Most Canadians interested in personal finance already know Jonathan Chevreau from his column in the Financial Post. While Mr. Chevreau has written previous books on finances, with this one his goal was to present information in “classic fiction structure”. By this, he means that it is first and foremost a story. As he mentions in his interview with himself, and a number of the review blurbs on the book, he seems to be trying to create his own version of “The Wealthy Barber”.
Unfortunately, while “The Wealthy Barber” successfully used characters and a narrative to reinforce the financial concepts being presented, in this book the financial concepts and the story seemed to struggle against each other, with neither being particularly successful.
The story takes a predictable path from a young couple appearing on a “debt reduction” style TV show along their way to eventual financial independence. The man, Jamie, gets talking to the financial planner that appears on the show with him and sets a “Findependence day” for himself: A point in time where he’ll have enough money that he will no longer need to work unless he wants to. The term “Findependence Day” is used throughout the book with a desperation to coin a new term that reminded me of Gretchen trying to introduce the new slang term “fetch” in the movie “Mean Girls”.
Gretchen: That is so fetch!
Regina: Gretchen, stop trying to make fetch happen! It’s not going to happen!
In terms of a story, the characters are flat and undergo very little development. Jonathan Chevreau feels that you need to exaggerate human traits to make characters come alive, but his characters ended up coming across as caricatures. The dramatic tension he tries to create doesn’t work.
Often conversations between the characters would jump between financial topics and plot development. Rather than clarifying the ideas being presented, which “The Wealthy Barber” successfully did, these two directions undermined each other.
Similarly, he tried to offer both information for Canadians and for Americans (one of his fictional couple is a Canadian, the other is American). Again, by trying to go too broad, he ends up not covering either topic well.
For some reason he felt vinyl music and classic rock were very important themes in this work, going so far as to title each chapter after a classic rock song. I can’t even guess how this is supposed to relate to the work as a whole.
When I started reading this book I first thought it would be interesting for someone who was interested in learning about personal finance. I figured the structure might help them get through the boring bits on finances and sneak a few of the core concepts into their head. Instead, I think it would be tough for a novice investor to dig out these ideas. In the end I felt that I was able to understand what he was getting at because I’d been previously exposed to the ideas presented, but for a rookie trying to get a handle on their finances, I think this book would a poor choice.
Later I thought maybe it would be interesting for people with a good understanding of finance to have a narrative incorporating some familiar ideas, but as mentioned previously the story wasn’t particularly interesting or well executed.
As much as I wanted to enjoy and recommend this book, in the end I really can’t think of anyone who would enjoy it or learn from it, so instead I’d just recommend giving it a pass. Here are some suggestions for best personal finance books.
Preet was optimistic about this book when he posted about it, the Canadian Capitalist also reviewed it and the reviews on Chapter’s website have been glowing. An exerpt can be read here. We will be giving away our copy of this book at some point if someone wants to read it in spite of my review (hey, who are you going to trust, the reviewers at Chapter’s or me?).
[add]After this went live, I came across another review at “Blessed by the Potato” which was fairly balanced (and the author himself commented).[add]