Set for Life is not a book for the casual dreamer. If you are determined to retire early and willing to sacrifice to get there, this may be the book for you!

Just so we’re clear up front, I fundamentally disagree with several parts of this book. However, the author of Set for Life, Scott Trench from BiggerPockets, is very clear that this book is not for everyone. This book is for a very specific subset of people, he writes specifically for them, and he does a great job of communicating those ideas for the right people.

So who is he writing for?

Anyone just starting out, or starting over, and who wishes – and is able to – live a very frugal lifestyle for a few years for the purpose of saving $25,000 (in just the first year!). If successful, within a few years, they can be financial free. Free of debt. Free of traditional employment. And free to pursue a business idea, travel, passions, or whatever they want.

This isn’t a population that’s never been targeted before. There are dozens of books that speak to anyone wanting the kind of lifestyle Scott describes. And those books, like this one, discuss the value of investing and real estate and savings. But the approach that this book takes is that it’s more necessary to scale your larger expenses like housing (he’s a huge proponent of what he calls “house hacking”) rather than your smaller expenses like entertainment and clothing.

By doing so, he argues, you can design a lifestyle where you live on $2000 or less per month, roughly half your income if you’re making a $50,000 per year salary, and you can save the rest towards your “financial runway”. This runway is essentially your launching pad to a financially free life.

To establish your financial runway, Scott maps out a doable plan for savings and investing, and he presents well-researched and detailed information to support his plan. He uses realistic examples to highlight the benefits of following his advice (and what can happen if you don’t) and his writing is conversational and helpful rather than preachy.

But for me, the most substantial and helpful part of the book was his lists explaining his rationale behind his advice. I like hearing people’s reasoning; it helps make sense of the advice even if I disagree with it and it provides additional support when I do.

The other piece of the book I enjoyed is that he effectively makes the case for personal responsibility. He discusses the importance of controlling your emotions, staying focused on your goals, and learning to do things for yourself. For the latter, he discusses the lack of DIY abilities and that with a little determination and YouTube, there’s not a whole lot you can’t do (he does say if you need an expert or professional, by all means call or use one).

For the former, he discusses that these are essentially temporary while you’re in the process of building your financial runway and you can ease up on them once you’re stable. But, in the end, it is all up to you. You must take control and do the work and make things happen for yourself.

So. Do I recommend this book? If you are willing to sacrifice, learn, do the work, save, and you want nothing more (and I mean NOTHING more) than being financially free at an early age, then yes I do. If you realize that a few years of working your ass off to the exclusion of almost anything else will be the best choice you can make for your financial future, then yes I do. If you are okay with your status quo or aren’t willing to make hard changes, then this isn’t the right book.

These are the important Adulting takeaways.

  • Save $1000-$2000 right away
  • Design a frugal lifestyle that gives you the flexibility to save a significant portion of your income
  • House hack
  • Learn to DIY whenever possible
  • Build a side hustle that’s in line with your day job (ex., if you’re a teacher, tutor on the side)
  • Network, let people know your goals, and take advantage of opportunities to talk to those who have achieved what you’re aiming for
  • Read and self-educate
  • Eliminate decision fatigue and learn to make instant trivial decisions
  • Take control of your income whether you work for yourself or someone else
Scott Trench

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Do you have this adulting stuff figured out? If you’re breathing, probably not. Here are some books to help you get your stuff together.

So you want to be a better adult. Maybe you’re looking for a book or two for a friend or family member who needs to step it up. Maybe you want to start adulting. Maybe you love to read or are looking for some new books for your bookshelf.

Regardless of your motivation, I’ve got you covered. All of the books on this list have been vetted by reliable sources (read: me and my friends) and make great additions to your adulting library.

In part one, we’ll cover my recommendations and in part 2, we’ll cover the ones my friends suggest. There might be some overlap in the authors but the books are different.

And now, some books that have assisted me in my adulting quest:

Real Artists Have Day Jobs by Sara Benincasa

You might have heard of her for her Twitter activism and some of her viral Medium posts but she also wrote a spectacular book helping you navigate all aspects of adulthood from money to cleaning to work to embracing your weirdness. It’s a perfect primer.

The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*uck by Sarah Knight

Yes, the title is a riff on the Marie Kondo craze but this book stands on its own. If you want to learn to care less about unimportant things and more about the important ones, if you want to understand why no is a complete sentence, and if you want to learn how to be less stressed by all of it, read this book.

Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight

She’s basically my go-to on all things life improvement told to me in a practical, relatable way. This book gives you a map for how to organize your life and pull yourself together in pretty much every capacity. Note: she swears A LOT so if that bothers you, pass on both of her books. We can find you some others.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

So. This book. I was not a fan. I think it’s because I don’t have a problem with clutter and getting rid of things BUT if you do, then you absolutely need to read this book. Some of the advice is waaaay out there but if you can take the principle for what it is, and you tweak it to your own preferences and needs, you’ll see a huge change.

$5 Dinners by Erin Chase

These are cookbooks and they taught me how to cook when no one else did. The recipes are simple AF, they’re budget friendly, they’re not made from any weird ingredients you can’t find in your basic grocery store, and there’s something for everyone. If you’re not into cookbooks, make sure to check out her website.

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam

I don’t use the word “revolutionize” lightly but this book absolutely revolutionized the way I think about and plan my time. If you struggle with time management or fitting it all in or wondering how you can align your time better with your priorities, this book will fix you. If nothing else, do the time study. You will learn more than you can imagine.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I’m not a big re-reader but I first read this book years ago and it’s definitely due for another go-round. What impacted me the most from this book was the idea of learning to be happier and more content where you are instead of upheaving your entire life, and to do it step by step rather than all at once. It’s definitely something that’s discussed more often now but reading her personal experience resonates differently than just being told to do it.

Quitter, Start, and Do Over all by Jon Acuff

These are 3 separate books, taking up the 8-10 spots on our list of 10. While many are influenced by Gary V or Tim Ferriss when it comes to career-type advice, Jon is more my low-key speed. For me, his advice is easier and more practical to follow and implement and it’s not as in-your-face.

He tackles career advice from all points and angles and winds up being motivating at the same time. He breaks things down into manageable pieces, in all of his books, so that you don’t get overwhelmed or feel the need to do it all RIGHT NOW.

Fun fact: I’m not a huge buyer of books but I own almost all of these so when I say they’re on my shelf, they are literally on my shelf.

So, that’s my list. Next time, we’ll talk about some books my friends recommend. And, if you feel like it, let me know in the comments what books have influenced you and why. Maybe I’ll include it!

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any must-read recommendations? Let us know in the #Adulting Facebook community

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31 Days to Radically Reducing Your Expenses gives you a lot of options for cutting back. The author helps you realize that you can – even when you don’t see it – and that planning is everything.

A big part of adulting is managing your money. From negotiating a salary to managing a budget to starting a side hustle, money is present in every aspect of your adult life. So why not read a book on how to make the most of what you have?

Enter 31 Days to Radically Reduce Your Expenses by Kalyn Brooke.

The premise of the book is simple: take a long, hard look at your finances and figure out how to reduce them. And not just the little expenses, like the daily coffee or new purse or book. The big ones like your housing expenses (there’s more than you think!) or groceries. Reducing your expenses on the big things frees up more money for the fun things so you can maximize your income and even save!

It’s not always an easy task, reducing your expenses. It takes time and means making some hard choices and trying to do it all at once is overwhelming. Fortunately for the reader, Kalyn breaks it down, day by day. As in, she gives you a task to do each day.

For instance, one day you’ll look at your electric bill and the next you’ll negotiate your car insurance and the next you’ll learn how to manage special occasions. And while the book is structured in a way that all items under one category are grouped together, you can read and apply them in an order that’s most helpful to you without losing the message.

Each budget category she has you examine comes with a minimum of 4 tips to practically and realistically reduce your spending. She’ll tell you where you can find deals or coupons, websites for ideas, even simple and frugal hints for hair and pet care. Everything she presents is reasonable and at no point does she make you feel like you must do what she says.

It’s all helpful advice, like you’d get from a financially savvy or frugal friend (and she even includes tips from her blog readers. I enjoyed getting their perspectives as well as Kalyn’s). And even those who are already great with money might pick up a hint or two.

The only part of the book I’d caution about is that the first 14 days or so are very homeowner directed. While renters can certainly find pieces of helpful information, it’s not necessary to heavily invest in those chapters if you don’t own a home. Maybe read and store the information for a later day, when and if you choose to buy a home.

Overall, this is a practical guide to keep on hand for when you feel like your budget is getting away from you. It also makes a great primer for anyone just starting out or finding themselves on their own for the first time.

These are the important Adulting takeaways.

  • There’s always room to reduce an expense, even when you think you can’t
  • Everything is negotiable
  • Fixing your budget doesn’t happen in one day; it takes time, discipline and patience
  • DIY is a great way to save money but sometimes you need a professional. Have an emergency fund for those occasions
  • Understanding Parkinson’s Law alters your position on your income dramatically
  • Planning is key to managing your money
  • Changing your money habits ultimately falls on you
Kalyn Brook

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Fund Your Ideal Lifestyle offers personal stories with pop culture references in a highly-entertaining and modest read.

This is the second in an ongoing book review series we’re doing here at Adulting. If you have a book you’d like us to review, or if you’re an author with a book you’d like us to review, please let us know! We’ll consider all submissions but cannot guarantee that we’ll select yours.

Today we’re talking about Fund Your Ideal Lifestyle by Clayton Daniel. Clayton is a former financial adviser who realized, after talking with his clients, that people wanted more choice and freedom in how they use their money. Based on his personal and professional experience in creating ideal lifestyles, his book (and accompanying website) was born. Bonus: if you go to his website, you can download the first chapter for free!

Listen to our recent interview with Clayton Daniel!

Unlike most motivational lifestyle books, this one encourages you to decide for yourself what your ideal lifestyle looks like. He doesn’t bang the retire early drum or force you to travel the world; he recognizes that not everyone has those goals. But he wants you to identify what your goals are so, throughout the book, he guides you through a series of exercises to determine exactly that. Because once you know what you’re trying to achieve, you can set up your money and your choices to make it come true.

Money, and how you manage it, is the crux of the book. As an advocate for reducing decision fatigue, Clayton presents his 5 bucket system as a solution. The system involves automating as many decisions as possible so that you can give your energy and attention to what’s actually important. Knowing that your rent money will automatically be paid on the due date or that your discretionary spending money will appear in your account relieves you of the reminders and the pressure to do so. And for those who are leery of not having control? He maintains that every decision regarding the automation is left in your hands; not one choice or movement is made without you authorizing it.

It’s essentially using the banking and bill payment features already at our disposal to our advantage. He just gives the push to do it.

Also in his automation strategy is investing. As a warning: there’s a lot about investing in this book. Clayton makes a strong case that investing is the best way to create wealth and fund your ideal lifestyle. The information is logical and easy to digest, and he infuses it with humor and examples to lighten up the dryness but still. Investing is boring. Necessary. But boring. Fortunately, you can always skim it on the first read and then reread each section one at a time when you’re ready for it. This isn’t a one-sitting book, and it’s not a one-read only book.

Now you’re probably thinking that there’s dozens of books like this one. What separates this book from others in its genre and why should you read it instead? Well, it has personality. It’s not a dry, boring book. It’s filled with humor (especially in the footnotes — not since Jen Lancaster’s books have I been so entertained by footnotes), subtle pop culture references, personal anecdotes that both tell stories and make him relatable, and it has its version of Cliffs Notes at the end of each chapter. Think chapter summaries but focused in helping you use the information effectively. The exercises he has throughout are thought-provoking and useful as well.

The book also doesn’t present itself as the only solution to your problems. It presents itself as one, although highly effective, solution. The lack of arrogance combined with a genuine desire to help the reader certainly sets it apart.

These are the important Adulting takeaways.

  • Automate your finances to reduce decision fatigue.
  • Determine what’s important to you and spend your money on those things.
  • Having discretionary money (and spending it) is okay!
  • Ask yourself “what’s my purpose in life”, a vague but important question.
  • Everyone’s definition of ideal lifestyle is different.
  • Spending and saving are fluid. Goals change and how you use your money should reflect those changes.
  • Invest, invest, invest.
Clayton Daniel

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Hustle Away Debt strikes a good balance, and the author shares what he learned from experience.

Over the next several months, I’ll be reading and reviewing a number of books that can help you with your finances, career, work/life balance, and all the facets of life that comprise #adulting. Welcome to the Books for Adults series.

While I’m not 100% on board with the self-improvement genre and gurus as gospel, I do believe that they offer some insights or tricks to make life easier or provide a “hey, I never thought of it that way” moment.

Up first for review is Hustle Away Debt: Eliminate Your Debt by Making More Money by David Carlson. David is the founder of Young Adult Money, and the book (and the site) is a result of the approach he and his wife took to pay off their massive student loan debt. He maintains that it’s not always possible to cut expenses but it is always possible to earn more money.

This extra money, derived from side hustling, is what you can use to ramp up your debt repayment or savings.

However, this isn’t just a “you need to side hustle” book. For those who’ve already decided they want to, or those who are on the fence, it reads like a comprehensive handbook or manual. Not only does the book provide an objective view of side hustling, covering both the pros and cons as well as dozens of easy to implement ideas, it provides a roadmap for how to start a side hustle.

The author guides you, step by step, even giving helpful information and instruction on the back-end tasks like taxes, improving your 9-to-5 performance, and seizing opportunity.

For those who are overwhelmed by the idea of a side hustle, this book breaks it down into small, simple steps. You can probably start a side job doing something you’re already doing!

But he also recognizes that having a side hustle isn’t for everyone and asks that you look at your motivations and circumstances for starting one. You might realize it’s not a good fit and that’s fine.

While the book comprehensively looks at both sides of side hustling, the best part is David’s tone. He strikes a balance between motivation and encouragement without making the reader feel like having a side hustle is something they absolutely, 100% need to do; he admits there are benefits to a full-time job that a side job cannot provide.

For the reader who doesn’t want to surrender working full-time, that’s helpful to hear. Beyond that, David asks the reader to look at their finances. Rather than berate or condescend to the reader who might be in debt, he accepts that it’s a fact for many people, including him and his wife, and provides a plan for taking control of their money that doesn’t involve selling everything they own, giving up their Dunkin Donuts coffee, or living a spartan existence.

Books like this, when they’re derived from personal experience, provide more value to the reader than books from experts who’ve never been there. There’s a level of understanding and practicality that you don’t always find, especially when you feel like the author is talking to you instead of at you and with a tone that doesn’t insult your intelligence.

These are the important Adulting takeaways.

  • Before starting your side hustle, define your “why.” Without your “why,” it’s almost impossible to sustain.
  • It’s possible to turn anything into a side hustle, even if you’re stuck at a desk 40 hours per week, if you use a little creativity.
  • Side hustles provide diversified income, can help protect your finances in the event of a job loss, and can help you get ahead.
  • A side hustle does not have to convert to a full-time job; in fact, there are benefits to a full-time job a side gig cannot provide.
  • There are tangible and intangible benefits to side hustling including time management, learning to prioritize, and skill building.
  • Look at all facets of your circumstances (for example, time, relationships, employment, finances) before deciding to side hustle then determine what kind you should implement.
  • Side hustles do not have to be permanent. They can provide a temporary boost in income for debt or savings and, once you’ve achieved those goals, you can let the side hustle go.
David Carlson

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