Monday, October 6, 2014

Stop Working, Here’s How You Can! by Derek Foster

In one of my frequent self-improvement-driven efforts, this summer I took a drama class at a local drama school. My goal was to improve my stage presence to the point that I would stop this unpleasant habit that I've had all my life of shrinking into a blob of quivering goo whenever anyone pays too much attention to me.

"I asked her how her day was going."

I guess you could say that the class was a success:  by the end of the session I dredged up enough self-confidence to consider attending the school’s one-year anniversary meet-and-greet function. The word function here is deserving of italics because it’s something that I’m sure posh people do.

And I am clearly a master of blending in with posh people.

Having arrived, I promptly curled up into a tiny ball of quivering goo when nobody at all paid attention to me.

"Who's that?"
"I have no idea."


When quivering failed to score me any meaningful social interaction, I unrolled myself and actually talked to some people from my class. I knew that I had found the right people to talk to when I mentioned that I wrote a finance blog and both of their eyes lit up.

"You love investing?  We love it, too!"

“So what’s your investing style?” they asked.

If I’d wanted to actually be posh, I would have answered with highly specific and technical words: dividend investing with a mixture of growth and value stocks.

Instead, what I said was: “Well, I started out by reading all of Derek Foster’s books...”

You’ll notice that the narration trails off there. That is because I trailed off at that point when one of my conversation partners recoiled as if I had just smacked him across the face with a soiled diaper.

"...and I select stocks based on my daily horoscope."

It turns out that my new friends were not fans of Derek Foster.


I've taught the controversy; onto the subject.

Stop Working, Here's How You Can! is a good book.  I'll start with that.  It's a interesting, fast read.  It tries very hard to make investing accessible to a person with no investing knowledge.  Most books do the opposite.  They tell you that investing is horrifying and scary and should only be done by people with decades of training.

...and even those people need to wear protective suits.

Derek Foster has written a number of books. It was his first book that I read in University, and that I credit with starting me on the path to putting my money into stocks.

Derek Foster is a personal investor turned investment writer, who credits his investment decisions with allowing him to no longer require a day job by the time that he was 34.

His first book is titled: “Stop Work: Here’s How You Can”

Actually, I think I already know how to not work.

I think I read the book when I was 20. This matters, because it’s very disheartening to read a book on the subject of retiring from the “rat race” at 34 when you are older than 34 and still in the rat race. At
20, the book is motivational.

"2040 is not a year that can possibly ever exist... There must be another way."

How does one retire at 34? One follows Derek Foster’s idiot-proof* plan.

*Note the use of “idiot”, used here because Derek Foster now calls himself the “Idiot Millionaire”, rather than “That guy who retired at 34”. This is because, as many people have subsequently pointed out, he didn't retire at 34. He took a sabbatical and wrote a best-selling finance book at 34, which has somewhat different implications financially.

A subtle difference, I'm sure.
The plan is:

1 – Spend very little money.
2 – Invest the money that you don’t spend into recession-proof dividend-paying stocks of companies that you buy cheaply and then never sell.
3 – Repeat.

This is good advice. It’s the kind of good advice that a parent gives their children, so that the children don’t repeat all of the mistakes that the parents have made.

"Come give me a hug and promise that you will get your university degree in one of the STEM fields.  It's where the money is."

You won't get rich quickly by following his advice.  Even Derek Foster himself didn't follow his own advice.  He used the kinds of methods that many investors use, such as:

- Repeatedly selling off all of his holdings to buy the latest big thing.
- Borrowing on margin to buy stock.
- Selling his stock when the market tanks, famously during the big recession.

Here I go, teaching the controversy again.  If you want to read more, there are other people who can do a better job, here and here.  Ripping Derek Foster apart isn't the point of my review.

It's a good book.  I like it.  I recommend it to friends.

You should read Stop Working, Here's How You Can! if you want:
- An easy-to-read summary of the major market sectors in Canada and some timeless stocks
- References to other interesting books and websites and resources.
- A really good explanation of why dividend stocks are awesome
They're like apple trees!
SWHHYC (a clunky acronym for a clunky title) sells a dream: financial independence; a pension plan for those who don't have one; freedom from work and the whims of the stock market on a given day.

Is the dream wrong?  No.

I endorse both money and retirement.

Could the method be used successfully to attain this dream?  Yes, but not in the time frame that he promises, and not without some very careful lifestyle design.

VERY careful.  (Source)
Do I recommend this book?  Yes.  Believe his personal stories with a grain of salt and enjoy the read.


  1. Immortalized forever in a financial cartoon! We have big happy grins on our faces. :)

    1. Happy you liked it. I hoped you'd read this one. :)