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