Money at 30: “Choose FI” Book Review
Every day, millions of adults wake up only to head to a job they despise in order to make just enough money to fund a life they likely fell into. And then there are those who wake up and do whatever they’re passionate about because the money they worked for is now working for them. That’s the most basic idea behind financial independence (FI) — but how does one even begin to start on such a path? Enter Choose Fi: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence by Chris Mamula with Brad Barrett and Jonathan Mendonsa.
If you’re not familiar Choose FI is a popular podcast where hosts Brad Barrett and Jonathan Mendonsa (whose names you may recognize as credited co-authors) interview various guests who are pursuing or have achieved financial independence. Thus, the book features and references some of these guests while also frequently sharing backstory from the two hosts when applicable. Other than that, Mamula handles writing duties, detailing numerous aspects of what it means to Choose FI and how these principals can change your life.
One overarching theme to the book is the idea that pursuing financial independence means thinking differently and stepping outside of conventional wisdom. That’s an angle that really appealed to me and I felt was well executed throughout. Perhaps my favorite chapter in this vein was about tax strategy. While I had heard some of these ideas before, I thought they were very well explained and were truly eye-opening. Also notable was a chapter on college — which the author admits could either be the most or least important section in the book depending on where you are in your life. For me, while I’ve long put my collegiate aspirations (or lack thereof) to rest, I thought this chapter presented some really interesting points and good ideas. Of course it also made me feel a little bit better about not finishing school, so that may have also been a factor.
Other chapters also did a deft job at providing thorough and actionable info without overloading readers with jargon and complex details. Overall, I’d say it might not be quite as in-depth as other works I’ve read on FIRE, but it does provide the “blueprint” its title promises. I will say that I also came away with new ideas as well as a better grasp of certain FI concepts than I had previously been confused about.
As I mentioned at the top, Choose FI is peppered with quotes and stories from guests of the podcasts. While this a smart and clever idea in theory, in practice, it can be a bit distracting. Instead of diving in on one topic or thought, it sometimes feels like you keep hopping around. In other words, it’s as though you’re losing focus while widening the scope. Thankfully, I’d say this critique only really applies to some of the earliest chapters as later sections seem to use these spotlights more sparingly, or when they do bring in an outside perspective, they do so in an extended manner. Personally, I thought this latter approach was a lot more effective.
If I may also nitpick for a moment about something that really has nothing to do with the content of the book, I did find it to be an interesting choice to put a space after each paragraph. Also, the side margins seemed to be a bit larger than normal. On the one hand, this made the 300+ pages fly by but it did take some getting used to. However, I did really love the chapter art as well as the illustrated quotes from the two hosts throughout the book. Those two elements really added a unique visual style to the book that helped bring it to life.
What’s strange is that, while I may have had more less-than-positive things to say about Choose FI than I did about some other works I’ve reviewed, I actually really enjoyed the book. In fact, I’d put it up there with any of the other titles on the topic. Despite my assertion that the early guest quotes detracted from the book, I do think they add something special on the whole. That’s not only because they inject different perspectives but also because it highlights just how much the FI community has grown, leading more and more people to lead better lives. And, if I may say so, it serves as a great advertisement for the podcast as I’m really anxious to finally give it a listen now.
Ultimately, if you have any interest in the principles of financial independence or just have a desire to make money work for you, Choose FI is another one to add to your reading list.