Did Not Finish, Finance/Money

Review: I Will Teach You To Be Rich

Cover of "I Will Teach You To Be Rich," featuring bold black text on an orange and green background
Image from Ramit Sethi

Title: I Will Teach You To Be Rich: No Guilt, No Excuses, No B.S., Just a 6-Week Program That Works

Author: Ramit Sethi

Genre: Finance/Money

Trigger Warnings: Fatphobia, classism

Back Cover:

You don’t have to be perfect to be rich. Or the smartest person in the room. Or a type-A personality. In fact, with Ramit Sethi’s six-week program to financial independence, you can start with any amount of money, do just 85 percent of what he suggests, and succeed brilliantly through good times and bad.

As irreverent and entertaining as he is practical and wise, Sethi explains how to beat banks and credit cards at the fee game, automate your cash flow, negotiate for a raise, manage student loans, and enjoy your lattes and Manolo Blahniks by practicing conscious spending. It’s how to master your money with the least amount of effort – and then get on with your life.

Read to: Page 117

Review:

Ah, a classic financial book. Full body with the usual advice, and the usual note of fatphobia. The flavor of classism is especially strong in this one, and I’m even detecting a unique note of misogyny, as well as a deep overtone of condescension …

Okay, all jokes aside, this book was bad.

My fiance wanted me to read this and see if it was any good. I didn’t have high hopes for it going in (I’d previously unsubscribed from Ramit’s email list for misogyny and fatphobia), but I was determined to power through.

Of course, there was the requisite fatphobia that comes with personal finance books (bad budgets are fat, good budgets that you’ve put work into are fit and toned). There was also a healthy dose of condescension. Ramit has a tone of “I know more about this than you” and “this is so simple you’re stupid/lazy for not doing this before.” There was also a surprising dose of misogyny – comparing choosing between two investment brokerages to choosing between “two hot blonde twins,” for example.

But still, I was determined to power through. There was actually some good advice on negotiating credit card rates, surprisingly. (That was really the only good information in the book, though – the rest of it was stuff like calling budgets bad and boring and then telling you how to budget while calling it a “conscious spending plan” and claiming it’s completely different. Like, dude, I’ve been budgeting since I was 14. I know a budget when I see one. You’re not special. He even recommends the ENVELOPE BUDGETING SYSTEM, for goodness’ sake.)

I finally gave up – or, more accurately, rage-quit – at page 117. The heading on that page was “What If You Don’t Make Enough Money?” and I was thrilled – finally a financial advice book that takes poverty and minimum wage into account! And then the entire premise was people actually have more wiggle room in their budget than they realize, they just don’t want to change their spending. The two examples I got through before closing the book:

  • Cook at home more. (Ignoring the fact that most minimum-wage workers have to work multiple jobs, leaving them no time to cook, and the fact that it’s actually cheaper to buy pre-packaged stuff and the McDonald’s dollar menu than buy everything fresh and cook it yourself.)
  • Don’t buy the new iPhone every year. (Find me one minimum-wage worker who buys a new phone every year, I dare you. I’m working at nearly twice minimum wage and I still can’t afford a new iPhone every year.)

It was basically the premise that “there’s no such thing as a poor person, there’s only people who are to stupid/bad at handling money to be not poor.” Which is incorrect, classist, and incredibly insulting.

Despite the book’s own view that it’s 100 times better than any other personal finance book, it was an unspectacular, condescending, and classist rephrasing of already-told tips and the same old tropes. It honestly wasn’t worth the 117 pages I gave it.

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Finance/Money

Review: The Total Money Makeover

A picture of the The Total Money Makeover book cover, featuring a smiling Dave Ramsey holding a pair of scissors in the middle of cutting a credit card.
Image from Dave Ramsey

Title: The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Author: Dave Ramsey

Genre: Finance/Money

Trigger warnings: Fatphobia, ableism

Back Cover:

Okay, folks, do you want to turn those fat and flabby expenses into a well-toned budget? Do you want to transform your sad and skinny little bank account into a bulked-up cash machine? Then get with the program, people. There’s one sure way to whip your finances into shape, and that’s with The Total Money Makeover.

By now, you’ve heard all the nutty get-rich-quick schemes, the fiscal diet fads that leave you with a lot of kooky ideas but not a penny in your pocket. Hey, if you’re tired of the lies and sick of the false promises, then take a look at this – it’s the simplest, most straightforward game plan for completely making over your money habits. And it’s based on results, not pie-in-the-sky fantasies.

With The Total Money Makeover, you’ll be able to:

  • Design a surefire plan for paying off all debt – cars, houses, everything
  • Recognize the 10 most dangerous money myths (these will kill you)
  • Secure a big, fat nest egg for emergencies and retirement!

Where Financial Peace gave you the solid saving and investing principles, this book puts those principles into practice. You’ll be exercising your financial strength every day and quickly freeing yourself of worry, stress, and debt – and that’s a beautiful feeling.

Review:

I got this book as a graduation gift … for my high school graduation. It’s technically a reread, but since it’s been over three years since I last read it, I remember very little. (Of the book itself, at least – my parents are huge Dave Ramsey fans so I’ve been through several of his classes and know all the principles.) I’m honestly not sure why I picked it up again, but it’s pretty engaging and didn’t take me too long to get through.

If you’re unfamiliar with Dave Ramsey and his financial principles, this book is a reasonably good introduction (even though I think it’s a sequel-ish thing to his book Financial Peace). This book goes over Dave’s “Baby Steps” to financial security, financial myths that are holding you back, good (and bad) examples of finance management, and even testimonies from people who’ve gone through his program and fixed their financial problems.

Overall, it’s a good book. Not great, just good. It’s inspiring and it teaches good principles and solid money management skills. But it does have some MAJOR problems.

In case you didn’t get the picture from the back cover, the entire book uses the “fat vs. fit” metaphor to talk about budgets. MAJOR fatphobia. Bad budgeting/debt/spending more than you make is bad/wrong/negative/stupid … and fat. Good budgeting/saving/investing, on the other hand, gets words like “important,” “excellent,” “fit,” and “lean.” I honestly didn’t notice this when I read it the first time, but now that I’m more aware of fatphobia, it bothered me a lot.

There’s also a bit of subtle ableism going on (or subtle to me as a mostly able-bodied person – if you’re disabled you may find it a lot more obvious). The book is written for people who are working full-time at a non-minimum wage job. And one piece of advice he gives in the “pay off debt fast” section is get a second job (or a third or fourth) to make more money and pay it off faster.

Dave also has a very matter-of-fact way of speaking. In most cases, this isn’t bad – I honestly like how he puts everything in simple English and doesn’t over-complicate anything. The whole book is a remarkably low reading level. However, sometimes his style gets a little too blunt, I think, especially the way he calls financial decisions he doesn’t agree with “stupid.” That’s just a personal pet peeve, though.

If you take a critical look at the salesy part of the book, it actually sounds kinda like a scam. “This way is the ONLY way to do it and it works every time, if it fails it’s because you weren’t intense enough!” is the basic message. Which sounds really like a scam. The only thing I have to say about this is I’ve seen it work for a lot of people. So sometimes it works. I don’t know how necessarily foolproof it is, though.

This book definitely has some huge problems. (For that matter, this is pretty indicative of Dave Ramsey’s stuff in general – it all has similar problems.) But his principles are solid, and if you can look past his “my way or be in debt forever!” preachiness, the fatphobia, and other issues, it’s a pretty inspiring book. And if you want to get your finances under control or figure out how to pay off a lot of debt, it’s worth a read. (Although if you’re disabled in any way it might not be so useful.)