Last year at the Financial Blogger Conference, every attendee received a package of stuff. It was the typical conference swag that you get. I got some funky sunglasses from Credit Karma and some other stuff that I probably won't use. One of those was a book called The Millionaire Fastlane by DJ DeMarco with the slogan of "Crack the Code to Wealth and Live Rich for a Lifetime." I didn't give the book much attention. (To be fair, I have literally dozens and dozens of personal finance books that people send me that rarely get opened).
With a picture of a Ferrari on the front and the "fast-lane" push, I figured it was a "get rick quick" scheme. (Note: Current printings of the book do away with the car on the cover.) Then I read the profile on the back about how he bills himself as the "Get Rich Slow" anti-guru, who has a passion for fast cars. I added it to the pile of books to read "someday." A few months later, I got an email from my friend Jeremy at Gen X Finance and he had asked if I looked at the book. I told him that of course I didn't. He said that it was much better than he thought. I trust his judgment so I got the book and opened up the first page and read a few of the testimonials. One of them talked about "leaving his J-O-B lifestyle", which is a no-to-clever acronym that multi-level marketers typically use for Just Over Broke. I thought "Great (sarcastically), this book has it all now..."
Nonetheless, I gave it a few pages, and then a few more. In a few hours, I was telling my wife how this could be quite possibly the best personal finance book I've ever read.
At over 300 pages it is long. It is also extremely dense... and by that I mean, I found myself reading every sentence in detail. What kind of detail? Well on page 147 at the end of chapter 21 there's a typo where DeMarco wrote, "Thing big to earn big", where he clearly meant "think." (I'm not picking on him for a typo, I'll probably have a half dozen in this review. I just wanted to be clear that I read every single letter in the book.)
The book itself is divided into 8 sections. However, I might have divided into two halves. The first half I'd describe as explaining why people aren't millionaires. The second half explaining how to get that millionaire mentality.
The First Half: The Financial Paths People Take on their Journey to Wealth.
The book has a running metaphor of a person driving on a highway. Seems appropriate enough since wealth is a journey (unless you win the lottery) and DeMarco admits to loving cars. There are various lanes you can get in, but DeMarco starts out with something that isn't even a lane... the Sidewalk.
The Sidewalk path to wealth (and by wealth DeMarco typically means 5-20 million dollars) is one where people make poor decision after poor decision sabotaging themselves. These are people who use credit to buy whatever they want whenever they want. These are people with "negative net worth or no savings." These are people who are glad to be done with school, because they don't need no more learning. I think he says that you typically find a lot of these people on Judge Judy or Maury Povich (don't quote me on that one).
Some of the people on the Sidewalk are there due to bad circumstances. In the end, it doesn't matter because the wealth journey is thousands of miles long and you are not going to get there by walking.
DeMarco dubs the Slowlane, the typical personal finance stuff that you might read on this website. It's the plan of saving in 401K plans and Roth IRAs. It's relying on compound interest to provide you with a couple of millions... at age 65 where it won't buy much due to inflation and you will be too old to enjoy it. (DeMarco is a major buzz-kill when it comes to the Slowlane.) It's listening to people like Suze Orman, who makes her money via book sales and pre-paid debit card deals, not by funding 401k plans and Roth IRAs.
Even worse with the Slowlane, there's plenty of dangers. You may not live to 65 to spend your money. The economy may collapse leaving your years of savings not being worth what you thought they'd be. In any case, most of the people in the Slowlane don't ever own a Lamborghini and that's simply not the life that DeMarco wants.
These are people who have 5-20 million dollars... or are on the way to getting it. These are the CEOs of companies. These are people like Justin Bieber and Alex Rodriguez. These are the people who invented urinal cakes that you might see on The Shark Tank.
How do all these people make money? They either have massive scale or massive magnitude. All these people impact millions of people. That's a huge scale. However, someone investing in real estate could make millions with a small scale of a dozen properties at a high magnitude (profits on housing is generally far greater than Justin Bieber CDs).
The Second Half: How You Get on the Fastlane to Wealth.
The second half of the book takes where the first leaves off and explores various businesses that have both scale and magnitude. This includes the following:
- Setting up a corporation
- Avoiding toxic decisions
- Risk analysis
- Creating a decision matrix (which is similar to my article: Finding the Perfect Home: Use a Worksheet)
- Using your time effectively (tip: avoid waiting in line for a Black Friday deal, the money you save isn't worth rich people's time)
- Getting the right education
- Staying motivated
There's a lot more. One set of chapters deals with the things that a business needs to be "Fastlane successful." These Fastlane Commandments were particularly worth noting. I don't want to give them all away, but he does give one example of a Slowlane business. A Subway franchise would be a Slowlane mentality, because you can't grow scale or mangitude. Your scale is dictated by your location (for the most part). Your magnitude is dictated by Subway's pricing. A Subway franchise owner will make a predictable amount of income, but it is very, very hard to make it grow exponentially.
Where Robert Kiyosaki rightly gets criticized for giving vague advice, DeMarco is very specific. He goes into detail on how the Internet is an Interstate of Fastlane. There are a couple of others, but again, I'm going to make you read the book. There's a lot about branding and marketing. There's information on how to have a unique sales proposition (i.e. why should people choose your business over someone else's?)
The second half of the book really jumps around covering many topics. It's not as disorganized as I make it sound, but I would probably change the order of a few things. Also, the book does get repetitive in some places. It feels like it could be cut down a good 40-50 pages if the redundancy was removed.
The Millionaire Fastlane's Breaks down MLM as a Business
Scattered in the 300+ pages of the book there are a few about multi-level marketing, a topic that I tend to cover a lot since I realized how many people are losing money on it. I was pleasantly surprised to find it in there. I won't give you any details on what DeMarco says about MLM today. That's a longer article that I'm putting on the docket for Friday. Yep, I'm a tease.
While I really feel this is one of the better personal finance books I've read, the one criticism I have is that DeMarco is very much against the Slowlane. I'm all for debating conventional wisdom. However, we can't all start companies and make products that impact millions of people's lives. I'm not saying that we shouldn't strive for the Millionaire Fastlane, but that we should have a strong Slowlane plan in place. If the Fastlane plan doesn't work, you won't end up on the Sidewalk.
As long as you recognize that, I think buying this book is a sound purchase.
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