I Wrote About Finance For A Year, Here’s All You Need To Know…

Richard Reis
Dec 26, 2017 · 6 min read
By Richard Reis

Hello dear,

This is it.

This is the final letter in Personal Finance Series! *gasp*

What a year… Right?

When we began, I told you that “if I do my job well, you’ll learn how to ‘live’ as an adult before the year is over.”

This is true. Anyone who’s read the series can answer these questions (and many more):

  • What do I do with the money I earn?
  • What are taxes and how do I pay them?
  • How bad is my debt, really?
  • How do I invest?
  • 401 que?!

If you can easily answer each question, congratulations! If not, read the series!

However, I know you’ll need a “cheat sheet” (so you can conveniently revisit what you’ve learned, or share with a friend in need).

This letter serves that purpose!

So, before we part ways and go back to our New Year’s Eve preparations, let’s do a final recap of everything we learned, shall we?

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Sidenote: A number in brackets is a link to the matching letter. Click on it if you want to learn more details about the preceding sentence.

Personal Finance Series Cheat Sheet

You can retire well before your sixties, it’s simple math (4).


Thanks to a technique used by most people who retired early. It’s called the 4% rule (30).

How much do you need to retire?

Find out how much you spend every year and multiply that number by 25. If I gave you that amount tomorrow, you’d never have to work a day in your life again (3).

How can you get that amount?

It helps to know that all financial advice falls into one of three categories (1):

  1. How to save money.
  2. How to make money.
  3. How to invest money.

The more/ better you do each thing, the quicker you’ll reach that number.

How do you save money?

The first step is to live close to work (14).

That way you don’t need a car, which is just a luxury wheelchair (18). A bike will save you more money than anything else (15).

Save 20% of your paycheck automatically (11). This pretty much guarantees you’ll retire in 37 years or less (unless you really mess up).

For faster results, save closer to 50%, which allows you to retire in 17 years (24). This is very doable (hardcore people save 75% and retire in 7 years!).

Start with these 12 ways to save money at home (16, 17).

Also, learn how to buy groceries. Every time you throw away food, you throw away dollars (19).

It helps to declutter your life (20). Most of the crap you buy is the result of good marketing, don’t fall for it (7).

Speaking of buying crap, beware of credit cards (22). And speaking of falling for marketing, beware of insurance (23).

If you’re paying for an expensive gym membership, you don’t need it. I lost 35lbs without one just to prove it (21).

You can’t avoid taxes, but you can minimize them (12). Retirement plans are a great way to do this (13).

There’s no need to deprive yourself, just don’t dig your own grave (5). The goal is to live happily (10).

If you can’t save another cent, can you still reach your goal faster?

Yes, make more money.

How do you make more money?

There are two ways, salaried and nonsalaried work (39).

Salaried work means getting a job. So you’ll need a resume (42) and cover letter (43). It also helps to have a college degree (41) and to stand out (45).

Nonsalaried work means fending for yourself. Most early retirees did this in one of two ways: real estate (46) or entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship has gained popularity in the form of startups. The bad news is they’re super hard (48). The good news is you only need a product (50) and a couple of founders (49) to get started. It helps to learn how to build apps (47).

Truly, making money is about creating possibilities (51).

Are you afraid of failure? Make sure you plan for every outcome (44) and stay positive (8).

Some people say find your passion. Which is fine advice, but overrated (40).

What do you with all this extra money?

If you have any debt, pay it off (9).

If you have no debt, invest your money so it multiplies (38). Not investing is a terrible mistake (25).

How do you invest?

Good investing is mostly about knowing what not to do. For example:

  • Don’t trust most financial advisors (27).
  • Don’t copy the pros (34).
  • DON’T PANIC (32).
  • Don’t listen to your monkey brain (35).

Building a portfolio is simple (29). Index funds are all you need (28), just stay in for the long-term (31).

Spend 16min learning about the economy (36, 37). It’s fun and very rewarding. You’ll learn to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst (33).

To learn more, read trustworthy sources (26).

Could you become a millionaire by doing all this?

Yes (6).

Where can I learn even more?

These are (in my opinion) the top five personal finance resources (2).

Any final advice?

Yes. Try donating. It will change your life.

I had never done it until a friend gave me a $100 DonorsChoose gift card a few weeks ago. It was one of my favorite gifts ever.

This message will show you why.

Do you think a gift could have brought me more happiness than this message? I don’t. I highly recommend you try and see for yourself.

If you need a place to start, check out Donors Choose and Zidisha.


My pleasure.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

And that’s it!

No really. That’s it. The series is officially over.

Thank you for being a part of this journey with me. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

And happy new year!

Be well.


P.S.: What’s next for me? Some people are asking me to write a book. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

I do pride myself in the fact that all my content is free. Working on a book means I’ll have to charge.

The only benefit from a book will be that all my letters will be condensed into their purest/ easiest to share form. Since I’ve only written 52 letters, the book will be small, which is nice.

I don’t know. Maybe one day.

Right now, all I want is to go back to building stuff!

I’ll spend 2018 focused on Lambda School’s courses so I can become a better hacker (I’m decent, but my best friend is so much better than me it’s not even funny… I’ve gotta catch up).

Thanks for reading! 😊If you enjoyed it, test how many times can you hit 👏 in 5 seconds. It’s great cardio for your fingers AND will help other people see the story.You can follow me on Twitter at @richardreeze to find out whenever others just like it come out.📚 Do you like books? If so you might enjoy my latest obsession: 
Most Recommended Books.📚

Since I write about finance, legal jargon is obligatory (because the guys in suits made me). Before following any of my advice, read this disclaimer.

Personal Finance Series by Richard Reis

Learn (in 52 letters) the finance basics used by early retirees.

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