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Get Rich Slowly: Be Your Own CFO Review
“Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant." - PT Barnum
Bottom-line Up Front: Get Rich Slowly: Be Your Own CFO deserves to be one of the five books on personal finance on your "shelf," even if that shelf is digital. It's accessible, stuffed with resources and interviews for both education and inspiration, and the year-long email course will keep you managing your money rather than having your money manage you.
Money may not buy happiness, but it turns out that not having it tends to heap on a lot of unhappiness for people at the same time that people who use it purposefully and virtuously tend to be rather happy. And let's face it: many of us spend most of our lives in the process of either making money or spending money.
Yet how many of us prioritize our time such that we're increasing our financial intelligence and effectiveness?
I did some reflecting a few years ago about how I was cultivating my own financial intelligence and effectiveness. Of all the many areas I read, I noted that personal finance didn't have its own category in my rotating reading lists, which means that I wasn't intentionally learning more about it. And, since I wasn't learning and thinking about it, I wasn't actively practicing it, because what I'm learning and thinking about strongly influences my daily practices and habits.
And yet so many of my concerns actually had money as a root cause. Of the 1-3 areas to focus on that would improve my already good life, personal finance was #2.
If something was that important as far as the result it would have, why was it so low on my priority list? (I'll come back to this.)
I then started making money management a weekly and daily point of reflection and habit. And what I noticed was that I was paying for a lot of dumb choices I made in my 20s, and it was only after a couple of years of being in business that Angela and I started to make significantly better choices about how we spent and earned money. We started thinking about our personal finances and running them as if they were our business finances.
And things have improved significantly, despite having a few hard years of illness and car accidents. We're not out of the clear yet - and we still have a lot to learn and practice - but we're much better off.
One of the books that I read during that period was J.D. Roth's Your Money: The Missing Manual. It was one of my favorites because J.D.'s approach wasn't preachy or inflexible. It focused on having a financial strategy that fit your values and preferences rather than one that just hit random numbers. I'm not inherently motivated by money, so having it sitting in a bank somewhere doesn't really appeal to me. I am, however, quite motivated to have an abundant life where I get to do interesting things and not worry about a lot of things. For some reason, Your Money helped me backwards-translate "living an abundant life" with "personal finance" and helped me move from "knowing about personal finance" to "practicing personal finance."
I was thus interested and excited to see J.D.'s new guide, Get Rich Slowly: Be Your Own CFO. Not only was it an extension of his work, it framed the work in terms of what it would be like to run your personal finances as if you were a CFO. I'm happy to say that it delivered, too.
What Get Rich Slowly: Be Your Own CFO Is and What It Covers
Get Rich Slowly: Be Your Own CFO has at its core a 120 page digital ebook (the pretty PDF variety, not the kindlebook variety) and a year-long email course. Depending on which of the product packages you buy, you'll get an assortment of checklist, spreadsheets, toolkits, and interviews (with transcripts) from up to 18 experts on different topics related to personal finance.
In other words, this one purchase has enough material and insight to replace 6 or 7 other books, at half the cost and with much, much more convenience and emphasis on application.
It covers everything from planning, organization, investing, retirement, salary negotiation, and pricing. I would normally be skeptical of such a broad area of coverage, but J.D. has been researching, writing, and teaching about personal finance for a decade and spent a year or so on this project alone. He also brought in other subject matter experts with their own years of butt-in-seat time.
What's Great About Get Rich Slowly: Be Your Own CFO
There's a lot to comment on with such a large product, and there are some things - for instance, the year-long email course - that I haven't experienced in full to be able to review. This review is based on my viewing of the action guide, the Be Your Own CFO Checklist, the Guide to Roth IRAs, and the Guide to Negotiating Your Salary.
From my view, the following are the products chief virtues:
Well-researched and thorough, with an abundance of templates and spreadsheets - J.D. has clearly done his homework and presents statistics, references to other personal finance thought leaders, and links to resources, as well as including six spreadsheet templates and five additional resources, not counting the interviews. He has done a lot of the hard research and creative work so you'll have significantly less to do.
Its emphasis on making money work with your values and priorities - J.D. continues with his approach of strategic but non-preachy information about personal finance. You won't be scolded for having credit cards or buying your $2 latte or new car. You will be encouraged to invest in what matters to you and given the tools to help you do it.
The additional resources, specifically the Roth IRA Guide - I've read quite a bit about IRAs but never quite got it. This particular guide is probably worth the cost of the entire product because it finally clicked for me, as well as gave me next steps to start making getting my IRAs set up a reality.
The production value is good, too. The PDFs print out nicely and can be read from a screen. The audio quality of the interviews I listened to were good. You may not be wowed by either of these, but you won't be frustrated, either.
You'll have enough material, tools, and next steps from this one guide to keep you constructively engaged for the next few years. The email course will help you stay in the "doing" part, as well, because we know that knowing what you need to do doesn't get the results - you have to do it.
What Would Make Get Rich Slowly: Be Your Own CFO Better
J.D. and the Unconventional Guides team did most things right with this product. Here's what could use some improvement or that you'd want to know before buying it.
More guiding from the guide - There were times in which I didn't quite know where things fit. There seemed to be an implicit "do this, then do that" approach, but it was never really mapped out clearly. I was able to go back and connect the dots, but I expected a bit more conceptual structure, especially given that the product is meant to be a guide. I suspect that J.D. fell into the traps many experts do - "the map" is absolutely clear in our heads but we forget that the people with us don't have the map.
More consistency with the balance between profit-making and cost-saving - a common challenge I have with reading personal finance books is that they tend to push saving money more than they do making money. Even when they talk about having separate jobs and so on, too few really stress looking at activities based on one's earning potential in that time. For instance, selling your car and riding everywhere tends to shift the expense category from money to time, i.e. you spend 32 hours more per month to save $300. All things considered, you'd be working for $9.34 per hour to save that. If you have the actual capability to make $50 an hour and having a car frees up more time for you to do those higher-earning activities, the decision to "save money" costs you $40.66 per hour you spend riding your bike. It's not that J.D. dismisses this, but I was left feeling that his stress is about 80% cost-saving, 20% profit-making. For what it's worth, CEOs and CFOs disagree along these lines quite often.
A bibliography of referenced resources and additional reading - J.D. references a lot of other resources and I ended up making my own bibliography so I can add them to my reading list. Yes, that's time that I could've spent doing some of the exercises from the guide AND it's something that would help us continue our "professional development as CFO of You, Inc."
Buying Advice: Buy It
It's accessible, stuffed with resources and interviews for both education and inspiration, and the year-long email course will keep you managing your money rather than having your money manage you.
The two additional resources on Roth IRAs and negotiating your salary, if applied, are worth the price of the whole product alone. Think about it this way: if the Roth IRA guide gets you started investing next month, you'll likely recoup your investment in this product the first month you get started with your IRA.
I mentioned above that my priorities and my actions were out of alignment when it came to money, but I didn't tell you why. What I needed to do seemed so daunting that taking action on my money situation remained in the "do it later" bucket. It didn't seem like getting started with just $100 or $200 per month was going to get us anywhere, and it also seemed hard to get started.
I was wrong on both accounts. $100 or $200 goes a long way, and getting started was no harder than setting up a new online profile or writing a blog post. J.D. showed me this a few years ago, and I hope you give him a chance to show it to you now. It's backed with a 100% satisfaction guarantee - in their words, it will help you or it's free.
However you choose to make and use money, make sure it's serving you rather than you serving it.
Disclaimer: The links to Get Rich Slowly: Be Your Own CFO in this piece are referral links, and, as such, I will receive a commission if you choose to buy it. I only recommend products and people I use or trust, and if I wouldn't recommend it without a commission, I wouldn't recommend it just because it has a commission. I am also now friends with J.D., which makes the public points about what could be improved even more awkward. I hope this review has helped you make an informed purchase decision.