Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 8/8/2015 (2136 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Robert R. Brown will tell you he was one of those people: the guy at the party who always would say: "I should write a book someday."
"I did that for 25 years, and finally my wife said 'You should stop talking about it and finally do it.' "
So Brown, a sales and leadership trainer, did it. And of all the topics from which to choose, he tried his hand at personal finance.
He didn't let the fact he wasn't an industry professional deter him. In fact, he felt the world of personal finance could use an 'every man' common-sense point of view.
What he has concocted is unlike most other personal finance choices available on store shelves. Its title alone stands out: Wealthing Like Rabbits: An Original Introduction to Personal Finance.
And from the start you know you're going to get an irreverent take on money management. It even opens with a Homer Simpson quote: "All right, let's not panic. I'll make the money back by selling one of my livers. I can get by with one." It also references zombie apocalypses, Star Trek and The Sopranos, to name a few more.
Brown says he wanted to make finance fun. That's what sets his book apart, he believes.
"One of the nicest compliments I received about the book actually wasn't intended to be a compliment," says Brown who lives in Ajax, Ont.
An editor at a daily newspaper reviewed Brown's book and said while it's clever and well-written, it doesn't contain much that hasn't already been said.
"And yes that's true: pay yourself first, get out of debt, live within your means -- none of that is new, and it won't be 25 years from now, but it will still be just as true," he says.
"What I wanted to do is take that information and package it in a fun way to make it more accessible for young people who previously hadn't had any interest in personal finance."
Certainly the first chapter might put off some readers past their fourth decade of life. Here Brown paints two different pictures of 'Lisa' in her mid-50s. One is a portrait of a spendthrift, devil-may-care credit card user who has lived by the gratification-first, regret-later plan.
The result is loads of debt, no savings and a very long time until retirement -- a cocktail of high anxiety and insomnia.
The other demonstrates prudent money management, having the opposite result. Saving and only splurging when the money is there to pay for it leads to financial serenity.
"That story in the first chapter is to tell people in their 20s about the two possible futures that await, and that the choice is theirs."
Brown's aim is to get in millennials' heads before they fall into the traps that can maim their financial futures. Someone has to do it, he contends, because the financial industry largely doesn't. And in many respects, he's right. Finance advice is often geared for boomers because there's money to be made providing advice to people with money.
In contrast, young people generally don't have money, or at least not a lot of it.
Sure they need car loans, student loans and mortgages, and they may need help saving a little bit, too. But they're not the main focus of the financial industry.
Brown's book, however, is all about the younger generation. Consequently it provides a lot of basic, tried-and-true advice that when seized upon could set up millennials to have fat portfolios and trim, debt-free bottom lines later in life.
"I'm not one of these guys who say you need to save every nickel you make for the future," he says. "I really believe in balance."
The overall message is simple. Don't go into debt unless absolutely necessary. A mortgage is one thing -- that's good debt. But using a credit card to buy an 80-inch TV when you don't have the cash to pay the balance in full at the end of the month is another thing altogether.
"I'm sorry, but the math doesn't lie," Brown says. "The sooner you start with good financial management in your life, the better off you're going to be."
And this idea underscores the book's title.
"It partly stems from the idea we use the word 'saving' too much."
We save money when we contribute to RRSPs, but we also save when the price of gasoline falls.
"But what I say is when we're actually saving money -- like putting money in an RRSP -- we're really wealthing instead," he says.
"There are two reasons for that: No. 1, it sounds cooler. And No. 2, it gets people thinking a little bit differently about saving."
For example, if you buy a $1,000 TV for $500, have you really saved $500?
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"You haven't really saved $500 unless you take the money and put it the bank," Brown says. "If you go buy $500 worth of more stuff, you haven't saved anything."
OK, got it... but what do rabbits have to do with money?
"The 'like rabbits' comes from the part of the book where I'm talking about compound interest and how much your money can grow given enough time," he says. "I relate the concept to what happened in Australia after 1859 when an English farmer decided he wanted to go rabbit hunting on his new farm, so he had 24 rabbits shipped to Australia, where previously there wasn't one indigenous rabbit."
Decades later, 10 billion rabbits were overrunning the continent.
"That's because rabbits are so good at compounding, if you will," Brown says. "It's just a way to demonstrate memorably how much money can grow given enough time -- a cute little play on words to refer to that other thing rabbits do."
Advice you can bank on
Wealthing Like Rabbits: An Original Introductions to Personal Finance was released last September, and has since sold about 2,500 copies -- not bad for a self-published book by an industry outsider. In fact, that's halfway to being a non-fiction bestseller in Canada. Want a copy? Go to Indigo.ca, Amazon.ca or wealthinglikerabbits.com
Money-minded 'hare-sies': author Robert Brown offers solid if not original personal finance advice that will certainly help younger generations avoid pitfalls on the road to prosperity; here are a couple of doses of his financial tonic:
Credit card-loyalty programs: Brown says reward credit cards generally encourage overspending and offer little in return for consumers. "Here's the thing: in order to get a lot of rewards, you have to use your credit card a lot, and using a credit card a lot is a big problem for most people." Considering more than a third of credit card holders do not pay off their card balance in full, he says earning one per cent back on purchases does not come close to what they might pay in interest. "Even for people who pay their credit card bills off every month, we can't necessarily conclude that they're using their credit card responsibly," he says. "Did they make a contribution to their RRSP? Did they put money away for their kids' education? Could the money they spent on their credit card have gone to better use?"
On investing: Brown devotes little on the subject in the book, but what he does offer is helpful to millennials who may not know where to start. He suggests beginning with the basics. Contribute to an RRSP, investing in GICs to start. This way you can't lose money, which can be discouraging, and this strategy gives you time to learn about investing while building up enough savings to properly construct a portfolio of market-based investments. And when you do start investing in the stock market, keep it simple. Buy index mutual funds that don't seek to beat the market. Instead, they aim to replicate its performance.