Almost two years ago I received an unusual email to an address that I rarely check again. The author wrote:
I am writing to you today because The Great Courses is working with Audible to study the possibility of creating a high quality series on financial independence. We believe you are an excellent candidate to teach such a series. I have read many articles at Get Rich Slowly and have always been impressed with your writing and the amount of great content you create.
At first I thought it was spam. Before I deleted the message, I checked the sender. Sure enough. The sender (and the message) was legitimate.
I wrote back:
Thank you for getting in touch. I get a lot of requests for my time and I usually turn them down. Not this one. I think this is a great idea and well worth exploring. I’ve been a longtime fan of Audible and the Great Courses. I am not joking.
I’ve included screenshots to prove that I owned 72 great courses and nearly 372 audiobooks from Audible. These numbers have grown naturally since then.
Discussions ensued, a contract was signed, and in December 2019 I began creating a five-hour, ten-part course on financial independence and early retirement. I finished this course last April. I recorded it in May. And in the last month it finally found its way into the world on how to achieve financial independence and retire early!
FIRE in 40,000 words
Writing a blog about financial independence and writing a course about financial independence are two different things. A blog is perpetual. It’s personal. It’s informal. But a project for Audible and The Great Courses? Well, this type of project has limitations and requires a different tone.
You all know that I am on a personal financial journey. You all know that I am constantly learning about money and that my understanding and opinions change over time. In such projects, however, I have to present myself as an expert. The information I provide needs to be in a neat little package.
In this case I had some very specific parameters.
The course had to be about 40,000 words long and the whole thing had to be broken down into ten smaller “chapters”. Why 40,000 words? Because 40,000 words are about five hours when reading aloud. Basically, my job was to summarize the most important facets of financial independence in ten half-hour lectures (4000 words). So that’s what I did.
I also had to decide who the course was for. Was this for people who already knew about FIRE (financial independence and early retirement)? I’m not the best person to give in-depth technical advice (as you know) so I decided against it. I decided to approach people who were curious about FI: those who have heard of the concepts but need a crash course in what FIRE involves.
In the end I adopted the following structure:
- Lecture one – What is financial independence? I’ll start the course by discussing the difference between financial independence and early retirement. I also spend some time talking about how society has programmed most people to only think about money one way. But there are also other ways of approaching personal financing.
- Lecture two – The power of purpose. Of course, I then dive into my favorite topic: Finding meaning. If you have read GRS for a long time, you will know exactly what this lecture contains. This is my core message.
- Lecture three – The power of profit. With the philosophy out of the way, I explore the numbers behind financial independence and avid retirement. I talk about wealth, savings rate, and more.
- Lecture four – Spend less. The fourth lecture deals with frugality and the power to save on big things like housing and transportation.
- Lecture five – Increase Your Income. After talking about expenses, I am talking about income. While most of the material in this course is new, this particular lecture sticks closely to my usual role model of making more. (But included with more resources.)
- Reading six – Your wealth snowball. After explaining how the income-spending gap translates into “profit,” I’ll share the best ways to capitalize on that profit: a debt snowball (if you are in debt) and an asset snowball (if you are in debt) is gone ).
- Lecture seven – Invest in early retirement. The seventh lecture was by far the most difficult to write. How the hell do you compress that investment into 4000 words? It doesn’t work – but I’ve tried. (And then I sent people to read JL Collins Easy Path To Riches, haha.)
- Lecture eight – How much is enough Next, I examine the factors that affect how much you need to save for retirement, including life expectancy, inflation, withdrawal rates, and more.
- Lecture nine – Obstacles on the way to financial independence. I spend the ninth lecture addressing problems that people encounter in pursuing financial independence – and offering possible solutions to those problems.
- Lecture ten – Build a rich life. Finally, I examine what happens when you achieve financial independence and / or early retirement. I challenge the audience to build a rich life.
As I said, I did my best to cover the core concepts of the FIRE movement. I made a conscious decision to keep the course as technical as possible, which probably comes as no surprise. And whenever possible, I have explored the psychological and philosophical implications of wealth.
Due to the limitations of this project, I was unable to cover certain favorite topics of the FIRE community: travel hacking (which actually has nothing to do with FIRE anyway), health care (which is important!), Roth’s back door, etc. I also couldn’t get into any particular topic immerse. There was just no space.
In the end, however, I am proud of the course I created. In my opinion – and I know I am biased – this project is the best introduction to financial independence and early retirement. I am not joking.
If you want to share this concept with friends or family, I think this course is a great way to do it.
An introduction to FIRE
The hardest part in creating this course was recording it. At the beginning of last May – while the uncertainty about COVID was still raging – I spent two days in a local recording studio reading my words. It was hard!
I’m a talkative guy, but I never had to read for hours. It’s harder than you might expect. By the end of the second day, I felt like my mouth was full of marbles. Also, I was worried and worried that my delivery was terrible. (And in the months since I recorded the course, I’ve pondered two sentences that I regret, including haha.)
So my biggest fear was that people would hate my “accomplishment” on the stuff I wrote. Much to my surprise, that was not the case. In fact, my performance is the top rated part of the course. What?!?
Are you ready for some math? Good because you will get it.
Your money: The missing manual was published on March 1, 2010. In the eleven years since then, the book has received 86 reviews on Amazon. How to achieve financial independence and early retirement was published on February 16, 2021. In the five weeks since then, the course has received 77 Audible reviews.
What amuses me, however, is that the breakdown of these reviews is almost identical. Look here:
Consistently 5% of people don’t like my big projects. You can find another 5% more. And – thank goodness – 90% seem to like them.
Anyway, my Audible class is over! I’m proud of it. I think it’s a great introduction to the core concepts of the Financial Independence and Early Retirement Movement. Hope it comes in handy for a lot of people.
As proud as I am of this course, and as much as I hope it helps people, I wouldn’t be sure if I didn’t point out that I first explored these basic ideas in The Money Boss Manifesto, which continues to be free PDF is available. The Audible course is much more comprehensive and of course includes my latest thoughts on each topic, but this free PDF is a good resource for people who can’t (or don’t want to) buy the course.