Book Review: Rich As A King

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Humor me on this post. I’ll make it relevant to financial independence in a few paragraphs.

[Sidebar:  If you read this post all the way to the bottom, then you’ll see a fundraising link for cool swag to crowdsource the Hawaii Chess Academy.  That link (not affiliated with The-Military-Guide.com) will also give you a chance to hang out with the world’s leading professional chess players– in Hawaii– from 14-22 March.  If you’re a chess player, or if you’re seeking a unique gift for a chess player, then please follow the link at the end of the post to help our local chess competitors.  And thanks!  

Now back to the book review.]

Like many future Navy nuclear engineers, I was a teen chess geek. My father taught me to play in elementary school, and in a few years, I’d memorized most of the classic opening tactics. Of course, we had a high-school chess club. My friends and I even used to take over a cafeteria table at lunch and play several boards of speed chess, where your clock (yes, we bought chess clocks too) had a five-minute time limit. Our group played in local tournaments and we earned our national ratings.

That all ended after I started college, when free time suddenly became a very precious privilege. My two submarines weren’t very good for chess, either. Today I’ve forgotten the moves of the classic openings, and I’d be slaughtered by most middle-school students. However, I still enjoy reading about the tournaments, the personalities, and the computer algorithms.

Which brings me to personal finance.

We financial writers are always seeking new ways to write about the concept of “Spend less than you earn.” We’ve all shared thousands of personal stories and tortured just about every analogy. We look for extreme early retirement, and even for extreme getting-out-of-debt. We keep doing it because somewhere among hundreds of personal-finance books, you’ll find one that resonates with you.

Image of Rich As A King cover with link to Amazon | The-Military-Guide.com

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For the chess players, there’s “Rich As A King“.

[If you’ve never played chess then you can stop reading this post and move on to another book review from the “Related articles” links at the bottom of this post. You can also browse the books on the Recommended Reading page.  But if you’re seeking a gift for a chess player, then check out the fundraising link.]

If you’ve played the game then you’ll appreciate the many similarities between chess and finances. The skills you’ve learned in either area will translate to the other.

This is not your typical personal finance book. It’s co-authored by Susan Polgar (of the famous Polgar sisters). She’s the first woman to earn a grandmaster title through tournament play, and she broke the gender barriers in a male-dominated sport. She went on to win numerous championships and set over a dozen records. Today she teaches, coaches, and writes. She’s developed an entire business around selling books, videos, and programs. She’s even a commentator at tournaments.

The other co-author is Douglas Goldstein, a CFP and a chess player. He also enjoys chess, but his day job is running his own financial-planning firm with clients in the U.S. and around the world.

Together they deliver financial wisdom through chess analogies and personal examples.

The book is unusually detailed, with extraordinary organization and specific recommendations. This is more than just finances with a chess theme– the authors start with four chapters of strategy before digging into specific tactics. Each chapter begins with chess quotes and stories (from both authors) and then shows the financial aspects of each situation. The book is written for chess players who are ready to take control of their finances. Just as every chess player had to learn the game before they were ready for their first tournament, this book shows you how to take control of your personal finances with the same skills that you’ve learned for controlling a chess board.

With their chess analogy, the book’s first chapter is titled “Avoid These Mistakes“. It’s the perfect place to learn what not to do before you move on to the basics. They suggest ignoring the financial media, of course, but they even get into behavioral finance, gender psychology, and avoiding “free” offers.

From there they use chess analogies for planning your financial goals, protecting your assets, maximizing their performance, and seizing the initiative. You’ll figure out how to assess your risk tolerance, choose an asset allocation, and project your retirement finances. You’ll learn what financial advisors can do for you, and what they can’t. Ms. Polgar and Mr. Goldstein even compare chess-playing computers to financial-planning software.

The book’s tactics section describes using a budget, handling credit, developing a temperament for handling money, and discussing finances with your spouse. The final chapter has 64 chess board squares: short pieces of advice on everything from avoiding traps to using your time to your advantage. This part is nicely market up with bullets, diagrams, and even cartoons to keep it from dragging.

If you’re still wondering whether the book is right for you, take a look at the Rich As A King blog and its podcasts. The authors are not just using a cute theme to sell a book– they’re serious about the similarities between chess and personal finance. If you know how to handle one of them, they’ll teach you how to apply your talents and newly developed skills to the other.

The authors have unusually deep financial credibility for this type of book. Susan Polgar is one of the few professional sports celebrities who has managed to not only reach the top of her game, but to build a business around it– and to develop her personal wealth. Today she’s still doing what she loves, and she has the financial independence to do it for the rest of her life. Her advice is vetted by a CFP who’s not only familiar with finance, but who’s had a Wall Street career and now manages the assets of customers all over the globe.

If you’ve read my other book reviews, you know that I favor libraries and eBooks. Some of you have saved dozens of dollars by taking that frugal approach. This time you’ll probably have to dip into those savings to get this book, or wait for discounts and giveaways through their website. You’ll only find this one in hardcover or paperback because the board diagrams and cartoons don’t publish well in an eBook format. I’m donating my copy to our neighborhood chess club, and you might be able to find a copy at your local club.

Related articles:
All of the blog’s other book reviews (by title and date)
The Recommended Reading page

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WHAT I DO: I help you reach financial independence. For free. I retired in 2002 after 20 years in the Navy's submarine force. I wrote "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" to share the stories of over 50 other financially independent servicemembers, veterans, and families. All of my writing revenue is donated to military-friendly charities.

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