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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Lori
Lori
11 years ago

So, say you’re that 45 year old struggling to make ends meet with 2 kids…any good books for us? 🙂

Beth
Beth
11 years ago

I wish reviewers would acknowledge the fact that their audience isn’t just American. As an “outsider”, it would refreshing to have someone say “even if you’re not an American, this book is still worth a look because…” or “if you’re not American, this book probably isn’t for you because…” I’m guessing I’m not the only one who reads American money blogs. There’s lots of useful information that applies to everyone, and I just skip the stuff that doesn’t apply to me. (No big deal). Ramit’s book looks interesting, but I can’t tell if there’s enough useful content to make it… Read more »

Kent @ The Financial Philosopher
Kent @ The Financial Philosopher
11 years ago

I am sure there is much value to be had in your friend’s book; however, the path to being rich is not found by monetary means. Also, I must say that I am a bit tired of seeing a book title claiming it will make someone rich, especially if contentment is not part of the book’s teaching. Isn’t the idea of “getting rich” at the core of our financial crisis?

“If thou wilt make a man happy, add not unto his riches but take away from his desires.” ~ Epicurus

AmericanCliche
AmericanCliche
11 years ago

@Kent I cannot agree more. @JD I disagree with you about Suze Orman’s YF&B. Her book is long, but isn’t intended to be read cover to cover (at least I didn’t think it was). Instead, it’s designed to be referenced when making financial decisions. I think her book is a great resource because as I grew financially the book still applied. I used it as a reference when buying insurance and plan on using it as a reference when I buy my first home. On a separate note, do you have any financial TV shows you’d recommend? I really like… Read more »

James M
James M
11 years ago

Let me say, I really enjoy this site. The title turns me off. There is no way he can teach anyone to be rich in a book. He can teach a better financial life, but I’m sure he’s relying on things out of his control (market returns for example) for people to get rich. I’m sure at the end of a 6 week plan, people could be in better shape, but with a 0% guarantee that they’ll be rich. I know… I know… catchy marketing, just seems more slimey snake oil salesman to me. J.D., do you have a conflict… Read more »

Josh
Josh
11 years ago

Man people are reading way too deeply into the name of the book. I think everyone realizes there’s more to life and “riches” than just money. But he’s not going to change the name of the book when he built his reputation on that name for his blog.

@james M,

JD clearly stated at the top of the review his conflict of interest here. Settle down.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
11 years ago

“So, say you’re that 45 year old struggling to make ends meet with 2 kids…any good books for us? 🙂 ”

Lori, try “The Complete Tightwad Gazette” by Amy Dacyczyn. I’m 30 years old with two kids and it’s been quite helpful for us.

David
David
11 years ago

I did my part to stimulate the economy today. I purchased a new watch and Ramit’s book from Amazon.

Danna
Danna
11 years ago

From Ramit’s website for those who want to buy the book:
“TODAY ONLY: I’m giving away 1 Kindle per hour from 8am – 4pm Pacific and FIVE $1,000 checks to kickstart your savings account. Buy the book (Amazon, B&N) and forward your receipt to [email protected]
Winners announced every hour at the very bottom of this page and on twitter.com/ramit
I’m also live on video for most of the day to answer any questions (starting at 8am Pacific)”

JerichoHill
JerichoHill
11 years ago

The title comes straight from Ramit’s in your face website address. Nothing more sinister than that. Ramit’s advice isn’t for everyone. I won’t be purchasing Ramit’s book even though I am in his target age bracket (29). However, if I was 5 years younger, I would tell my younger self to buy it. I enjoy reading Ramit’s website but I involved myself on this website rather than his, because GRS more fits MY profile. What’s that mantra “Do what works for you?” And James, there is a clear disclaimer at the top of this post. If you’re read GRS for… Read more »

Starving Artist
Starving Artist
11 years ago

Thanks for the review, JD. I’m going to pick up a copy for some just-out-of-college family members. This is a concise review. “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” is a eye catching title, which may be an unfortunate choice given the financial times, but I think Ramit is a good guy and it sounds like he’s put together a practical work. While you can’t get rich in six weeks, I think there are a lot of things people can do in that amount of time that will lay the groundwork to finiancial success, and sounds like Ramit has offered… Read more »

Andrea
Andrea
11 years ago

@Beth- As a UK-based reader, I agree with you 100%. But sadly many American-based sites on the internet tend to fall into the same trap. But just from scanning this review, I’d be surprised if there was much in Sethi’s book for someone living outside of the US…it seems to be really specific, which is great for people who need that kind of info but the nature of providing specifics means that the usefulness of the book will likely be tied to one particular financial location, in this case the States. @JamesM- agreed, I’m also not fond of the title… Read more »

AndyCarl
AndyCarl
11 years ago

If “Debt is slavery” and a good saving-plan will let us get rich (slowly), who in the world should go in debt to give us the interest we expect for our savings? Could we talk about humanity if we want to get rich at the expense of those who haven´t learnt the lesson this blog teaches?
I think it is okay to get rich slowly, but we only will get rich by work …. and love.
(From germany)

J.D.
J.D.
11 years ago

@James M (#5) Great question! No, I don’t feel like I have any conflict of interest in recommending this book. I’m receiving no financial compensation (nor any compensation of any kind) for doing so, even though I do have a two-page article here. I really do think this is an excellent book for its target audience. I’ve been completely honest about what I think about the book. Ramit has done a fine job. I do think that the two problems people will have with this are: 1. Ramit’s tone/voice/attitude. I already know that many GRS readers find it grating, and… Read more »

James M
James M
11 years ago

Thank you for the reply J.D. This is why your site rocks! This is just a hot point for me. If you feel good about it, great. Brand recognition, name recognition, etc. are there for you to gain from this book being successful. But just a difference of opinion. I guess my real point w/ the title and all is for people just to realize that financial self help gurus get rich from the advice they give, not from following it. If enough people believe the book will make them rich, the people who will be rich are Ramit and… Read more »

Michelle
Michelle
11 years ago

wasn’t he just on the Dave Ramsey radio show as a guest?

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
11 years ago

A couple of asides: 1) J.D. do you think that recent college graduates and newlyweds aren’t in your “core demographic” (so to speak)? I seem to see tons of commenters on your site mention being in their 20s. 2) “Would you rather be sexy or rich?” Is a really strange title for a section of a personal finance book review. 3) Does anyone else find it difficult to take someone seriously who refers to himself by the name of a fictional cartoon robot (flexo)? And a couple of on-topic notes: I think having a personal finance book targeted specifically towards… Read more »

frugalscholar
frugalscholar
11 years ago

For older people with kids, I’d recommend Andrew Tobias’s “The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need.” Actually, I’d recommend that to anyone! The Tightwad Gazette books are more than just frugal tips; there’s a lot of “philosophy” there too.

Jeff
Jeff
11 years ago

Ramit has been sending me preview chapters of his book via e-mail during the past few weeks. As a single twenty something in his target audience, the book really stuck a cord with me. I found his humor and writing style perfect for our age group. From what I read, I would definitely recommend this book to a peer.

Kevin
Kevin
11 years ago

J.D., Just curious: does this post contain Amazon affiliate links? Thx.

Denise
Denise
11 years ago

I won’t be buying this book, but I will be checking it out (for free) at my local library!

Thanks for all the great book suggestions JD!

J.D.
J.D.
11 years ago

@Kevin (#21)
Yes, of course. Any time I mention a book, I use Amazon affiliate links. (Which I guess does mean that I am receiving some sort of compensation, which is probably your point. What I meant to say is that I’m not receiving any abnormal compensation, such as payment from Ramit or the publisher.)

human bean
human bean
11 years ago

>>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. Let me add that from my point of view, his tone and attitude are not tolerable for most of us humans. His writing betrays his authoritarian attitude, which is so over the top as to be bordering on condescending. It seems like he is about to scream at you: “YOU’RE A DAMN FOOL FOR GETTING YOURSELF INTO THIS MESS, IDIOT!” So who… Read more »

Chett
Chett
11 years ago

I have noticed, and found myself at times, sniping at suggestions that are brought up on this site by way of guest posts, reviews or just comments by J.D. It seems we take a contradiction to our own habits as a threat at times. Maybe this is one of the things that helps this site to be more compelling as people passionately express their view points in contrast to others. I do think that it should be kept in mind that this site has become a great resource for the sharing of ideas (both good and bad) related to topics… Read more »

Craig
Craig
11 years ago

Sounds like a book I need to buy. Being 23 and single and working a lower paying job, need some good advice I can actually use in my situation.

Cathy
Cathy
11 years ago

I read the pre-release of this book. It is excellent for the target audience. Ramit points out some skills for the 20 somethings that a lot of them are missing. If his target audience buys this book, then start using their heads to think about this, we will all be a lot better off.

J.D.
J.D.
11 years ago

Congrats to Ramit. He’s managed to make it to the #1 spot on the Amazon best-seller list, knocking off the Twilight books. I’m in awe. That’s impressive stuff.

Flexo
Flexo
11 years ago

Tyler: Your third point is interesting. Did you read the article I contributed? I find that most of my readers take my writing seriously (when I intend it to be taken as such) regardless of the pseudo-anonymous name chosen to protect my identity.

Starving Artist
Starving Artist
11 years ago

Wow, any idea how many books you have to sell to get a #1 ranking on Amazon?

Zman
Zman
11 years ago

Ramit’s writing is agressive, or maybe just passionate. I think that his style probably meshes well with many 20-somethings and I bought this book with my youngest son (26) in mind. I’m hoping he gets a push into 401(k) and investment (now, not later) territory. I think it may be too late for his 30-something brother, though.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
11 years ago

@flexo: I’m sure most of your readers do take your writing seriously, but that means about as much as saying, “most baseball fans like baseball.” They wouldn’t read your site if they didn’t feel they could take it seriously. Here are the writers mentioned in this post: Leo Babauta, Trent Hamm, Michael Mihalik, Suze Orman, Ramit Sethi, Gina Trapan, Flexo, and J.D. Roth. Which one of these names stands out as most looking like a joke? Note that *none* of these other authors feel the need to hide behind anonymity. And no, I haven’t read the article. It may be… Read more »

J.D.
J.D.
11 years ago

@Tyler (#31)
Flexo hides behind anonymity for good reasons. He’s not anonymous to those he knows and trusts. I know his real name. I’ve met him and think he’s a great down-to-earth guy.

Flexo is anonymous because he shares more about his life than most other pfbloggers do. I don’t share my income or net worth because everything else is public. Flexo can share that stuff because he’s anonymous.

Also, at least one of the others in your list (not me, not Ramit) is semi-anonymous — but hasn’t taken the name of a cartoon robot! 🙂

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
11 years ago

I’m not trying to imply that he’s not a great guy, or that he’s not a good writer, just that the name “flexo” doesn’t inspire confidence. It’s sort of like having “[email protected]” as the email address at the top of your resume. It doesn’t make you any worse a job candidate, but it makes interviewers think, “hmm, really, he can’t be any more professional than that?”

That’s all, didn’t mean to take over the comments section with this.

db
db
11 years ago

@Lori: For your situation, I’d look at either David Bach’s “Smart Couples Finish Rich” or “Smart Women Finish Rich”. I don’t like some of Bach’s newer books, but “Smart Women Finish Rich” really hit the right spot with me a few years back. Somebody else mentioned the Tobias book but I didn’t care for it — I thought the book itself seemed aged. I think he wrote it in the early 90s? Re Ramit Sethi’s book, I’m also Not-A-Fan of the title or tone of his work. Can’t stand the blog, so doubt I’ll peek at the book. But my… Read more »

Michael
Michael
11 years ago

I haven’t checked out Ramit’s blog, but based on J.D.’s review I’ll be checking out the book (from the library, like Denise #21). This sounds like the type of advice that made me want to start blogging: seeing younger people who could benefit so much by getting started sooner than I did. However, almost everybody has the same problem. They think the theoretical advice is great, but they still don’t know how to turn it into practice. Thanks for the review, J.D.

plonkee
plonkee
11 years ago

As another Brit (hiding behind a pseudonym based on a comedy show, so clearly not a real person) I’ll chime in with Andrea and Beth to ask whether or not this book is very US-specific. I kind of fit into the core demographic, and I can do some translation (from say Roth IRAs to Stocks and Shares ISAs), but if it’s more specific than that, it’s probably not worth it for me.

davidson07
davidson07
11 years ago

I will not be getting the book. Ramit’s always come across as very “late night informercial” to me – handing out overly simplistic tips for free and promising the real stuff is available as soon as you start handing your cash to him. My advice? Stick with the wealth of free information that’s available out there. If you need to get the book, get it at the library.

Ken  Montville - The MD Suburbs of DC
Ken Montville - The MD Suburbs of DC
11 years ago

I agree with ddavidson07 (above).

I also want to applaud your honesty. You are the first PF blogger that has admitted, up front, that there is a friendly relationship between you and the book’s author. No one else seems to want to admit it in spite of fawning reviews.

You’re da man!

jordan
jordan
10 years ago

This is the first i’ve briefly stumbled upon your site, and I’m commenting without reading much because i have to do other fun things. While I probably would agree with much of what you say, you were discredited early with your closed opinion of reading books and ideas on financing. Only two recommendations? Why not read everything you can. Orman, a very smart, seems to assume her readers can only gain knowledge by joining her ways. Case in point: Term Insurance. She hates all Whole Life. Right? Term has it’s uses, but it is foolish to assume that everyone can… Read more »

Waning Moon
Waning Moon
10 years ago

I know this is an old post… but, I just feel the need to say that the only people who are offended by Ramit’s personality and tone are older people who don’t get the sarcasm or 20-somethings who think they are “mature” and “sophisticated.” The great thing about Ramit’s humor is that it is outrageous but deadpan at the same time — you’re reading along, nothing to see, and then out of nowhere comes some hilarious insult or self-flattering remark. Totally outrageous and definitely endearing. So there. Suckas. (Or at least that’s what I think Ramit would end with 😉… Read more »

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