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The Frugal Millionaires by Jeff Lehman

Jeff Lehman is a millionaire from the dot-com era (former exec at Alta Vista, Webaroo, read more about jeff [3]). More importantly, Jeff Lehman had a few millionaire friends. What he did was ask each of his millionaire friends for a list of tips they used to “make their money work smarter for them.” He and his friends would trade these tips and they’d all be the better for it. Rather than stop there, he decided to expand his network until he compiled a list of ideas and tips from seventy millionaires. He packaged those 800 practical and useful ideas into a book and that book is The Frugal Millionaires [3].

The book begins with a little discussion of what is a frugal millionaire, the six ways frugal millionaires think differently about money, how they were selected and included, etc… that stuff was all well and good, but I wanted to get to the meat of the book. What are these 800 tips from these 70 anonymous millionaires and how valuable would they be for me? What I expected to find were some tips that would help me save tens or hundreds of dollars (these same tips should save a millionaire somewhere on the order of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars), which would be well worth my time to read!

The organization of the book was a little scattered but it did have one good organizational design, the tips were categorized in twenty-four categories that, for the most part, made sense without much additional explanation. The first category was Financial investments and the last was retirement planning, though you had some other topics like spending and clothing mixed in along the way. In each category, Lehman simply lists out the tips as they were likely written on the list he received as part of his agreement to swap ideas. Some are very analytical, bullet points of ideas and steps, while others are very conversational, “I do this because…”

Here’s one of the more analytical ones from the Financial investments category:

BEH — I break down my investments into three groups:
1) Preservation: Typically municipal bonds. These have paid off nicely and limit downside.
2) Risk: Mix of stocks.
3) Income producing assets: Real estate and cash producing small businesses (laundry mats, car washes, etc.).

I thought that was a valuable way to approach investing because it didn’t assume that the next dollar was always going into the stock market. Many of the “tips” are more like “insights,” they don’t tell you what to do, they simply show you a different way of thinking about something . One of my favorite ideas was this one about financial advisors: “SR&BS — Find a good financial person and make them tell you how they invest their own money.”

Sometimes the ideas are just funny, here’s one from the credit card category: “BG&H — There’s no reason to try to impress anyone with a gold, platinum, black or plutonium card. The only people who will appreciate this is the credit card company collecting the annual fees.”

Overall, I enjoyed the book but I think the tips were billed as a little more practical than they really were. There are tips in there for buying cars and for selecting financial advisors or the best gym, but weren’t as practical and immediately applicable as I would’ve liked. I enjoyed the book because it was interesting to gain insight into how these frugal millionaire’s thought. The BEH idea I shared in the above is an interesting insight into his investment philosophy – set a good base with safe munis, then generate income with assets like real estate and businesses, then play a little in the risky stock market. I’m not financially prepared to be doing much more than muni’s and the stock market, but it’s certainly a good thing to be cognizant of for the future.

If you are looking for immediately applicable tips to help save you a dollar, you probably won’t find this book very helpful. If you want to gain insight in how these 70 millionaires think, this book is right up your alley. I personally think the latter is more valuable but that’s from my perspective, we all have different needs and expectations. Either way, I would recommend that you flip through the book at your bookstore to see if it’s right for you.