Book Review – Preet Banerjee’s “Stop Overthinking Your Money – Five Simple Rules of Financial Success”

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If you know who Preet Banerjee is chances are you already bought this book.  It’s like when an actor you really like releases a movie.  You don’t have to see the trailers for that or check out the reviews, you just see the movie. Period.  Because that trust has already been earned.

If you don’t know who Preet is, you can read his bio, but it doesn’t really do him justice.  Yup, the guy is photogenic and has his own TV show.  That doesn’t even crack my list about what really makes him impressive.  Sure, he’s hilarious, down-to-Earth, and way too charismatic to be writing about personal finance stuff – so there’s that.

But here’s the real deal.  Here’s the thing that makes Preet different and the thing that Preet goes to great lengths to play down (maybe because he’s modest, could be because he doesn’t want to intimidate anyone – I’m not sure): Preet’s that rare combination of genius and brilliant communication ability.

Preet operates on a level most of us won’t ever touch, but unlike most of his peers on that echelon, he is also really good at communicating with the rest of the planet.  In fact he’s so good, he can make you forget how smart he really is.  Put it this way, if Preet wanted to run for office one day, I would pity the fools on the rest of the ballot.

How Can We Overthink Our Money if Most of Us Never Think About It?

Stop overthinking your money

Ok, I’ll quit slobbering all over the place now and tell you a little about the book.  The groupy-like behavior isn’t my fault.  I mean, how do you not fall for a guy that can break down how life insurance works in one sentence, and then throw out multiple penis-size jokes in the next?  If I haven’t convinced you to buy the book yet here are a few things I really liked about it:

  • Great premise: This book isn’t going to take you from an A to an A+, but it will get you from the C you’re at, to an easy A.  Let’s be honest, Preet might be marking us on a bit of a curve.  Most Canadians would struggle to get a passing grade in personal finance 101.  Superb elevator pitch for what the book is about though – and frankly I’m jealous that I didn’t come up with it first.
  • I’m not going to break down the five rules for you because you should just read the damn book, but suffice to say they’re essential and easy to remember (but not so easy to execute as Preet points out).
  • Preet hammers home the idea of keeping it simple and not procrastinating things on account of coming up with the perfect master plan.  Something many Canadians are guilty of.
  • The emphasis on not-so-sexy fundamentals of saving as opposed to the sky-high promises of investment wealth that most financial people use to sell their books.  Here’s a simple formula that my grade nines understood and engaged with (if you can get today’s generation of grade nines to pay attention you’re doing something right):

Budget Surplus x Time = Wealth

In other words you have to nail down some savings habits before you worry about the RRSP vs TFSA debate.

  • Giving up one luxury in your budget, only to allocate it to another is like going for a 10K run and then eating a cheeseburger.  Don’t know why, but that simile stayed with me.
  • I’ve never heard/read a better description of what borrowing or debt actually is than the one Preet gives.  The written edition is cool, but this Ted Talks Preet did about it is even better.  Check it out and it will sell itself.
  • “If there’s a lot to read, chances are it’s in your best interest to take the time to read it thoroughly.”
  • “Never sign a contract at the door.”
  • “We live to compare.  Or perhaps we compare to live.”  Maybe if enough really smart people keep telling us not to play the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses game we might listen one day.
  • For the majority of Canadians almost every single Canadian turn-key investment options that focus on broad diversification and low fees are best.  Preet and I differ a little on how much we want the average person to know in terms of setting up this portfolio – I am still naïve enough to think that we can get people to use low-cost ETFs in order to set up this sort of portfolio, whereas Preet recommends Streetwise Funds from ING Direct or similar products – but the principle is exactly the same.
  • I’m a sucker for a good, “we put too much ‘stock’ in investment returns” pun.  Beautiful.
  • Near the end of the book Preet packs in some really great material on how to understand financial planning and how you pay for it.  This is a pretty contentious issue in Canada right now, and he has taken some interesting positions on it in the past.  While we’ve written about the idea in the past, Preet has put together the most comprehensive guide on what to expect when you look for financial advice that I’ve ever read.  Should you get a financial advisor, a financial planner, or a money coach?  The answer is also a cop out: it depends – but Preet will tell you exactly what it should depend on and what you should look for before money comes out of your wallet.  Perhaps the best of this advice is when he states, “It’s never free.  Ever.  Anyone who tells you different should have their license revoked.”

I Just Did Your Christmas Shopping for You

Preet didn’t really need this review from me.  His first couple pages include blurbs from every big name in Canadian personal finance today.  He writes for some of the most-read publications in Canada and to say he’s an engaging presence on TV doesn’t do him justice.  This book will get its share of attention.  That being said, I didn’t feel right about possessing such a neat little resource and not letting people know about it.

There’s little in this book that hasn’t been said somewhere before, but I’m not sure it’s ever been stated in a way that is as easy to understand or as entertaining to read.  Don’t just buy the book for yourself (in fact if you read personal finance blogs, you might find some parts of the book to be more of a review than an expert’s course) instead, buy it for someone’s birthday.  Get a couple extra copies so that you can lend them to people – some will never read it because they'll simply never care, but I’d be willing to bet that many will genuinely thank you.  If Preet can’t convince someone to give a crap about their finances and get themselves on the right track, I’m not sure it can be done.

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Kyle is a high school humanities teacher by day, and freelance personal finance author by night. He has been published in academic journals, and has also co-authored the book "More Money for Beer and Textbooks". In his free time Kyle likes to limp up and down a basketball court and pretend to be a tough guy in a boxing ring.

2 Comments

  1. Phil on January 13, 2014 at 9:40 am

    I don’t read very many books anymore, as I have found my way… So the only rule that really matters… Live on, and spend less, than you have coming in. Pretty simple really. Any others are really for enhancing and fine tuning one’s “financial success”. One more important one that I live by is to get ENOUGH sleep at night. Lack of good sleep is the origin of so many negative outcomes… bad decisions, weight gain, poor eating habits, relationship issues, etc. – Cheers.



  2. SST on January 18, 2014 at 9:08 am

    @Phil: interesting to note your theory on sleep.

    A while ago a Canadian uni did a study about the relationship of mental health/stress and wealth.
    Basically, their findings were that those suffering from money-related stress were operating on the same level as having 1-2 sleepless nights.

    Sleep is definitely important, it keeps the brain healthy and in return helps you make better decisions.



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