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Book review – Soul in the Game by Vitaliy Katsenelson

A few months ago I received an email from a renowned US investor - Vitaliy Katsenelson with an offer to read his new book and if I liked it, provide a book review. This was a no-brainer for me as I am an avid reader and the book sounded right up my alley – finance and life advice.


Vitaliy was born and raised in Murmansk, Russia. I have always been a little curious about Russian culture - their seemingly aloof and unemotional reputation. Having some insight into his upbringing and Russian culture was very interesting.

Vitaliy at 18, moved to the USA with some of his family and completed his education there. He identified a love for finance and this kicked off his career – not by luck but by having the courage to target every investment firm in Colorado until someone employed him. I loved Vitaliy’s confidence, enthusiasm and determination which is a repeated theme in the book.

Writing is something that Vitaliy discovered early in his career and a hobby he has continued throughout his life – he has written 2 investment books and countless blogs. His blogs are personal and include stories of his family and life. Soul in the Game is part autobiography, part life lessons. I enjoyed this aspect and can relate – I believe that financial advisers often coach our clients in finance and life matters.

A few key areas of the book really resonated, and I thought I would share them with you:

I don’t Eat Desert

The principle behind this is making small but conscious decisions on certain areas of our lives – in this example Vitaliy shares that he doesn’t eat desert – rather than only eating desert 2% of the time – even though it’s a miniscule number, it makes eating or not eating desert a decision you have to make. I don’t eat desert is a mindset and it’s a firm decision! (On a personal note: I am a huge sweet tooth so this probably wont work for me but I think I can apply this method to other areas)

Money doesn’t buy happiness

Vitaliy shares a story of a client who passed away and left his family $100million dollars – when he went to talk with the family they said that they felt they didn’t really know their father – he worked morning, noon and night, yet his friends told of a larger than life gregarious man. Vitaliy wondered what if this man had worked less, spent more time with his family and only left them $10m – what words would they then have said about him? This prompted me to think about how you want to be remembered by those you care about the most and remember to consciously align your actions with those values. Money doesn’t buy love or happiness.

Personal Finance

This book does not focus on finance but there is one lesson Vitaliy shares that I love and it should be discussed more – budgeting for future expenses. When creating your budget, factor in your income, expenses and future goal expenses! Create a sinking fund for your future expenses. As an example, lets say in 5 years from now you will want to buy a new car for $20,000. You can probably sell your current car for $5,000 which means you will need $15,000 in 5 years time which means you need to save $3,000 a year or $250 a month. This $250 a month should go into a separate account that you do not touch. You can create a sinking account for each future goal or lump it all into one. You do not touch this money until it is time to action the goal.

I love future saving (by the way it's exactly what super is!) because it means you don’t have to rely on credit or borrowing!!

The second part of the book discusses Vitaliy’s process for living a life of meaning. He calls this movement Stoicism. Sounds Russian, right? A Stoic means someone who can endure hardship without showing their feelings. This is the opposite of Vitaliy and the life he lives – however the principles are more aligned to what I would call “mindfulness”. I think you all know that I am a fan of mindfulness!

Having Soul in the Game for Vitaliy included one of my own personal core beliefs "Leave the world a better plan than you found it”.

Worth a read!

While all care has been taken in the preparation of this material, no warranty is given in respect of the information provided and accordingly neither Tanya Carlson, GPS Wealth Ltd nor its related entities, employees or agents shall be liable on any ground whatsoever with respect to decisions or actions taken as a result of you acting upon such information.


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