The Cash Machine – A Book Review

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The first thing that struck me about The Cash Machine was its cover. Of course it appealed to me—a machine under construction, tools strewn about the floor, and money flying in every direction? Sounds like just the book for ol’ Financial Mechanic over here. The subtitle sealed the deal: A Tale of Passion, Persistence, and Financial Independence. I was sold!
The authors sent me a copy of their book for free. They didn’t ask me to write this review, otherwise I doubt I would have wanted to write it at all. As it is, I finished The Cash Machine in one weekend and have some thoughts to share.

A Little Background

First of all, I like the idea of teaching financial independence in a fictional format. We are first introduced to the protagonist, Amber, a fiesty Italian woman who hasn’t given much thought about her finances before her ex-boyfriend Dylan comes along.
He disappeared during their relationship a few years ago after embarking on a trip to Mexico. The experience changed his life. An expat fisherman taught him about financial independence and he bought into it, hook, line, and sinker. Dylan dropped out of school, started investing in real estate, and now is trying to show Amber after all this time that he’s not a lazy bum– he has a plan. She agrees to entertain the idea and let Dylan back into her life, so together they go to work on her “cash machine,” the vehicle for passive income that will make her financially independent.

First Impressions

I will be honest, my first impression wasn’t great. I liked the idea behind the story, but the characters weren’t likable to start with. In the first few pages, Amber is drunk and belligerent, and then she continues to be shallow and scornful throughout the first few chapters. Not only that, but Dylan is the ultra-typical FIRE dude— self-confident with a holier-than-thou swagger.

Another thing that rankled me was the cluelessness of the woman and (surprise!) the man swooping in to solve all of her money problems. In one of my least favorite sections of the book, Dylan shows up to the door and Amber is really excited about some changes she has made to her spending:

I almost put the book down right there. She is obnoxious and he is an arrogant ass.
The novel does improve if you can get through the initially unlikeable characters, a bit of contrived dialogue, and one horrifying introduction to the spunky wholesaler who helps the protagonists find investment properties: “the makeup on her pale skin would embarrass most whores.” (Yikes on so many levels I don’t have the time to get into right now.)
After a few chapters, you do get caught up in the story which begins to unfold into an entertaining plot. Amber proves herself over time, demonstrating that with the right tools she can also be money-savvy and hold her own when it comes to crunching numbers.

The Turn-Around

Amber goes through a delightful process of discovery as she explores the ideas of FIRE. She goes from giving up her leased car to buy a dented Honda to house-hacking her way to live rent-free. The book manages to cover hundreds of financial topics in fictional form as Amber learns what to look for in an investment property and how to buy a small business.
This book would be great for young adults, particularly high schoolers, as it delves into important financial topics like credit card debt and how to think about the return on investment of college. Personally, I got a lot out of the real estate sections as a wannabe-future-house-hacker.
I appreciated the human aspects of the story: the convincing Italian family, the pivotal moment that made the idea of financial independence stick, and the way different people react to the perceptions of others when it comes to our money.  A romance blooms between Amber and Dylan, whose relationship tumbles through the hurdles of attempting to FIRE and get your partner on-board, something many people will likely be able to relate to.
In addition, the supporting cast of characters like Dylan and Amber’s friends act as strategic foils– they are overworked and over-leveraged, living like the majority of Americans today. In one section, the friends have a mock “trial” where they compare the lives of Kyle, their successful lawyer friend who just made partner, to Dylan, the dropout-turned-real-estate-mogul FIRE adherent:
In several creative ways, the book reveals the importance of financial independence– from being able to weather a health crises to making it through recessions and job losses. When Dylan and Amber break up (again), she gets the chance to date a guy with a high-flying lifestyle like she always imagined, but she realizes it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The new boyfriend and friends like Kyle are completely dependent on their jobs to keep up their luxurious lifestyles, planning to work “till they carry me out feet first” (p. 207).

Amber goes through a lot of character growth, and you come to appreciate her over time. I just wish Dylan had the same vindication– instead, he stays smug. In the beginning of the book, Amber expresses her life-long desire for a diamond ring, no matter the relative worthlessness of a well-marketed rock. By the end, she realizes that she doesn’t care about the ring anymore, but it would have been nicely redemptive if Dylan had sacrificed his own assuredness and given her the ring of her dreams after all they had been through together. That’s a lesson a lot of FIRE folks like Dylan could learn. Even if you don’t value something highly, that doesn’t mean that other people are wrong to want it more than you.


By the end of The Cash Machine, I was impressed with how much the authors managed to cover. The book goes over what to do with a windfall, the steps of buying a foreclosure, wedding hacking, how to explain the concept of financial independence to friends and family who think you’re crazy, and more! Any reader will come away with more tools on their financial toolkit to build their own cash machine.

The book highlights every argument against being financially independent and artfully knocks them down. This would be a great book if you wanted to introduce a loved one to FIRE, convince a spouse about a much-needed lifestyle change, or want to teach a graduating senior the basics (and beyond) of money management.

Ultimately, the book drove home the lessons of self-sufficiency and the importance of examining your values and goals in life and how you plan on getting there.

What are your thoughts?

Have you read The Cash Machine?

Would you want to read a fictional story centered around FIRE?

If you had to write a book about FIRE, what would you want the characters to learn?

Let me know in the comments below!

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  1. I enjoyed the novel, though I wasn’t sure at first if I would like it. Overall, I found it to be a great resource for those not likely to read FIRE blogs or books like “The Simple Path to Wealth” or “Your Money or Your Life.” There are a number of people I know I could never convince to read personal finance books, but I’d likely have far more success convincing them to read this work of fiction. It serves its purpose and I found it a fun, lighthearted read.

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