A Review of The Wealthy Teacher by Danny Kofke

books

Something Bruno has been saying a lot lately is, “Boomer is not an age, but a state of mind.” A boomer is defined someone who considers measures of success, how things are going in politics by the stock market, their 401k, the gdp, etc. Frequently, he’ll say something along the lines of “boomers gonna boom” when discussing anyone who tends to fall under this category.

I joked last night that I was probably the “boomer” in our marriage. I’m the one who regularly listens to Dave Ramsey, keeps up the excel spreadsheet that charts our progress in paying our student loans, and reads all the personal finance books and websites. Bruno said he didn’t think so, because I don’t think those things are an end in themselves or the ultimate sign of the health of a society.

Anyway – I finished reading another personal finance book the other week. This one specifically written for teachers: The Wealthy Teacher: Lessons for Prospering on a School Teacher’s Salary by Danny Kofke. I thought it was just ok. I like common sense books about budgeting and money — things are fairly obvious, but I like having guidelines written down. This book is good for that, but you could probably find them anywhere else. It also contains its on “baby step” process makes a few divergences, but for the most part is essentially Dave Ramsey for teachers.

For example, he writes, “In most marriages, there is usually someone who is more of a free spirit and the other one is more of the nerd; in my case, I am the nerd.” This is straight out of Total Money Makeover, but Kofke never cites or provides his source. I think this really irked the scholar in me. Provide your citations and sources — this is basically plagiarism, dude! You’re a teacher. Do better.

One thing I thought was helpful from this book that I’m not sure the Ramsey-lit offers is the chapter on retirement. Once again we get into boomer territory. I think it is funny that we still have books that suggest that retirement is an option in the same way as it used to be, or even that it may even be desirable (especially for those of us who are not physical laborers). I don’t envision a retired future for myself playing golf, traveling, whatever. I like the idea of continuing to be productive until the inevitable happens. Most people have zero idea how to spend leisure time even when they work 40-50 hours a week. Do you know happens after retirement? You wait around and then you die.

But I digress. All the above does not mean I do not think you should be responsible and save for the future. Like I said, I’m totally guilty of being the “boomer” in our marriage. The retirement chapter is helpful if you are thinking about where to put your money, especially since most teachers will not have 401ks. It did give me plenty to think about for our plans.

Still — I’m not sure I would recommend this book. I mean it is ok. If you’ve never read a personal finance book ever, it is fine. If you are afraid being a teacher is going to lead you to a life of poverty and just want to be assured everything is going to ok, I think it has its uses in that realm too. But for the most part, it seems like ideas taken from other personal finances gurus and put together for money-interested teachers.

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A Review of The Art of Frugal Hedonism

books, reading

Contains Amazon affiliate links. 

Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb’s book The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More is not so much a book of “why” frugal hedonism is best, but one that describes “how” to go about it. It is a quick-read with fifty-one short chapters providing tips for how to incorporate frugal hedonism in your own life. Some chapters are only about a page long. The book is meant to “be [a] primer for a life less dependent on the comforts of consumption, and more focused on extracting maximum pleasure from the most essential parts of being human.”

The Australian writers describe an early taste of simple things that prevented them from ever being too consumption-focused. Both describe early childhoods of that feature parents moving up in lives and how much they missed the original simplicity they were born into. I get it – this is all fine. But I think sometimes Raser-Rowland and Grubb miss the mark as to why someone may “want to move up” in the first place: i.e. security (at times they seem to take for granted that it is only a keeping of the Jones’ mentality – more, more, more). Granted, that is not the main point of their book, but there is a big difference in living the “simple life” because you have to (and what that might even look like) versus because you want to.

Most of their advice is fine but repetitive. They themselves even acknowledge that they tend to repeat the idea of eating a packed lunch instead of ordering take-out. Most of their suggestions are fairly common. For example – they recommend not buying drinks out at restaurants, take care of the things you already own, have an open relationship with recipes, and figure out what you really enjoy spending money on. Other habits such as “relish” were a little too twee for me. It kind of feels like it has been done before, though not with Raser-Rowland and Grubb’s hipster whimsy. Most of the chapters could have used more description, instead of just a quickly expressed idea.

That said, there were a few interesting ideas in the book. For example, suggestion no. 11 “beware fake frugal” is one to keep in mind. They describe fake frugal as “cheap to buy, but at the expense of someone or something else.” Examples they provide are kitchen products you constantly replace (like can openers) or buying white bread instead of the better, healthier wheat bread just because it is cheaper. This is something I always have to remind myself – one-time last year, Bruno and I decided we were spending too much money on groceries, so decided to change out some of our lunches for ramen. I still think ramen is delicious, but it really is not an actual lunch. Lesson learned.

One thing I did appreciate about the book is that Raser-Rowland and Grubb provide plenty of charts and numbers. I never thought I would be the type to appreciate charts and numbers, but it is interesting to see how consumptive habits have changed over the years. In the 1950s 75% of food was made in-home, now it is something like 50% (I was actually surprised that it was still half – I expected it to be lower). Their numbers relate specifically to Australia, but I can’t imagine that it is much different here in the states. When it comes to the history and data around buying habits and happiness, these two know their stuff.

I did really struggle with the style of writing. I suspect this has less to do with the book itself then who I think it might be written for. I made a comment that this is a book with all your usual tips, but with hipster whimsy and that just is not appealing to me. It is a personal preference, but I am not sure that advising me to “relish” or “not be a snooty bum-bum” are things that I find particularly helpful, or cute. I suspect it is a taste thing, but it is not helped by the fact that for the most part there is not much substance there.

I think this book is fine for neophytes on living frugally (that is this concept is completely new to them — although, I’m not sure how many people that would actually be), but for everyone else looking to enjoy life while save some money it will be nothing they’ve never read or heard before. And if you are really frugally-minded, there is nothing in here that you would not be able to find for free on the internet.