Using the principles of Sun Tzu, the ancient general and military tactician, Cheung draws parallels between military and financial strategies.
Selected excerpts and quotes attributed to Sun Tzu provide the basis of Cheung’s suggested strategies for financial success. Just as a military leader must observe the cycles of heaven and Earth, so should the financial planner observe economic cycles and plan accordingly. The end result is a presentation of conventional wisdoms offered from an unconventional point of view which briefly covers a wide range of some well-known, basic financial skills: Don’t spend more than you earn; don’t accumulate debt; try to do work that you love; invest wisely and plan ahead for retirement. Some strategies relate to personal finances, such as building individual savings, choosing individual investments, and completing a personal analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT). Other strategies are used to discuss finances at a higher level, such as getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of business competitors and using them to an advantage. Some of the relationships between Sun Tzu’s principles and finance aren’t clearly made; for instance, Sun Tzu advised that “All conflicts are based on deception,” but for Cheung, deception “often involves possessing an asset your competition lacks and using it in surprising ways.” Examples include the protection of intellectual property and proprietary information, which might better be categorized as defense against industrial piracy rather than deceit. Other pieces of advice drawn from war-based parallels may not sit well with everyone, such as the section devoted to the use of spies and the advice to cultivate relationships with a competitor’s administrative assistants in order to gain access to information and the competitor’s leadership. While the generally sound strategies follow tried-and-true methods for achieving success, the challenge is often in the details, which are sometimes left unaddressed. Diversifying skills is always good advice, but the suggestion to “go back to school…or begin a new career” may come across as blithe and superficial to someone who can’t pay for classes.
Perhaps too mercenary for some, but when implemented properly, the mostly sound principles can lead to financial stability and success.