When the Australian gentleman who writes under the deeply ironic pseudonym Nikolai Vladivostok contacted me to look over a book he had written on financial advice, I did my usual inward groan and went outside and shot a few kittens in the kneecaps for the hell of it. The reason for this unusual behavior is that I get quite a number of book manuscripts sent my way to ‘have a look over’. The reason I hate these unsolicited advances are twofold: the books are invariably rubbish and written very badly indeed, and they are always, always about 100,000 words longer than they need to be.
Fun fact – when I launched my own first book, I too sent it out to people to read and promote it for me. The difference was that I had worked with two editors on the book, (in other words it was amazingly high quality), and I said that I would pay them for the time it took them to read it. Thus was launched my stellar writing career.
Anyhoo, I have some small respect for Nikolai so I gave it a look. And my feedback was far different than anything that I had given before. I told him that it was too short, far too short and that he needed to beef it up. And Nikolai followed my advice to the letter.
The result is the 75,000 work opus, The poor man’s guide to financial freedom. From memory when he sent it to me in its original form it was around 20K words in length. Not only did I tell him to beef it up and flesh it out, I specifically asked him to go into much more detail on the chapter on investing as this was of interest to me.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but if I had had this book a few decades ago my life would be significantly different now in a financial sense. I have known very few people in my life who have had their act together when it comes to their personal finances, but those that did have had a lifestyle that I would define as being without financial stress. They have had stress in other areas but not with regards to money.
The vast majority of my other acquaintances have fallen into the basket of, surviving from day to day. It’s not a great way to live but when you’re in that debt hole it seems impossible to get yourself out of it. So impossible that it’s just better to bury your head in the sand and continue the way that you are going down into the money toilet. It’s too hard to change it; too confronting; too much baggage attached.
I was one of these people who lived from paycheck to paycheck and worse. I’m not anymore but old bad habits are just one disaster away so this book is important for most of us. Nikolai lays out a roadmap in 10 steps and puts his cards face up on the table from the beginning of the hand:
There are no secrets in this book. Everything here is what you could find out for free if you trawled the internet and pored over published research, and then learned from your errors and realized what is good information and what is misleading dross.
This book aims to be what I wish I had back when I started my journey about a decade ago: a concise, cogent and comprehensible summary of the information already available, with the filler, scams and time-wasters removed. I tell you what you need to know, who you need to talk to, what you need to do, and how to do it. This book is nothing more, and nothing less, than that.
He has done the trawling for you, years of research and trial and error and then packaged it concisely for ease of access and quick internalisation of the important messages. He tells you how to avoid debt, how to get out of debt, how to budget, the importance of an emergency fund, how to increase your income and much more. Being the impatient sod that I am, I skipped straight to the chapter on investing.
He breaks investing down into 2 major categories: defensive assets and growth assets. A defensive asset is something that you take out to protect yourself. It is less an investment than it is insurance. Gold is a good example of this. Sure it may or may not increase in vale over time ahead of inflation, but its real value lies in its shit-hits-the-fan-Weimer-Republic potential. Stocks or property come under the heading of growth potential but you need to understand how they work and what strategies to use to maximise your potential profits. Nikolai goes into detail on these very important topics and I found his advice to be very interesting and quite helpful for me. Thanks, Nikolai! You came through, bro. (Drinks on me in 70 years.)
I am at the stage of my life where I am considering whether or not to purchase a property to live in or continue renting. The book has an extensive section on the pros and cons of both options, always keeping in mind that we are examining the data and arguments through the prism of investing and becoming financially independent. What I read clarified a few issues that I was struggling with in real life, and it would be no great exaggeration to say that I believe that I will save a fair amount of money by what I learned from this book. The investment section in the first draft of this book was a throwaway 15 pages if I remember correctly. It told you that investing was really important but it didn’t go into any detail on how to invest. The same chapter in the published version comes in at over 70 pages, but it is still concisely written and easy to digest. And yes, it tells you how to invest.
There is also a very handy glossary and links throughout the book to valuable online resources where you can burrow into far more detail at your own leisure. At the end of the book he also summarises the 10 steps that he laid out, which is very handy for those of us with the memory of a goldfish.
Nikolai didn’t publish this book to get rich. He published it so that you could get rich. He also published it because he looked around at the advice available and figured that he could do it better. He has done so in spades. I can’t recommend this book enough. And if you don’t need it then buy it for someone who does. You know who I’m talking about.