1-Sentence-Summary: Just Keep Buying will help you answer the big questions about saving and investing money with clever stories and interesting data, all while acknowledging that your needs and desires will change throughout life and that, therefore, your financial behavior will have to do the same.
Read in: 4 minutes
Favorite quote from the author:
In The End of Average, Todd Rose describes one of the US Air Force’s biggest blunders: In 1950, they called in over 4,000 pilots to take some 140 measurements of each of them. The goal? Design the perfect jet cockpit. They then went to work using the averages of all the measurements they had taken, which resulted in a cockpit that was…unusable.
Since no pilot fit the average on all data points, literally not a single pilot managed to get into the new cockpit. That day, the US Air Force learned that “the average person” doesn’t exist — and neither does “the average financial advice.” If our bodies are this diverse, what about our relationships with money?
According to Nick Maggiulli, the variety is endless, and that’s why one-size-fits-all finance tips don’t work. In Just Keep Buying, Maggiulli takes a different approach. Using observations from nature and scientific data, he shows us that we must adjust our financial behavior over time.
Here are three lessons from the book that’ll help you answer your money questions in new ways again and again:
- Instead of saving a fixed percentage of your income, save more when you earn more and less when you make less.
- The best way to save more is to earn more, not cut expenses to the point of being miserable.
- The real question money forces us to answer is what’s important to us in life.
Ready to overhaul some outdated financial knowledge? Let’s see what’s behind the idea to “just keep buying!”
Lesson 1: Abandon a fixed saving rate in favor of “saving what you can, when you can.”
The Dolly Varden trout, an Alaskan fish species, puzzled biologists for decades. Despite only having a brief window of plentiful food each year — when salmon laid eggs in their waters — the fish continued to thrive year round. How did they do it?
Eventually, scientists discovered that the fish shrink and grow their digestive organs depending on food availability. When the salmon show up, they speed up their metabolism so they can take in more calories. Then, when the other fish leave, they slow down digestion. This way, they get by with much less food throughout the remainder of the year!
The lesson here, according to Maggiulli, is that you should save what you can, when you can. Relying on a fixed, prescribed savings rate is nonsense.
For starters, poorer people have much less room to save. If your entire income goes to rent and food, “just take away 10% won’t help.” But even richer folks find their income varying drastically over time. Personally, my income in 2020 was twice as high as in 2021. I couldn’t possibly have saved the same amount in both years.
Instead of obsessing over some fixed savings rate and then feeling bad when you don’t hit it, try adjusting. When things are going well, put away a little more for gloomier times. And when times are tough, know that it’s okay to spend more on taking care of yourself and your family right now.
Lesson 2: Grow your income instead of cutting costs until you’re miserable.
As a crypto investor, I’ve made a classic mistake: I got carried away in the bull market. When my assets went up, I focused more on managing my assets. I moved money around from position A into position B with no effect. I worked less and spent more time looking at market news. Of course, when the music stopped, my portfolio went down just the same as everyone else’s.
What I should have done, according to trader and investor Carter Thomas, is leave the market alone — just like in a bear market. Had I focused more on work, my portfolio would have behaved almost identically, but I might have doubled my income.
Chances are, your biggest lever to save more is to earn more, not spend less. If you earn $3,000 per month and spend $2,000 per month, even if you cut your spending in half, your savings only double. But what if you learn how to make $10,000 per month? You could quadruple your savings and still spend the same money!
Most people cut costs until they’re miserable, but that’s not a sustainable path to retirement. What good is it if you only got there by being stressed out for 30 years? Instead, grow your income, Maggiulli suggests, and of course one way to do so is to “just keep buying” — continuing to buy broad stock market ETFs that will lead to a portfolio income over time.
Your saving potential is limited, but your capacity to make more money is nearly infinite. Focus on growing your income!
Lesson 3: Money’s real challenge to us is figuring out our priorities in life.
One reason we’re all so stressed out about money is that financial advice everywhere makes us feel guilty about spending it. “Be a diligent saver.” “Remember your retirement!” While these tips are well-intended, their constant presence has led to a culture in which we’re always anxious about money.
Maggiulli quotes a Gallup poll showing that, if we’re too stressed about saving money, that stress actually outweighs the benefits we gain from the savings. Where is the line between saving responsibly and diminishing your quality of life? That’s the question you must answer.
In essence, the true challenge money poses to us is not how much to save and how much to spend. It’s figuring out what’s most important to us so that we can direct the right amounts of money to the right causes at the right time. That’s a big, daunting issue, and that’s why money is such a complex topic.
According to Maggiulli, Daniel Pink’s book Drive is a good place to start. The book suggests that autonomy, mastery, and purpose are drivers of long-term satisfaction. As such, every dollar we spend towards those ends, even our daily latte, can contribute to our wellbeing.
Don’t fret about your dollars. Trust yourself, do the best you can, and when all else fails, “just keep buying.”
Just Keep Buying Review
Just Keep Buying is a no-nonsense, straightforward finance book. It uses data and clever analogies to bring much needed clarity to an industry muddled with cookie-cutter advice. Maggiulli’s writing is engaging and easy to understand, and so is this book. Test-read his blog Of Dollars And Data, and if you enjoy it, get yourself a copy of this gem!
Who would I recommend the Just Keep Buying summary to?
The 20-year-old student who is just starting their financial journey in what feels like a terrible time to invest, the 54-year-old whose recession woes seem to torpedo his plans for peaceful retirement, and anyone who’s tired of regurgitated financial advice.