Top positive review
From the perspective of someone who's done it
5 January 2019
My wife and I hit FI aged 43, three years ago. I keep an eye on the FIRE community from time to time in order to keep building my knowledge around FI, and came across this book via Barney's blog, theescapeartist.me.
There's a lot to like about this book. For starters, David's targeting of 'mid life professionals' makes a lot of sense to me, as IMHO this is the demographic far more able to achieve FI through relatively simple life changes. His leaning towards motivational topics makes a lot of sense too - the financial tenets of FI are straightforward enough (earn as much as you can, avoid spending all of your income, build an emergency fund then invest as much of your savings as you can, eventually income from investments pays for your relatively low financial needs) and the real difficulty is the change in mindset needed to enable these changes.
As per almost all of the FIRE community he focuses almost entirely on the use of equities and bonds as investment choices, writing off the idea of renting out property in a couple of short paragraphs. Since our personal FI journey has been largely driven by letting out houses we used to live in, this is a shame. The suggestion that property isn't passive income is fair, but we've used full-service management agents for many years, and have been able to travel full time abroad while they took care of finding and vetting tenants, rent collection, checking the houses, holding deposits, making repairs, arranging gas inspections, everything. While if we were starting from scratch now we'd go down the index tracker (shares) fund route David suggests, renting out property is well worth investigating more outside of this book, if only to ponder a wider asset diversification.
One area David couldn't comment on is what happens post FI, as he's not hit that point yet. My hope is he'll update this book over time as he gets closer to the 'trigger point'. Getting to financial independence has been a great thing for us. It has enabled the many freedoms David discusses. But it's important to understand it's not a panacea. Removing the need for work for money also removes the character-reinforcing struggle David talks about, which needs replacing with something else, or (in my case) anxiety takes over. Having a million hours on your hands can also lead to a downward spiral unless the time's channeled into positive action, and after decades of commuting/office work, the imagination has been somewhat dulled for me, and needed re-igniting. If you're on the path to FI, start planning early what you're going to do if/when you pull the trigger and quit work. And once you've planned, plan for what you'll do after that. We planned to travel but after 4 years full time on the road, that eventually became stale, and we've still got (maybe) 30 years of 'retirement' to go.
All in all, I really enjoyed David's book - like reading one a (much) better version of me would have written! We thought about what would make us happy, we minimalised, we downsized, we reduced consumerism, we evaluated and pondered every purchase, we tracked our spending (notepad and spreadsheets for us), we drove less and walked or ran more, we read about and tackled fears, we researched investments and invested. All good stuff, and of course it works. If you go down this path, you might spend your life pondering while so few actually do it.