If you’re in the FIRE sphere or interested in financial independence and haven’t yet heard of the Choose FI podcast, you had better get to downloading and binge-listening now. Since starting their podcast in 2017, Brad Barrett and Jonathan Mendonsa have chronicled their own and many others’ journeys to FI. At the same time, they’ve built a nationwide community of like-minded people through an active Facebook group with local spinoffs, many of which hold monthly meetups.
Chris Mamula, who retired from his work as a physical therapist at age 41 and now writes for the blog Can I Retire Yet, signed on as the book’s principal writer. As Chris lives nearby in Utah and is part of our local ChooseFI Facebook group, he reached out to see if we would review their upcoming book, Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.
When we first glanced at the Table of Contents and saw such terms as “valueism” and “growth mindset”, we knew the book was speaking the Stealth Wealth Family language. ChooseFI has become its own movement. It’s not Bogleheads, not Dave Ramsey… not like any other particular tribe of financially-minded folks. And when you progress through this book’s three well-thought-out sections (spend less, earn more, invest better), you’ll see why.
“This book exists because we feel FI is a superpower that can radically transform your life, relationships, financial stability, and ultimately your happiness. There’s normally so much stress surrounding money, but when you can reframe saving money to helping you pursue what you truly want out of life, it becomes the obvious choice.”
After highlighting the personal stories of its three authors, the book begins with a chapter dedicated to defining financial independence and the different stages along a path to FI. The subsequent chapters in the book weave together to form a blueprint or map for the reader to follow. A couple of conceptual chapters come first, followed by the three main sections mentioned above.
Calling on a breadth of interviews from the Choose FI podcast archives, the authors feature many different personal examples to drive home their concepts. They made sure to include examples with a diversity of family size, location, career/educational background, etc., but they make a point of summarizing their commonalities. Each person:
• “Challenges limiting beliefs and looks at the world in a non-standard way.
• Takes definitive actions to improve their life.
• Finds a way to utilize their own unique strengths and values and chooses to define success on their own terms.”
A cornerstone of financial independence is intentional spending. Rather than turn this book into a minimalist tome, which could be off-putting to newcomers or FI-skeptics, the authors instead focus on the idea of spending less on “the big rocks”: housing, transportation, insurance, etc. Inspiring examples abound in each chapter. They explain multiple tax-deferment strategies in one convenient place. They reinforce investing concepts from the popular JL Collins book A Simple Path To Wealth.
Where this book departs from your typical financial and FIRE advice is in the discussion of some unusual concepts: the importance of travel and stepping out of your comfort zone, ways to hack higher education for your kids, how to find good mentors, and ways to assess your current work-related happiness (or lack thereof). Choose FI also bookends each chapter with quotes and actionable tips. You’ll want to refer to these pages again and again. The to-do list at the end of the “spend less” chapter (Chapter 5) is particularly gold!
If you’re looking for investment secrets or quick fixes, this book doesn’t have them. What it does provide is the outline of a complete mind shift around money. There’s something for everyone: numerous a-ha moments for the FI-novice and continued inspiration for the FI-expert or the already FI. While we already know lots of the information presented in it and have been practicing these mindset shifts ourselves, this is the book we would give friends or family members who express interest in learning more about the financial independence movement.