Financial Freedom book review

Financial Freedom Book Review

February 5th marks the launch of Grant Sabatier’s new book, Financial Freedom.

The personal finance blogger community is interconnected and extremely supportive of one another, so when Grant offered a sneak peek of the book I jumped at the chance to get my hands on it and to offer my thoughts.

The following Financial Freedom book review contains a brief introduction to Grant and his book, along with an overview of each chapter and my overall thoughts.

 

Grant Sabatier and Financial Freedom

Grant is well-known in the personal finance community as the blogger behind Millennial Money.

Started in 2015, Millennial Money is a site that helps readers learn how to save and make money, side hustle, invest, and get on the fast-track to FIRE (financial independence, retire early). The blog draws on Grant’s personal experience in these areas, and has had over 10 million readers since its inception.

While the material on Grant’s blog is drawn from his personal experiences, Financial Freedom offers a look into the exact methods that Grant used to go from $2.27 to a million dollar net worth in 5 years.

As such, Financial Freedom reads like a roadmap that clearly connects the stops one needs to make on their journey. While Grant acknowledges that the road may be longer or shorter for others, he asserts that if you follow his map financial independence and financial freedom will be waiting at the end.

This roadmap is broken into 14 chapters that take you from the start of Grant’s journey to the end. However, Financial Freedom isn’t just a recount of Grant’s journey, but a detailed account of all the things you need to follow in his footsteps.

Let’s take a look at each chapter in more detail so you can see just what you will learn while reading Financial Freedom.

 

Chapter 1: Money is Freedom

Every journey has a starting point, a spark that gets the ball rolling. For Grant, that moment came when he hit rock bottom, which he recounts in this chapter.

In short, he was living at home with no job prospects and $2.27 to his name. Grant also describes his life between graduating from college and his rock bottom, painting a picture all too familiar to many millennials.

It was at this time that Grant began reflecting on his past and future, and decided he didn’t want to be part of the status quo.

At that moment he set two goals: the first was to save a million and the second was to retire as soon as possible. He then set to work accomplishing them.

This chapter also lays the groundwork for what financial freedom means to Grant, and he encourages his readers to define what it means to them. For Grant, there are 7 levels of financial freedom. They are:

 

  1. Clarity about where you are and where you’re going
  2. Self-sufficiency, or earning enough to cover your expenses
  3. Having breathing room so you can escape living paycheck-to-paycheck
  4. Stability by having 6 months of living expenses and debt repaid
  5. Flexibility when you have 2 years of living expenses invested
  6. Financial independence such that you can live off your investments forever
  7. Abundant wealth where you have all the money you’ll ever need

 

Additionally, Grant introduces his 7 steps to financial freedom, which includes figuring out your “number” and where you are at right now.

Check out the book to learn the full 7 steps and more details about each.

 

Chapter 2: Time is More Valuable Than Money

Chapter 2 is a persuasive essay arguing that your time is more valuable than money, along with some general financial knowledge that helps to illustrate why time is so critical.

Remember, one of Grant’s goals was to retire early, but what does that really mean? For Grant and other advocates of FIRE, retirement doesn’t mean that you’ll never work again, but that you’ll have enough money that you never have to work again if you so choose.

He argues that there are 3 huge problems with the traditional approach to retirement: it doesn’t work for most people, you spend your most valuable years working for money, and it’s not designed to help you retire as early as possible.

Instead of focusing on money as scarce, Grant instead shifts the focus from money (which is really infinite) to time (which is scarce). Money is simple the tool used to give you freedom, while time is what you really should be after.

According to Grant, the fast-track way to reach financial freedom is through making and investing as much money as early and as frequently as possible, and while he acknowledges that retiring early is a privilege, he asserts that anyone can strive for FIRE.

Other topics discussed in this chapter include compound interest, inflation, taking advantage of an employer match with a 401(k), and the reality of saving for most Americans.

 

Chapter 3: What is Your Number?

This chapter covers the first step to financial freedom: finding your number.

Your “number” is the amount of money you need invested to reach financial independence and a state where work is optional.

Grant is open and honest about the realities of reaching your number, stating that it will likely take at least 5-10 years to reach a point where work is optional. This is because your number is based on your age, lifestyle and living expenses, debt, and how many years you must plan for retirement.

If you’ve done any reading into FIRE, you’ve likely heard 25x your annual expenses thrown around as a good number to shoot for. Grant spends a good amount of time discussing where that number comes from, then adds his own twist.

Grant proposes doing things a bit differently to retire faster and build in more of a buffer, which includes:

 

  1. Saving more than 25x your annual expenses
  2. Defer taking investment gains for as long as possible
  3. Increasing your emergency fund to a full year as you approach retirement
  4. When you do take investment gains, live on as little of it as possible
  5. Try to preserve your investment principal

 

The rest of the chapter details how to determine your “number,” including calculating your annual expenses, adjusting for inflation, the impact of reoccurring income, withdrawal rate, and how to factor in large expenses such as children’s college.

 

Chapter 4: Where are You Now?

You must know where you are in order to figure out how to get where you want to be. Thus, this chapter details the second step to financial freedom: your current money state.

This chapter is all about calculating your net worth, which is your assets minus your liabilities.

Grant recommends tracking your net worth often, even going so far as to say he tracks his daily. The reason being that tracking your net worth allows you to know exactly where you are, how far you’ve come, and how far you need to go.

Also discussed in this chapter are what should be included as assets, how to factor debt and interest into your financial freedom number, and how to decide when to invest and when to pay debt.

 

Chapter 5: Next-Level Money

Knowing your “number” and starting point are great, but where do you go from there?

Chapter 5 is all about how to build toward your number and achieve financial independence, which revolves around 3 key areas: expenses, savings, and income.

At this point Grant introduces the concept of the Enterprise Mindset, meaning taking advantage of as many ways as possible to make and save money. After all, the more you increase your savings rate, the faster you’ll be able to retire.

Although cutting back on expenses is part of increasing your savings rate, Grant advocates for focusing more on increasing your income as the real key.

The rest of the chapter details the 4 general types of ways to make money, and ends with two key pieces of advice. Don’t quit your full-time job until you have solid income streams and invest every dollar you can along the way.

 

Chapter 6: Is it Worth It?

Remember time versus money?

Every purchase is a trade-off that increases the time it will take you to reach financial independence, and although Grant acknowledges that everyone will value purchases differently, he encourages readers to carefully think about the trade-off they’re making.

The whole chapter is dedicated to Grant’s method for evaluating the time versus money trade-off for each purchase you will ever make.

His 11 questions to ask yourself before making a purchase include how many hours are you trading to afford this, can I get it for less, and what is the per-use cost of this item?

Check out Financial Freedom to get the rest of the questions and to find out how to calculate your REAL hourly rate.

 

Chapter 7: The Only Budget You’ll Ever Need

Do you hate budgeting?

So does Grant.

If you’re like Grant, then this chapter of Financial Freedom is right up your alley. The main reason that Grant dislikes budgets is because he feels that little things don’t make a big enough difference to really matter.

Instead, Grant advocates focusing on the big 3 expenses that belong to everyone’s monthly budget: housing, transportation, and food. Because these items make up the majority of our budgets, they present the biggest opportunity for savings.

The rest of the chapter is filled with ideas for reducing your housing, transportation, and food expenses in order to get the biggest bang for your savings buck.

 

Chapter 8: Hack Your 9-5

While side hustling and possibly working for yourself are main staples of Grant’s strategy to build wealth, he also acknowledges that most will need to remain at their full-time position for many years while pursuing financial independence.

As a result, Grant encourages his readers to get the most out of their traditional job in the mean time. Getting the most out of your job means maximizing benefits, making as much money as quickly as possible, and giving yourself as much flexibility as you can.

The rest of the chapter describes how to negotiate for a raise and other benefits while also emphasizing the need to build skills and network.

 

Chapter 9: More Money in Less Time

Getting the most out of your job is critical but increasing your income through side hustles is crucial to fast-tracking your way to financial independence.

In this chapter Grant details how to identify, start, and grow side hustles to expedite the journey to financial independence.

Some other key points of the chapter are the 5 prime times to free up time for side hustles, passive income side hustles, tax advantages of side hustles, and the 4 steps to choosing a side hustle.

 

Chapter 10: The 7-step Fast Track Investment Strategy

As the title suggests, this chapter is all about investing.

Investing is powerful because it allows you to make money on your money without investing any additional time.

While investing is typically seen as scary and complicated for most, Grant makes it simple to understand risk, short-term versus long-term investment strategies, asset allocation, tax-advantaged and taxable accounts, and how to reduce fees while getting the best return.

In fact, Grant offers a selection of very specific recommendations that will make it simple for anyone to get started with investing.

I’ve even made some changes based on the recommendations contained in this chapter, and I was already investing!

 

Chapter 11: Real Estate Investing

Although most think of investing in terms of the stock market, Grant dedicates a whole chapter to the topic of real estate investing and how it can significantly add to your net worth.

The rent versus buying argument has been raging in the personal finance sphere for years, but Grant puts this argument to rest by explaining how a home purchase can ultimately lead to increased wealth through income properties.

Not only does real estate appreciate between 3 and 5% a year, but the rent-to-buy break-even point in most cities is 2.1 years. Even if you end up needing to move, you can rent out your home and make money from an asset that will continue to grow.

The rest of the chapter details exactly how you can build wealth from real-estate by either buying and selling (flipping) or buying and holding.

 

Chapter 12: More Than Enough

Most of the book details how you build the wealth needed to reach financial independence and the option to retire as quickly as possible, but what happens once you reach your destination?

Grant offers some insight into that very question in this chapter, where he lays out suggestions for an exit strategy from your traditional 9-5 as well as how you need to treat your investments so that you can continue to live off them for the remainder of your life.

Aside from how you spend your money, Grant also suggests making a plan for how you will spend your time once you retire, including advocating for working in some capacity.

 

Chapter 13: The Future Optimization Framework

The penultimate chapter discusses something Grant calls the Future Optimization Framework. While you’ll have to read the chapter to get all the juicy details, essentially this framework encompasses the mindset that is needed to be able to retire as early as possible.

 

Chapter 14: Living a Richer Life

Do you think it’s possible for you to reach financial independence after reading this review? Still have some doubts?

In this final chapter, Grant attempts to dispel some of these doubts by telling the stories of others who have achieved FIRE at a young age. Many of these individuals/couples are other members of the personal finance bloggersphere, but not all are. No matter their current endeavors, all share the commonality of reaching financial independence, leaving their traditional 9-5, and pursuing their interests at a young age.

 

General Thoughts on Financial Freedom

Positives

There were many things I loved about Financial Freedom, but top of the list was the hope it instills in the reader.

While Grant’s example will be difficult to follow in the same timeframe, his strategy is replicable for almost anyone at any stage, and thus his story and methods are relatable for almost anyone who might pick up this book.

Additionally, I really appreciated Grant’s focus on mindset and how he challenged the idea of consumerism without directly stating that buying any one thing (or category of thing) was wrong. It’s very clear the things Grant values and what he does not, but he is always careful to emphasize that each individual reader needs to evaluate for themselves what matters most to them and make their decisions accordingly.

Because he focuses on the specifics of the strategies rather than what people might choose to purchase, he is able to push the reader to evaluate their purchases and values without shaming any specific purchases that an individual may choose to make.

Yet another thing I really appreciated about this book was how Grant’s focus was on leveraging the benefits of full-time employment rather than simply bashing it. Many FIRE advocates act like all jobs are horrible and that everything will be perfect once you are able to leave them. While Grant clearly prefers working for himself, he understands the value and necessity of a traditional job while his readers are in the pursuit of FIRE, and he looks to help them get the most out of that time.

Aside from the things mentioned above, some other great aspects of Financial Freedom include:

 

  • Many concrete examples for all concepts discussed, making it easier for the reader to understand and envision for themselves
  • A plethora of worksheets/forms, along with links to online worksheets and calculators, so readers can easily make calculations for themselves
  • Consistently gives recommendations/presents charts that cross the spectrum of potential readers
  • Has a recap at the end of each chapter for easy digestion of the main points

 

Challenges

Overall, I really loved Financial Freedom, and think Grant did an excellent job of presenting and explaining his methods in a way that is accessible to most readers. However, there are some things I feel were either not emphasized or unrealistic.

First, while Grant does an amazing job of providing examples, some of those examples aren’t realistic for most readers.

For instance, there was an example presented in which someone might choose to buy two new cars for $40k each or buy two used cars for a total of $40k and invest the other $40k. The point was that buying used and investing the remainder would bring you out ahead, except this example doesn’t work because most don’t have $80k in hand and are instead buying on credit. Although you will save money by buying a used car, in most cases that saved money isn’t in your hand to be able to invest because it is future money.

Another concept that likely won’t work for most readers came in the chapter on real estate. Grant suggests using a smaller down payment to avoid risking being priced out of the market rather than waiting until you’ve built up enough to put 20% down. While that may work for those with a higher income, many individuals will not be able to afford the monthly payments without putting a higher amount down. This was the case with me, as I didn’t have the monthly income to compensate for the higher loan amount that would have resulted from a lower down payment.

Another idea I found unrealistic was that anyone can implement the methods and strategies he used and achieve the same results. I do want to say that I think MOST people can achieve similar results, but there was not enough emphasis on how different the path of readers is likely to be, or the advantages enjoyed by him as well as the other FIRE achievers he highlighted.

For instance, the chapter on other FIRE achievers contained no examples of people with low incomes, or without high levels of education. Furthermore, the majority of examples were couples and I don’t believe any of them had children.

Looking at Grant specifically, he has a plethora of marketable skills that allowed him to make more money with his side hustles than the average person would be able to (one side hustle paid him $50k in a few days). Yes, many of those skills he taught himself, but he had the education and background to be able to more easily find and learn this new information. Another factor working in Grant’s favor was that he did the majority of his investing during the bull market, but those investing now would likely not see the same investing results in the same amount of time.

The last thing I think deserved more emphasis was the sacrificial lifestyle Grant had to employ to achieve his goal in such a short amount of time. Grant does speak to the idea that those you love and your health are more important than money in the last few chapters, but I don’t think he did so nearly enough. Grant says he essentially worked almost all waking hours during those 5 years to financial independence, and that that schedule took a toll on his health. While he does discuss striking a balance between working toward your goals and living life along the way, the tone throughout the book is to work as hard as you can to buy freedom later.

 

Moral of the Story

Financial Freedom details Grant Sabatier’s journey from broke to retired millionaire in just 5 short years.

The book contains 14 chapters ranging in topics from how to determine your financial freedom number, to starting a profitable side hustle, to investing in the stock market and real estate. Throughout the book Grant has included graphs, charts, tables, and links to online calculators to help readers easily put Grant’s methods into practice.

His methods are replicable in some capacity for most individuals, which gives his readers hope and a concrete strategy to help them improve their financial lives, even if they aren’t ultimately able to reach the same levels of success.

Overall, Financial Freedom provides a window into an alternative to the traditional working life and retirement lessons that we’ve all been taught.

In this day and age, it is long overdue.

Talk about Money Saved and Money Earned.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Financial Freedom Book Review”

  1. This is a very nice review. As I read the book, I had some of the same challenges you did. Many people can’t get their heads around the kind of sacrifice Grant and other FIRE proponents make.

    There are some very practical ideas and methods as well. I think the book can help a lot of people begin to think about life and their finances differently. As you point out, there are some detailed charts, and graphs that help visualize the math.

    Nice job with the review.

  2. Wow! This is such a thorough review. It’s definitely good to point out that some things won’t be as accessible to some readers and some examples won’t stick. It sounds like he pushes the reader to reconsider their own spending and values, and introduces the concept of FI to people who might not have thought of it before. Thanks for taking the time to give your thoughts!

    1. Thank you! Yes, Grant does a great job of encouraging readers to improve their finances with actionable steps that anyone can do. Obviously it will look different depending on circumstances, but everyone can apply most concepts discussed in the book in some capacity.

  3. Great review! It sounds like a fantastic book. I’m glad you included the challenges. One of my favorite parts about the Frugalwoods book was that she laid out all the advantages and privileges she had and didn’t pretend that everyone else has those too. Thanks for sharing. I’m looking forward to reading it.

    1. Glad you found the review helpful! I think Grant did a great job of encouraging others to improve their finances even if they may not be able to reach FIRE, but it’s really important to acknowledge the advantages and that not everyone will have those.

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