Honestly, I think the title of this book is unfortunate because it will both turn away people who would like the book (as it did to me, the first timeHonestly, I think the title of this book is unfortunate because it will both turn away people who would like the book (as it did to me, the first time I saw the title) as well as lure in unsuspecting folks who are looking for something more traditional (e.g. some of the other reviews here).
I thought this book was going to profile the "charmed" (read: privileged) educational lives of famous rich folks--and this impression is what initially caused me to spurn this book. Later on, I decided to take a closer look at the book (it was available without a waiting list at my library, so why not?), and I'm so glad I did.
This book is all about nontraditional education--especially education that people wouldn't normally label as "education" (e.g. learning on the job). Although the overall tone is highly critical and suspicious of higher education, if you take the arguments at face value, there are a lot of compelling points, e.g. that educational dollars should be scrutinized closely and not automatically allocated towards "college."
Most of the book covers "success skills" the author distilled from numerous interviews with wealthy (mostly non-college graduate) people. The skills are: aligning meaning and work, finding mentors, learning marketing and sales, investing in yourself and your business, building up your "personal brand," and taking control of your career.
As usual, while reading the book I made brief notes on interesting/compelling points. By the end, I was shocked to find that I had taken, by far, more notes on this book than any other book I've read. Maybe it's because a lot of the concepts were new to me, but either way it's clear this was a valuable read.
My only complaints are that the book is too long (so many similar anecdotes that they started to blur together), much of the information is really just a set of pointers to other resources (still a good thing--just not convenient), and the previously mentioned strongly anti-formal education tone.
Overall, I highly recommend this book--at the very least as a contrarian point of view to help broaden your own perspective on your education, career, and business....more
If you want a short overview of many topics that help answer the title question of this book, this book (which can be read in a single sitting) is a gIf you want a short overview of many topics that help answer the title question of this book, this book (which can be read in a single sitting) is a good place to start. But you will definitely need to look elsewhere to get all your questions/concerns addressed.
First off, I love Mike Piper's "Investing Made Simple". I recommend it constantly as a great first stop in a self-directed investment journey. So I had high hopes about this book (hoping it could become a second auto-recommend for people approaching retirement age).
"Can I retire?" covers (briefly) how to determine how much money you need in retirement, how to ensure the necessary income (or what to do if you can't afford it), example passively managed retirement portfolios, and tips to prevent you from spending more on taxes than necessary. All great information.
The problem is that there are many other important topics that aren't covered in this book: when to start taking Social Security, how to deal with uncertainty around medical costs, what kinds of insurance you might want (e.g. long-term care insurance), and estate planning (esp. basic info on how to avoid probate). Perhaps some of these aren't strictly "retirement" topics, but I feel like the target audience of "Can I Retire?" is mostly people who also deal with these concerns.
Overall, if you're looking for a quick overview of many (but not all) financial aspects of retirement, this is a good place to start. But plan on continuing your education well beyond this book....more
This book covers significant equations that relate to retirement. The author describes the historical roots of the equations, the lives of the peopleThis book covers significant equations that relate to retirement. The author describes the historical roots of the equations, the lives of the people who set the stage for the equations, and the potential applications of the equations to retirement income planning.
If all of those aspects don't interest you, then this book may be a boring read. But if your curiosity has been piqued, then this book will be surprisingly captivating.
There are lots of surprising conclusions from the equations (e.g. stock allocation changes over a lifetime depend more on future earning potential than on perceived decreasing risk), so this book is a good counterpoint to some of the more commonly-referenced (but perhaps outdated) research around things like "safe withdrawal rates" and asset allocation "rules" like "your age in bonds."...more
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 messagThis 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....more
This book is part self-help, part educational commentary that uses anecdotes to identify problems and solutions related to passions and education.
I piThis 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....more
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 minimalStarting 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....more
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 hBased 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....more
The most recent edition of this book covers various important time periods in the history of personal computing (from the 50s to the 80s), along withThe most recent edition of this book covers various important time periods in the history of personal computing (from the 50s to the 80s), along with two subsequent updates (the most recent one in 2010). The book covers the prominent people, significant events, and overall atmosphere. Note that specific technical details are not really covered in depth.
If you were alive and interested in computers during any of these periods, you will be fascinated by the detailed and personal stories captured in this book. If you're too young to have ever seen or used most of the computers mentioned in this book, this will still be an interesting and informative read, but it won't have the same impact.
One of the updates mentions that the book was originally criticized as feeling like an unnecessarily extended magazine article. And that characterization is at least somewhat appropriate. Some sections drag on slowly and the book is a fairly lengthy read.
Having said that, this book is probably the most detailed and most personal account of the genesis of personal computers and the "hacker" mentality available. If you feel nostalgia for the simpler days of computing or you just want to experience these events in context, this book is a great resource....more
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 iThe 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....more
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 perI'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....more
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 hThe 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....more
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 greaFull 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....more
An unconventional, but through-provoking and (usually) practical guide to focusing on your own happiness.
Harry Browne logically lays out his thoughtsAn unconventional, but through-provoking and (usually) practical guide to focusing on your own happiness.
Harry Browne logically lays out his thoughts on individuality, morality, government, and more in this book. While I can't say I agree with many of his positions, his unusual opinions and arguments always made me think. The book is a bit slow in parts (too many examples in some parts and just too many words in others), but there was enough material to keep me consistently interested.
On the practical side, the most useful ideas I gleaned from this book are: be yourself, don't expect others to act how you would, focus on your own happiness if you want to be happy, always look for things you can directly control instead of relying on changing/influencing others, and that many of the external obstacles to your freedom may actually be in your own head. Some of these points are obvious, but I think many of them are not followed consistently.
On the thought-provoking side are his opinions on morality (roughly: ethical egoism), government (anarchy, I suppose), taxes (avoid them), social issues (don't bother), and getting married (in a word: don't). I don't see eye to eye with the author on many of these points, but it was certainly interesting to hear his arguments and to think through them on my own.
Taken together, I found the book as a whole both inspiring (e.g. you're more free than you think) but also oddly depressing (e.g. you shouldn't bother trying to get people to stop polluting because it's a lost cause). I also feel like many of the arguments only apply to people that actually are capable of thinking logically and acting consistently--but if you're reading the book, presumably that's you and you should know better than to make assumptions about others.
If you've heard of this book and have always been intrigued by it (as I was)--or any of the ideas above piqued your interest--definitely take the time to procure a copy (oddly, I couldn't find it at my library) because the book is absolutely worth reading. You probably won't agree with everything, but, after thinking through the ideas on your own, you'll certainly find something you can apply to your own life....more