Where do all these rules come from?

I’m a maverick, yet I like rules … how do you figure that?

Well, the rules that I like are actually ‘rules of thumb’. You see, when I was $30k in debt, I was in the financial wasteland with no idea how do dig my way out …

… so, I did the only thing that I am really good at: I read books. A lot. All non-fiction. Mostly about how to make money.

I can read a 100-pager non-fiction book in the matter of an hour or so and absorb most of the salient points … I may then go back and work at snails pace through detailed explanations, if necessary.

And, I like to read books for instructions: do this, do that. Which I’m then pretty good at modifying for my own use.

So it was for my financial troubles; I started reading:

First Rich Dad, Poor Dad – the first book (and best, in terms of how it opened my eyes) on personal finance that I ever read.

Then The Richest Man In Babylon – which explained the power of compounding and reinvesting.

Then every other Robert Kiyosaki book that came out over the next four or five years.

And, I attended every financial spruiker seminar that came to town (Robert Kiyosaki, Peter Spann, Brad Sugars, and so on … )

… all the time looking for the ‘rules of the money game’.

What I found was that there was no ‘one size fits all’ set of financial rules that everybody should follow … but, there were various recommendations as to what you should do in this circumstance or that.

Over the years, by trial and error (largely a lot of trial – and tribulation – and plenty of error) I found various ‘rules of thumb’ that seemed to make sense to me, and some that I had been following without even realizing it, just like the rules that Jeff questions:

Where are all these rules coming from? Did I miss a bunch of information in the brochure?

If I understand correctly, we have the 20% rule for home equity vs. net worth, 25% rule for mortgage vs. income, and now the 5% rule for cars.

I had been following these rules, largely by coincidence, for most of my successful working life (i.e. during my 7 year journey), when I chanced upon a book that I had never heard of, written by a guy I had never heard of, who lived in a (now) bushfire ravaged area not far from my home in Melbourne, of all places!

Naturally, I had to read the book …

He worked from the premise – one that I happened to agree with – that at least 75% of your Net Worth should be in investments – OUTSIDE of your home, your car, your possessions, and basically anything else that is unlikely to yield you an income or be readily salable at a profit (where will you live if you sell your house?).

That leaves 25% of your Net Worth to spend on: houses, cars, possessions, as follows:

20% House

2.5% Cars

2.5% Possessions

Simple; except that I’m happy to blur the lines a little between cars and other possessions into one 5% ‘pool’.

Of course, this only helped to understand how much equity to hold in these items, and not how much you should finance on a house (that’s where the 25% Income Rule comes in) and cars/possessions [AJC: Easy … buy used and pay cash!].

I have explained how these rules work in practice in these three posts (please follow any backlinks):

Your House



Your Cars and Other Possessions


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0 thoughts on “Where do all these rules come from?

  1. That’s funny, I started reading the exact same books in pretty much the exact same order when I began getting through all of my financial mess.

  2. I’ve read the Kyosaki manifestos too. I guess I need to break out the my e-copy of Babylon and give it a read too.

    Adrian, thanks for the clarification of the “rules.” I didn’t mean to question them as much as I was trying to figure out what and where they were coming from.

    I also like to take “do this and do that” instructions and modify them for my use. I’m just trying to steal a few from you. Thanks.

  3. @ Jeff – you MUST question the rules. It’s the only way to see what really will work for you … but, blindly following them isn’t a bad place to start, either 🙂

  4. Hi Adrian,

    I just wanted to thank you for the clarity and intellect of the articles on your blog here.

    For me, the two Eureka moments came from: (1) Thinking about my net worth, rather than just the cash in my bank account; and (2) this 75/20/5 rule.

    I myself am between MM 101 and 201 (debts paid off, money available but looking at what to invest in, house not yet purchased) and I couldn’t have stumbled across your site at a more opportune time!


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