Yesterday, I argued that the most effective path to financial success is to boost your income. Frugality is an important part of personal finance, and you will eventually meet your goals if you simply cut your spending, but it might take you a very long time. Maybe even decades. To super-charge your savings, I believe you should look for ways to increase your income.
Unfortunately, it's not as easy to give advice about increasing income as it is about cutting expenses. General frugality tips are applicable to everyone, but our income situations are all different. Later this week, FMF from Free Money Finance will share a guest post on how to boost your income at a traditional job. Today, I want to share some of my favorite books on entrepreneurship and career management. They offer great advice on how to the “earn more” side of the wealth equation.
Before we look at my book recommendations, here's a brief review of a volume that hits bookstores today. Gary Vaynerchuk sent me a preview copy of Crush It!, his new book on internet entrepreneurship. I've had a chance to read it, and I have mixed feelings.
When a person attains success doing something they're passionate about, they have a tendency to generalize and say, “If I did it like this, so can everyone else.” It's like me saying, “If I built a personal finance blog that pays a nice income, so can you.” And while there's some truth to this logic, there's a risk of over-generalizing, of believing your particular methods and circumstances are applicable to everyone.
I think that's the case with Crush It! In this short book (142 pages!), Vaynerchuk does a great job of telling his story and explaining his methods. He also provides the broad brushstrokes for building a personal brand, leveraging social media, and creating an internet business. But if you don't already know what these things are, you're not really his target audience. His book doesn't define these terms and doesn't offer a lot of details.
Crush It! is an excellent resource — for the right person. That's both a strength and a weakness. If you want to replicate Vaynerchuk's success, it's helpful to review his methods. But if you're looking for more general advice about business development, you won't find it here. And if you don't have any desire to build your personal brand, this book won't be of much use to you.
Crush It! suffers from some of the same tunnel vision that afflicted Career Renegade (which I reviewed last winter). Both books offer solid advice for those who want to start a web-based business, or whose businesses might have a web-based component. But they have less to offer someone who owns a traditional manufacturing firm (like a small custom box company, to use one example) or who is perfectly contented in her current career. Crush It! and Career Renegade have nothing to offer my wife, for example. She excels at her current job, which she loves (she's a chemist), and she has no need for “personal branding”.
Books about boosting income
So Crush It! is good for some folks. But what if you're not one of them? Over the past five years, I've read a number of books designed to help readers boost their incomes. Here are a few of the better ones:
Career Renegade by Jonathan Fields — Career Renegade and Crush It! are like two peas in a pod. They cover the same material and have the same attitude. The difference is that Vaynerchuk's book is long on motivation and short on practical tips. Fields' book is more about the tips. If you're interested in starting an internet business — and that includes a topic-oriented blog — then you ought to read these two books. They'll steer you in the fight direction. [My review.]
Earn What You Deserve by Jerrold Mundis — This is a queer book. Mundis wrote the excellent How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously [my review], which drew from the methods of Debtors Anonymous. Earn What You Deserve applies the same principles (the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, really) to increasing your earning power. It's a bit spiritual for my tastes, but you may love it.
Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim — This is the best book on entrepreneurship I've read in the past year. Though Slim does include information on social media, she doesn't focus on it exclusively. Her advice is grounded in the real world, and she includes copious concrete tips for doing work you love and boosting your income. My esteem of this book has only grown in the three months since I read it. [My review.]
The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss — I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The 4-Hour Workweek is like a kick in the head. It offers a non-stop flow of ideas on how to break free of corporate life to pursue your passions. Ferriss is especially keen on creating automated cashflows: businesses that produce income without intervention by the owner. Not all of his ideas seem practical, but he has so many ideas it doesn't matter. Most readers can find something useful here. Get Rich Slowly would not be what it is today without this book. [My review.]
The Incredible Secret Money Machine by Don Lancaster — This 1978 book is out of print, but can often be found for a few bucks at Amazon. To Lancaster, a “money machine” is any venture that generates “nickels” — small streams of revenue from individual customers. This book won't help you build the next Google or Microsoft, but it can help you launch a business selling your art or providing computer consulting. My father, a serial entrepreneur, loved this book. [My review.]
The Millionaire Maker by Loral Langemeier — This book is a mixed bag. Langemeier provides inspirational entrepreneurship advice and includes specifics in the form of seven case stuides. But I still sometimes feel like this book is pitching a get-rich-quick scheme. Plus, some of her advice is irresponsible. She advocates cashing out retirement funds and home equity to start a business. Really? Really? And the 40% returns she mentions? Despite these problems, this is an inspirational book. Just don't accept Langemeier's advice as gospel. [My review.]
Overcoming Underearning by Barbara Stanny — This book is primarily directed at women. Stanny has done extensive research into successful career women, and Overcoming Underearning draws from what she learned. It contains broad advice and a variety of activities, but not a lot of actionable steps. It will help you find direction, but won't actually tell you what to do next. [Guest review at GRS.]
Finally, I want to recommend a book that isn't even out yet. Alexandra Levit's New Job, New You won't be released until the end of the year, but I've had the chance to read a preview copy. It's great. Each of the seven chapters explores a single reason people change careers or set out on their own. And in each chapter, Levit provides four case studies, examples of real people who have made the choices she describes. This is a great book, and I recommend it highly. (You just have to wait until December 29th to read it…)
As I said yesterday, not everyone is interested in boosting their income. Doing so can require a lot of time and hard work. But if you're one of those looking to jump-start your personal finances, reserve one of these books from your public library. You may find that the ideas and inspiration are just the thing to push you to a higher income. Five years ago, I started reading books like these and acting on their advice. Today I'm in a much better place. Maybe five years from today, you'll be able to say the same.
Author: J.D. Roth
In 2006, J.D. founded Get Rich Slowly to document his quest to get out of debt. Over time, he learned how to save and how to invest. Today, he's managed to reach early retirement! He wants to help you master your money — and your life. No scams. No gimmicks. Just smart money advice to help you reach your goals.