We review books that deal with everything from financial independence topics to politics, and anything in between. We may sometimes stray into films and music if there is a “Findependence” angle.

Bestselling Beat the Bank celebrates its 5th anniversary

By Larry Bates

Special to Financial Independence Hub


My book, Beat the ​Bank: The Canadian Guide to Simply Successful Investing, was published in September 2018. Five years later it continues to be a best seller among Canadian business/investing books.

The book, along with my website and various articles I’ve written have helped many Canadians learn to invest smarter and build (and maintain) larger retirement nest eggs.

Most Canadians continue to be directed by their banks and other advisors to invest through mutual funds. The vast majority of these mutual funds extract annual​ fees ranging from 1.5% to 2.5% from the value of the investment.

Not only are most Canadians unaware of these fees​, very few investors understand the compound damage these fees do over time. Over a lifetime of investing, these fees can reduce retirement nest eggs by 50% or more.

At the same time, the investment industry, including the same banks that sell high-cost mutual funds, offer very low cost, very efficient investment funds (ETFs) that track market indexes​. (There are many other types of ETFs as well. In my view most investors would be well served by sticking to simple index tracking ETFs).

Smarter investing means getting out of high-cost mutual funds and getting into low-cost investment products and services like index ETFs through do-it-yourself investing, using robo-advisors or finding lower cost traditional advisors.

A lot has happened in the world since​ Beat the ​Bank was published five years ago​. Covid-19 did a lot of damage and led to a great deal of unanticipated change. Inflation spiked dramatically causing central banks to raise interest rates. The full impact of higher rates is yet to be fully felt, especially by homeowners whose mortgages will be renewing in the next year or two.

The good news for investors is that bonds and GICs are finally offering decent returns although we will have to wait and see whether earning 5% interest will outpace inflation. And, despite all the uncertainty and chaos over the past five years, the total return of S&P 500 was a pleasing 70% while the total return of the S&P/TSX was 42%.

What hasn’t changed?

  • Markets continue to be uncertain​ (this never changes!)
  • The majority of “advisors” are under no legal obligation to act in their client’s best interest
  • The majority of “advisors” put millions of Canadians into high-cost mutual funds
  • Many prominent mutual funds have not reduced their fees (Why would they lower fees when investors are unaware of the impact of fees?)
  • Mutual funds continue to underperform simple index ETFs
  • Regulators have made some progress but many critical investor protection measures have yet to be implemented

​The ​Beat the ​Bank project, which was sparked​ 7 years ago by my sister’s experience with mutual funds, has been a ​gratifying experience​. I have received hundreds of messages from readers over the past five years, the great majority with positive feedback.

You can get a sense of reader response by checking out Amazon reviews. I certainly have had negative reaction from some advisors and industry people generally, but most professionals recognize the shortcomings of the industry and want to see investors achieve better outcomes with simpler, more efficient investment products and services.

DIY investing not for everyone

Do-it-yourself investing it’s not for everyone. But if you are considering switching to DIY investing, whether you check out my book​ or other independent ​sources​ (books, blogs, podcasts, etc.), I strongly encourage you to take some time to learn investment basics.

Here are just a few tips from Beat the Bank readers for those considering making the move:

“I have found that ETF equity investing is better for me than buying individual stocks.” Continue Reading…

I Will Teach You to be Rich (Review)

By Michael J. Wiener

Special to Financial Independence Hub


There aren’t many financial gurus willing to call out financial companies by name for their bad behaviour, but Ramit Sethi is one of them.  In his book I Will Teach You to be Rich, he promises “a 6-week program that works,” and he includes advice on which banks to use and which to avoid.

The book is aimed at American Millennials; Canadians will learn useful lessons as well, but much of the specific advice would have to be translated to Canadian laws, banking system, and account types.  The book’s style is irreverent, which helps to keep the pages turning.

It may seem impossible to fix a person’s finances in only 6 weeks, but this is how long Sethi says it will take to lay the groundwork for a solid plan and automate it with the right bank accounts and periodic transfers.  The execution of the plan (e.g., eliminating debt or building savings) will take much longer.

Sethi is rare in the financial world because he will say what he really thinks about banks.  “I hate Wells Fargo and Bank of America.”  “These banks are pieces of shit.  They rip you off, charge near-extortionate fees, and use deceptive practices to beat down the average consumer.  Nobody will speak up against them because everyone in the financial world wants to strike a deal with them.  I have zero interest in deals with these banks.”  For the banks he does recommend, “I make no money from these recommendations.  I just want you to avoid getting ripped off.”

People have many reasons why they can’t save and are in debt, but Sethi sees them as just excuses in most cases.  “I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who complain about their situation in life but do nothing about it.”  “Cynics don’t want results; they want an excuse to not take action.”  He urges readers to “put the excuses aside” and get on with the business of making positive changes.

The Program

The first step in the program is to “Optimize Your Credit Cards.”  I found it interesting that Sethi focused on credit card perks before he covered eliminating credit card debt.  He wants readers to “play offense by using credit cards responsibly and getting as many benefits out of them as possible” instead of “playing defense and avoiding credit cards altogether.”  This approach sets him apart from many other experts on getting out of debt.  While he does teach methods of eliminating debt, his focus is more on building wealth steadily.

The second step is to open “high-interest, low-hassle accounts.”  Interestingly, he wants readers to open a chequing account at one bank and a savings account at another bank.  Among his reasons are that the psychology of a separation between accounts makes us less likely to raid savings.  Some might think opening a savings account is pointless if they have no money to deposit, but Sethi insists that you need to lay the groundwork now for a better future, even if you’ve only got $50 to deposit.

The third step is opening investment accounts.  The author favours very simple investments, such as a Vanguard mutual fund account invested in a target date fund.  “Don’t get fooled by smooth-talking salespeople: You can easily manage your investment account by yourself.”  Unfortunately, Vanguard mutual funds are only available to Americans.  Canadians can find one-fund solutions with certain Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs).

To create the cash flow to reduce debt and invest, the fourth step is about “conscious spending,” which is “cutting costs mercilessly on the things you don’t love, but spending extravagantly on the things you do.”  Achieving this involves tracking spending in different categories, but not traditional budgeting. Continue Reading…

My 5 picks for classic books on Financial Independence and Retirement

A book discovery service called has just published a multi-book review by me about my recommendations for some of the best all-time books on Financial Independence and Retirement. You can find the full review by clicking here. is a year old; an alternative to older services like Goodreads, it helps readers and authors share and discover books in various genres.

Picking just five books is of course a tricky exercise and having seen this published late in July, I soon thought of several other books I might have included as well or instead, notably David Chilton’s classic The Wealthy Barber. But it’s safe to say that with more than 2 million copies sold, that would not exactly be a ground-breaking new recommendation.

Chilton of course created a monster with the genre of the financial novel: a hybrid that combines a story and characters with an overlay of enduring financial insights and strategies for achieving financial freedom. He has spawned many imitators, such as Robert Gignac’s Rich is a State of Mind and my own Findependence Day, which is also flagged in the Shepherd reviews.

For this exercise, however, I opted to go with straight non-fiction financial books. My thinking was what books influenced me in my own journey to Semi-Retirement and Financial Independence, or the so-called FIRE movement, for Financial Independence Retire Early.

Here are the 5 books I did pick: go to the original link to get my analysis and reasons for each pick. Below I offer just a line each but each explanation is closer to 400 words so be sure to click on the original Shepherd link to get the full take on each. The five titles below each include hypertext to the Shepherd book store where you can order directly.


Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence

By Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez

Probably first for most other proponents of the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement is this classic, subtitled Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence.





Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life

By John C. Bogle

The late Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard Group, published this excellent book in 2009. To me, the title speaks for itself. The sooner you realize you have “enough,” the sooner you can quit the rat race.






How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Won’t Get from Your Financial Advisor

By Ernie J. Zelinski

Edmonton-based author Ernie Zelinski is probably best known for this self-published international bestseller and several others, all on the theme of escaping from full-time employment as soon as possible.







Pensionize Your Nest Egg: How to Use Product Allocation to Create a Guaranteed Income for Life

By Moshe A. Milevsky, Alexandra C. Macqueen

This book by the famed Finance professor and a certified financial planner caters to anxious would-be retirees who do not have the luxury of having an inflation-indexed, guaranteed-for-life Defined Benefit pension plan offered by an employer.






Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way

By Tanja Hester

The phrase “Work Optional” describes the state of being financially independent enough that you don’t have to work for money anymore, but nevertheless choose to for reasons like having a purpose, or structure. As the subtitle suggests, it’s about retiring early without having to be a miserly penny pincher.

Managing Tax Season Anxiety


By Devin Partida

Special to Financial Independence Hub

Tax season can be stressful for most people. Though there are many tools and services to help you manage your finances, they don’t do anything to help your mental state. The truth is much of that stress can be of your own making. Thankfully, there are ways to manage that anxiety and get your taxes done.

To help manage your tax season anxiety, knowing why tax season makes people so stressed might be helpful. A big part of that stress is the simple fact that it has to do with money. Although they say money can’t buy you everything, studies have shown financial troubles can directly affect your mental health.

Is it any wonder? People’s worth is often judged by how much money they earn — not to mention money can affect how high your standard of living is. You are happy when you gain more money and become stressed out when you lose it.

Financial stress has become a more significant part of the world in the last few years. Events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have caused global financial difficulties, making it harder for the average person to save.

Fear of the government also causes stress during tax season. While most people are upstanding citizens, the idea of the government swooping in and taking everything you have just because you missed a payment or filled out the wrong form is as prevalent as it is irrational.

How to reduce Stress during Tax Season

The key to overcoming tax season stress is to adjust your mental state. Doing your taxes is the same as any other task you have to complete. Here are some things to remember to make doing your taxes less stressful.

Address Misconceptions about the Government

Contrary to popular belief, the government will not throw you in jail for missing tax payments. In fact, the U.S. and Canadian governments will try to help you make your payments — though there are penalties for not paying on time.

The government also cannot immediately take your property if you’re late in your tax payments.

They can place a lien on your property that they can lift if you set up and commit to a long-term payment plan. The government will also be more lenient if you have a lower income, though they can still audit you.

If you’re living in Canada, there are ways to work with the Canada Revenue Agency so they can accommodate your financial needs. The CRA also encourages you to file your taxes online — it’s easier and faster to process.

Stop Procrastination

Filing your taxes is probably not many people’s definition of fun. However, constantly putting it off can cause even more stress as the due date gets closer and closer. Good time management habits can help you reduce stress and get your taxes done.

A common solution is to break down filing your taxes into smaller tasks and space them throughout the month. This can make your taxes less daunting by letting you finish in increments while giving you more time to do other things.

Use Online Tools

Online tools like TurboTax can make doing your taxes much more manageable. These tools streamline the process, making it quicker to get the job done. In addition, some tax collection organizations like the IRS have partnered with certain companies to offer free e-filing. The IRS free-file system allows you to file with them free of charge.

Filing your taxes online comes with other benefits, such as receiving refunds faster and record-keeping services. Most online tools come with 24/7 support you can contact in case you need help.

Take the Stress out of Tax Season

Stress during tax season is a common problem, but one you can overcome. Practice good working habits to prevent procrastination and get it over with. Remember that the government is not out to get you. Fire up that TurboTax and get to it.

Devin Partida is the Editor-in-Chief of, and a personal finance writer. Though she is interested in all kinds of topics, she has steadily increased her knowledge of the intersection of finance and technology. Devin’s work has been featured on Entrepreneur, Due and Nasdaq.

Learn why you should Buy This, Not That

By Mark Seed, myownadvisor

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Let’s face it, saving and investing should be simple.

  1. Save, automate your savings to buy stocks.
  2. Invest in stocks and/or low-cost products that invest in stocks to avoid mutual fund salespeople.
  3. Disaster-proof your life by having some cash stashed.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

But simple is not easy.

All too often, we humans love to make things far more complex than things need to be.

We’re wired that way unfortunately. Egos often get in the way. 

Given many people continue to struggle with personal finance, every day, there are tens of thousands of books published out there on this subject – building and maintaining a responsible investment portfolio is only part of the personal finance success equation…

Learn why you should Buy This, Not That

Sam Dogen (aka Financial Samurai) knows a thing or two about personal finance success.

Sam founded in July 2009 during the depths of the global financial crisis.

Sam’s goal through that site was to deliver and share a cathartic way to make sense of the chaos at the time. Fast forward to today, more than 90 million people have visited Financial Samurai, and tens of millions more have read his work on publications such as CNBC, Yahoo Finance, and Business Insider.

Sam was previously at Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse for 13 years – but he’ll share more details below!

When Sam is not writing or playing with his kids, you can find him on a tennis court or softball field in San Francisco, or on My Own Advisor giving away a book!

Sam is a graduate of The College of William & Mary and received his MBA from UC Berkeley.

I got a chance to chat with Sam recently about his new book: Buy This, Not That – How to Spend Money Your Way to Wealth and Freedom.

Here is our interview below before Sam:

Sam, welcome to the site – I know you’ve left a few comments over the years and nice to see you back!

Mark, a pleasure. I enjoy reading about your personal finance independence journey in Canada and seeing you help others with their journeys at the same time as well!

Sam, maybe not everyone is aware of your financial journey and Financial Samurai beginnings. Can you share a bit of your bio with my readers? Where do you live, what have you invested in, and “how did you get here” to writing this book?

Sure thing, Mark.

I grew up in The Philippines, Zambia, Japan, Taiwan, and Malaysia before coming to America for high school and college at William & Mary. My parents were in the U.S. foreign service.

After college, I joined Goldman Sachs in NYC in their international equities department. It was a dream job, except for the fact I had to get in at 5:30 am and often leave after 7 pm! As a result, I decided to save and invest 50% of my after-tax paycheck so I could one day have options to escape.

In July 2009, I started Financial Samurai and helped kickstart the modern-day FIRE movement. It’s been great to see so many people embrace their financial independence journey since then. My definition of financial independence is having enough passive investment income to pay for your basic living expenses.

I decided to write Buy This, Not That because I felt it had to be written. When I started Financial Samurai, there weren’t a lot of personal finance bloggers with finance backgrounds. I noticed when I first got my book offer in early 2020, there weren’t many finance authors with finance backgrounds either! So, I decided to fill this hole and provide my perspective.

Instead of scratching the surface, I decided to go deep into many financial topics. I then tackled some of life’s biggest dilemmas many of us all face.

Learn why you should Buy This, Not That! Sam Dogen

Great stuff.

Sam, in your book, you wrote:

“My first hope with Buy This, Not That is to help you let go of the fear of making a wrong financial choice. Let that sink in: there are no wrong money choices, just as there are no perfect choices, only optimal or suboptimal.”

Talk to me about your investing and wealth-building journey. What mistakes did you make? What successes did you have? What did this teach you and what do you hope to pass along to others in the book?

Mark, I made the suboptimal choice of buying a vacation property I didn’t need in 2007. I got it for 15% off, but it ended up declining by another 40% during the financial crisis! Luckily, most of its value has recovered and I’ve been taking my kids there since 2018.

Not extrapolating my income into the future was my biggest lesson learned. I was paid very well in 2007 and thought my income was just going to go higher. Life is full of ups and downs. Therefore, please be conservative with your income and return forecasts.

One of the key takeaways from the book is to encourage readers to think in probabilities, not absolutes. Don’t think you need 100% certainty to make a choice. Otherwise, you’re going to miss out on a lot of great opportunities.

In The Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel wrote effectively:

You don’t have to be a perfect investor. Getting wealthy and staying wealthy is “about consistently not screwing up.”

I agree with this/have always agreed with this and this aligns nicely to your 70/30 decision making philosophy. Can you explain that for readers and why is that framework so important to you to convey in the book when it comes to investing and wealth-building?

Use my 70-30 decision-making framework to build wealth and make more optimal choices. The framework states that if you believe there’s a 70% probability or greater your choice is the correct one, go for it, while having the humility knowing that 30% of the time, you’re going to get it wrong. And when you do, you will learn from your mistakes and get better.

Once you start approaching everything with a probability matrix in mind, you’re going to gain a tremendous competitive advantage compared to those who don’t.

I like that.

Sam, I personally equate the definition of Financial Independence (FI) as your investments generate enough passive income to cover your day to day living expenses. I’m not into this Barista FIRE, etc. What’s your take? Agree? Disagree? Why?

Yes, since 2009, I’ve stated that being financially independent means having enough investment income to cover your basic living expenses. However, I think Barista FIRE is a reasonable stop gap where you can earn extra income and receive subsidized health care while working a traditionally lower-wage job.

But at the end of the day, don’t fool yourself. If you still need to work, then you are probably not financially independent.

When I left work in 2012 at age 34, I had about $80,000 a year in passive investment income. I knew I wouldn’t starve, but I also wasn’t 100% confident I was doing the right thing. Therefore, I had my wife, who is three years younger than me, keep on working until age 34. If everything worked out with my new adventure, she could join me. In 2015, she was also able to negotiate a nice severance and hasn’t been back to work since.

So, when did you realize FI (Financial Independence)?

In 2012 when I was 34. At the time, I had a net worth of about $3 million that generated about $80,000 a year in passive income. But the biggest catalyst was negotiating a severance that paid for 5-6 years’ worth of regular living expenses. My severance paid all my deferred cash and stock compensation over the next three years. I also had a private investment made in 2010 that wouldn’t come due until 2017 that was fully paid out. Continue Reading…