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David Chilton: The Wealthy Barber Returns [w/video]

October 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Special Features, Success Story


Wealthy BarberWhen David Chilton self-published The Wealthy Barber during the economic slump of 1989, he had an unassuming goal of selling 10,000 copies and helping Canadians live fiscally solvent lives. The 25-year-old did slightly better. Chilton’s humorous approach resonated with more than two million North Americans by breaking the banal textbook paradigm of personal finance paperbacks. His common sense hit an entire dartboard of demographics, with a novel style that made readers feel like they were having a latte with a financially savvy friend who spoke colloquially about credit cards, real estate and RRSPs.

You can imagine the surreal experience of enjoying that cup of coffee with Chilton a day after the official launch of his long-awaited follow-up, The Wealthy Barber Returns. The conversation coincidentally takes place amongst a backdrop of books at The Fairmont Royal York’s Library Bar; books by authors that likely didn’t smash Canadian publishing records like he has. “I still look back now 22 years later and shake my head at the whole thing,” he says, crediting much of his success to mass word-of-mouth. Chilton had no plans of putting his economic pointers on paper a second time. It was a growing frustration with Canadian’s low savings rates and high-borrowing trends that caused him to concede. “I know it sounds a little corny, but I think the final piece that motivated me is that I don’t think there’s much of a link between consumer spending and happiness … plus I had a lot of new things I wanted to say,” says Chilton, who earned the highest mark in the country on the Canadian Securities Course in ’85.

In addition to exploring the psychological realms of money, The Wealthy Barber Returns forges ahead with its popular maxim of saving at least 10 – 15 per cent of your earnings. It also places a new prominence on the culture of spending, the harsh realities of chasing the stock market and the role of banks in today’s volatile economy. “It’s tough to save, because it’s tough not to spend. So when I wrote this book I really gave a lot of thought to how to position it in a way that actually changes behaviour … I thought if I could introduce enough stories and humour and everything else, I might be able to get people to look at it,” he says. This timely 224-page financial guide is delivered directly from Chilton, rather than his fictional proxy, Roy the Barber.

Readers can dine comfortably knowing that Chilton is a chef who eats at his own restaurant. The man warning society not to spend beyond its means lives in a modest 1,300 sq. ft. house, doesn’t have a garage, cottage or boat, and derives no apparent happiness from haute couture. “I don’t like all that stuff, I find it a burden to even be worrying about it,” he says, sipping a Coke. “I have a sweet life.”

Since he’s returned, Chilton has been doing back-to-back interviews and book signings. The Wealthy Barber Returns is currently No. 1 on several best-selling lists, and based on his vocalized passion, this conversation could have continued for hours if it weren’t for a reporter visibly waiting his turn in the wings.

Before Chilton departs, a card-carrier of his cult-like following emerges. “You’re the Wealthy Barber, right?” the woman asks, perfectly timed. “I read your book many years ago, you taught me to pay myself first,” she says. As he offers her a copy of his latest release, there’s a sense that Canadians are safe for at least a little while longer. “I would love to have people 10 years from now say, ‘Hey, I read the book and I’m
saving more.’”


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