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Book Review: Why Swim with the Sharks?

It's been a while since my last book review, to be completely honest, I've simply been too busy sit down and finish a book. The book that I've most recently completed is called "Why Swim with the Sharks? – An unconventional guide to early retirement". The book is Canadian based and describes how it is possible to retire EARLY with much LESS money that you think.

I've always been intrigued by the idea of retiring early, and when I say early, I mean before 55. Is it possible? Do you really need the millions of dollars that the financial press and calculators tell you? How does someone know when they're financially ready to take the plunge? This book answers all of those questions.

Main points made by the book:

  • The 70% of pre-retirement income needed to survive during retirement is, for most people, false.
  • Before you retire early, all debt (mortgage, loans etc..) should be paid off.
  • If your debt is paid off, you may be able to retire on 30%-50% of your pre-retirement income provided that you don't have an extravagant lifestyle.
  • Expenses after retirement are MUCH less than you think.
  • Live well and retire broke.
  • Enjoy your life while you are still young and healthy enough to enjoy it.

What I liked?

  • I enjoyed the practical examples on how someone could retire on a lot less.
  • The scenarios on how a retired couple making $25k / year are doing just as well as a working couple making $120k.
  • Explanation of the risks involved with CPP (Canada Pension Plan) and OAS (Old Age Security) in the future. In short, CPP should be safe for the foreseeable future, however OAS is more questionable where it is paid out by the existing tax base.
  • Worksheets in the book that help you figure out your personal situation and when you "should" be able to retire based on your savings.

What I didn't like?

  • The book didn't talk a lot about investments and assumed a very conservative of return of 3%-5% during retirement. I guess it's better to err on the conservative side when planning for retirement.
  • To account for inflation, they said that retirees should simply spend less. Is this practical if retirees are already on a tight budget?
  • During retirement, especially EARLY retirement, I predict that my wife and I will actually spend MORE than we currently spend because of all the extra time on our hands. The work sheets in the book don't account for this.

Who should read this?

  • Anyone who is considering early retirement and wants to figure out what is involved.

Final Thoughts:

  • I give it two thumbs UP! Great book that is written clearly and flows nicely which makes it an extremely easy book to read. They suggest some valid strategies for those who are interested in leaving the rat race early and living life like what you want it to be.
  • I've added this book to the MDJ Must Read Books.  I believe that the local library should carry this book, but if not, you can order it from Chapters/Indigo for around $16.50.
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FT About the author: FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Avatar Canadian Dream February 13, 2007, 7:58 am


    I liked WSWS overall as a book, but your right it has a few holes. What got me about this book was the suggestion to do it all in fixed income products (hence the low rate of return). I would not be comfortable with that.

    Actually I have yet to read a Canadian PF book that covers everything about early retirement planning. Mmm, perhaps I should write my own book when I retire around 45.


  • Avatar FrugalTrader February 13, 2007, 8:31 am

    Mr. Dream: What other early retirement books have you read? I noticed the Your Money or Your Life review on your blog, good review.

  • Avatar Canadian Dream February 13, 2007, 9:25 am


    My previously read pile is a bit huge. I’ve been reading PF books for over two years now so I would estimate I’ve finished reading over 50 books now.

    My problem is I can’t review them as fast as I read them. I’ve always got other stories to tell and research to finish.

    I’ll try to update my resource page again (hopefully this week) to include some of the better ones.


  • Avatar Canadian Money Blog Reviewers February 13, 2007, 9:59 pm

    I think medical expenses in old age tend to be underestimated too … If I can’t walk, I’d way prefer to pay for a 20K$ stairs lift than have to move to a new place for example …

  • Avatar Canadian Money Blog Reviewers February 13, 2007, 10:04 pm

    CD: I’d really like to retire by 45 too :-) What would you say are the main strategies to use to get there? How much money will you need by then? Is your strategy also to live on dividend paying stocks?

  • Avatar Canadian Dream February 14, 2007, 7:30 am
  • Avatar larry macdonald February 14, 2007, 7:50 pm

    One can get a head start on early retirement/ financial freedom with their first job. Instead of ratcheting up spending, keep it at the level one had before becoming employed — i.e. continue to live like a student for 2-3 years so can put aside 50%-80% of income. Keep taking the bus and riding the bike. Stay in the rooming house or with parents.

  • Avatar FrugalTrader February 14, 2007, 8:34 pm

    Hey Larry, thanks for stopping by. That truly is the key to big savings. Maintain the same lifestyle while obtaining those raises throughout the years. Make sure to put all excess income into some form of savings/investments.

  • Avatar lei January 31, 2008, 1:28 pm

    On the second thought you are right. You made me think about my dad because right now he’s considering early retitrement

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