Financial Lessons from David Bach

You may remember that back in May I told you about an interview on Afford Anything with David Bach, when he introduced us to his new financial book, ‘The Latte Factor’. At the time I was hesitant about buying it, but after having some money left over at the end of that month I splashed out. So especially for Dr FIRE, who commented that he would be interested to read my thoughts, here they are….

If you can afford one of these every day, you can afford to save for your future

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The Story

Through the fictional narrative in ‘The Latte Factor’ David Bach explains his simple formula for accumulating wealth slowly. The main character of the book is twenty-something Zoey, who begins to ask her herself what she is doing with her life. Although she works for a large publishing company she has never been outside of the United States. One day she sees a photograph of a boat on a beach, hanging on the wall of a coffee shop. Although she would love to buy the picture she tells her boss, Barbara, that she can’t afford it, as she isn’t good with money. Barbara advises her to speak to Henry, at the coffee shop, who ‘sees things differently’.

Over a period of a few days Zoey makes several trips to the coffee and chats with Henry, who provides her with the financial advice of David Bach. His comments include:

If can afford the latte you can afford this photograph’ i.e. the ‘Latte Factor’.

Slowly David Bach discloses information about Henry and Barbara, who have followed his lessons. By the end of the book Zoey is on a sabbatical on a Greek island, writing travel articles for her magazine and paying regularly into her pension.

Learn David Bach’s three financial lessons

The Lessons

Henry teaches Zoey the three steps to financial freedom:

  1. Pay yourself first – save the first hour of each day’s income into a pension. He shows her how much she would save, with compound interest, over forty years. He tells her to go and enrol in her workplace pension. According to workplacepensions.gov.uk in the UK you are now automatically enrolled on to a pension scheme by your employer if you are over 22 and earn more than £10,000. You pay 5% and your employer pays 3% as a minimum. Therefore to a certain extent the government has already put this in place for you, although it may not be as much as he would recommend.
  2. Don’t budget – make it automatic. He recommends having the money paid into your pension before your wages hit your current account. He doesn’t agree with budgets, which he believes people have trouble sticking to. He says deduct your savings automatically and spend the rest however you wish.
  3. Live Rich Now – I don’t think that I am completely clear what he means by this. I think for Zoey, being young, she has plenty of years for her money to compound, so she can set up her regular payments and still have enough money to live a nice life as long as she gives up those unnecessary items such as the latte and muffin each morning. For those of us who have come to FI/RE late in life it might not be as easy to ‘Live Rich Now’. It also appears to be linked to having accounts where you save for your dreams. Once again this is automatic, saving money into an account for short term goals e.g. buying a house or a special holiday.

Barbara tells Zoey the three ‘Myths of Money’

  1. Make more money and you’ll be rich – most people think they have an income problem. They don’t. They have a spending problem.
  2. It takes money to make money – you don’t need a huge chunk of money to build wealth.
  3. Someone else will take care of you. They won’t, so you need to take care of yourself.

Some more wise words from Barbara are that the wealthy spend their money on things that truly matter to them. The ‘unwealthy’ spend money on frivolous things.

David Bach’s books are USA-focused

Who is this book for?

Almost immediately after finishing this book I bought ‘The Automatic Millionaire‘, also by David Bach, which is in effect a non-fiction version of ‘The Latte Factor’. I thought that it would give me more detail of how to put his recommendations into practice and that would have been the case  had I been an American citizen. It gives a great deal of practical advice, referencing websites and government institutions, but if you don’t live in the United States its usefulness is limited. The same is true of ‘Start Late, Finish Rich’. As someone who has ‘started late’ I thought that this might be the David Bach book for me. In some ways it was, as it gives guidance about supercharging your savings and increasing your income in order to ‘catch up’, if you are middle-aged. Unfortunately, again much of the practical advice is only relevant to an American readership.

On reflection, I therefore think that even though it is a short novel, ‘The Latte Factor’ was enough for me to understand David Bach’s financial advice and consider how I could put it into practice in my own life. For those of you who are reading this article because you are already an avid follower of the FI/RE movement, ‘The Latte Factor’ probably isn’t going to tell you anything new, but if you have a friend or young relative who is struggling with their money, it might be just the thing to make them start thinking how things could be different. For something that you can read in a couple of hours the book isn’t cheap – currently £14 for a paper copy and £8.99 for the Kindle Edition. It also isn’t really a novel about FI/RE, as he talks about retiring in your fifties or sixties. That is slightly early, but this is not a formula for saving hard for five or ten years and ‘retiring’ in your thirties.

If you are reading this and you’re American David Bach’s books will be a lot more relevant to your situation. I would recommend reading ‘The Automatic Millionaire’ if you want and plan to implement his practical advice, particularly if you are in your twenties. If, like me, you’re further on if your ‘life journey’ then try ‘Start Late, Finish Rich’.

Let me know how you get on and what you think.

4 Replies to “Financial Lessons from David Bach”

  1. Sounds like an interesting read!

    I know what you mean when you say that The Latte Factor probably isn’t going to tell you anything new. I’ve found a similar thing when reading books like Investing Demystified and The Millionaire Next Door; a lot of the advice is stuff that you can now read for free on a variety of blogs online. Having said that, I think these books still hold a valuable place, even for those of us who follow and write blogs. Reading the same piece of info through someone else’s view point can often help you to see it in a new light, and this can often trigger a new thought or action that maybe you didn’t have the first time round!

    And of course, books like these are extremely valuable in trying to get other people to join the FIRE bandwagon.

    Thanks for sharing your review of the book, and sorry it took me so long to get round to reading and commenting!

    1. Dr FIRE, thanks for stopping by. As you say, there is so much free information out there, but I must admit I do enjoy opening a new book. I have recently read Reset by David Sawyer, which I thought was great and contained loads of useful information as well as being UK-focused. Definitely worth a read.

      1. Reset has been on my to-buy list for a few weeks now, especially after hearing David Sawyer appear on a few different podcasts. Good to know that you rate it highly!

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