January 2018 – Books I’ve read

Buckle up. Let’s talk books!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I didn’t really feed the old brain cells in 2017. Spent too much time playing video games.

This year, I’m making a commitment to read more, and be super intentional with the books that I choose.

I also hope to retain more of the things I learn, put them into practice, and reflect often on how this knowledge is benefiting my life and work.

What I read this month…

I was able to get through 7 books this month, which is kind of crazy. I attribute this to replacing podcasts with audiobooks during my commute to and from work (and reading books digitally on my phone.) I also started teaching on Monday nights, which adds an extra 2 hours in the car. This lets me “read” more by way of listening.

So what about the podcasts? I’m still listening. Just had to swap out music for podcasts at work. Something had to go.

The theme this month has been money and money management. It’s a bit of a research step of a project I’m kicking off soon.

Here’s a list of the books I’ve read in January, and some (not so) quick takeaways.

The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich by David Bach

(Goodreads | Amazon)

Whenever I see the word millionaire in a book title, or article, I get a little concerned. Anything that promises you that kind of wealth feels like a scheme or get rich quick operation, which I’m apt to avoid.

This book is not that, but I do feel confident that it could make you a millionaire.

The general premise of the book is that by automation your saving and investing, you can set yourself up to be a millionaire overtime.


  • Most people don’t max out their 401k or make pre-tax investments.
  • Be mindful of the latte factor – the amount of money you spend that could be invested. It’s larger than you think.
  • Get out of debt… (obvious tip.)
  • Pay yourself first. This should read “save/invest first.” Take portion of pay and put it somewhere before spending, rather than spend then save/invest what’s left over.
  • Make additional payments on your mortgage.
  • Move rainy day savings to money market account.
  • Automate your tithing (giving.)

I would recommend this book. It’s old by today’s standards (published in 2005) but I think the concepts really stand up.

Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover

(Goodreads | Amazon)

Lots of people are familiar with Dave Ramsey, and likely his concepts included within the Total Money Makeover.

This is my second time reading this book. Didn’t learn anything new the second time around, but I’ve definitely taken note of the things I’ve yet to implement. There are 7 steps in Dave’s “proven plan for financial fitness.”


  • “Winning at money is 80% behavior and 20% head knowledge.”
  • Dave recommends investing 15% of income in Roth IRAs.
  • Similar advice to pay off your home early.
  • Great read for those in debt, whether it’s a lot or a little.

Some stuff in Dave’s plan is great, and some others I’ll probably tweak, but I do recommend checking this one out because it’s very prescriptive. You don’t have to guess at what to do and in what order. It’s all spelled out for you.

Smart Couples Finish Rich: 9 Steps to Creating a Rich Future for You and Your Partner by David Bach

(Goodreads | Amazon)

Ah, another David Bach book.

So, I picked this up on audio through my local library, and mostly because I enjoyed The Automatic Millionaire, I’m married, and I figured… sure, why not?


  • “Love has nothing to do with money.” (Truth.)
  • Couples should set shared goals that based on shared values.
  • Couples should track their expenses (all of them) for 7 days.
  • It’s important to have things like a will, disability insurance, life insurance, etc.
  • 30-year mortgage is often not a great choice. If you take one, pay it off early.
  • It’s valuable for each partner to have his/her own account for discretionary spending / privacy.
  • Bach lays out a 9 week plan for increasing your income by 10%. (It’s… fine.)

This was a good one, but I wouldn’t recommend reading this alongside The Automatic Millionaire. You can likely read one or the other and absorb most of Bach’s main concepts.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

(Goodreads | Amazon)

This is touted as one of the must-read books in personal finance and wealth-building, but I just couldn’t get into it.

It’s not a bad book. Think and Grow Rich was published in 1937 and there are many relevant gems scattered throughout, which certainly speaks to the universal appeal.

The general concept that success lives in the subconscious mind and is founded in a strong desire to achieve what you want is interesting, but a little too loose for me.


  • Success is driven by mindset, desire, and the subconscious.
  • Change your failure consciousness to success consciousness.
  • “Dreams are the seedlings of reality.”
  • Your positive emotions must defeat your negative emotions.
  • Hill lists many attributes of leadership, which I found to be relevant, such as unwavering courage, self-control, a keen sense of justice, mastery of detail, and many more.
  • One of the best quotes was, “You can’t get without giving.” This definitely reinforced that wealth is something you earn, and not something that comes from a scheme or hack.

You’ll know quickly if this book is or isn’t for you.

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

(Goodreads | Amazon)

Oh, man. This book has been popping up everywhere in my social circles and on podcasts I listen to. I first heard Cait Flanders on The Productivityist Podcast with Mike Vardy, mostly discussing the contents of the book.

With a subtitle of How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store, I expected The Year of Less to be similar to a The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, which was very  prescriptive and direct. That book inspired me to cut more than half of my unneeded stuff from my life.

The Year of Less was not that. Flanders’ book was much more of an inspiring narrative than a handbook for change. This is okay, as many people might need to find their own way with money. A prescriptive text like The Art of Decluttering isn’t for everyone.

Key takeaways:

  • Not many, to be honest.
  • At one point Flanders’ questioned her buying habits and said, “Who are you buying this for – the person you are, or the person you want to be?” I thought, “Yes! That’s profound. You should be buying the things that will define your future self, and the things that you know you’ll utilize for years to come.” It turns out, I believe her point was that you should only be buying stuff for who you are now. I get it, but funny that it was the opposite of that aha moment I had upon first reading it.

Cait began as a blogger. I imagine her long-time readers will adore this book, and connect with her on a deeper level. I also imagine many readers will be inspired by her story to go down the path of living with less. I just don’t think this book hit me at the right place at the right time, so it fell a bit flat for me personally.

The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack

(Goodreads | Amazon)

This book was a surprising gem. I almost want to buy it (if I wasn’t so set on saving money right now, I probably would.)

Harold Pollack wrote down how achieve success with your personal finances on a single index card. Here’s a photo of it:

Harold Pollack's Index Card
Harold Pollack’s original card. See link in content below.

You can see the original post here.

The book does a fantastic job breaking down each point on the card. I found this to be a quick and dirty crash course on many different aspects of personal finance. It was educational and academic, while being totally accessible and easy-to-read.

Takeaways (which is really just what’s on the card: )

  • Max your 401k or equivalent employee contribution.
  • Buy inexpensive, well diversified mutual funds such as Vanguard Target 20XX funds.
  • Never buy or sell an individual security. The person on the other side of the table knows more than you do about this stuff.
  • Save 20% of your money.
  • Pay your credit card balance in full every month.
  • Maximize tax-advantages savings vehicles like Roth, SEP and 529 accounts.
  • Pay attention to fees. Avoid actively managed funds.
  • Make financial advisor commit to a fiduciary standard.
  • Promote social insurance programs to help people when things go wrong.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Definitely check this out as a starting point if you are looking to take control of your income and financial future.

The Capitalist Code: It Can Save Your Life and Make You Very Rich by Ben Stein

(Goodreads | Amazon)

Yes, that Ben Stein.


Capitalism, hooray! This book is so well-written. There might be general thought that capitalism is always out to get the little guy, and keep the poor from getting rich and rich from ever becoming poor.

Stein, with poise and wit, makes a solid case for capitalism and shares how to take advantage of the economic system our nation is built on. There are only a few main lessons to be learned in this short read, and whether you agree with them or not, you’ll likely be entertained by Ben’s writing style.


  • Stocks are an opportunity to be partners in a business.
  • You are a better person if you have money. (Not that money is everything.)
  • Corporations can and do have a human connection. They are not faceless entities.
  • Take advantage of tax subsidies.
  • There’s value in a college education and graduate degree.
  • Invest in the S&P 500 Index.

This book is so quick to get through, it’s a bit hard to not recommend. Check it out if you want to gain some insights into Ben Stein’s mind.

What’s on deck

I’m continuing my swarm on all things finance in February.

Here’s what I’m planning to read, and happy to add others if you have any recommendations (just drop them in the comments.)

  • The Money Challenge by Art Rainer
  • What Your Financial Advisor Isn’t Telling You by Liz Davidson
  • Enough: True Measures of Money, Business and Life by John C. Bogle
  • The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John C. Bogle
  • I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
  • The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secret’s of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel

The other stuff I consumed this month

I played some video games, just not much. I finished Skyrim on Nintendo Switch and started playing the Doom remake, which has been fun, but well, it’s… Doom.

I didn’t sit down to watch any good films, but I did start watching Mad Men again. Such a great series. I blazed through Season 1 and am inching my way through Season 2 now.

Tom Tate

I'm a suburban polymath living just outside Philadelphia with my wonderful wife and three kids. Digital marketing nerd for a SaaS company by day. Rabid movie, music, game, and book consumer by morning, noon, and night. I share life hacks and learnings via email at Weekly Coffee. I also host Power Time Podcast, a Nintendo retrospective. Sometimes I write stuff. Most of the time, it's on the internet.