If you ever visit the personal finance section in your local bookstore, you’ll find a veritable sea of books on money management aimed at beginners. I’ve read quite a few of these and many of them are good quality reads; they offer plenty of practical knowledge and some great advice. The only problem is, you have to stay awake long enough to find it. It seems to me that the people who need these guides the most, people in my generation—busy 20 and 30-somethings who are just starting out on our financial journeys—are probably the least likely people to pick them up. Let’s face it, they’re just not interesting enough to command much of our already very limited time.
So in comes my step-dad, Robert R. Brown, and his new book, Wealthing Like Rabbits. And boy does it ever prove the exception to the “boring” rule. It’s a funny, upbeat, tongue-in-cheek guide to personal finance that spells out all of the essentials of money management for Canadians without ever lapsing into snoozeville.
This book is absolutely riddled with pop culture references. It’s got everything from Star Trek to Zombies to Super Mario Brothers, all of which ensure that the book is one hell of a time to read. Let me repeat that for you. It’s a finance book that you can geek out on. Ya, needless to say that I was stoked about this project from the get-go. But these odes to geekdom aren’t just thrown in there for fun. Like a lightsaber in the hands of a Jedi Master, Robert wields them skillfully. He employs them to demonstrate to the reader the very same concepts that are so tediously introduced in most other personal finance books. Just check out the section on compound interest:
“You’re living in England during a future European Zombie Apocalypse…Every week England receives 100 new zombies. This continues for the next forty years. The good news is that England’s new zombies aren’t very hungry by the usual zombie standards…In fact, on average only six out of every one hundred zombies chow down on the British citizenry annually, zombamafying them into new zombies. How many zombies would be in England after the forty years?
There would be 824,627 zombies in England after the forty years…Welcome to the awesome power of compounding zombies. Technical term: Zombamafacation factor.” (p. 28)
This is just one of a whole slew of hilarious examples that Robert uses to get his point across. Every chapter is built around a theme of this sort, using entertaining examples or anecdotes to make essential points about money management (Let me just tell you now, you DON’T want to take lessons in saving from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Haha, ya… those guys suck).
The book is fun, and easy to read, and wastes no time in offering up heaps of practical advice on topics ranging from mortgages to retirement saving to debt. In two of my favorite chapters, debt is compared (unfavorably, obviously) to tobacco products, Robert’s thesis being that debt is carcinogenic to your financial health. He invites us to think about how credit cards are advertised to us today, to young people in particular, and compare this to the tobacco ads of yesteryear, such as this one:
And let’s not forget about Fred and Barney enjoying a smoke behind the house while Wilma and Betty do all the yard work . . . “Yeah Barney, Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.” (p. 84)
Messed up, right? Ya. But it’s a brilliant and fitting analogy for the disgusting way that modern day lending works against you, preys on you really, that Robert carries through the chapters on debt as he describes various toxic financial products. I won’t ruin the surprise by spoiling his description of payday loans and their predatory purveyors. Sufficed to say that it’s totally gross and you should check it out (and NEVER, EVER get a payday loan).
Probably my favorite thing about the book is its focus on balance. Budgeting yes, but budgeting for the things that are important to you. Rob makes it clear that you can often get what you want (he personally advocates Starbucks), so long as you don’t want everything. And, for me, it’s this sense of balance and perspective that makes the book golden. It emphasizes comfort and peace of mind. Not only does it equip you with the tools you need to achieve these things, it asks you to think about what they really mean, today and in the future.
This is something that I truly believe everyone of my generation, of all generations, needs to hear. That our lives are not usually improved by that shiny chrome toy that sits in the garage, rusting and depreciating, that we’re not made valuable by our Jimmy Choos or our marble countertops, that our self-worth is not measured in price tags or miles traveled or square footage. We fall into this “I want” trap, because of the media, peer-pressure, whatever, thinking that we’re nothing if we don’t have all of these things that we’re “supposed” to have, that we “deserve” to have, and more, and we’re only the more miserable for it.
It’s not like any of this is rocket science. People with money in the bank are generally happier than those in debt. People who are content with what they have are usually happier than those tormented by what they don’t. People who enjoy a lifestyle of balanced frugality are happier than those chasing a mirage of wealth. And people who are comfortable in their own shoes, financial or otherwise, are almost certainly happier than those wearing shoes that don’t fit. (p. 162)
And I say, hell yes.
Wealthing Like Rabbits: A Unique Guide to Personal Finance was released September 1st, 2014 and is available now on the website. You should buy it! You can also follow the Wealthing like Rabbits Facebook page to find signing events near you, or follow Robert R. Brown on Twitter, @wealthingrabbit