A Million Bucks by 30

by Mr. Cheap

After spending another afternoon at Indigo, I read “A Million Bucks by 30″ by Alan Corey. This book has been previous reviewed by Million Dollar Journey and Thicken My Wallet (who were sent review copies – humph!).

The format of the book is “slices of life” from when Alan graduates and starts job hunting (he soon reaches New York) to when he reaches his goal of becoming a millionaire at 29. In a typical Hollywood ending, the book advance for this book supposedly puts him over the threshold of being officially a millionaire.

Spoiling the ending doesn’t matter (I’ve already spoiled it for you now – bwahahaha). His journey is more of a framework which lets him talk about where he was at each stage, highlight things he did that saved or made money for him, and throws in a bit of humour to keep you reading. Each chapter takes a snapshot of his life at that point, what he was doing with his finances, and what his networth was (broken down by cash, retirement savings, stocks and real estate).

When I was reading it, I got to some of his “frugal suggestions” and agreed with what others have said that they were somewhat unethical (things like taking umbrellas from lost and founds and keeping a “refillable popcorn tub” between movie visits – he used the same container for 7 movies). Afterwards I was talking to Quietrose about the book, and she asked what he’d done that was so unethical, and when I articulated it, I reversed my position. The things he does aren’t illegal (the police wouldn’t pursue him even if they were) and it seems to be more grey area stuff than anything.

Keep in mind, I’m the guy who read the book at Indigo so I wouldn’t have to pay for it, so maybe I’m not the best ethics judge. The Ethicist from the Wall Street Journal seems to agree about the umbrella though (I can’t find the link, but he wrote a column that basically gave the ok to taking abandoned umbrellas).

Each chapter seems to have a “save money” and a “make money” component. In the first chapter after arriving in New York, he lives in the projects to save money and opens a retirement account (Roth IRA) to make money. This continues through to the end where he buys a bar to make money, then always drinks there (to save money). En route he buys a one bedroom condo (and rents out the living room), buys a duplex and converts it into a rooming house (living in the smallest room himself). He compares this to being on “The Real World” which I can believe.

Halfway through our conversation Quietrose was laughing at me claiming I actually wrote the book (cheap guy buying real estate). I didn’t write it, but I can definitely relate to it. He does acknowledge some of the downsides of being frugal (such as getting dumped, and having friends refuse to visit him in the projects).

My other big feeling at the end of the book was that Alan didn’t really need to do what he did. He *REALLY* hustled, doing 4 significant real estate transactions though this period. He lucked out (which he acknowledges) that real estate took off while he was doing this. In the end I felt that he could have been successful as an entrepreneur WITHOUT being as cheap as he was (he might have had $950K instead of a million at the end – who cares?). Alternatively, he probably could have lived a happy, frugal life without doing all the entrepreneurial stuff he did. I kind of get the feeling that he’s going to be a Warren Buffet type – living off of a small fraction of his wealth while he keeps increasing it. At a certain point you wonder why people would want to keep making money they aren’t going to spend. Good for him, but even better for whoever inherits it all when he dies.

If he’s looking to adopt, I’m available.

Its a fun book. But its not the greatest for practical strategies: you wouldn’t learn enough from it to implements any of the things he did, other than living a frugal existence – and he doesn’t even give a complete framework for that, just a scattering of “money saving tips” that shows where his mind was at. Its would be a great gift for any cheapskates you know – I saw myself in some of his adventures and had a good laugh.

A podcast interview with Alan Corey is available here.

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