I-will-teach-you-to-be-rich-book-review

Book Review: I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

Rating: 8/10

Look, I get it – unless you’re like me and have some kind of weird obsession with optimising your finances, you’d probably be hard pressed to think of a topic more boring than personal finance, and I don’t blame you. It’s dry and tedious and no one really cares very much to spend time dealing with it.

This is precisely is why it’s all the more important that you set up everything to be completely automatic, so you can devote as little time as possible to it. What most people lack when it comes to personal finance is having a system that works. Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich (Let’s call it IWT because I can’t be bothered typing that out over and over) is all about that: Creating a system that works on autopilot and allows you the freedom to worry about more important stuff, like selecting a new Netflix show to watch now that you’re done binging on House of Cards and watched Friends for the ten thousandth time.

If I had to recommend one personal finance book to anyone, it would be IWT. Hands-down, the best, no-nonsense, practical book on getting your finances in order. The best part? It doesn’t bore you to death.

It’s not about simply cutting back and living in the most bare-bones way possible.

It’s about conscious spending and living a sustainable lifestyle that’s suited to what you love doing the most, and my favourite part: Setting your finances on autopilot.

I’ve actually managed to negotiate my way out of bank fees because of this book. I followed the exact script that Ramit provides in the book, and voila! The representative on the other end of the call went:

“Sure, not a problem. I’ll just remove those fees and refund your account. Was there anything else I can help you with?”

And I (grinning widely) thanked him, hung up and thought, man, this book works. Honestly, people need to know this stuff. It’s simple, actionable and in just a couple of days, you can have your financial situation turned on its head.

  • Takes you through getting out of debt
  • Making your finances work on autopilot
  • Make saving money a breeze
  • Navigate the gatekeepers and get the most out of your bank
  • Negotiate your way to the best deals
  • Cut down on unnecessary interest payments
  • Earning more as opposed to cutting back
  • Succinct approach to investing and getting a better return than most managed funds
  • Big decisions (why houses are a terrible investment, the true cost of marriage – in a way you’ve never thought of before)

If you’re expecting a dry, text-book style regurgitation, you couldn’t be more wrong. Sethi’s style is entertaining, light, brutally honest, and yet very informative. Something I really liked was that his advice was actionable and he provided tons of links to all sorts of useful tools and resources.

If you haven’t read this book, you will not regret getting through it. The lessons are extremely valuable and will serve you very well. It’s a small investment that will provide you with returns well and above its cost.

Full disclosure, the link above is an Amazon affiliate link, and whatever I make goes to supporting this blog, so if you do make a purchase, thank you very much! If you can’t see the image above, it might be because of an ad-blocker that you might be running.

 

Picture Credit: https://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/

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How to Invest Money - Micro investing with acorns app

“Set It and Forget It” with Micro Investing

Update: Acorns Australia is now called Raiz.

Investing your money can seem daunting at first, but it really doesn’t have to be too difficult or complicated, nor do you have to worry about deciphering copious amounts of boring financial jargon.

In fact, with today’s technology, you can pretty much adopt a “set it and forget it” strategy, where your investments are completely automated, and you don’t have to worry about the intricacies of stock-picking.

Introducing Acorns – An Easy-to-Use Micro Investment App

If you’d like to get your feet wet with investing, I recommend Acorns (which I personally use), a micro investment app that has blown up in popularity since it was first released in 2012. There are a variety of apps on the market that allow you to do this, but Acorns is currently the largest and most popular company in this space.

The company markets itself by saying that it invests the change from your daily purchases, but since you have moi to explain it for you, I’ll give you a quick run-down on the process.

How Acorns Works:

  • The app connects to your bank account and tracks your expenses.
  • Every time you spend on something with a debit/credit card, it automatically rounds the amount up to the nearest dollar and invests the difference.
    • If you were to spend $12.70 on a meal, Acorns will deduct $0.30 from your account and invest it on your behalf.
  • You can also set recurring investments of $5 for example, to be invested into the market at your selected intervals, whether it’s weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, etc.
  • You could choose to make a one-off lump-sum investment of any amount.

Note that the minimum amount that you can invest is $5. So every time you spend on something, the rounded amounts are held until they add up to $5, upon which Acorns will then invest that amount into the market.

Long-Term Strategy, and Instant Diversification

It’s important to remember that it’s unlikely you’re going to make quick and large gains with micro investing. This is a long-term investment strategy, and works best if you can hold on to it for at least a couple of years.

The great thing about Acorns is that you are automatically diversifying your portfolio as Acorns splits up the money you invest into ETFs that comprise of various indices.

For example, in Australia, Acorns invests your money into Asian, Australian, European and American-based ETFs. In this way, your money is being diversified across a number of markets, which considerably lowers your risk.

The Benefit of Using Acorns:

  • It has a user-friendly interface
  • You can start investing with just $5; perfect for students and those who do not have a large disposable income or do not want to risk too much money at the initial stages.
  • Allows you to completely automate your investments
  • You can still apply theories like Dollar-Cost-Averaging (I explain this term below)
  • Allows you to withdraw your money at any time
  • It’s completely free if you sign up with a student email!

Here’s What I Recommend Doing

  • Once you have your account approved (usually takes a couple of days), you should set up recurring investments of a small amount that you can afford.
  • This allows you to take advantage of Dollar-Cost-Averaging, and also builds up your investment portfolio over time, leaving you with a chunk of money at the end of the year.
  • Setting up the recurring investments is easy, and once you’ve done that, your investments are completely automatic!

To learn more about Acorns, you can check out their website, or if you sign up with my referral link, Acorns rewards both you and I with $2.50 debited into our accounts. For the month of September, that bonus has been doubled to $5.

I also found an article on Investopedia that you might be interested in. It explains How Acorns Works and Makes Money.

Quick Dive:

Dollar-Cost-Averaging (DCA)

The term I used earlier, Dollar-Cost-Averaging, is a technique that investors use to average out their buying price. DCA involves investing a fixed amount of money, e.g. $25 a month, every month.

This allows you to average your cost, as you buy more shares when the market dips, and buy less shares when the market rises. Over time, your buying price will lie somewhere in the middle. The reason for doing this is because it is hard to time your investment.

For example, if you invest $100 in January, you have no idea what the market will do over the next few months. If could end up moving down and back up again (meaning you’ve lost precious buying opportunities as the market took a dip).

On the other hand, the market could continue on a long-term uptrend, and sure, your initial investment of $100 did grow, but you could have caught the upward trend by investing more money over time.

The idea of investing used to be this perplexing concept that seemed very far out of reach for the average person. The concentration of power was evident in Wall Street, monolithic banks, brokerage firms, and upscale investment houses. To make matters worse, placing trades used to be inconvenient and slow, and you needed to already be relatively well-off, as the capital requirements to get into the game were high.

Lucky for us however, the investment landscape is drastically changing. Investing is now more accessible than ever before with the advent of micro investing, discount brokers and regulatory changes to the system, which have significantly reduced costs for individual investors.

For the sake of transparency, this is not a paid endorsement, Acorns is an app that I genuinely like and think would be useful to you. I do however, benefit from sign-ups using my referral link, and it also gives you the same sign-up bonus of $2.50, or the promotional $5 for the month of September 2017 [Win-win for us both! ;)].

As always, drop me a line by sending me an email using the Contact page or leave a comment!

 

A Guide to Exchange Traded Funds

A Guide to ETFs: The Quickest Way to Start Investing

Quick note: This post is about ETFs, but before we get to that, I go on for a while to introduce some important concepts in investing. If you’re new to this, you might hopefully find it interesting and useful.

Alternatively, you can skip down to the section titled “A Primer on Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)“. Let me know whether you enjoy this post and if you’d like to see more of these!

Let’s Talk About Risk, Bay-bee!

Many people shy away from investing their money because they’ve heard of how it can be very risky. First thing to note, investing is not gambling. Don’t get me wrong, there is a certain element of risk involved, but it’s calculated risk, and can be avoided to a certain extent.

High levels of risk-taking usually comes from not knowing what you’re doing, and taking advice from people who don’t have a solid grasp of how the stock market works. Don’t be like the proverbial Mr. Jones who lost all his money by placing uneducated bets on stocks based on neighbour Sam’s hot tip.

More people spend time painstakingly researching the kind of smartphone they buy than they would on performing the due diligence required when considering the purchase of shares. This exposes them to unnecessary risk, which can be greatly minimised by conducting the research and gaining a sound understanding of the company before making a decision.

Over the course of this series, you’ll find that in the finance world, risk has a slight but important distinction from our usual, everyday concept of risk. In financial parlance, risk is closer in meaning to “fluctuation” than exposure to danger.

The Market is More Predictable Over the Long-Term

One strategy which you can use to minimise risk is long-term investment. In the short-term (a period of five years or less as a rough guide), investments can be very risky as markets are volatile and unpredictable.

I’d like to draw your attention to the graph below (cheeky screenshot from Google), which depicts the movement of the S&P 500 index over the short-term period of a year.

As you can see, the market is quite temperamental and has a number of sharp dips throughout the time-frame. It is quite hard to predict where the market is headed. Compare this to the graph below, which depicts the S&P 500 since its inception.

short-term-investment

long-term-investment

From the graph above, you can see that although the market is volatile in the short term, over the long term the market always recovers and surpasses it’s previous peak. This makes long-term investment significantly less risky.

The market will generally continue the long-term upward trend as a result of inflation, rising income (especially in developing markets) and the growing population, in addition to other factors.

Think of investment as a long game, and not one in which quick profits are made.

Think of Investing in Terms of Purchasing the Entire Business

This next part ties in nicely with the concept of long-term investment. People who view investing as extremely risky usually think of the stock market as a very complicated lottery ticket. The idea is that you throw a stack of money at a company’s shares and hope that it rises in value. This is speculation, which is very high risk and not the same as investing.

Investing is quite literally the act of purchasing a portion of ownership in a company. Even though you may be starting out very small, it’s important to think of your investments as if you were purchasing the entire company or business.

This makes you ask important questions, such as, “Would I be willing to hold on to this business for at least 10 years?” or “Does this business make enough money to justify the asking price?”.

This will help you make far better decisions, and help you leave your emotions at the door.

I will get into more detail on this concept in a future post, but for now, let’s get back to ETFs.

A Primer on Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)

Exchange Traded Funds or ETFs are simple to understand and extremely useful, especially to a new investor. Picking individual stocks can be very risky, as companies which seem very strong on paper can all of a sudden be wiped clean off the map (Looking at you, Lehman Brothers).

Applying the 80/20 rule to investing, the easiest and most effective way to start investing is to utilise ETFs, which although limited, can still provide you significantly higher returns compared to parking your money in a bank.

If you are new to investing, but would like to start with something relatively low-risk, ETFs are perfect. But first, what on earth is an ETF?

Think of it this way: If you combine a stock index (like the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the FTSE in London or the ASX 200 in Australia) and a regular stock which you can buy and sell, you would get an ETF.

Quick Dive

A stock market index is basically a weighted average of a set number of stocks. For example, the S&P 500 index in the U.S. is the weighted average of the 500 largest companies in the country.

An ETF basically tracks the movement of an underlying security. This just means that whenever the market moves up or down, the ETF follows in the same direction.

An ETF can be thought of as a basket containing a number of securities or shares. Imagine you had $10 with you, and the basket containing the securities you want costs $100. If you shared the total cost with others, you would be able to purchase the basket, and you would have a 10% ownership of all its contents. This is essentially how an ETF works.

I’ve included this YouTube video which does a pretty good job of explaining ETFs. I’m not in any way affiliated with Zions Direct, I just thought it was a helpful video.

Since individual stock picking can be risky, you can avoid the problem by buying the entire market. You could do this either by purchasing shares in every single company, or you could buy an ETF which tracks the market index, which is already an average of all the companies.

The Standard and Poor’s Depository Receipts (SPDR) is one such ETF that tracks the S&P 500 index. Since the ETF tracks the movement of the actual S&P 500, you’ve essentially diversified most of your risk by purchasing shares in all 500 companies. It’s important to note that when you buy an ETF, you don’t actually own shares in any of the companies. The shares that you own are simply the shares of the ETF itself.

The table below shows the average market return per year from 1900s to the present. If you had invested in and ETF which tracks the market, the following would be the returns that you would have received.

Decade Average Return Per Year
1900s 9.96%
1910s 4.20%
1920s 14.95%
1930s -0.63%
1940s 8.72%
1950s 19.28%
1960s 7.78%
1970s 5.82%
1980s 17.57%
1990s 18.17%
2000s 1.07%
2010-2013 16.74%
The table above can be found on this site.

Notice how for the most part, 10-year periods have provided positive returns.  This goes back to the concept of long-term investment. Keep in mind that the actual return would be lower once adjusted for inflation.

If you hop over to YCharts, you can see how the market has been doing annually over the past few years.

Doubling Your Money With ETFs

Considering that the average return (adjust for inflation) is 7% per year, you can expect to double your money roughly every 10 years. Not too shabby, I’d say!

In the upcoming posts, I’ll explain how you can actually start purchasing shares of ETFs and begin your investing journey. Beyond that, I’ll go into detail on individual stock picking, which can beat market returns and also happens to be the reason Warren Buffett became one of the richest people in the world.

If you have any questions about this, just drop them in the comments below or email me using the Contact page and I’ll try my best to help out!

 

Financial Freedom: Start Investing As Early As You Can

Financial Freedom: Start Investing as Early as You Can

Getting your money to work for you is essentially what investment is all about, and it’s a crucial skill to learn, especially while you’re young.

Investment doesn’t have to be complicated or even difficult. In fact, it’s possible to automate your investments so that all you’ll need to do is some minimal management. I’ll go through all of this step-by-step in the upcoming posts, but for now I’ll explain exactly why investment is so important.

Start With the End in Sight

I tend to look at the end result or the endgame before I engage in any venture, and it’s the same approach I used for investment. I usually start by looking at my goals, and then finding a way to get there. I want to have flexibility in my future and I think that investments, when done right, can provide that. This could be true for you as well, which is one of the reasons why I believe that it’s highly beneficial to learn this skill.

Let’s take a look at my long-term goals:

  • Ensure a comfortable retirement
  • Financial freedom
  • Be location independent
  • Create a passive income stream which I could possibly live off if I ever needed to

Everything on that list is about having flexibility. I would say that it’s a priority for my life, but of course, this could vary from person to person. However, if your goals are similar to mine, you’ll definitely find investment to be an invaluable tool for your future.

Retiring as a Millionaire

One of the biggest fears for many in the working class is not having enough money to retire. This is where investment comes in. The important thing to note here is that you can have almost any job and still end up retiring in comfort. In fact, I’ll write a post explaining how you could become a millionaire (at least) with very little effort.

This might sound like a plug for some kind of get-rich-quick scam, but I’ll say right now that it couldn’t be further from the truth. It will take a long time to achieve this, decades even, but it’s entirely possible to retire as a millionaire regardless of the type of job you have. However, that’s beyond the scope of this post and I’ll come back to it soon.

Of course, having a higher paying job will get you there quicker, but the point is that by learning to invest your money, you could potentially have a career doing something you love even if it doesn’t necessarily pay very well, and still end up with a sizeable nest egg.

Flexibility and Financial Freedom

Financial freedom is a priority for me because I want to be able to make decisions out of preference, and not out of need. There’s a significant distinction between the two. For example, I want to be able to travel around the world for months at a time without having to worry about where my next paycheck will come from. I also would like to be able to make career choices based on what I like doing, rather than having to buckle down and stay in one place just because I’m dependent on the salary I’m being paid.

Start Investing Early

start-investing-early

To achieve that level of freedom and flexibility, it’s very important to start as early as possible, and that’s why this post is targeted at younger people (although anyone can benefit from it) simply because the potent combination of time and compounding you more potential to amass your wealth. I simply cannot stress how important it is to start investing as early as you possibly can.

I’m going to create a mini-series of posts about investment, which will cover topics such as:

  • Compound interest
  • ETFs
  • Warren Buffett’s approach to investing
  • How to pick stocks
  • Valuing a company
  • Investment resources
  • Setting up an investment account
  • Growth vs. value
  • Strategy and when to sell

Many young people who start getting their first paychecks spend most, if not all of it, very quickly. They hardly give a moment’s thought to investing that money, but if they did, they would be much better off and possibly enjoy a secure future. Once I learned about investing, I began to look at my expenditure in a new light.

This didn’t mean that I started obsessively saving money. Instead, I began to think in terms of opportunity cost and started spending on things I valued, while cutting down on things I valued a lot less. I go into much more detail about this in “A Simple Hack to Transform the Way You Spend“.

I’ll leave it at that for now, but follow along with the series and hopefully you’ll be able to confidently make your first investment and begin taking your first steps towards financial freedom.