Thursday, January 9, 2014

Struggling financially? Read 'The Wealthy Barber Returns'

I'm 47 years old, and if you're around my age or older you've probably heard of or read David Chilton's book 'The Wealthy Barber'.  I'm certain that Mr. Chilton is at least partly responsible for the boon in mutual fund investing that occurred during the nineties and early into this century.  "The Wealthy Barber" (TWB) was written in 1989 and it was a monster success selling somewhere around two million copies.

But TWB was written in a different era, before the internet, before TFSAs, before the great financial crisis and before Canadians went from a nation of savers to a country that has gorged itself on debt.  

The author's first book harped on the theme of 'pay yourself first', taking roughly 10% of your income and putting it toward long term saving.  He extolled the virtues of dollar cost averaging, buying equity investments with a fixed amount on a regular basis so as to even out the ups and downs that come with the equity markets.  Dollar cost averaging means buying more when prices correct and less when valuations soar.  

Over the long haul (20 years or more) equity markets have outperformed just about every other investment vehicle; savings accounts, government bonds etc, but its not a ride that goes straight up, there are many bumps along the way.

The Wealthy Barber Returns is true to the original in this sense, the need for long term retirement saving, but David Chilton bemoans the fact that Canada has become a nation of spendthrifts.

The original book centred around a rich barber who dispensed financial wisdom to his customers in a narrative form.  The author has abandoned that device in this book however, and speaks directly to the reader, and its a wise choice.  Too many people are struggling and need to be spoken to directly, not via a kindly older gentleman cutting hair.  Our problems typically boil down to hedonistic desires trumping simple common sense.  'The Wealthy Barber Returns' has one key theme that is obvious and simple.  

You can't spend more than you earn.  

If you think saving is impossible, read the book.  If you're convinced you can't spare a single dime to put toward an RRSP, RESP or TFSA, read the book.  If you don't understand what those acronyms even mean, definitely READ THE BOOK.  

I'm lucky, I didn't even have to buy the book.  In fact I have two copies, one in English the other in French. My financial institution was giving them away, and living in Québec they only had French copies the first time I saw it available, so I struggled through.  On a later visit they gave me the English version.

Mr. Chilton, if you ever chance to read this, votre français c'est excellent.  

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