The full title of this book is “The Latte Factor: Why You Don't Have to be Rich to Live Rich”, and you may have a raised eyebrow right now. Why would the Good Works team, and in particularly the Catholic author of this very review, promote a book that sounds so antithetic to Catholic teachings?, you might be thinking. The reasons are, mainly, two: the first one is that the book isn’t as antithetic to Catholic teachings as it sounds, and secondly because we don’t believe in being insular, so not every book in this series has been written by a Catholic writer. I will, however, deal with the first one only in this review.
The book is a fictional story with a moral, and requires some suspension of disbelief even though it reads more realistic than Cinderella: the protagonist leads a relatively wealthy life even in her pay-check to pay-check lifestyle. She is depicted as a millennial stereotype, and as I write this from my kitchen table/dining room table in a studio flat which costs in rent half of my income, in a southern borough of London, I can definitely see myself in her to an extent. I had long given up on buying breakfast on the go even before I began working from home, though.
Still, despite my existing frugality, the book had some insights that taught me something. Paradoxically, the very absence of any religious connotation has strengthened my faith too. Catholics are fond of reminding each other that all we need is found in the Lord, but it’s a truth that can be hard to hold on to for many when a big expense that can’t be avoided threaten to eat up all the savings, if there are any at all in the first place. I know I have been there, so I can’t judge someone for being stressed out about money. After reading this book, I have stopped worrying about when the Lord would bless me with an increase in income that would make my life easier, and have begun to look at the way I steward my money instead.
It’s all the rage in secular spaces to promote one or another version of the law of attraction, telling us to have a mindset of abundance and the universe will bless us with wealth, but none of this nonsense is found in this book. It revolves around the idea that we have already more money than we think, and it’s how we use it that makes a difference between us feeling tight and us living rich. Without spoiling the end, the conclusion of what really make us feel rich is not the money saved in high-return bonds or invested, but the things that truly matter in our life (even those which are inexpensive, like the company of loved ones). The book challenges our assumption of what a wealthy person looks like, especially with regards to flaunting it, which I believe sits really well with the idea of detachment from worldly goods that is integral to our faith. Money becomes a mean to achieve certain ends, such as charity towards others or the freedom to be with our family more, or starting a business that creates opportunities in the local community that pay well and recognise the dignity of the human beings they employ. The sky is the limit.
It is, perhaps, a really basic book full of really basic nuggets of wisdom (some of which can’t really apply if you are in genuine financial distress that isn’t caused by poor use of your money), but as many will be returning to a final university year full of job fairs and headhunters from City firms offering high starting salaries, I believe it is a relevant reminder never to let the number in our bank account be our sole criteria when discerning what’s next.