it right away and read it over the course of a couple days (it's an easy read) since I was expecting to be blown away with page after page of new insights (which is what I had happen with the first book.) Unfortunately, this never happened.
Here's the summary of the new book in two bullet points:
- The pathway to becoming wealthy is through controlling your spending.
- As such, here's a book on how to save money on many of your expenses.
Of course, there's more than that to it (near the end there's a chapter on picking a career you love -- which is advice you know I hate -- and earning money on the side), but these two bullet points do cover at least 80% of the book.
The book does mix in a lot of general personal finance advice as it lays out its money-saving tips. Here's the book's own conclusion -- listing eight points that summarizes what it covers (with my comments in parentheses):
- Materialism killed the dinosaurs. Materialism is really, really bad and will lead to misery and poverty in your life.
- Debt will make your life bad.
- A little bit of money in savings will make life good.
- Keep your fixed costs low.
- Bad people work in the financial services industry.
- Simplicity, laziness, and inattentiveness are the keys to investing success.
- Eat brown rice. (It's affordable and better for you than alternatives.)
- Your career should excite you.
All good advice IMO. It's just that it's not really new, innovative, or creative. It works, of course, but it's stuff I already know. Where are all the cool tips that I didn't know -- like in the first book? Answer: Nowhere to be found.
The other thing I liked about the first book was that it was written by an expert -- someone who had actually done what he was writing about and gave great insider tips as a result. The new book reads like it was written by someone who did a lot of research on the subject, but really hasn't lived it. And let's face it, Zac is in his early 20's, so he hasn't really had the chance to live out his personal finances like many of us -- he's still learning. The difference comes across in the two books. In the first, he touts more accomplishments. In the second, he relies on credentials. And you know what I prefer when it comes to accomplishments versus credentials.
This said, I don't think the book is really for me. It's for a 20-something who knows virtually zippo about managing money and will never read a "boring" personal finance book. This person wants to hear from someone in his own generation about how to become rich. And on that front, I think this book delivers. Zac has a very contemporary (and funny!) writing style that I like and I think will connect him with younger readers. As such, this book would make a great graduation present for either an advanced high schooler or any new college grad.
Here's a section of the book that both illustrates this point as well as dishes out some great, basic, personal finance 101 advice:
It's a cliché: "It's not how much you make, it's how much you keep." But it's true! Economists Steven Venti of Dartmouth and David Wise of Harvard found that income differences account for only about 5 percent of the differences in household wealth.
The way that people accumulate wealth is that they decide to save a significant chunk of their income. Most people of all income brackets don't do this, and that's why most people never accumulate any significant assets.
What matters in wealth building is the decision to live a life that allows you to save a significant portion of your income. There's no secret, there's no trick. Doing it is more important than how you do it. Just do it. This is great news because it puts your financial future in your hands, not your boss's or anyone else's.
You may be asking yourself, "Why should I save money for retirement now? Isn't it more fun to spend? Live in the moment!"
No. Once you get started with this plan you will find that, paradoxically, saving for retirement is actually more fun than spending on cool stuff. You'll have a feeling of power and control over your life. You'll sleep better at night knowing that you're making progress toward financial power -- the ability to be true to yourself. Plus, it's extremely unlikely that your parents were saving money at your age so this move will automatically make you smarter than the people who raised you. Which means that -- for the rest of your life -- you can yawn dismissive condescension whenever they try to give you advice.
As you can see from the above, the advice is good and the humor is tongue-in-cheek. I like both. :)
So if there's a new grad or other young person in your life, this book would be great for them to check out. But for the more advanced and seasoned money managers out there, there's really nothing new here.