You're Broke Because You Want to Be:
How to Stop Getting By and Start Getting Ahead

Author:   Larry Winget
Publisher/Date:   Gotham Books (Penguin) / 2008
ISBN:   978-1-592-40334-9 (Hardback, 200 pages)
Related Websites: &

I think I just read the most brash personal-finance book ever written.

Which is perfectly fine. I mean, I'm a realist. When it comes to money, I truly believe that most people are just lazy and undisciplined. (Throw in a sense of entitlement, and you've got most all the bases covered.) People will worry about tomorrow only when tomorrow knocks down their front door.

Apparently Larry Winget sees it pretty much the same way. Except that my delivery of all this stuff is pretty tame. His delivery, on the other hand, hits the scales at something like

... and some folks, admittedly, need that swift kick in the rump to get them moving down the correct side of the freeway.

Who is This Guy?

I hadn't heard of Larry Winget until I saw him on a weekend CNBC money show a few months ago. From there I did a bit of research, and discovered that the so-called "Pitbull of Personal Development®" and I shared a few common traits: We both hate debt; we both hate laziness; and we're both from Oklahoma. Quaint, huh? (I do not, thankfully, dress like him. That much I can assure you.)

Winget has his own show on A&E, which is called Big Spender. As of this writing, you can find a great many video clips there. They'll give you a pretty good feel for how his show goes down.

That show seems to be the basis and inspiration for You're Broke Because You Want to Be, which I may hereafter refer to as YBBYWTB. He confronts all manner of financial idiots on the show, of course, and does his best to knock them into shape.

For anyone who ever wanted to be financially disembowelled on Big Spender, but somehow couldn't pull it off, well ... there's this book.

Personal Development for Your Wallet

While I consider myself mostly a scoffer of personal-development gurus — a clan of which Larry Winget is certainly a member — I'll admit that there have been times when something they said or wrote hit the mark with me. I don't immediately discount the stuff these guys lay out there. But you won't find me toting their books with me to lunch, either.

At least, not until I got my copy of You're Broke Because You Want to Be.

Was it tough to put down? Yeah, kind of. But more than that ...

Dangit, This Book Is Funny

Ben Stein's How To Ruin Your Financial Life (review) tries to be funny, but usually isn't. You're Broke Because You Want to Be tries to be dead serious, and as anti-logic would dictate, Winget leaves me rolling on the floor. (Well, as much as a book can, anyway.)

Let's kick things off with a few Winget-isms from the book:

...I helped another couple who told me that neither of their parents was ever good with money, therefore they weren't. Okay, that excuse flies. But only to about the end of the block and then it crashes and burns with the rest of the excuses. I understand that we are all products of our environments to some extent. That works until you are about thirteen years old; then you should be able to look around and figure some things out for yourself. When you are thirty-five years old and still blaming your parents, you need a reality check. Grow the hell up.

Wow. Get this guy out of my head. Reality check, indeed. And get a load of this zinger:

And as for that big "Secret" that has become the most popular book and DVD on the planet, I have an issue. The Secret's basic philosophy is: What you think about and talk about comes about. That's fine, but it's only part of the story and will leave you short on results. A secret that gives you only half the instruction manual is worthless. You want the real secret? Here it is: What you think about, talk about, and get off your ass and do something about comes about.

Gee, I wonder how he really feels about these issues. Don't you?

What's New Here?

Nothing, really. But Winget's delivery saves it. The writing sounds just like Winget talks. He's brutally honest and outspoken, and he doesn't back down from anyone. I knew that going in, so it was easy to sit up, keep reading, and pay attention. Because if you're like me, you really want to see who he's gonna piss off on the next page.

For instance, here's Larry writing on the topic of giving:

I personally believe in giving away 10 percent of your money, but not for the religious reasons some people use. So I don't use the word tithe. (In fact, I don't want you to ever think about or use the word tithe again. The word just has too much religion associated with it.) When I hear the word tithe I think of a pompadour-haired preacher on television, wearing a turqoise suit and telling me that God needs my money and that if I will send it to the preacher, he will make sure God gets it. Personally, I don't think God needs or even wants your money. I don't think God gives a hoot about your silly 10 percent. You shouldn't give because you think God wants you to or because other people need it, though other people certainly do need it. You should give because you have faith you will have more money coming in. You need to attest to the fact that you can learn to live on the remaining 90 percent. You need to trust yourself to the point that you know more money is on the way even though you are giving some of what you have to people who need it even more than you do.

Now there's a guy who's being honest. I may agree with him, or I may not, but odds are that I'll buy his book. At least he's on-the-level with me as a reader.

I can respect that.

These Boots Were Made For ...
    ... Getting Ahead

Winget's a personal-development guy, so you know he has to have (1) a closet full of clothes my kid could have finger-painted, and (2) a twelve-step plan of some kind. Here, for your perusal, is the latter:

Larry's Twelve Ways to Go from Getting By to Getting Ahead
  1. Know where you are.
  2. Take responsibility for the situation.
  3. Feel bad about it. Experience remorse.
  4. Make the decision for things to be different.
  5. Know exactly what you want your life to look like.
  6. Create an action plan to get there.
  7. Know what you are willing to give up to get what you want.
  8. Spend less than you earn.
  9. Figure out ways to earn more.
  10. Stop all unnecessary spending.
  11. Pay off debts as quickly as possible and only go into debt for things with long-term value.
  12. Build a cushion. Save!

Valid steps all, I'd say. We could possibly combine Steps 8 and 10, but then it'd only be an eleven-step plan, and everyone knows those are doomed to utter failure.

If you suspected that YBBYWTB was pretty much an elaboration on those twelve points, you win the cookie.

Flurry of Four-Letter Words

If you're the sort of person who's offended by four-letter words, you might be turned off by chunks of Winget's spiel.

Then again, if you've seen his A&E show, you already know that Larry doesn't hold back. A previous book of his was titled Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life, for crying out loud! That tells you how he's going to come at you, right? The same holds true with his writing here, as evidenced above.

Personally, I'm good with it. Heck — I find it refreshing. But not everyone will feel this way.


I enjoyed the heck out of You're Broke Because You Want to Be. Over the years, I've become awfully tired of hearing the "blame the credit industry" crowd (see Elizabeth Warren, Robert Manning, et al.) and their continuous assertions that the suits at Citibank and Chase and all the rest are responsible for our nation's debt woes. You'll find ZERO of that with Larry Winget.

In his world, you dug the hole. You'd darn well better drag your poor butt out.

At the risk of sounding like a mean bastard, I will say that I was ecstatic to read Larry's stance on things. Now if folks will just listen to him, we'll be in good shape. Well, maybe not good. But better.

Of course, I'm not holding my breath.

Michael • January, 2008

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