Friday, November 8, 2019

The Wealthy Renter: How to Choose Housing That Will Make You Rich

I have a list of financial planning books that I'd like to read one day on my phone.  Somewhere along the lines, I added Alex Avery's The Wealthy Renter: How to Choose Housing That Will Make You Rich to that list and promptly forgot about it. When I rediscovered it, I got pretty excited to read it.  As a renter, and having read two of David Bach's Automatic Millionaire books that sung the benefits of home-ownership (as well as the beginning of another book that said statistically renters are a lot less wealthy than homeowners), I was quite excited to find a book that says the opposite.  I was so excited in fact that I ran out to Chapters to buy it last weekend.

The first chapter of The Wealthy Renter was also quite promising. Avery says:
You might be thinking this book is about how evil the world of housing is and why no one should ever buy a house.
It's not.
What this book is, actually, is a celebration of the virtues of renting (13).
 Oh good, I thought.  With everyone so down on renting nowadays, I'm excited to read a book that not only sings the praises of renting, but isn't going to be unduly down on home-ownership.  Hopefully this is going to have great advice for investing while renting!

Unfortunately, I felt like that passage was a blatant lie.  Besides a few mentions of purchasing stocks and bonds, or showing how the stock market outperformed homeownership, the majority of the book just looked down on homeownership.  I wouldn't even really call it a "celebration of the virtues of renting" - it basically was just saying "here's all the reasons why buying a home (esp as an investment) is a bad idea."  It took until page 164 (out of 189 pages not including the index) before actually talking about the "secrets of the wealthy renter."  And the secrets were so underwhelming I was super disappointed (spoiler: some form of forced savings, like automatic payroll deduction - it's the essence of the whole "pay yourself first" - the number one rule of like EVERY personal finance book). 

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised to find out The Wealthy Renter was Canadian, so getting facts and figures for Canadian cities and whatnot was quite interesting.  And the book still had some very interesting tidbits in it.

I think that if you're someone very firmly in the "renting is throwing your money away" camp, The Wealthy Renter is worth reading to get a secondary viewpoint.  It's also worth reading for someone who may feel "stuck" renting due to the high cost of houses - this book does share the benefits of renting, showing that you're not necessarily throwing your money away the way many people believe.  Oh, and anyone just interested in a rundown of the costs of owning a home may find the book interesting. 

So sadly, while I did get some interesting little tidbits out of it, I was disappointed with The Wealthy Renter. :(

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Electric State

I don't remember why, but I ordered The Electric State by Simon Stalenhag for myself through interlibrary loan at the library.  The Electric State is a graphic novel in every sense of the word: it's a short novel that is set to beautiful (yet creepy) pictures, and together they tell the whole story.  The plot is about a young woman, Michelle, making her way across the United States with a small robot.  The year is 1997, and the world is falling apart after the world; almost everyone is plugged into virtual reality and joined some sort of hive mind as society crumbles around them.  As I already said, the pictures are beautiful, but also creepy with their dead drone robots and warships littering the countryside, and giant virtual reality towers literally towering over the environment, no matter where Michelle and her robot go. 

I'm not going to lie, I feel like I missed something while reading The Electric State.  I'm not quite sure what it was, but I wasn't blown away by the story the way other people were.  I did bump the book up to 4 stars on Goodreads though due to the art.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Into the Drowning Deep

I've been hearing good things about Mira Grant's (Seanan McGuire's) Into the Drowning Deep. So I got it from the library and started reading it on Sunday when I went out to camp for the last time this summer.

Into the Drowning Deep starts out with an entertainment company, Imagine, sending a boat, the Atargatis, out to the Mariana Trench to film a mocumentary about finding mermaids. Unfortunately they actually discovered mermaids, who devoured the entire cast and crew, leaving only the ship behind. Their footage was leaked, and the world was left to grapple with whether or not the mermaids were real. Now, seven years later, Imagine is sending a second ship, the Melusine, to definitively prove the existence of mermaids to the world. They've contracted the world's leading oceanographers, and designed the Melusine to be both research vessel and floating fortress so as not to have a repeat of the Atargatis disaster. Unfortunately, unknown to the scientists who are on the vessel, some of the security features of the Melusine aren't quite working....

Among the scientists on board the Melusine are Victoria Stewart, a grad student who specializes in sonar and who wants revenge however she can get it because her sister was on the Atargatis, and Dr. Jillian Toth, the world's expert on mermaids (even though many people think she's a quack, she pointed the Atargatis towards the Mariana Trench seven years ago, and feels guilty because she sent those people to die). Dr. Toth finds her estranged husband, Theo Blackwell, accompanying the vessel as well. Theo is the right hand man of Imagine's CEO, and realistically shouldn't be on the vessel (he had an accident years ago), but he is there all the same as the head of the vessel in everything except security (that's the Captain's job).

I loved how the mermaids (or more realistically "sirens") felt plausible through the whole story (even though they went from the deeps to the surface without any issue - I wasn't sure how she was going to make that sound plausible, but she did!) You could tell that McGuire really did her research on them (and she acknowledges "all the aquarium employees who were willing to talk about mermaids with me" at the end of the book). 

I also really liked the characters of the book. The deaf twins who resented the world that wasn't willing to even attempt to communicate with them (by learning simple signs). Their sister who grew up signing and started to find a way to communicate with the mermaids. Imagine's employee who has some form of autism. And how okay a lot of the characters were with theirs (and others') sexuality. It was a diverse cast who never felt forced - they were just people being people.

The one thing I wasn't a fan of was the ending. It felt super abrupt. All of this stuff was happening and then it wasn't anymore.  And when the large female was surfacing and Tory saw it but wasn't really saying anything in narrative I was a bit annoyed.  That was the author specifically leaving details out to artificially build suspense.  Not great.

The beginning is also a bit slow.  I didn't find it bad, but it felt like it took a lot to get the story really going.  I realize that some of the backstory (especially about the Atargatis and how it related to certain characters) was necessary.  But I felt like the story doesn't *really* start until about 100 or so pages in.

That being said though, I still did enjoy reading it.  The book falls a bit more into the horror side of speculative writing than I normally read, but that was okay too.

Friday, September 6, 2019

New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living

I saw New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living at the library last night and decided to read it on a whim. I started reading it last night and finished it a few minutes ago.

New Minimalism isn't remotely groundbreaking; I've heard a lot of the arguments in the book before. Declutter before buying storage. Declutter in this set order. etc, etc. I honestly almost stopped reading half way through because I was getting bored. Of course, if you've never read a book on decluttering (or sustainability), you won't have this problem. The authors were relatively engaging throughout the text.

I didn't really like how they handled their archetypes though. They defined four decluttering archetypes that people generally fall under (connected, practical, energetic and frugal - I'm most closely related to energetic and frugal based on the questionnaires), but then when they went through the decluttering process, they simply noted which archetypes will have trouble with different categories, rather than actually giving tips for each one (which is what I expected in a book that has defined categories like that). Plus the book was really heavy on the theory of decluttering (again, the archetypes), but overall really lean on actual decluttering tips.  The book finishes up with "12" design principles; some of the principles overlapped (like redefining your definition of full and using boundaries to indicate when a category is full), while others I would call suggestions, which are not going to be practical for everyone (like put your dresser in your closet - not really a principle,  plus that doesn't work if you have an older house with no closets, like mine).

But the one thing I really liked reading were the small snippets when they talked about things their clients struggled with. Those stories were interesting and I wish there had been more of them!

If you're new to decluttering, New Minimalism is a great place to get you started, especially since it's such a quick read. But if you've already read any books on decluttering, you'll probably want to give this one a pass.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner: A Powerful Plan to Finish Rich in Real Estate

As I was reading The Automatic Millionaire, I was struck by the fact that homeowners are, on average, much wealthier than renters. I went looking to why this was the case; in a nutshell, renters are funding someone else's wealth, while if you're a homeowner, every mortgage payment you make goes towards you (and building the equity in your home).  This completely changed my perspective (I've been looking at it as a case of throwing money on rent is the same as paying property taxes - neither of them really get you anything/go towards your assets), so I decided to give David Bach's book The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner a read, too.

In this quick read, Bach walks you through the process of buying a home, be it your first home or a new rental property.  He starts the book with arguments on why it's smarter to buy than rent, gives you some tips on how to get into the market when you don't think you have the money for a down payment. Once you are thoroughly convinced (and if not he recommends you reread some of the chapters), he then looks at the more practical aspects like researching mortgages, interviewing mortgage advisors and real estate agents, and how to pay off your mortgage a few years early, saving you thousands of dollars in the process. He ends the book with a chapter on weathering the inevitable market bust that happens every 20 years or so, and with a final chapter encouraging you to help others become homeowners (through charities like Habitat For Humanity).  I actually really like that both this book and The Automatic Millionaire end with chapters on donating time and money to charities; a lot of the financial books I've read are more about accumulating wealth so it was nice to be reminded about the positives of giving, too.

I really liked how thorough Bach was. He really dissected the whole path to home ownership and explained it all in easy-to-understand language. Of course, I was also a fan of the fact that this book is the Canadian edition, so it was more pertinent to me than the American edition would have been. Unfortunately, like The Automatic Millionaire, The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner was written over a decade ago, so some of the websites and other facts may be out of date.

I'd also like to add that this thinking of mortgage as building your assets flies in the face of JL Collins' advice in The Simple Path to Wealth; Collins advocated for not owning and instead investing your money in an index fund. He said that only once you are secure (and wealthy) should you consider buying a home as a luxury.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and FinishRich

So I found another personal finance book that I had to read: The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach. I was happy to see that it was the Canadian Edition too.

Now there's a big caveat to this book: like The Wealthy Barber, The Automatic Millionaire is rather out of date.  It was published before tax free savings accounts were available for Canadians (and presumably before ETFs and index funds were around/talked about).  So he only talks about RRSPs and mutual funds.

But Bach's advice is still pretty solid. He recommends paying yourself first (at least 10% of your pay). Buying a house. Getting out of debt (especially credit card debt). And tithing (giving money or time to charity).  While some of this advice is pretty standard (you can't build wealth if you're saddled with debt), I found the house discussion particularly interesting. Here Bach was saying you can't get rich if you don't own your own house because if you're paying rent, that money is going towards making your landlord wealthy, not to your own net worth (whereas if you're paying down a mortgage, every payment is building equity within your house). This goes against the advice JL Collins gave in The Simple Path to Wealth, but is definitely worth considering.

I also liked the discussion on tithing. It's a short chapter at the back of the book that just talks about how giving attracts abundance (and how giving is very common for people who later became quite wealthy), and also how you should make sure your money is actually going to help the cause you're supporting (and not to administration fees). Again, something worth considering.

Overall, The Automatic Millionaire is another fairly basic book on personal finance. But I think it's still worth reading because now I have more to think about in terms of my own finances (which is always a good thing!)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

How to Make a Plant Love You: Cultivate Green Space in Your Home and Heart

When I first saw Summer Rayne Oakes' How to Make a Plant Love You, I was pretty intrigued. I love house plants and currently have about twenty in my space. But after recently losing a couple, I was thinking reading about better cultivating green space in my apartment might help me make sure my plants are happy.

How to Make a Plant Love You starts out by talking about the many benefits of plants for people, and how we are losing our connection to them (and nature in general) as we're migrating into cities. There is a lot of research that talks about how beneficial it is for us to be out in nature, or at the very least around plants. Oakes also talked about what cities like Singapore are doing to green the space in an attempt to make people healthier; I really want to go and see it now!

She also talks a bit about how plants function; this discussion reminded me of what was in The Soil Will Save Us (except that Kristin Ohlson's book goes into far more detail on the subject).

Unfortunately, the subtitle of How to Make a Plant Love You is a bit misleading; I found the book to be extremely light on the details of how to actually cultivate your own space and get plants to love you (beyond "do research to make sure the plant you like will actually like it in your place"). The few chapters on the subject really didn't have a lot to them; while giving a few very basic tips (consider light, soil, and water), Oakes talked more about what she has done in her own apartment and life. I'm sure you can adapt that to your own life if you'd like (and really, her main message is just to get started and bring a plant into your home). But if you already live with plants, this part of the book really brings nothing new.

How to Make a Plant Love You is ultimately a quick read though that does have some interesting tidbits. If you're curious about the benefits of plants within your home, definitely consider giving this a read. But if you've lived with plants for awhile (and researched them at all), you might want to give this one a pass.