The Unconventional Early Retirement Plan
I first heard about this book some time ago when David Sawyer (author) reached out to me to see if I would do an honest review back in October…2018. So first thing I must say to David is that I apologise for how long it has taken me to do this.
Here is my review of the Audible version of David’s book, RESET: How to Restart Your Life and Get F.U. Money. I purchased my own copy of the book to try and give an unbiased opinion of it. The book has been described as the first book to translate the financial independence ‘movement’ to a UK context.
The physical book itself has 337 pages including an index, notes and bibliography tucked between the bright yellow cover. The text is clear and printed using at least size 12 font (?) so for most it won’t be hard on the eyes.
David spent a long time on this book, did a tremendous amount of research and worked hard on it. As any writer will tell you, completing an index is no easy task. Unless you can afford to hire someone, then most of it is usually done manually.
I could immediately tell that David was passionate about this topic; but how useful is the book really?
Note: I am giving away a free signed copy of the physical book and an Audible credit for the audio version – details at the end. David was kind enough to send these to me to give away regardless of how I would end up reviewing his book.
Audible Version of RESET
My job involves a lot of driving around the whole of the South East. As a result, I was finishing at least one or two books a week on Audible, cramming them in between my usual podcasts.
I found the author’s voice and tone to be very calming – perhaps a little too relaxing whilst I was driving and found that at 1.25x speed was just about right for me.
One of the benefits of listening to the author read their own book is that you can hear their expression and where the author intends to emphasise a certain point.
The book is split into six parts:
- Part I – What Matters to You?
- Part II – Going Digital – How to Future-Proof Your Career
- Part III – Declutter Your Life
- Part IV – Getting F.U. Money – a Plan
- Part V – 11 Principles to Guide You in Work and Life
- Part VI – 12 Do’s and 12 Don’ts
What struck me with this book is that the author doesn’t start to go into the “how” until much later on; Chapter 22 (page 131) – Four FI Fundamentals. I actually think this is a good thing because as returning readers of my blog will know, the “why” is just as important, if not more so.
I hope the author doesn’t mind me crudely splitting his book up into a beginning, middle and end. It was how I made sense of the book.
I found the beginning to be parts I, II and III. It laid the foundations of helping the reader understand the author’s background and mindset.
In these parts, the author writes about understanding yourself and discovering what matters to you.
- Choose the meaningful happiness, not the pleasure-chasing self-indulgent one.
- Act despite your fears.
- Life’s a struggle: lean into it and enjoy the ride.
- Get a clear, memorable vision.
- Discover your purpose.
- Be true to yourself.
- You need a plan, but expect to be punched in the mouth.
RESET by David Sawyer (2018), pg. 39
The importance of embracing technology and developing IT skills was also discussed as a way to ‘future-proof’ your life.
This was followed by a section on de-cluttering your life. This is something I’ve tried and failed to do. I used to listen to the minimalists quite a bit and so this part of the book resonated. I don’t think I’ll ever be reach peak minimalism, if there was such a thing, but I would definitely want to live a “more meaningful life with less”.
I found many parts of these sections sounding familiar to things I’ve heard of before if you’re used to self-help type books. This isn’t a criticism since the author is up-front with the research he has done to write this book. He even includes a bibliography.
Overall, I found these chapters to be genuine. I got a real sense of what was important to author. However, I recall on a few occasions where I had to resist the urge to fast forward to get to the point where the author would show me the practical side of how to reach FI/RE.
Maybe this is more to do with my personality and profession where I am conditioned to be task orientated.
Maybe I should take note of this myself and learn how to write shorter, more succinct posts instead of essay length ones!
Part IV was when the author got into the nitty gritty. The author introduces concepts such as budgeting; efficiency; frugality; and investing.
The author has really gone out of his way to explain what he does and why.
There were two main things which stuck out for me:
- The author recommends a 3.5% SWR (safe withdrawal rate).
- Leaving a legacy.
In relation to the SWR; hearing the “4% rule” repeated constantly gets a tad annoying when it is regurgitated by people who have not looked into the assumptions and automatically believe that it would be 100% “safe”.
That’s not to say a 4% SWR can’t work for some.
Just don’t copy it unless the numbers are likely to work for you.
This author suggests 3.5% to be more realistic for someone based outside the US, and I am inclined to agree with him on this as a general rule of thumb.
The exact number for each person will depend entirely on individual circumstances.
Leaving a legacy is an important aspect of FI/RE so I was pleased to see the author dedicated a short chapter to it. Things to consider such as protection, wills, lasting power of attorney and inheritance tax.
Whether or not you decide to spend every last penny or to leave some behind; it requires planning. Even if your intention is the former; death can come knocking unexpectedly, so if you’d rather all your money be given to your pet guinea pig, then make a will.
I would have preferred the author dedicated a bit more space for this chapter, although understandably this is a complex area worthy of quite a number of books.
Parts V and VI are what I consider the end of the book. They provide the last few motivational push for the reader to consider FI/RE and centre around some of the author’s life principles.
To me, RESET read and felt like a blog transferred into a book format. It is personal to the author and at times has a sort of diary feel to it. As if the author was making notes for himself to reflect back on in the future.
To that end, it is how he has described it – an organised record of his own discovery and learning about FI/RE.
In my opinion, this is the very reason why this book will appeal to some; whilst for others they would struggle to get past the beginning.
For those who like to understand how the author has formed their opinion and be willing to be taken along on the personal journey, then I think you will enjoy this book.
For those who like brevity and simply be told how to do something, then I suggest skipping straight to the middle. For those people, the 118-ish pages which make up part IV is all you would want.
However, this is a big one – I honestly believe that those who stand the greatest chance of achieving FI must determine why this matters and life beyond financial independence. This is why I think parts I and IV of the book are an absolute must if you fall into the second camp.
This was clearly a passion (perhaps an obsession) for the author; and it clearly shows. His attention to detail and wanting the book to be helpful to others is admirable.
If you’re someone who is already used to basic concepts of personal finance and FI/RE in general, then I am not convinced you would get much new information out of this book.
But don’t cast the book aside for this reason.
I still read blogs and books to gain a different perspective. To take a peep into someone else’s journey rather than simply learn some new concept.
Truth be told, apart from spending less than you earn and investing the rest, there’s only so much that can be said if we didn’t personalise it with our own stories before authors and bloggers end up plagiarising each other.
Finally, I got the sense that the book was aimed at those earning more than the national median wage and towards the latter part of their earning potential. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since the tagline is:
“The unconventional early retirement plan for midlife careerists who want to be happy”
Whilst I believe anyone can learn something from this book regardless of age or income; it is important to point this out so you know what to expect.
For as little as £2.49 on Kindle, it’s a resounding yes as being worth it whether you read the whole book or take certain sections from it. It should definitely be on your reading list if you’re new to financial independence.
The Audible book version worked out well for me for my long commutes and something to consider if you have limited time to read.
- One signed physical copy of RESET.
- One Audible copy of RESET.
It’s straight forward; just contact me either privately, in the comments below or through social media and answer the following:
- Why you want to read the book?
- Which version would you like (physical or Audible)?
I will then select the winners and contact you.
For the physical copy – UK residents only.
Until next time, stay safe!
PS. Sorry it has been so long since my last post…again. Unfortunately Covid-19 took over and whilst for some it meant being furloughed and having free time; for me, work has become even busier.
I’m not complaining and feel very fortunate.
My family are healthy, I still have employment and I am no where near working as hard or in as risky conditions compared to those on the front line in the NHS. Hats off to all my frontline emergency service colleagues and all those able to continue working in the background to keep the country moving and safe.
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