The Green Swan Book Review

The Green Swan Book Review

Today’s post is my first official book review.

A friend of mine, JW, reached out and asked if I wouldn’t mind checking out his upcoming book. For those who don’t know JW, he runs an excellent blog called The Green Swan where he describes a deliberate approach to managing and investing money with a major effect: wealth accumulation, financial independence and early retirement.

It is not everyday you get a chance to read a new book from a 30 year old millionaire. While there’s nothing unusual about JW’s background, there is something remarkable in his approach to personal finance.

This is what he calls The Green Swan Method

In short, the book contained a lot of practical advice in an easy to read, concise manner. Here’s a link to check out the book yourself.

JW is able to summarize his approach right from the get go, so we’re left with a clear roadmap of the path ahead. As you move throughout the book, JW fills in each detail for those who are still on their path to reaching a 7 figure net worth.

As you develop an understand of JW’s background, you can’t help but feel you’re in the same boat. JW is an average guy but with an extraordinary approach to personal finance. Anyone can follow along and immediately apply the steps towards retiring early, or if you plan on working throughout life, reaching that blissful state of financial independence earlier in life.

This book can empower you to live the life you want, rather than living a life paycheck to paycheck.

JW shares his starting salary out of college was nothing extraordinary at 38k.

What was incredible was his willingness to work hard by taking extra classes in the summer and winter, which allowed him to graduate one year early and start making that income sooner. By still living  on campus during his 4th year he was able to fully experience the “traditional” 4 year college experience. The difference was an added year of making thousands of dollars instead of paying thousands of dollars for tuition. He maintained a basic standard of living and in doing so was already in the process of developing The Green Swan approach to personal finance.

The chapter on tracking expenses is great for two reasons: First, JW expresses how all items we purchase are an exchange of our time. We are asked to really think about  what is meaningful and impactful when it comes to our purchases. With this attitude in mind, JW runs through some of the items he has done without, such as cutting the cord, which has saved him around $1,200.00 a year. The chapter also has some great DIY activities such as creating a rain barrel instead of opting for a $250 annual water bill. Over time, little lifestyle adjustments here and there have lead to to achieving financial independence quicker than even he himself expected.

Each chapter begins with a few great quotes. As a CPA I was happy to see a great quote from John Maynard Keynes who said, “The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that still carries any reward.”

JW doesn’t just dive into why we must invest, but he also provides plenty of useful information on the process of investing. The key highlights I took away were his discussion on the topics of IRA vs Roth IRA, when to contribute to a 401k and when to contribute to an IRA, the importance of 529 plans, and discussing alternative tax efficient retirement vehicles such as an HSA. The investment approach advocated here is a wise passive approach, which leaves more time to do what we all find valuable – whether it’s time with friends/family, developing our careers, having fun with hobbies, or building a business.

This book covers each stage of investing; from seeking to retire early, to pulling out investments tax-free & penalty free during early retirement & finally into the smart approach to pulling out money during the traditional (65+) retirement age. JW even goes beyond this to discuss aspects of estate planning & philanthropic activities. A true, holistic approach to everything we need from personal finance.

I love The Green Swan’s approach to healthcare. It was a call to action to be active today to keep healthcare costs low now and in the future. Healthcare can be expensive, but so can retirement. With each approach being handled earlier in life, they each receive benefits from early investments essentially compounding over time. Once we get used to eating healthy and exercising, that habit will stay with us for decades.

Furthermore, The Green Swan’s approach to healthcare is that of self-reliance, without needing children to help offset future medical costs. This was a great portion of the book, and one I hope more families across America adopt as they approach and plan for retirement.

Overall, JW’s book takes you from A to Z in the world of personal finance. Not only does it touch on every topic from savings to investments, but it also gets into the realm of estate planning and contributing back to society via philanthropy.

As an added bonus, the book contains two in depth case studies. Any person, young or old, would benefit from learning a thing or two from The Green Swan’s approach.

If you’re interested in trying to reach your beach sooner, whatever that might be, then I’ll recommend picking up this book.

-Matt

8 comments… add one
  • Vicki@MSDLifeCoaching Jun 10, 2016, 6:47 am

    I have started reading the Green Swan (in addition to Distilled Dollar of course!) I can always learn more even though I am at FI and took a different path. I also graduated in 3 years from college and stayed the 4th year to get my Master’s degree. My daughter is doing the same and will be done with college next year. I think my son (who will be a senior in high school) could connect well with both your blogs. He is looking at going in to math/finance and if he can see how you and JW are work and are seeking freedom, I think once his maturity catches up – he could follow a similar plan. He is (bored) lifeguarding at a small pool this summer (and he is not a reader -) but maybe I could get him to give this a read!

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 12, 2016, 9:01 am

      If he doesn’t like the reading idea, you can always share with him some of the great audio resources out there on FI. My two top right now are the Mr. Money Mustache podcast he did with The Art of Manliness which I linked to here. Or, anything from Mad FIentists’ podcast series found here (I’ve linked to the latest episode, but many are great).

      I view these as great tools anyone can have.

  • The Green Swan Jun 10, 2016, 7:00 am

    Thanks for the great review, Matt! I appreciate the kind words and am glad you enjoyed the book!

  • FinanceSuperhero Jun 10, 2016, 9:38 pm

    Thanks for providing us with a great review of The Green Swan’s work, Matt. I have the book on my future reading list.

  • Martin - Get FIRE'd asap Jun 12, 2016, 3:32 am

    Great review DD. One of the things I enjoyed about Green Swan’s book is, as you say, he had a very normal, middle class upbringing and chose to start making smart financial decisions very early on.

    Now he and Lucy are a millionaire family at the age when I was still spending everything I earned.

    I take my hat off to them both for their achievement so far.

    My recommendation to anyone reading this. If you want to plant a seed in someone’s head, especially if they’re young and just starting out, buy this book for them. Just make sure you read it yourself too.

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 12, 2016, 9:05 am

      Exactly. Many people assume financial freedom is only available to those who make six figures right out of college. JW offers a fresh perspective from someone who started earning a salary of 38k out of school. Definitely not what someone would think when they hear about his financial situation today.

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