Most people, myself included, would not randomly pick up a book on wealth management. A lot of us don’t consider ourselves “wealthy” and therefore the book doesn’t apply to us. However, I couldn’t help but find Wealth, Actually interesting, even though I’m not the target audience. The wealthy are an easy group to antagonize, and while there are definitely some parts of the book that help explain why some people spend $5,000 on a dress they’ll only wear once(!), I also finished the book wishing more people had a better understanding of what “wealth” actually looks like.
While Wealth, Actually by Frazer Rice is intended for a rather niche audience, it’s still a worthwhile read for almost anyone who’s even remotely curious about personal finance. It would be especially helpful for people who have had an abrupt change in their personal finances due to inheritance, divorce, marriage, retirement or a similar life event, even if they don’t think such an event renders them “wealthy.”
In the introductory pages, Rice is upfront about who this book is intended for.
At this point, you might be thinking “is this book for me, or should I just get back to the golf course?” The fact is, if you are wealthy or about to be, this book will be useful to you. This book will help provide structure and context around the issues related to your wealth. Additionally, this book will give you an understanding of what questions to ask your advisors and how to be a better client so your advisors can serve you better.
As I am someone who is not wealthy or about to be wealthy and also has approximately zero financial advisors, it was easy to think that maybe this book wasn’t for me. And while I appreciate Rice’s candor and transparency, I would also urge the other 99 percent of readers not to give up on the book altogether after reading this bit. Covering topics such as different asset classes and how best to assess them, or how wealth creation and wealth preservation strategies differ, it still offers something to learn whether you consider yourself wealthy or not.
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of Wealth, Actually is Rice’s ability to take seemingly complex ideas and make them easy to digest. Most chapters start with a personal anecdote that helps humanize the problems of that abstract group known as “the wealthy.” He then breaks down questions posed to him by clients and friends using a well-balanced mix of cynicism, logic and optimism. In each chapter there’s a valuable lesson to be learned that feels simple and memorable thanks to Rice’s writing style.
Wealth, Actually talks about how not all wealth is created equal. Sometimes people can be wealthy on paper, but their wealth is tied up in illiquid assets like real estate. Wealth from owning a successful business is different from wealth earned via a large cash salary.
When discussing topics such as how much the wealthy are taxed, whether or not the wealthy are morally obligated to be philanthropists, and so on, I feel that I now have extra insight simply because I’ve read Wealth, Actually.
I also appreciate how Rice takes a holistic approach in his book. It’s not just about increasing the commas in your bank account, it’s about making sure your wealth can actually pay for the life you want. In addition to discussing stocks and bonds, Rice also discusses how to raise wealthy children who still have good values and a strong work ethic, and how to discuss estate planning within the family to prevent posthumous turmoil. Not only are such topics helpful, but they help to make the book as a whole more readable than pages upon pages about asset allocation and tax avoidance strategies.
While it’s not a dealbreaker, the only slight drawback is that Wealth, Actually is a little repetitive at times. For example, large chunks of the book explain the importance of knowing what you want and communicating that vision to the people in your life. It’s a theme Rice revisits over and over again. Everything he says makes perfect sense, but there are definitely points where I couldn’t help but think, Okay, I get it. You need to define your goals before you can make a strategy to achieve them.
Ultimately Wealth, Actually is a wealth manager’s thesis on why wealthy people should hire wealth managers. It’s only natural that the book is not intended to be a DIY guide, and if that’s what you’re looking for, this might be a pass for you. However, you will learn what you need to know in order to hire the best wealth manager to suit your needs and also learn how to communicate with financial professionals so they are better equipped to help you. Even if you are not in a position in which this knowledge is relevant to you personally, the insight into what wealth looks like, how best to preserve it and how wealth affects personal relationships can still be applicable to almost anyone.