I’ve been meaning to write about Scott Pape – also known as The Barefoot Investor – for a long time.
I have a lot to say. So consider this Part I, with Parts II and beyond being published at some point in the future.
I’m going to use the old Toastmaster evaluation scheme of “commend recommend commend”. More colloquially, these comments will resemble a “shit sandwich”.
I like Scott Pape’s values
The Barefoot Investor is all about batting for the consumer. It’s refreshing.
He calls a spade a spade, and he’s not afraid to say the things that most people in the financial services industry are afraid to say.
On this, I’m with him 100%.
He also seems to value the right things in life. Yes, on the face of it he talks about money. But he talks about money as a means to an end: of treading your own path through life.
Pape also appears to put the important people in his life first. I like that.
I don’t like the way Pape writes
I want to start by saying I’m probably not in Pape’s target market.
The way he writes, and the things he says, really grate with me.
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Here are some specific things that get my goat:
- The subtitle of The Barefoot Investor is “The only money guide you’ll ever need”. I take massive exception to that. It shouldn’t be the only book you read! (And Pape clearly doesn’t believe this either, as he wouldn’t have written a follow-up: The Barefoot Investor for Families. If his original book was the only guide you’ll need, surely it would apply to families as well?)
- Pape talks about the “belly of this book” coming from the moment when he lost his home in a fire. It’s a great story. But he wrote earlier versions of this book, and was very well known, well before he wrote this book. It means I don’t fully trust him.
- He uses an us-versus-them/us-against-the-world mentality: after explaining that the people who “make it” financially have an “alpaca attitude” he explains that “most people aren’t alpacas – they’re groundhogs”. This is just an example. But this mentality seems to seep through the book.
- He creates strawmen: for instance, he says “Some finance books are wishy-washy on what you should do.” “Others are written by weirdos who have colour-coded spreadsheets for their undies drawer and whose idea of a holiday is the Bendigo caravan park (communal toilet option).” Maybe he has different reading habits to me, but that’s not the case with the finance books I’ve read.
- He says “if you want financial freedom, you need to take charge”. That’s probably the case with a lot of people. But not everyone. To be honest, I’ve seen a lot of instances where people have it the other way around – they have financial freedom, but they haven’t taken charge of their lives.
- I take exception to quite a few things he says. For example:
Here’s Scott: “It’s not about what you earn, but what you save.”
Here’s me: “It’s mainly what you save, but what you earn makes a pretty big difference.”
Or he says: “my publisher would have liked me to be a bit more ‘self-helpy’.”
I say: “Are you kidding me? This book is self-helpy all the way down.”
Perhaps I’m being too literal. But I love reading, and I read a lot of books. If his book wasn’t so popular, there’s no way I’d have finished it.
The book is short and easy to read (if you don’t share my temperament). But it still seems to have a lot of filler.
Maybe using stories and repeating stuff is important from the perspective of getting people to buy in and actually take action on the message you’re passing on. At the end of the day, behavioural change is the ultimate measure. I’m probably at the other end of the spectrum and need to use more stories and repeat stuff more often.
He seems to be changing people’s lives for the better
Pape claims to hear from people all the time saying that he’s changed their lives. I believe him.
As I write this, I get the feeling that I sound like a curmudgeon. I promise, in real life I don’t come across that way!
Most of my criticisms relate to the fact that his writing doesn’t resonate with me. In the same way, my writing doesn’t resonate with a lot of people – but seems to resonate with a specific type of person.
And despite all of this, I’ve recommended The Barefoot Investor to quite a few friends and clients. Because if he resonates with you, he’s got a good message and the right values.
We all need to tread our own path, and he’s doing a good job of treading his.