Money at 30: “I Will Teach You To Be Rich (2nd Edition)” Book Review
Ever since I started paying attention to personal finance blogs, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to Be Rich would be included on any given list of the best books to read. More recently, Sethi has popped up repeatedly in my life, being announced as a guest mentor for the Teachable Creator Challenge as well as a speaker at the 2019 FinCon Expo. Coincidentally (or not), a brand new second edition of Sethi’s best seller was just released last month, providing me the perfect opportunity to finally read and review this oft-recommended work.
First off, I should mention that the full title of the book is actually I Will Teach You to Be Rich: No Guilt. No Excuses. No BS. Just a 6-Week Program that Works. This six-week plan comes into play as Sethi lays out different goals for readers to accomplish, ranging from optimizing credit cards and choosing a better bank account to automating your finances and learning to invest. At the end of each chapter, he even includes a rundown of each task you’ll need to complete and an estimate for long each should take to complete.
Diving into the book itself, in an open letter to new readers that kicks off this edition of the book, Sethi humorously notes a couple of minor mistakes he made with his first edition a decade ago. Among them, he shares that his inclusion of then sky-high savings account interest rates in the initial pressing has haunted him as subsequent readers have filled his inbox with messages wondering where to find these mythical APYs. But, aside from those few fixes, he goes on to note that the vast majority of his strategy has held up and is now ready to reach another heap of money nerds in the making.
Unfortunately, not long after the book gets started, it hits a sour note. As part of an introductory chapter, Sethi first has a section about the rise of “victim culture” that finds Sethi going on a rant stopping just short of calling all Millennial readers snowflakes. Ironically, even on the points I find myself agreeing with some of his conclusions, the presentation just isn’t very palatable. I was especially puzzled by some of the pot shots, such as Sethi’s suggestion that people that use ellipses are serial killers – (seriously) – that were probably supposed to be funny but instead fell flat. Lest you think I was offended by these remarks, I wasn’t — I just failed to find them relevant or productive to the matters at hand.
Trudging onward, this part was followed by another section headlined “Put the Excuses Aside” that starts, ” Listen up, crybabies.: This isn’t your grandma’s house and I’m not going to bake you cookies and coddle you. A lot of financial problems are caused by one person: you.” Ironically, some 140 pages later, this tone softens as Sethi acknowledges that, yes, real financial struggles do exist and are caused by external forces. Part of me wonders if this dichotomy is the result of the two editions being written years apart but, whatever the case, I was pretty turned off to Sethi’s approach pretty early on.
Thankfully, as I read on, the book managed to refocus on finance and not insults. For example, I liked Sethi’s rebranding of budgeting as creating a “conscious spending plan” and how to then turn that into an automated saving and investing scheme that will keep your money in tip-top shape. Furthermore, as tends to be the case these days, I was most interested in the investment section that happened to answer a couple of burning questions I’ve had as I’ve continued on my journey. Truth be told, I even started taking action right after reading this section, taking a closer look at the fees my wife and I are paying on our IRAs.
There is one other minor criticism I wanted to mention, however. Throughout this edition of the book, Sethi includes a number of testimonials from readers and followers. Most of the time these relate to the topic at hand and add to the conversation but, in other cases, they’re just there to endorse the advice being given. On the whole, I found these to be distracting while not really adding much (except for page count, I suppose), although there may have been a gem or two in there somewhere.
After reading I Will Teach You To Be Rich, I can definitely see why it’s become a modern personal finance classic. Furthermore, I can absolutely see how many of the ideas Sethi presents have been adopted and proliferated throughout the years. At the same time, while I can’t speak to what the original edition was like, I can’t say I care for much of Sethi’s tone — especially at the beginning. I guess being the snowflake that I am, I prefer the style of authors like Kristin Wong and Erin Lowry that approach similar topics without the smugness. So, with that, I give this new edition of I Will Teach You to Be Rich a recommendation with the asterisk that, while the advice is solid, the overall package leaves something to be desired.