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Monday, April 27, 2015

Book Review: How to Be Free

Posted by Tim Stobbs on January 29, 2015

I came across a reference to Tom Hodgkinson’s How to Be Free recently and of course based on the title I knew I wanted to read it.  Yet after finishing the book I have a hard time wrapping my head around some of his chapters as some were bloody well brilliant and others show an ignorance so profound I nearly stopped reading the book entirely.

Overall Tom offers some excellent advise on being more free like embrace thrift and lower your expenses, get rid of your debt and pay off your mortgage (or avoid getting one in the first place).  Then he spends a lot of book dealing with many of the issues of freedom that exist solely in our heads.  While somewhat obvious, this is something we can forget.  We chain ourselves down in obligations and activities that we don’t enjoy and then complain about them.  Well stop hitting yourself on the head and stop doing those things or change our mind about them…obvious when you think about it but in some cases we need a bit of a reminder.

As an example of the philosophy elements of the book that I liked he talked a bit about chores and one that personally hit home to me was his point about housework.  It’s only a chore if you want it to be one.  If you lower your standards just a touch to accept not doing a perfect job and attempt to make it a bit more enjoyable by listening to music or doing it with others it can be something that isn’t nearly as bad as some people make it out to be.

Then in a few chapters I literally shook my head in disgust on the man’s ignorance.  For example, in chapter 22 he talks about pensions and points out that people who sell them often use fear to sell you their product and that money managers can make lots of money off of your money (in fees) which are true.  But then his solution for this is to forget about a pension entirely. PARDON?!?!?  He offer the following as solutions: keep working, own a home and use that equity to live on or just give up on saving anything and put your fate in God’s hands (aka: depend on your family, friends and neighbours in your old age).  Dear me, what a bloody stupid idea.  Let’s forget about tomorrow and assume I can work forever and hope my house is worth enough to pay for some kind of period of not working in your old age.  Or worse yet do nothing and depend on fate to cover my ass.  Then again that sounds an awful like most boomers retirement plans, but that is another story entirely.

The only other thing that drove me a bit nuts is his excess use of comparing middle ages Catholic approach to life (which was a bit more carefree) to the Protestant norm (think stiff upper lip and belief that work is good) that now exists in England.  While cover it once was a useful insight to the English mindset and you can even easily extrapolate that to North American views, he goes back to it over and over again in the book.

Yet his financial advice is down right dangerous in some cases.  The author clearly points out that he is often in overdraft for his bank account and he doesn’t keep much (if any?) savings.  This obviously can also be a barrier to freedom as you can often relieve a lot of worry in your head just by having a bit of saving for when life tosses you a curve ball (something breaks, insurance claim, or job layoff).  I’ve mocked his point about pensions already, so I won’t beat that dead horse.

So yes I agree with much of the advice in this book which is nicely summed up on the back of the edition I borrowed from the library: life is absurd, be merry, be free.  I would add just don’t forget to put some money side of the world and you will be just fine.

The Minimalists Book Tour

Posted by Tim Stobbs on July 25, 2014

Last night in Regina, I finally got to meet two people that I have admired for a while Joshua Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus otherwise known as The Minimalists who were in town as part of their 100 city book tour for Everything That Remains.  While they have a highly successful blog, I admire them for realizing their old lives sucked and wasn’t making them happy and then actually did something to change it.

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In their case, the solution they came across was minimalism.  So first they started getting rid of their excess stuff and they came to realize that that if you focus on what is useful and what you love you tend to actually change your life for the better.  In the process they also reduced their cost of living as you can live on a lot less if you get rid of the excess that is what people have in the majority of their homes.

Then they both took it a step further and left their high paying corporate jobs to do more work on the things like cared about.  That step is what I admire most about them.  The jump off the cliff into a new career, which is sort of like I am planning to do, but unlike them I won’t require any money from the new line of work to support my lifestyle.  So the their ideas are similar to mine, they just went about it a different fashion.

The book, Everything That Remains, if a memoir style book that tells their story of where they started out and then ended up after finding minimalism.  What I liked most about the book was it was less of a ‘how to’ book but much more of a ‘why to’.  Getting rid of stuff is actually fairly easy, the issue comes down to knowing why to do it.  So I found learning what they thought about their situations and how they dealt with the emotions of the decisions.  That is where I personally have been stuck myself for years, so I found the book inspiring and useful to ask myself some tough questions like:

  • What do I deem as a successful life?
  • Who is the person I want to become?
  • What is truly important in my life?

These aren’t easy questions to answer and frankly I’m still working out the answers ever after I have been at it for a while.  So I found the book an enjoyable read that also helped push me into doing a better self examination on my life.  So I found the book helpful.

So overall it was great to meet them.  They talk largely like they write and they are very nice guys.  Also they were nice enough to sign my first edition of their book, so I’m kinda thrilled about that.

Book Review – Strategic Dividend Investor

Posted by Dave on February 25, 2014

I saw this book at the library a few weeks ago, and decided to pick it up. The title drew me in, because really, who wouldn’t want to “Strategically” invest – maybe the alternative is an elaborate dart-board system, where you only purchase stocks on a full moon? Without reading this book, I think I would still have a strategy – it just wouldn’t perhaps be as organized as is laid out in the 163 pages.

With both personal finance and fitness/diet books, a significant amount of the book is spent selling the reader on why the author’s way of thinking is different or better than everyone elses, and why you should employ their way of thinking on your life. This book is no different – 92 of the previously mentioned 163 pages are spent going into the history of the stock market and how messed up it has become in the last couple of decades. The author builds his case on why dividend-producing stocks are the best investment vehicle available. Given the title of the book, I would think that if the reader has gotten to the point of actually picking up the book and leafing through it – they are probably already sold on dividend investing and just looking for insight.

The last third of the book is the reason why I will be purchasing an e-book for future reference in my investing “career” ($13.16 on Kindle, $19.50 on Kobo….not sure how Kobo can sell for 50% higher) . There is a possibility that I haven’t read enough books on investing, but the way the author provides insight on stock analysis both from a technical perspective as well as what should be looked for off of the financial statements made his message easy to understand.

For someone interested in investing for cash-flows as I am, the book provides a long-term, sustainable investment strategy. A useful screening process is provided, which will provide a good starting point at identifying potential investments. Also provided by the author is criteria that can be utilized when deciding on whether or not to sell the stock, outside of the price – which I also found very incitive.

So, that’s my sale on this book. The author – Daniel Peris has a second book out that I will be reading in the near future. The “Strategic Dividend Investor” isn’t huge, is written in an understandable manner and provides good information – all qualities I enjoy when looking at a technical non-fiction book.

I am a fairly voracious reader, always looking for book suggestions. Do you have a go-to investment book that you keep on your shelf?