Book review: I Will Teach You to Be Rich

Today I am reviewing a new book written by a colleague. As you read this review, please remember that I am friends with author. For comparison, you can see my reviews of two other books by friends here and here.

I'm often asked to recommend personal-finance books for young adults. I've read a few (and have more in my to-read stack), but there are only two that I promote in my presentations to students:

Now, however, my friend and colleague Ramit Sethi has written a money book aimed squarely at those in their twenties. And he's done a marvelous job. I can only hope that my own (theoretical) book turns out this well.

Would You Rather be Sexy or Rich?

I Will Teach You to Be Rich is not simply a blog-to-book dump. Ramit has gone to great lengths to produce a volume that is packed with useful tips. It's true that he's incorporated some of the best bits from his blog, but he also spent two years crafting new material.

Here's an excerpt from the end of the introduction, in which Ramit describes his goals:

After reading this book, you'll be better prepared to manage your finances than 99 percent of other people in their twenties and early thirties. You'll know what accounts to open up, ways not to pay your bank extra fees, how to invest, how to think about money, and how to see through a lot of the hype that you seen on TV an in magazines every day.

There aren't any secrets to getting rich — it just takes small steps and some discipline, and you can do it with just a little bit of work. Now let's get started.

Aside from that last bit (I think getting rich takes a lot of work and/or a lot of patience), this sounds like it could have been written by me. In fact, I wish I'd written many of the things in this book.

In my conversations with Ramit, he's stressed that I Will Teach You to Be Rich is “highly tactical”, and he's right. He doesn't just encourage readers to find the best savings accounts, he walks them through the process. He provides scripts for requesting rate reductions from credit cards and banks. He demonstrates his method of automating his financial life. He describes how to come out ahead in salary negotiations.

Six Weeks of Action Steps

Ramit has built his book around a six-week program of action steps. Each week highlights one aspect of personal finance:

  • Week one focuses on optimizing credit cards and improving your credit history.
  • Week two explains how to find great bank accounts, and how to negotiate away fees.
  • During week three, Ramit helps readers to open a 401(k) and/or a Roth IRA.
  • In week four, Ramit leads readers through he process of drafting a “spending plan” so that they can make conscious choices about where their money goes.
  • Week five is all about connecting your new financial infrastructure, and automating it so that it hums along without intervention from you.
  • And the final week is an introduction to investing — how to use diversification and asset allocation to meet your investment goals.

Each chapter includes a “guest” article from a prominent blogger, including Gina Trapani from Lifehacker (and now Smarterware), Trent Hamm from The Simple Dollar, Flexo from Consumerism Commentary, and yours truly.

I think my favorite part of I Will Teach You to Be Rich is that Ramit cites his sources. You'll recall that in my review of The Power of Less, I complained that my friend Leo resorted to broad statements with no research to support his claims. I was disappointed. Ramit doesn't fall into that trap. When he recommends index funds or talks about asset allocation, he backs up his advice with quotes and data. If only every personal-finance book did this…

The Bottom Line

Ramit's book is great, but it's not for everyone. First of all, it's targeted almost exclusively at young adults. If you're under 25 and single, and if you make a decent living, this book is perfect. But if you're 45 and married with two children, and if you struggle to make ends meet, this book is less useful.

Second, as most of you know, Ramit has a strong authorial voice. He's bold, sarcastic, and even a little sassy. Not everyone likes this. If you're turned off by his blog (or by his guest posts at Get Rich Slowly), you'll be turned off by his tone in this book.

These caveats aside, I Will Teach You to Be Rich is an outstanding personal finance book. It's packed with solid advice, cites its sources, and provides scores of tactical tips for managing money. I stand by my blurb used on the cover of the book:

Smart, bold, and practical. I Will Teach You to Be Rich is packed with tips that actually work. This is a great guide to money management for twentysomethings — and everybody else.

Having just finished the book for a second time, I stand by that statement. I'd still recommend Debt is Slavery for young adults who are struggling with their finances (i.e., people like the 21-year-old J.D.). But for everyone else, I Will Teach You to Be Rich is an excellent choice. (Trent at The Simple Dollar reviewed the book yesterday, and came to a similar conclusion.)

This may not be the best personal-finance book for Get Rich Slowly readers, but it could be perfect for the newlywed or college graduate in your life.

Get an audio recording of Ramit and me answering YOUR money questions and talking about our own financial development! If you buy the book in the next seven days and forward your receipt to [email protected], you will receive an hour-long recording of Ramit and me answering GRS reader questions about saving, investing, and the mistakes people make when managing their money. (The recording also includes my wife in the background, working on the GRS garden project.)

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