Book Review – The Simple Dollar


If you are a long time reader (and I mean, back to the third post that I ever wrote; I’ve definitely grown a lot as a writer since then), you’ll know that I’ve been a fan of Trent Hamm and his blog The Simple Dollar since well before I started to write my own blog.  As I’ve shared more than once, if it weren’t for Trent and his blog, there’s a fair to good chance that I wouldn’t be blogging right now, myself, to say nothing of being on a completely different financial path.  So, to say he’s had an influence on me is a pretty big understatement.

So, it was with fairly great pleasure that I was able to read through his book, also entitled The Simple Dollar.  I expected it to be well-written, interesting, and to have a very human touch, just like Trent’s blog articles.  Were my assumptions confirmed, or did The Simple Dollar fail to make a smooth transition from blog to book?  As always, let’s read on and find out!

 Summary

The Simple Dollar book starts with an introduction from Trent explaining why he started The Simple Dollar blog, and some of the realizations he’s had about the current state of money and how the financial rules we live by have been changing over the past several decades.  Chapter one discusses debt, how it keeps you from achieving your dreams, and of course, how to pay it down.  (The chapter ends, as all the chapters do, with five solid steps you can take to achieve the goals mentioned in the chapter, in this case, paying down debt.)

The second chapter is about finding happiness in your life, and cultivating that happiness.  Chapter three is all about luck and the random events (both good and bad) in our life.  It also provides advice on how you can prepare for both the good and the bad in your life, in order to optimize your luck as best you can.

Chapter four covers setting goals and achieving dreams, both in the short term and in the long term.  The fifth chapter, in turn, discusses how we often make choices that keep us from moving forward with our goals, and ways we can break those bad habits and make progress toward the life of our dreams.  The sixth chapter covers the need for community and connections that we all have, and provides advice on how to build up those connections.

Chapter seven, entitled ‘Watch the Gap’, is all about increasing the size of the gap between what you earn and what you spend.  Chapter eight is one of the longer chapters in the book, discussing frugality and ways to cut down your expenses.  It discusses both the broad framework of thinking in a more frugal fashion, as well as specific examples of ways to cut down your spending in areas like food purchases and utility payments.

Chapter nine covers negative and positive relationships, and how to decrease the number of the former while building up the latter.  The tenth chapter covers the new career rules, and how to build up the skills that will make you more attractive to potential employers.   Chapter eleven covers some basics of changing your life, from preparing for such a change to dealing with people who won’t understand the changes you want to make.

The twelfth chapter is ‘Managing the Gap’, covering how to grow and take charge of the gap mentioned back in chapter seven.  Chapter thirteen discusses how to keep your relationships healthy and keep money from leading to stress and friction with the ones you love.

Chapter fourteen discusses the changing role of retirement, from final days of peace to an opportunity to take on new challenges and build a ‘second act’ for your life.  The fifteenth chapter focuses on raising children in this modern world, from instilling skills that will help them throughout life to giving them experiences that will help them stand out.  Chapter sixteen discusses charity, why we feel the need to give back and some of the ways that you can give (including ones that don’t require you to give money).

Chapter seventeen is all about things that can hold you back, and keep you from achieving your goals.  From lack of focus to the passive barriers to achieving success we have, it provides means of overcoming just about anything keeping you from your goals.  Chapter eighteen is about overcoming the disbelief and doubt of others if you choose to live an unconventional life (that is, no debt, low consumer spending, possibly an unusual job, if you have a job at all, and basically take most of the other suggestions in the book).  Chapter nineteen finishes off the book, providing numerous life lessons that Trent has learned in his own personal journey.

Pros

The Simple Dollar book, like The Simple Dollar blog, is very optimistic and highly encouraging.  It provides quite a bit of inspiration and a different way of thinking, about money and about how you live your life, from the typical advice you hear.  It also, unlike many inspirational books of this type, provides solid, actionable steps to achieve the goals that are laid out along the way.

Cons

The order of chapters in the book seems a bit unorganized and seems to jump around.  (For example, the ‘gap’ being introduced in chapter seven and then put aside until chapter twelve, rather than being discussed in sequential chapters.)  Other than that point, though, it’s a very solid, very good book.

Overall

The Simple Dollar book definitely meets the high standards I’d expect from Trent Hamm due to his work on The Simple Dollar blog.  It’s a great introduction to many aspects of personal finance and lifestyle design, and is written in an encouraging and enlightening way.  It’s definitely a good book to read if you find yourself in a rut and want to get out.

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