Why I Wrote A New Personal Finance Book: Buy This, Not That

After two of brainstorming, writing, rewriting, and editing during the pandemic, my book, Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom is now available!

The book became an instant Wall Street Journal bestseller and can be purchased on Amazon, B&N, and in bookstores everywhere. Buy This, Not That also became a #1 bestseller on Amazon in Retirement Planning. Hooray!

I’ve spent a combined 30+ years working in finance, studying finance, and writing about finance. As a result, I firmly believe Buy This, Not That (BTNT) is one of the best personal finance books out there. It is the book I've always wanted to write to help readers everywhere live better lives on their terms.

A Personal Finance Book Based On Firsthand Experience

During the course of my writing process, I also read over a dozen nonfiction books to understand what makes good books great. I then worked in my ideas with my editors at Portfolio Penguin Random House to make the book shine.

Money is too important to be left up to pontification. Therefore, everything I've written in the book is based on firsthand experience from a finance veteran. This way, I can share with you the good and the bad to help you make better decisions.

The secret to stop saying, “If I knew then what I know now,” is to simply learn from someone who has been through what you will go through.

I've also set up financial frameworks to help guide you on your path to financial freedom. Think of BTNT as your financial coach who gives you the confidence and the motivation to overcome life's biggest dilemmas in a smart and practical manner.

Order a hardcover copy of Buy This, Not That by clicking one of the retailers below. My book is your unfair competitive advantage for getting ahead in this brutally competitive world!

Buy This Not That_Amazon
Buy This Not That_Barnes-Noble
Buy This Not That_Indiebound

Financial Independence Is Only Part Of The Journey

Once you get your money right, you can start better focusing on things that really matter to you. After all, money is only a means to an end. And for those of you who treat money as the end all be all, I hope my book will help change your philosophy.

Once you achieve a certain level of financial independence, where your passive investment income covers your living expenses, the world opens up.

The ultimate goal is to move money into the background so you can stop obsessing over it and start focusing on doing things that matter.

I show you how in the first half of my book. With actionable advice under a logical framework, I help you move forward with confidence.

Solving Dilemmas We May One Day Encounter

In the second half of my book, I tackle many of life's dilemmas and how to approach them using my 70/30 decision-making framework.

If you believe there is a 70% probability or greater you will make the correct decision, go for it! At the same time, have the awareness of knowing you may get things wrong 30% of the time. Unless the outcome is death or financial ruin, you will be able to learn from your mistakes, recover, and make better choices over time.

My book encourages you to think in probabilities, not absolutes. If you think in absolutes, you will likely miss out on a lot of great opportunities because you'll feel you need 100% certainty before moving forward. However, if you start thinking in probabilities, plenty of new possibilities opens up.

Here are some dilemmas the book explores:

  • Pay for private school or public school
  • Join a startup or work for an established company
  • Start a lifestyle business or go for the grand slam
  • Job hop or stay a loyal soldier
  • Live in an expensive coastal city or move to a low-cost area 
  • Invest in real estate or stocks
  • When to rent or buy
  • When to invest in tax-advantaged versus taxable accounts
  • Angel invest or don’t
  • Buy a fixer or a fully remodeled home
  • Marry or cohabitate
  • Marry for love or marry for money
  • Have children early or late
  • Return to work or be a stay-at-home-parent
  • Combine your finances or keep separate accounts
  • Get a divorce or stay married
  • Seek fame to boost your wealth or stay low key
  • Support your adult children or let them learn to swim

And so many more topics.

Again, money is just one part of the equation. It's how we use our money to make better choices that matters most. If any of these topics interest you, Buy This, Not That will help you minimize regret and maximize satisfaction.

Why I Wrote Buy This, Not That

I wasn't planning on writing a traditionally published book. As a tired father of two young children who also publishes three times a week on Financial Samurai, I already had my hands full. However, when Noah, an editor at Portfolio Penguin approached me on December 2, 2019, about the idea, I was intrigued.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, I thought why not! If I was going to be stuck at home anyway for who knew how long, I might as well make the most of a suboptimal situation. This is the Financial Samurai mindset!

Back in 2008, something similar happened. The global financial crisis was starting to deepen and I was losing a boatload of money. However, it was in the summer of 2008 that I finally decided to propose to my girlfriend of nine years. I knew that even if I lost all my money, I didn't want to lose her.

Now, every time I think back to the global financial crisis, I immediately think about our small beach wedding, not the economic calamity during that time period. By writing Buy This, Not That during a pandemic, I'll look back and feel good knowing I did something productive to help others.

Here are some more reasons why I wrote my latest book.

1) It Had To Be Written

Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom Bestseller

One of the reasons why I started Financial Samurai in 2009 is because I noticed there weren't any personal finance bloggers with finance backgrounds. Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to fill this obvious hole. I thought about money differently and wanted to bring my expertise and perspectives to the world.

When I was approached by Portfolio Penguin Random House with the book idea, I noticed there also weren't many nonfiction finance books that were written by people with finance backgrounds. Further, both my wife and I are practitioners of early retirement, not pontificators with steady paychecks. Therefore, I figured I might as well fill the hole again and share my perspectives!

After being able to escape corporate America at 34 and live the life I want for the past 10 years, I just had to write a book that could help other people potentially do something similar. Once you see how something is done, it's much easier to believe a similar path is possible for you.

2) The Importance Of Financial Education

There's a whole world of consumers out there who love to read books and not blogs. Therefore, it was only logical to write Buy This, Not That to try and reach them.

Creating maximum impact in an affordable way is important. I could create $2,000+ e-courses like some peers do. However, I felt packing in all the information in a book that costs $27 or less was a more accessible solution.

After 13 years of writing on Financial Samurai, I've also gathered a wealth of different perspectives from over 90 million visitors. These perspectives have helped me make better decisions and be a more empathetic person along the way. Buy This, Not That includes many blindspots I've had to potentially help others see things more clearly.

The world is in need of more financial education. A personal finance course should be mandatory in high school or college, but it is curiously not. I live in this bubble where I studied economics in college, got my MBA, worked in investment banking for 13 years, and have written over 2,500 personal finance articles since 2009.

The things that seem obvious to me or others with finance backgrounds don't seem as obvious to those without financial backgrounds. Therefore, my goal is to bring more financial education to those who seek to grow their wealth in a risk-appropriate way. It's our duty to share what we know.

3) Narrow The Growing Inequality Gap

Since the global financial crisis in 2008-2009, the rich have gotten extraordinarily rich compared to the middle class. Meanwhile, those in the top 0.1%, have blown past the top 1% as well. I want to bring their secrets and ways of investing and thinking to the public in order to help more people build wealth.

While writing Buy This, Not That I also had an epiphany as to why so many personal finance authors write mainly only about saving money, budgeting, and index funds. I kept wondering why not also write about more interesting and potentially lucrative topics? After all, you can only save so much. But income and investment returns are unlimited!

After over a year of writing and re-writing my book, I finally understood why. Without a finance background, writing about anything else beyond budgeting and saving is much more difficult. No wonder why so many personal finance books just scratch the surface of so many important topics.

Hence, I've introduced helpful financial concepts, gone deep with multiple subject matters, while also making them easy to understand. There are two levels of rich. The highest level didn't get there through just saving and investing in index funds.

My hope is with the knowledge you will gain from reading Buy This, Not That, you will build way more wealth in your lifetime than you thought possible. And if this happens, your standard of living will go up and the growing inequality gap will ultimately narrow.

Why I Wrote A New Personal Finance Book: Buy This, Not That - net worth levels by class

4) New Perspectives With More Representation

As an Asian person who lived in Asia for 13 years, I used to be part of the majority. Then when I came to Virginia for high school and college, I became part of a minority that made up only six percent of the U.S. population. The juxtaposition was eye-opening.

At times, it was hard to fit in. I got into fistfights and was suspended once. I often felt like I had to battle to be given an equal opportunity to participate. Although some of the experiences were harsh, they also gave me tremendous motivation to try harder.

By high school, I clearly realized the world isn’t fair and never will be. Therefore, instead of complaining, I accepted the way things were and focused on what I could control. I bring this fighter's mindset to the book. It will give you the motivation to push on through no matter who you are or how difficult your struggles.

BTNT is your unfair competitive advantage to getting ahead!

We know people are biased towards people who look, think, and talk like them. It's why podcast interviewees, award-winners, bestsellers, and families who attend elite schools tend to be quite homogenous.

Therefore, I thought it would be nice to change things up a little and provide new perspectives. Maybe there will be more love and understanding for Asian folks in America if they read a good book by an Asian person who helps them. Perhaps kids who seldom see anybody who look like them will be inspired to write their own book or do something out of the ordinary.

Including People Who Live In High Cost Areas

In addition, a large percentage of every country's population lives in more expensive urban cities. High cost of living areas presents some unique challenges which I address in the book.

With how bifurcated America is, I'm hoping to create an understanding bridge between those who live on the expensive coasts and those who live inland. Ultimately, we all have the same goals of supporting our country and doing more of what we want.

I'm convinced most conflict in this world is due to a lack of understanding of other people and their personal situations. Let's spend more time getting to know each other and less time judging people for their choices.

5) Steady Navigation Through Bad Times And Good Times

As someone who has worked in finance since 1999, I've gone through the euphoria and despair of the first Dotcom bubble. Then I went through the investment mania of 2007 and the devastation a few years later with a significant amount of capital.

After each collapse, I've learned how to strengthen my finances so that no matter what happens, I'll most likely be OK. I want to share what I've learned to help more people survive downturns without too much harm. Reading Buy This, Not That will help armor your finances and provide security for your household. The book will also give you the courage to do more of what you want.

For so long, it's only been good times. And you may have read only the perspectives of people who've only experienced good times since 2009. This can be very dangerous. Bad times will eventually come, which is when you'll need financial guidance the most.

It is hard to understand your true risk tolerance if you don't go through a prolonged bear market yourself. Although the March 2020 crash was violent, it was also quick to rebound. Now things are once again very uncertain, which is where BTNT readers will outperform.

Buy This, Not That will help you navigate through stormy waters so that no matter how wretched the economy, you will not drown but thrive. Having peace of mind during difficult times is priceless.

Below is a snap shot of BTNT making the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. It felt good to be the only new entrant and the only person with black hair to do so. Breaking the status quo is awesome!

Buy This Not That Wall Street Journal Bestseller
BTNT is a WSJ Bestseller

Thank You For Reading Buy This, Not That!

I'm thrilled for y'all to read Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom. I actually violated my publisher's recommendation of keeping the word count to 80,000 words. Instead, I wrote about 111,000 words. I wanted toadd as much value as possible given nonfiction books are all about the same price.

It is a big book full of vital information to help you enjoy a better life. There are so many important subjects that I believe you'll actually be left wanting for a book two!

Buy This, Not That is meant to be read and discussed with friends and loved ones. You'll have a great time debating my reasonings and making your own cases. I truly believe discussion and listening to the perspectives of others is the best way to learn and grow.

Order a hardcover copy of Buy This, Not That by clicking one of the retailers below.

Buy This Not That_Amazon
Buy This Not That_Barnes-Noble
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Buy This Not That_Hudson-booksellers
Buy This Not That_Indiebound

Virtual Speaking For Buy This Not That

If you're interested in doing an author chat, shoot me an e-mail at sales AT financialsamurai DOT com. BTNT is meant to be read with others and discussed. And who better to lead the conversation than the author of the book!

So far I’ve video talks with folks at Google, Yelp, William & Mary, Facebook, and several other organizations. They've all been a lot of fun and insightful.

Finally, if you're thinking about becoming a professional writer, here are my thoughts about how to make it work. It's not easy. But you will feel proud once you're done. Write because you love to write, not because you want to make money!

Thanks for picking up a hardcopy of Buy This, Not That. If you enjoy it, please leave a nice review on Amazon or wherever you purchased it. It's the best gift an author could receive. So far, the Buy This Not That book reviews have been great. Thank you all!

Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom Bestseller

To Your Financial Freedom,


About The Author

100 thoughts on “Why I Wrote A New Personal Finance Book: Buy This, Not That”

  1. Orinda investor

    Hi Sam, I just placed an order for your book. It’s a gift for my high school age nephew. I’m sure he will receive more value from you than he will in his 4 years of high school education.
    Thank you for your contributions to financial / life education.

  2. So excited for your book! My brother would benefit from this. I’m thinking of ordering an extra copy for him!

  3. I read your how to ” engineer your layoff” ebook years ago and scored a severance when I retired 6 years ago. My wife also read your book and negotiated a severance on her retirement last year. I bought your new hardcover book and look forward to reading it. Currently on an extended Europe trip spending my wife’s severance. My wife and I raise a toast to your health and happiness!!!

    1. That is so huge! It’s always thrilling to hear from people who have successfully negotiated severance to be free.

      To be able to walk away with money in your pocket feels like winning the lottery. I still can’t believe it myself. But the more you believe in something, the greater the chance things come true.

      I hope you guys can order more than one hardcopy and gift it to your friends and family. It could change their lives for the better! And that will be all because of you!



  4. I am a passive follower of your blog and really love the way you present things. Plan to buy your book.

    Good luck.

  5. Sam, I read your articles on a nearly daily basis and appreciate all of your sound advice. I am also an avid reader of personal finance books and look forward to reading your book.

    1. Thanks Mick. I think you will really enjoy the book. It is the book that fills every hole I discovered when reading other personal finance books over the years. It also goes way beyond the basic and boringness of budgeting and saving. It talks about real life! The things we end up doing for our money.

  6. Congratulations Sam! You are such a talented writer and full of knowledge. Thanks for sharing your wisdom for the world to learn from. I look forward to reading it.

  7. Congrats Sam! Don’t know how you do all the content you do, raise a family, coach tennis AND write a book. Well done.

    Look forward to reading it and getting a copy.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! It’s much easier when you don’t have a day job. :) But truthfully, I’m so tired every day. Being a stay at home dad to a 2.5 and 5 year old is a FT job, as many SAH parents can attest. But I trust things will get a little easier after the youngest turns five.

      The good thing about hard work is that it’s over! One gets to enjoy its benefits. I can’t wait to finally re-retire by the end of this year and take a break!

      Thanks for your support with the book.

  8. Congrats on the book! I ordered a while back but now I’m thinking about ordering a copy for my brother. I’ve been an avid reader of every article since 2017. Thanks to all your insights, I’ve been working hard on my personal finance ever since. I’ve shared your blog and newsletters with countless family members, friends and coworkers. Hope more people would be able to benefit and learn from you and Sydney!

    1. Just to play devil’s advocate, isn’t $24 quite expensive for a book? Congrats in advance completing this adventure Sam.

      1. It is for people who are really struggling. But for the most part, I think it is affordable, especially with how much value the book provides. I strongly believe the book will provide at least 100 times more value than its cost once you’re done.

        For those who cannot afford the book, I hope my free articles since 2009 can help. My focus on spreading financial knowledge to as many people as possible is why I don’t have a firewall or paid newsletter.

        I do really like free, and I hope more people can do things for free as well. Kindle, audio, and paperback will likely be cheaper too.

        Libraries should eventually carry my book as well.

        If you are struggling, let me know. Maybe I can help you with your specific issue.


  9. I appreciate how you said:

    “A personal finance course should be mandatory in high school or college, but it is curiously not.”

    I teach at a local college, and I think it is a bit hypocritical that we push the value of college, encouraging students to take out loans, while not requiring a personal finance course. Don’t get me wrong – it is very often a fantastic financial choice to borrow for college. But students often take out loans for 2-3 semesters, don’t take their education seriously, drop out, and are then saddled with debt and no degree. I think there ought to be a personal finance course required at *both* the high school and first-year college levels. After I read your book – assuming I enjoy it as much as your blog, I’ll see if I can get our personal finance professor to at least add it to the recommended reading list.

    1. Yes indeed. And with some colleges charging an arm and a leg, it’s highway robbery for some students who can’t even land decent jobs.

      I think you and your college students will really appreciate the subjects in the book. I write about real issues many of us will face in our lives. Thanks!

  10. Pre-ordered a copy a while ago. Really for my 26 yr old daughter. The questions that every young person will need to analyze. Thank you for putting this book together.

    1. Thank you Bill! 10 copies is amazing. I appreciate your support so much. I would like to mail you a signed copy that is also stamped with a limited edition mark as a collector’s item. Who knows, in 25 year, it might be worth a ton! :) Just fill out your info here if interested.

      I’m actually going to write a post about investing in collectibles right now. I got another epiphany after starting the marketing process. Maybe I’m nuts, but I think this post will make a lot of sense!

  11. It does seem like the wild-wild west with 25-year-old TikTokers given financial advice and lots of others with no experience or financial background showing off their wealth. Things are going to end badly for many of their viewers and readers. But so long as they are selling an expensive e-course on “how to beat the market” or some other thing like that, these guys will walk away just fine.

    It’s like the blind leading the blind out there. I’m looking forward to your book of reason!

    1. TikTok is an amazing and addicting platform. Taking away a lot of time from FB, Snapchat, etc for sure.

      The upside is that the TikTokers in finance are showing the world they can make money online as well. The opportunities to earn are endless. Just gotta put yourself out there, whether you really know what you’re talking about or not!

  12. Frugalistheway

    Exciting! Do you anticipate this book to be available at a library through Libby or similar?

  13. Awesome! Preordered a copy. I work in finance and really like the way you approach personal finance. It’s not the same old budgeting and saving.

    I’m excited to read about the various dilemmas you discuss in the book and more thoughts on real estate investing.

  14. Congratulations Sam! I will definitely grab this book.

    I’ve been a follower of your web site for almost 4 years now and have read most, if not all, of your articles. Being Asian, millennial, parent with 2 kids, and living on the West Coast are some of the similarities that I share with you. Note – I still consider you a millennial even though I know you’re a bit on the upper end. :)

    Thank you for all your hard work and writing this book. I’ve an avid blog reader in the personal finance space so I’m sure this book will hit it out of the ballpark!

    1. Hi David! Sounds like we have a lot in common haha. Nah, I’m Gen X! The forgotten generation and last generation that grew up without the internet. It’s been nice to have such perspective. I didn’t start using the internet (Yahoo) until 1997 at the W&M college library!

      Thanks for pre-ordering a hardcopy of BTNT. Maybe I’ll see you at one of the book signing events in the SF Bay Area.


  15. Very exciting Sam, congrats! It is crazy how the vast majority of personal finance books are not written by actual personal finance experts. It’s like why would I want to get real estate advice from someone who has never owned a property before. Makes no sense.

    Anyway, I love that you’re spreading financial education and increasing Asian representation. It’s so disappointing there aren’t mandatory personal finance classes in high school and college. The only thing I remember learning about money in school was in 2nd grade we were taught how to fill out checks. I plan to teach my kids a lot about personal finance before they graduate from high school.

  16. Congratulations on the book!!!!! Reader of every article for years – happy to be able to buy some copies so I’m not such a free loader. :)

    BTW – think in probabilities, not absolutes – this thinking model is so great – every person should be trained in that by the time they are 18 and your 70%/30% take on it is solid!

    1. Thank you for ordering multiple copies Steve! I probably won’t get a single penny for at least a year or more as the book advance needs to get covered first. Will write a post on the process.

      But I didn’t write the book for the money. There are way more lucrative things to do with my time. I just want to fill the big hole I see in the nonfiction finance book space to help more people build more wealth.

      Let’s do this!

  17. Ms. Conviviality

    I pre-ordered several copies a little while back so it’s getting exciting with the release date approaching soon! While I’ve read every post so far, I can’t say I can recall what your viewpoints were on some of the topics listed so it’ll be fun to read about it in the book.

      1. Ms. Conviviality

        Aww, that is so kind of you to do that! Helping you keep the typos under check was the least I could do for consuming all your great content. I’ve certainly increased my wealth because of your blog. I was hesitant to point out the typos in the beginning since it could seem nitpicky but I just wanted to help you to look your best online. It was gracious of you to take my comments without offense.

        1. Not at all! The more typos and funky grammatical errors you and other readers can point out, the better!

          It’s just me, my wife, and my dad writing and reviewing. So we need all the help we can get.

          When you’ve been writing publicly as long as I have, you develop a really thick skin too. Whoo hoo!

  18. Hi Sam, congrats on the book! I ordered a couple copies just now for my children.

    Why do you think not more people with finance backgrounds write about personal finance currently? Same thing goes for not as many finance books? Yet a lot of them seem to be doing well.

    Here’s hoping things don’t get too bad in the markets and the economy. Might expose a lot of people swimming naked when the tide goes out!

    1. Thanks Adlin!

      Based on what I have observed since 2009, there are several reasons:

      1) Some writers get in serious debt and write about their journey to get out of debt. Debt is a huge problem in America, so a lot of people can resonate.

      2) It’s easy to conflate your expertise in your career with your expertise in finance because you amassed a certain amount of wealth. But I would rather go to a ear doctor to ask about my ear rather than ask about what I should do with my money.

      3) Writing, podcasting, and videoing about money can be very lucrative. With good branding, you can solidify yourself as an expert, no matter your background, and make a lot of money consequently.

      I kind of wish I had more motivation to make more money by creating $2,000 e-courses, taking up paid speaking and consulting gigs, etc. But for some reason, I don’t have that drive. Maybe it’s because I’m happy with what I have.

  19. Congrats on the book! With potentially a recession ahead, your book could really help a lot of people feel calmer and save them a lot of money.

    I’ve read so many articles by 30-something and 20-something year olds who simply have NO CLUE how bad the 2008-2009 global financial crisis was.

    I hope your book provides a more measured perspective, instead of all the mania you see with meme stocks, crypto, and all that jazz. The number of get rich quick scams, pumps and dumps, $2,000 e-courses and the likes, people are going to lose a lot of money.

    1. Thank you Kate.

      Yes, in a free world, we do live in the land of get rich quick schemes and so forth.

      There are a ton of land mines out there I hope to save people from with my book.

      But one of the best teachers in finance is financial loss. You don’t really know your risk tolerance until you lose a lot of money. So that is the positive! We learn from our mistakes.

  20. Congratulations Sam! I’ll definitely buy a copy. I’m never active on here as I have 3 kids 5 and under, but I read every article you write, and I have since early 2015. I tell my friends about you, and I love your optimism, diligence, and hustle.

    1. Thank you Jake! I totally empathize with how much work is required raising kids under five. We have two and every day is a marathon.

      But we are blessed with what we have!

      Thank you for sharing my work with your friends. As a writer, all we want to do is be read.

  21. Congrats man! Super excited to read it. Just ordered. Sounds like a great way to have made the pandemic an extra productive period of time. Nice to have made something positive out of it that you can always look back on and remember.

  22. Congrats on the book and all I wish you all the success with it!

    For me too it was hard growing up many years go in the US as a minority where there was less diversity than there is now. Acceptance is a part of growth in society.

  23. Pre-ordered!

    That is interesting most personal finance writers don’t have finance backgrounds, and therefore, can only write about budgeting, saving, and index funds. Hadn’t thought of that.

    Thanks for writing the book! My family looks forward to reading it.

    1. Thank you!

      Yes, it’s hard enough to write about topics with a Finance background. The number of re-writes I had were so many. There is no way in hell I could write confidently about topics other than index funds, Budgeting, and saving if I didn’t get my MBA and work on finance for 13 years.

      So hopefully, my book will introduce more people to new concepts they have never considered.

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