This book isn't perfect (some sections could have been left out and some of the messages are repetitive), but I'm giving it 5 stars because the messag...moreThis book isn't perfect (some sections could have been left out and some of the messages are repetitive), but I'm giving it 5 stars because the message and insights are great (and the book is short enough as is).
Although the book is based mostly on anecdotes and emotional arguments (i.e. this is not scientific), I felt that the steps to and reasons for simplifying your life resonated very well.
If you're feeling over-stressed, questioning taking on more debt, or just looking for some more reasons to continue your quest to slim down your obligations, this is a great read.(less)
This book is part self-help, part educational commentary that uses anecdotes to identify problems and solutions related to passions and education.
I pi...moreThis book is part self-help, part educational commentary that uses anecdotes to identify problems and solutions related to passions and education.
I picked up The Element with the expectation of finding practical advice on why finding your passions is important, how to identify your passions, how to pursue them, and how to develop them. This book covers those areas with anecdotes from people who have found their passions (and how it has transformed their lives for the better), information on how/why finding other like-minded people and mentors is important, and some preparation for the sorts of opposition/obstacles you're likely to face.
But there is actually much more to this book. The beginning and ending sections of this book are more of a critique of society's conceptions of intelligence and our educational systems, as well as the author's opinions on how things should be. The main flaws identified are around 1) narrowly defining intelligence as basically "book smarts" and 2) running education systems more like fast food quality assurance (standardized subjects and tests) or a mining operation (sifting through kids to identify academic intelligence) than individualized education (tailored to each student) or cultivating crops (creating an environment where students can flourish in different ways).
The book is very heavy on anecdotes (some will like this, some won't) and, while the writing was entertaining and witty, if you're looking for something clear, concise, and direct, this book will likely feel a bit too long.(less)
Starting this book, I was prepared to ignore the buzz words and "get rich quick!" style of writing, so I thought I'd be able to come away with minimal...moreStarting this book, I was prepared to ignore the buzz words and "get rich quick!" style of writing, so I thought I'd be able to come away with minimal annoyance and some good nuggets of information. But I couldn't really find anything worthwhile here.
As instructed in the first section, I did not read the whole book, but only focused on the topics I was interested in. After reading a few sections, I noticed some themes: 1) most of the "research" is (as the author admits) not completely scientific or there are conflicting studies, 2) most of the specific "how to" plans are extremely unclear or difficult to parse and lack specific details on how to get started, and 3) they frequently rely on expensive or possibly-unsafe equipment, procedures, or drugs.
Even after ignoring the drugs that I wanted to avoid (at the very least initially), I couldn't identify a single clear plan of attack for any of the areas I was interested in. There were lots of great anecdotes about incredible gains in a single week/month/year, but the means used were so obfuscated it almost seemed intentional.(less)
Based on the title and a couple of reviews, I decided to read this book to find out more about the author's views on how one finds meaning in his or h...moreBased on the title and a couple of reviews, I decided to read this book to find out more about the author's views on how one finds meaning in his or her life. I thought this would be a straight-forward and easy-to-read book since it was apparently a pretty popular book, but that was just not the case.
The basic ideas in this book are great--specifically how people find meaning (doing/creating something, experiencing/loving something/someone, and standing up to unavoidable suffering) and how the "meaning of life" has individual and specific answers, but not a general one. However, there is a lot more to this book that obscures this information.
The first portion of this book details the author's experiences in concentration camps during Word War II. The stories shed light on how the author's theories held up under the worst circumstances. This section is powerful and frequently fascinating, but I feel like it would have been better suited to being a separate/companion book. If you're just looking for information on the author's theories instead of justification/anecdotes, this section may be a difficult read.
The last portion of the book serves as a primer on so-called logotherapy (psychoanalysis based on meaning). This section seems to be more targeted at psychiatrists or people with an interest in psychiatry (and it often reads like a textbook). There were some interesting ideas contained here, but the interesting nuggets were hidden among numerous anecdotes (of the "this person was cured in one session!" variety) and obscure details.
Overall, this book contains compelling ideas, but not in an easy-to-consume format.(less)
The Total Money Makeover is all about creating a system that prevents you from making big money mistakes. If you've made mistakes in the past or are i...moreThe Total Money Makeover is all about creating a system that prevents you from making big money mistakes. If you've made mistakes in the past or are in debt, following this system is a step in the right direction, for sure. Once you're out of debt, though, you'll want to find a separate book on investing (e.g. Investing Made Simple by Mike Piper).
Most of the plan can be summarized in one imperative: avoid debt! (Except, bizarrely, in the one case where if you're so indebted that you can't pay creditors, Dave suggests that you order one of his other books as well--yes, "order" not "borrow from the library.") That means there's no "good debt" or "bad debt" in Dave's eyes--debt should just be avoided (except, if necessary, a 15 year fixed rate home loan). While this stance makes it difficult to make mistakes, some of the supporting statements (rich people don't use credit cards, lenders will happily lend to folks with no credit history) are questionable. In the end, though, this is probably the simplest rule people can follow to right their financial ship, so it is reasonable, if imperfect, advice.
On the investing side of finances, this book comes up very short. Dave submits that a 12% nominal return on "good growth-stock mutual funds" is a reasonable expectation. He takes this one step further and suggests that withdrawing 8% per year from retirement accounts should, after inflation, allow indefinite inflation-adjusted income (12% nominal return minus 4% inflation equals your permanent passive income). This figure is much higher than the Trinity Study's 4% safe withdrawal rule (although Dave's asset allocation is certainly riskier and could provide a little higher--but less safe--return). Setting that issue aside, the book doesn't really give any suggestions on how to actually select investments to meet this goal. Sadly, investment expenses and taxes (which, in the worst case, can consume several percentage points per year) aren't even really discussed.
So far, the book is good for getting out of debt and prioritizing saving, but unhelpful when it comes to investing. What about how the message is delivered? This is, unfortunately, another weak spot. While there are inspiring anecdotes from folks that succeeded using this plan, the bulk of the text is repetitive and chock full of convoluted metaphors--though this does lend the audio book to an interesting drinking game based on the term "gazelle intensity". Finally, the "Christian perspective" that shows up randomly throughout the book doesn't really add anything of value, in my opinion, and may be a turn-off to some readers.
In the end, if you've made some mistakes and aren't sure how to correct them, this book is absolutely worth your time. If you're already headed down the right path, then there's not really much to see here.(less)
I'm going to be honest. I hate the title of this book. It comes off as equal parts arrogance and scamminess. But after getting over the title (and per...moreI'm going to be honest. I hate the title of this book. It comes off as equal parts arrogance and scamminess. But after getting over the title (and perhaps the similes), I found a lot to like.
One of the most important (and frequently reiterated) points of this book is that getting started on your finances is the most important step. This is crystallized into the "85% rule" where you try to just get a solid working solution now (e.g. start contributing to your 401(k) by next pay period), rather than diving straight into fine details/tweaks (e.g. traditional vs. Roth). This is an insightful point that highlights a common roadblock.
Beyond that, a lot of this book details fairly standard personal finance nuts and bolts, but having it all captured in one place is convenient. The book covers everything from understanding credit and creating a sustainable spending plan to investing and even paying for a wedding. The advice is generally clear, concise, and logical. I didn't find it very compelling, but there is also some "soft skills" advice (e.g. how to bring up the topic of money with a significant other).
Overall, the advice here is solid, so if you're a twenty-something and you're not sure where to begin with your finances, this is a great starting point.
Note: While the content is very practical and that is helpful, the book stops short of discussing more radical personal finance topics like early retirement and/or financial independence--topics that I found highly motivating. The target audience of unencumbered recent-college-graduates-who-should-be-flush-with-cash-but-aren't are well served, but this book is more about how to more easily and efficiently locate the cheese, rather than how to quit the rat race altogether.(less)
The best parts of this book are the profiles of "cheapskates" (a positive term, as defined in this book) where you get to hear about how real people h...moreThe best parts of this book are the profiles of "cheapskates" (a positive term, as defined in this book) where you get to hear about how real people have been living using the values and techniques described in this book.
The author's style is humorous and generally entertaining while still clear and concise enough to make this an easy read.
Having said all of that, this book isn't particularly novel and I came away feeling like I hadn't really learned much. It was enjoyable, but not substantial. Some sections are already out of date (e.g. the sections discussing health insurance--an area which, for those with low incomes, is changing dramatically in 2014).
In the end, this is a decent entry-level book on (not-so-early) retirement. It is mostly personal preference, but honestly, I found Your Money or Your Life and MrMoneyMustache.com to be more engaging and profound, so I would recommend those instead.(less)
Full disclosure: I did not finish this book. But I didn't finish the book because I just couldn't bear it anymore and had to QUIT. There are some grea...moreFull disclosure: I did not finish this book. But I didn't finish the book because I just couldn't bear it anymore and had to QUIT. There are some great ideas in this book (such as focusing in on what you want, why you want it, and being persistent in obtaining it), so it is not worthless. But the book on the whole is repetitive, pompously-mysterious, and contains just as many terrible ideas as great ideas.
At its heart, the main issue I have with this book is that it basically relies on (presumably cherry-picked) anecdotes to support its ideas. The author observed that some people weren't persistent enough in their endeavors and STOPPED just short of TRANSMUTING DESIRE INTO ITS PHYSICAL EQUIVALENT, therefore we should all be stubborn to the point of insanity. To support this idea, the author uses his own experience with a BURNING DESIRE to have his essentially-deaf child communicate "normally" (i.e. not learn American Sign Language). Yes, he did not let his deaf child learn ASL. This is passed off as not just a reasonable thing to do, but as the best way to raise his child and set the child up for SUCCESS.
The bottom line is that, if you can pick out the good ideas from the inane, you can learn something from this book, but overall I think your time would be better spent looking elsewhere.(less)