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Review: A Million Bucks by 30

A Million Bucks by 30 book cover A Million Bucks by 30 by Alan Corey

First Impressions Might Be Deceiving

I put off reading this book for a long time, because Alan Corey came across as a douchebag. Maybe it was the super-douchey picture of him on the cover (seriously, Alan, what’s up with that picture? I just watched a bunch of videos of you on YouTube, and it doesn’t even look like you!). Or maybe at some point before reading the book, I picked up on the idea that “real estate” was involved, which always screams “DOUCHE!” to me. Whatever it was, it took me a long time to stop rolling my eyes long enough to actually read the book.

And in some ways, Alan is kinda a douche! Don’t worry, I’ll have lots of good things to say about him down below, but it should be noted that my first impression wasn’t entirely wrong: He’s been on five reality TV shows and one game show. He pulls some cheapskate moves that make me squirm, like refilling a “free refill” popcorn container indefinitely. And yes, “real estate” is involved in his story, and in New York City, no less! (I’m from upstate New York, so I have an instant rivalry with anyone downstate. It’s just how it is.)

Alan Corey’s Redemption

Alan Corey starts out by doing something I didn’t: he saves up a lot of money as a teenager, and goes to college without taking on any debt. In the quest for one million dollars, being at net worth $10,000 doesn’t sound too different from being at net worth -$38,500 (like me). In both cases, you’ve got a long way to get to a million smackers. But Alan’s got a big one-up on me here: having some savings and being debt-free allows him a great deal of flexibility. He can move where he wants and take whatever job he wants.

The job he takes doesn’t end up being the “dream job” that’ll make him rich in less than ten years. He doesn’t say it outright in the book, but if my math is correct, he graduated from college during the recession after the tech bubble burst. In his job search (and attempt to get out of his mom’s basement) he sends out 750 résumés, and gets only two responses. When the second call leads to a job offer in New York City, he takes it, even though it’s a tech support job that doesn’t pay much for Manhattan.

He lives like a broke college student: Because he’s making less than $50,000 in New York City, Alan has to live pretty frugally to survive. He gets an apartment in the projects (although he didn’t know at the time that’s where it was) and saves a ton of money by continuing to live a very college-like lifestyle. I can’t even begin to explain how super-frugal he is. Maybe Alan himself can shed some light on that for you, in this clip from “The Big Idea:”

The whole book is littered with tips on how to live super-frugally. It may not seem like much to save $10 by never buying yourself an umbrella, but Alan’s crazy frugality actually pays off for him. He saves up enough to get a down payment on buying his own apartment in a nicer place. He continues to live frugally, gets a roommate, and watches his savings grow.

He doesn’t resort to any “get rich quick” tactics: Although in the beginning of the book, he watches a lot of late night infomercials, he doesn’t fall for their schemes. He never orders one of their “Amazing Packets!!!” Instead, he decides that he will learn as much as possible and reads every personal finance book he can get his hands on.

When buying his first apartment, Alan takes his time and learns as much as he can about real estate. He doesn’t just dive into it after reading one vague book about flipping houses. He attends tons and tons of open houses, giving him a solid idea of what real estate should cost, and what other buyers are asking at open houses! He learns what neighborhoods are truly up-and-coming and will see an increase in property values.

It’s easy to criticize Alan: after all, he made his fortune from real estate during one of the biggest booms in history. And we’re all sore after that boom went bust: the subprime mortgage crisis and ensuing economic meltdown makes us cast an angry stink-eye at anyone who profited during that time. But I truly believe, from reading his book, that Alan wasn’t just some jerk flipping houses. He added true value to the properties he bought, including a full gut-renovation of a property that should have been condemned. He took a place that was unlivable an transformed it.

Overall, I like the book and I think it’s a good mix of “inspirational story” and solid “how-to” tips. No, it won’t teach you everything Alan Corey knows about investing and real estate. You’ll have to read as many personal finance and real estate books, and attend as many open houses as he did before you’ll be privy to that level of knowledge. But it’s a great story about how working hard and living frugally pays off.

So Alan, sorry I called you a douchebag. Your book is really quite good, and it’s refreshing to see someone who lived by their own rules make it as far as you have. And, I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if you show up on any more reality shows!

Recommendations by Age Group

High school and College: Alan’s example of how to save up and get through college for free is really great, and the rest of the book may just inspire you to make your own “million bucks by 30.” There’s some strong language in it, though, so just don’t let your parents read it. Recommended.

20-something: Alan serves up frugality tips mixed with a great story. You’re likely in a same or similar boat to Alan, so you’re going to get the most out of this book of anyone. Highly Recommended.

20-something or older with young children: Alan’s stories may inspire you, but with a family it could be much harder to implement some of his strategies (unless Junior really like ramen). For some people, reading this book may be discouraging and make you feel like you “missed the boat.” But if you can take joy in another’s successes, and are good at pulling out just the information that applies to you and using it, this book is Recommended.

Buy A Million Bucks by 30 from Amazon.com today!

Looking for a book that’s actually got more douchebag? Come back next week – I’ll have a book review that’s just for you!

13 responses to “Review: A Million Bucks by 30”

  1. Alan Corey

    That douche-bag assessment is spot on. But wait till you see the cover of my next book “A Million Douche-bags Under 30!”

    Keep up the good work. :)

    Not as douchey these days,
    Alan

  2. J. Money

    Interesting – I read the same one and didn’t get that D-bag impression at all (a word i actually really hate). Guess that’s why blogging is awesome – we get to say whatever we think and people read it or ignore it :)

    Love seeing a little spice every now and then, so good work to the both of you!

  3. Don

    Douchebag has to be one of the lamest expressions in the human language. It’s so adolescent. You are a college student right?

  4. Lee

    First time commenter I think, so go easy on me. ;)

    Just wanted to say “Thank you” for this review. It’s the first personal finance book review I’ve read that has actually resulted in an addition to my Amazon Wish List. Being somewhere around the “Highly Recommended” age, I’m hoping someone will take pity on me around Christmas time I buy me it!!

    Greetings from the UK.

    Lee

  5. Roger

    Sounds like an interesting read. Personally, I tend to be more than a little wary of any promise that sounds too good to be true (A million dollars by 30? In what universe?), but I might have to make an exception for this one. Good, thoughtful analysis.

  6. Hanna

    I went over on Barnes & Noble to read the book. It was very entertaining but it almost read as a biography than a how-to book. There are some tips here and there though.
    I liked how at the end of each chapter-he showed his Net Worth slowly going up and up…

  7. Chris

    I don’t like the DB word much, either. But, I did like the review. It was also cool that Alan came and left a comment.

  8. Hiro

    Thanks for introducing this to be Stephanie. I’m going to post the video on my site too. It’s pretty inspirational for the Y-Gen