First of all, Bach has a way of oversimplifying things. Throughout the book, he uses examples of how you will end up with an astronomical amount of money, if you stop buying coffee drinks, and invest the money at a 10% annual return. Of course, he doesn't really tell you where you can get the 10% annual return. He dances around the issue in his book, and mentions a bunch of brokerages and mutual funds, but I don't see any one of them guaranteeing a 10% annual return.
Like many popular financial writers today, Bach's book reads like an advertisement. Indeed The Automatic Millionaire contains 5 full pages of advertisements for his website, his other books, and his 10 CD set for the complete Automatic Millionaire Audio System. And, did you realize that Bach trademarked the term "The Latte Factor (TM)"? Boy, I hope I don't owe Bach royalties for writing this post.
Aside from this, nothing irks me more than Bach's three paragraphs covering the term "leverage". In this one section, Bach describes buying a $250,000 home with $50,000 down. He states that if the home's value goes up to $300,000, then the investor has doubled his money. Fair enough. But, he goes on to finish the section with the following paragraph.
Over the last five years, many homes have doubled in price. Think of
what this means in terms of leverage. If you invested $50,000 in a
$250,000 home five years ago and it's now worth $500,000, you've made $250,000 on a $50,000 investment. In investment circles, that's called a five-bagger -- an amazing 500 percent return on your money.
Talk about glittering generalities! In any responsible coverage of the topic of leverage, the author would explain that leverage is a double-edged sword. While one can make outsized profits in an up market, one's loss could also be multiplied in a down market. In the stock market, the parallel example is buying stocks on margin. In this case, you are using leverage in the hopes of making multiplied gains when the stock market goes up. On the other hand, if the stock goes down, you could lose your entire investment and more.
Bach doesn't even mention the potential downside of leverage anywhere in his 240 page book; he only discusses the upside. I think that David Bach's omission here is at best irresponsible, and at worst criminal. While the term criminal may be a harsh assessment of The Automatic Millionaire, it is nonetheless accurate. You may have noticed that mutual fund prospectuses have a statement that goes something like this:
Past performance is not an indication of future performance.
Do you know why mutual funds are required by government regulators to print this in their prospectuses? That's because it's true! You can't make the assumption that if an investment is increasing in value at a certain rate, that it will continue to do that in the future. Similarly, you can't just assume that if the stock market has returned an average of 10% for several years, that it will only continue to do that in the future. Clearly, Bach is strongly implying that buying a home in this already overheated market is a great investment. And at that, he is peddling his advice to those who are least likely to know any better.
Anyway, so much for David Bach. As I have said, his material is pretty good for people who are just starting to pull themselves out of debt. I will say that his books do contain about 90% good advice. It is the other 10% that I have issues with.
Clearly, though, there are better personal finance books available. I would recommend a couple time-tested classics. My first recommendation is The Richest Man in Babylon, by George Clason. The second book is The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton. These books have a far better track record that Bach, and I think that they will better withstand the test of time.