Title: Set Yourself FREE
– How to Optimise Your Money and Become Wealthy with Minimum Effort and Risk
by Yap Ming Hui
ISBN No.: 978-983-41724-5-9
Publisher: Whitman Independent Advisors Sdn Bhd
Format: Paperback
242 pages

I’ll have to admit: when I first read the main title of the book, my first thought was that this is just another get-rich-quick manual. After reading a few chapters, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this is not the message the author wants to deliver.

The principal aim of the book is to present the idea that everyone, from all walks of life, can become wealthy and set themselves financially free – but first, they would need to assess where they are financially, consider where they would like to be and most importantly, seek the services of an independent personal financial expert to help them optimise their money.

Needless to say, the author is well-qualified to advise on money matters: he is the founder and managing director of one of Malaysia’s premier independent financial advisory firms and has written five best-selling books on personal finances. He has also written for the nation’s leading newspapers and hosted numerous television and radio programmes on managing and optimising personal wealth.

To kickstart the journey to financial freedom, the author attempts to debunk the myths perpetuated by self-help money gurus such as Robert Kiyosaki. Although both share a common purpose of wanting to help others get out of the rat race, they differ in their preferred method of achieving wealth and financial freedom. According to the Kiyosaki model, one must take big risks to get out of the rat race and get rich, quickly.

Having seen many take uncalculated risks and head towards financial failure, Yap instead recommends a more conservative and holistic approach to money making and money maximising. He developed what he calls ‘the money matrix’, a diagrammatic representation of where a person is financially and where he can be. He makes two main points: firstly, where a person is currently in the matrix depends on his ability to make money and to make the most of his money, and secondly, his position in the matrix will change depending on his abilities to make money and maximise his money.

Using easy-to-understand diagrams and real-life scenarios, the author manages to guide the reader through the maze of financial jargon and explain in simple English concepts such as:

  • Why many people do not achieve financial freedom despite their best efforts
  • What are the major barriers to achieving financial freedom
  • How inflation affects consumption and wealth-maximisation
  • Why DIY finances do not work
  • What are the common mistakes people make in managing their own personal finances
  • What are the common misconceptions people have about money matters
  • What are the consequences of making the wrong financial decisions
  • Who are financial service providers and what products do they offer
  • What is a holistic financial plan and how does it help one to achieve his financial goals

Given the multitude of factors that can affect one’s personal financial health, Yap advocates using the services of an independent financial advisor (IFA) to help one put his finances in order. He lists eight main areas where an IFA can help – risk management and insurance, investment, asset protection, debt and loan management, tax planning, education planning, retirement planning and estate planning. The author emphasises that by appointing an IFA, one can focus all his efforts towards creating wealth. He also explains various investment planning strategies an IFA can apply such as asset allocation, ‘best of breed’ investments, rebalancing, long-term investments and dollar cost averaging.

Yap then specifies the requirements every IFA must have, namely, he must be appropriately licensed to provide financial services, provide holistic advice and have access to a broad variety of financial products. Crucially, an IFA must not have any sales quota to fulfil as this could affect the independence of his advice. He describes in detail what characteristics to look out for and how to choose a great IFA.

Once someone has found the right IFA, the author stresses the importance of communicating and working closely together with the IFA to achieve the targetted financial goals. He cautions that one must be committed to achieving financial freedom and have realistic expectations of an IFA.

All in all and in spite of my initial reaction, this is a good book for those trying to understand how to avoid the pitfalls of poor financial planning and how to achieve wealth and true financial freedom.

Reviewed by Eve Lim
October 2012

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