“If You Can: How Millennials Can Get Rich Slowly” by William J. Bernstein

ifThis is an extremely short book by William J. Bernstein, available for $0.99 in the Kindle Store. Bernstein is a respected financial author and neurologist who is best known for his books The Four Pillars of Investing and The Intelligent Asset Allocator, both of which I plan to write about in the future. He suggests an extremely simply portfolio that is very manageable, as well as ways to adjust your approach to money in order to ensure success in savings and investment.

Affiliate link: Amazon



  • Starting at age 25, you should put 15% of your salary into a 401K, IRA (traditional or Roth), or taxable investment account if you want to retire by age 65
    • This account should be evenly distributed between 3 index funds or ETFs
      • a United States total stock market fund (like Vanguard VTI or Schwab SCHB)
      • an international total stock market fund (like iShares IOO or Vanguard VT)
      • a United States total bond market fund (like Vanguard BND or Schwab AGG)
    • Because these three funds will grow at different rates, the account should be adjusted/rebalanced on a yearly basis
      • If you are using a taxable account, don’t sell to rebalance, as this will incur unnecessary taxes. Just add money to the portions of your portfolio that are low.

There are 5 hurdles one must overcome in order to build up enough funds to retire effectively:

Hurdle 1: “Even if you can invest like Warren Buffett, if you can’t save, you’ll die poor.” Stop spending so much money: purge excesses like daily lattes, expensive cable packages, high-end brand name clothing…

Reading Assignment: The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko

Hurdle 2: “Finance isn’t rocket science, but you’d better understand it clearly.” Financial knowledge: gain a working knowledge of how finances work, types of accounts and services, etc.

Reading Assignment: Common Sense on Mutual Funds by Jack Bogle (founder of Vanguard)

Hurdle 3: “Those who ignore financial history are condemned to repeat it.” Basic finance and market history: learn about market turbulence and how it’s never a good idea to sell when the markets plummet. If you’re invested in index funds or ETFs, they will go back up.

Reading Assignment: Devil Take The Hindmost by Edward Chancellor, and The Great Depression: A Diary by Benjamin Roth

Hurdle 4: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Prepare yourself mentally for market turbulence: you will lose money sometimes, but pulling out of the market when that happens will make your losses permanent.

Reading Assignment: Your Money and Your Brain by Jason Zweig

Hurdle 5: “The financial services industry wants to make you poor and stupid.” Beware “chameleons” in the financial industry. They say they want to help but they are still salesmen looking at the bottom line.

Reading Assignment: same as Hurdle 2

This was a very easy read, and outlines a simple, easy to follow plan that I think can help many people. At the end of the book he suggests two other books: Allan Roth’s How A Second Grader Beat Wall Street and Rick Ferri’s All About Asset Allocation. Keep an eye out for distillations of some of his suggested books in the future.
“If You Can: How Millennials Can Get Rich Slowly” on Amazon


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