In the past two years, I have read a lot of books—118 to be exact. Almost all of them have been on the subjects of personal finance, real estate, business, and self-help.
Needless to say, I feel like I have earned my MBA in many of these subjects (personal finance, in particular). Despite having read so much, I am always thirsty to learn more and gain more wisdom.
If a book has one nugget in it, I think it’s worth every penny. However, after reading so many books, I find that it is getting harder and harder to learn things that I did not already know.
The Best Book I’ve Read in a Long Time
Quit Like a Millionaire: No Gimmicks, Luck, or Trust Fund Required by Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung from Millennial Revolution is different. This book was a groundbreaking read for me.
Before I get too far though, I should clarify that the content is NOT about real estate. It is about attaining financial independence by getting down to the nitty gritty—increasing your income, reducing your spending, and investing the difference in index funds.
Once the balance of your index funds reaches a certain level (say… $1 million), you can retire and live off the capital gains and interest from your investments.
The problems and questions everyone has are, “How do I retire in seven years? How do I sustain my portfolio after retirement? What about health insurance? What about kids?”
This book answers all of these questions and more. Not only is it super insightful, but it is also a super easy read. Kristy and Bryce are very relatable. By the end of the book, you will feel like they are your best friends.
Who Is This Book For?
Again, if you are looking for a book on real estate investing, this is not for you. However, are you interested in achieving financial independence in the next seven to 10 years (or fewer) and perpetually sustaining it? Then this book is for you.
All About Author Kristy Shen
Although the book is written by both Kristy and Bryce, you will quickly realize that Kristy is the main voice. Why is this? Well, no offense, Bryce, but her story is much better than yours.
Living in China
Kristy grew up in mainland China in the late 1980s, early 1990s. Her family was poor.
In China, there aren’t any homeless shelters, so they lived in a dilapidated home. The winters were cold, the summers were hot, and the clothes they wore were poorly made by her mother. They simply did not have enough money to purchase clothes from the store.
As a family, they lived on the equivalent of $0.44 per day. Needless to say, it was a rough few years of Kristy’s life. But at the time, that’s all she knew.
Living in Canada
When Kristy was seven years old, her father was fortunate enough to get accepted into college at the University of Waterloo in Canada, studying to be an engineer. One year later, Kristy and her family were able to leave China and start a new, first-world country life in the Toronto area. Kristy went from being afraid of tapeworms and playing in trash heaps to living a semi-normal childhood.
The move was not easy though. She spoke hardly any English, so it took a few years for her to be able to make good friends. (You know how mean middle and high school-aged kids can be.)
Kristy followed in her father’s footsteps and attended the University of Waterloo, studying engineering, as well. This is where she met Bryce.
After four years of studying, they graduated with high marks and were able to get jobs as engineers. They worked hard and saved a ton over a seven-year span and retired with $1 million at the age of 31.
Living Everywhere and Nowhere
Now, they are retired, travel the world, write a blog, and pretty much just do whatever the heck they want. They have been doing so for three years.
In that time, their net worth has increased to $1.3 million. Not a bad deal.
So, how can you do what they did? This is exactly what the book is about and what I will touch on briefly in the next few sections.
What I Learned From Quit Like a Millionaire
Regardless of where you are in your education journey, Quit Like a Millionaire has a lot to teach—from choosing the right college to attend, to making more money and spending less, to investing the difference wisely.
This book has all of the tips. However, as a person who considered themselves very knowledgeable on this subject already, I want to share with you my key takeaways.
How to Access Retirement Accounts Early
The first groundbreaking thing that I learned was how to access your retirement accounts early through what is called the Roth conversion ladder. Popularized by the Mad Fientist, Kristy and Bryce explain this concept very clearly and concisely in this book.
The idea is that you are able to obtain funds from your retirement accounts penalty- and tax-free before you hit the ripe age of 65. How? I’ll give you the three to four sentence overview here, then you can read the book for further details.
In essence, you invest money into your 401(k), which is a pre-tax account. When you become financially independent and do not work for an entire year, your income is effectively $0. Since the standard deduction in the United States is $12,000, you are able to move $12,000 from your 401(k) (pre-tax account) to your Roth IRA (post-tax account).
The IRS does consider that $12,000 you move from the pre-tax to post-tax account as taxable. However, since the standard deduction is also $12,000, the IRS sees the taxable income as zero.
$12,000 income – $12,000 standard deduction = $0 taxable income
Voila. There is now $12,000 in your Roth IRA that has not been penalized OR taxed. After five years, you are able to take that $12,000 out of your Roth penalty-free. Now you have $12,000 in your bank account that has neither been taxed nor penalized (although you will still be taxed on any capital gains from your Roth IRA).
“Whoa! Is this legal?”
That was my initial thought. The answer? As of 2019, it is 100 percent legal.
This is one of the differences between the rich and the middle-class or poor. The rich seek loopholes and ways around government regulations, whereas the middle-class and poor give in to them.
The Concept of the Yield Shield
In 1998, a bunch of finance nerds (aka professors) at Trinity University performed a study where they determined how much one needs to save in order to live off the returns from their portfolio for the next 30 years—including the cost of inflation.
They determined that if an individual withdraws 4 percent of their entire portfolio each year, there is a 95 percent chance that the portfolio will last for the next 30 years.
The only problem here is that many of us are striving to retire in our 20s and 30s, so we need our portfolios to last much longer than that—perhaps even 50 to 60 years!
In order to get that 95 percent chance up to 100, Kristy and Bryce introduce a concept called “the yield shield.” The basic idea is that you allocate a certain percentage of your portfolio to higher-yielding assets, such as preferred shares, real estate investment trusts, corporate bonds, etc., so that your return is almost guaranteed.
How much of your portfolio do you allocate? That is up to you and your risk tolerance. However, if you determine you need $1 million to retire—or $40,000 per year—I would recommend putting the entire $1 million in these types of assets and anything in excess into higher-risk assets. That way, you can generate what is likely to be a high return on anything over what you need to live.
I think of it like a responsible person going to a casino. If you go to a casino with $1,000 and you make $1,000 in the first hour, I would keep $1,000 and only play with the winnings.
Once the winnings run out, I am done. Then there is no way I could possibly lose money; the worst-case scenario is that I got a fun and virtually free trip to the casino. Make sense?
The helpful concepts discussed in this book do not stop there. Kristy and Bryce are incredibly smart individuals and spend much of their lives researching and learning ways to save and invest wisely, using unique strategies and techniques. The book is littered with saving tips, as well as different ways to invest, that you can implement to expedite your timeframe to retirement—and increase your odds of remaining retired once you’re there.
It’s not every day you stumble across a book that is fun to read AND packed with good information. But Quit Like a Millionaire is just that. Enjoy the read!
Are you striving to achieve early retirement? What are you doing to get there?
Share in a comment below!