I just read the book The Latte Factor by David Bach. I was reluctant to read it because I feared it would deduce 40 years of wage stagnation and rising cost of living down to our personal choices as being the primary issue in personal wealth building. Well, the book kind of does, but is that ok? I’m trying to get better at taking what serves me and leaving the rest. Personal accountability isn’t the main factor when it comes to wealth building, but it is a piece of the puzzle and a comforting place to rest in between working to make policy changes.
Personal accountability is a way to make the most of our situation; but our situations are the result of greater societal forces. In this perspective, both personal accountability and systemic change is needed to make significant progress in wealth building.
Women and people of color often know real wealth isn’t just a matter of saying no to that latte every morning, it’s unmistakably linked to several generations of systemic privilege. Although those 10k follower accounts with a hybrid focus of revolution and budgeting aren’t the ones getting the major book deals; it’s the accounts that solely focus on personal accountability and neglect to mention the effects of broader systemic things like school funding, extensive policing, etc. True personal accountability is simple and can feel liberating; maybe not a bad thing to focus on to grow as a person, but ultimately, personal accountability is not the whole accurate story.
In general, my observation is that the big names in personal finance only focus on personal accountability. David Bach’s endless book deals help illustrate this.
Still, I enjoyed the book. What I like about The Latte Factor is Bach writes it as a story, like the way the lessons in The Richest Man in Babylon are presented. I find this format really engaging and I gobble it up much faster. Bach makes the case that for a lot of people, we’re richer than we think, which I agree with.
I try to make this point when I’m encouraging you all to invest. Why not skip a latte a week and throw $20 a month into your investment account? It doesn’t need to be a latte, but maybe a small purchase you make that could be replaced with a less expensive alternative and still bring you the same amount of joy. Maybe you could replace one of your skincare or makeup products with something cheaper and then invest the difference. This behavior doesn’t negate the incredibly important conversation of the gender and race pay and wealth gaps; it’s a call to arms. It’s a plea from me to you to find ways for you to get your weight up because even though personal accountability isn’t the whole story, it is some of the story.
Ultimately, I recommend the book even with its expected shortcomings. It’s not going to truly rescue us, but the lessons are valuable and have a place as we work to create a more equitable future. Take what serves you and leave the rest.
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