The Wealthy Barber Returns

Summary Written by Jill Donahue
"Unless you marry into wealth or come from a very well-to-do family (both highly advisable strategies by the way), you’ll have to learn to spend less than you make."

- The Wealthy Barber Returns, page 3

The Big Idea

"Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty."

"There is no more potent antidote for the disease of envy than a dose of perspective."- The Wealthy Barber Returns, page 29

If you have the means to read this summary then you are one of the lucky ones. The problems of billions of our neighbors in this worldwide community should remind us just how lucky we are. The key word in the previous sentence, however, is should. We forget, for example, when we’re frustrated we can’t find a high-speed wireless connection, that more than a billion people don’t have electricity.

In several pages of shake-your-head humorous examples, Dave discusses how we somehow ignore this perspective and instead look to the opulent few who have much more than we do. The obsession with what the Kardashians have has affected our ability to enjoy what we have.

If thinking about people around the world today doesn’t do it for you, expand your reference group to include people who came before you. You don’t have to go very far back to realize the things we take for granted now would have been considered extreme luxuries or science fiction merely decades (not centuries!) ago. Dave points out that we live better than did past kings and queens of wealthy empires.

I love reading Little House in the Prairie to my young daughters. Laura Ingalls was a girl just like them but who was born generations earlier. She was perfectly happy despite having a stick for a doll and a tin cup she shared with her sister at each meal. It gives us a dose of appreciation and perspective each night as we read a chapter and then reflect on the blessings in our lives.

What if financial success wasn’t about making more, rather about wanting less? Imagine if financial success was in your mind and a choice you could make by altering your perspective and gratitude.

Insight #1

I can't afford it

"Paradoxically, ‘I can’t afford it’ is not a limiting statement, but a liberating one."- The Wealthy Barber Returns, page 36

Do you want to save hundreds of hours researching mutual funds or creating a detailed budget? It may be as simple as adding four words to your vocabulary; “I can’t afford it.”

When I asked Dave what lessons from his book made the biggest impact on people, this was surprisingly number one! It was his simple story about his advice to his buddy to say “I can’t afford it”. Dave believes it created a sense of relief in people who started stringing those four words together.

In the ‘olden days’ people hung out with people who had very similar financial means. The farmer down the road could afford about the same things you could afford. But now, people of vastly different incomes rub elbows. So when Joe and Martha are heading to Aruba and ask you to join them, you say “Why sure!” even though you know it will be another debt to add to your line of credit and anxiety. Instead the words “I can’t afford it” could give you relief, not to mention long-term financial comfort.

Why are we so reluctant to use these words? Maybe we think it’s an admission of failure; of not being as ‘successful’ as your neighbor. But, Dave said for people who started saying it, they realized it was no big deal. Their spouses didn’t leave them. Their friends still called and their retirement plans thanked them.

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Insight #2

Less is often more

"…overspending on one’s home may be the single biggest inhibitor to achieving financial independence."- The Wealthy Barber Returns, page 73

While Dave usually talks about saving money he goes out on a limb to offer advice on how to spend it. Bottom line: to be happier, spend more on experiences and less on stuff!

Take your home for example. When you give each other high fives for the generous mortgage the bank has ‘approved’ for you, keep in mind their incentive. It is not aligned with yours. Their definition of “good debt” is lent money that will be paid back with interest. Your savings and retirement deadlines are not the banks’ concerns.

The bank’s loan officer is not considering what you need to save for retirement, how many kids you have and whether or not you have a pension. She sees you as an income generator for the bank. Just because she “approves” a set amount does not mean it is “appropriate”. Somehow, we believe that if the bank will give it to us, we should take it. And that is the beginning of the end.

A bigger house from that oversized mortgage means higher property taxes, higher utility bills, higher maintenance costs, not to mention the landscaping to keep up with your neighbors and four potted urns each season and more furnishings… the list goes on. That’s how people get themselves into trouble.

People whose savings come first, who borrow based on their after-tax, after-proper-savings income make better borrowing decisions. As Dave points out, the etymology of “mortgage” is “death pledge”. Enough said.

And the research supports this lesson. People who live in homes they can afford consistently rank very high in happiness surveys. The materialism treadmill is just that—a treadmill. It doesn’t reach the desired destination of happiness. Experiences, on the other hand, do create happiness.

So, with the money you can afford to spend, adjust your ‘stuff’ to ‘experience’ ratio.

After decades of talking with the average Joe and priding himself on living like one himself, Dave Chilton gets it and he knows how to engage us and transfer his wisdom through his wit.

Read the book

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David Chilton

David Chilton is an economics graduate from Wilfrid Laurier University. In 1985, he won the award for the highest mark in the country on the Canadian Securities Course. Cheating was never proven but widely suspected. In 1989, he released The Wealthy Barber. It went on to sell an astonishing two million copies in Canada. After milking his one and only good idea for years, Dave left the personal-finance field to home-school his children. His daughter escaped after a few months, but his son served out his entire sentence of three years less a day. Both children somehow overcame the experience and are now attending university. Over the years, Dave also published the bestselling cookbooks Looneyspoons, Crazy Plates and Eat, Shrink & Be Merry! along with authors Janet and Greta Podleski. Adding no value but taking a third of the profits, guilt finally overwhelmed Dave and he left the sisters’ business in 2007. They just recently noticed. His true professional passion, however, remains the field of personal finance, where he tries to mix humour and common sense to help people handle their money more wisely. A frequent guest on national TV and radio shows, and a much sought-after speaker, Dave lives just outside Waterloo, Ontario.

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